What antihero series should I watch next?
June 18, 2020 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I’ve realized that to me, the most compelling TV shows have an antihero protagonist along with some lovable sidekicks. We just finished Homeland, and before that watched Ray Donovan and Breaking Bad. Please recommend some more shows where you can’t decide whether the main character is a good guy or a bad guy but you love them anyway.

Hard no: Game of Thrones, any finance-based crime, fantasy or sci-fi (my husband with whom I am watching isn’t interested), police procedurals, children being hurt as a central plot line

Tried and failed: Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Blacklist, The Americans (will revisit after a palate cleanser, sick of spy shit right now), Sopranos, Ozark

Not excited about but open to: Mad Men

Have loved: Buffy, Angel, Alias, The Fall
posted by tatiana wishbone to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god and absolutely not The Wire, I’ve tried so many times and I just can’t get into it
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:00 PM on June 18, 2020

You might like Jessica Jones.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:10 PM on June 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

Better Call Saul?
posted by subluxor at 7:19 PM on June 18, 2020 [23 favorites]

posted by Sassyfras at 7:33 PM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Nurse Jackie.
posted by NotLost at 7:42 PM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Does House count?
posted by Champagne Supernova at 7:44 PM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

You will be tempted to watch more Dexter after the John Lithgow season. This is a mistake.
posted by condour75 at 7:54 PM on June 18, 2020 [14 favorites]

It's sort of sci-fi/fantasy but if your husband found Buffy/Angel acceptable, y'all might enjoy Misfits.

Have you tried Atlanta?
posted by Candleman at 7:54 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Black Sails
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:05 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you can find it, Terriers.

It isn't as gritty as the stuff you've mentioned you like and it veers into financial crimes (only skimming the surface) but White Collar might fit the bill.

You might like Ballers. The supporting cast is exceptionally strong.

It's on the spy side of the scale but it's about as far away from the Americans as you can get (and I say that having loved the Americans): Burn Notice. It's watchable because of the lovable sidekicks.
posted by sardonyx at 8:07 PM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Leftovers should be on your short list.
posted by 6thsense at 8:24 PM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Killing Eve
posted by bluecore at 8:48 PM on June 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Does it have to be fiction? Because we just watched The Staircase, and "can't decide whether he's a good guy or a bad guy" is a perfect description. Not sure we "loved him anyway" but it's definitely a compelling series.

For fiction, the first couple seasons of Billions are pretty solidly anti-heroish - both the main characters are assholes in their own way, but one of them is compelling, if not out and out likable. If you start watching it, though, maybe stop after season 2 or 3 at the absolute latest.
posted by pdb at 9:05 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try Succession on HBO. It’s about unethical businesspeople, but It’s not “financial crime.”

Also: I just finished bingeing all 3 seasons of Fargo, which were excellent. It’s not exactly antiheroes, since there are definite heroes, but then there are also definite bad guys and goodish-people-who-make-bad-decisions who you find yourself rooting for anyway.
posted by ejs at 9:11 PM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Oh also consider Orphan Black. It’s science-fiction flavored but if you liked Buffy/Angel/Alias you’ll be fine.
posted by ejs at 9:14 PM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

goofy outlier The Mindy Project, she eventually gets around to committing all of the seven deadly sins by some point, but gets by on charisma.
posted by ovvl at 9:30 PM on June 18, 2020

Doc Martin!
posted by ellerhodes at 9:43 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

sardonyx (and anyone interested), Terriers is on Hulu now (the FX section)!

Seconding Burn Notice for this!
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:15 PM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Offbeat suggestion: The Good Place.
posted by Jaclyn at 10:24 PM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

The original British version of House of Cards.
posted by rjs at 10:53 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I hate-watch Suits for its terrible men enabled/restored-to-humanity by beautiful women, in an organisation that uses its defaultist privilege to (enable others to) get away with being criminals. (Just writing this makes me angry at the patriarchy.) Some of its peril is financial but it's smooshed in with a bunch of legal jargon.

Preacher is a bunch of terrible people doing silly and hilarious things.

Nth-ing Misfits, both US and UK editions.

Contentious, possible derailment of the thread: Season 3 of The Wire is the gateway Wire -- it provides a summary of the harder-to-access first series while growing it. Also contentious: watch with closed captions/subtitles on.
posted by k3ninho at 12:02 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


Berlin Station. Modern setting, unsurprisingly in Berlin, political drama, main guy is maybe not so much an antihero, but everyone does some shady shit while meaning varying kinds of well. S1 is about terrorism, S2 is about neo Nazis, so not, you know, lighthearted.

Peaky Blinders. Post WWI Birmingham family crime drama. Intense, sometimes funny, I think this fits the main character ambiguity requirement very well. CW one scene of sexual violence in S1 (I don't know how to describe it well, it seemed to come out of nowhere to me).

Mindhunter. Late 70s early 80s FBI psychology stuff. But sometimes, especially in the second season, there is police stuff, though I would say it's realistically grinding, political, and frustrating rather than a "police procedural" style show. Holden is definitely an ambiguous character, though not in the "don't know if he's good or bad" way so much as mostly wanting to yell at him and occasionally feeling sympathetic towards him.

And finally, with caveats, Counterpart. Technically this is sci-fi because it has to do with parallel universes. But stylistically & plot-wise, this is a Cold War aesthetic spy show which is really just deep investigation of character, of human emotions and behaviors. CW two of the main characters did experience abuse as children which is depicted in flashback, not central to plot but to character. This has some truly great acting from J.K. Simmons and honestly every cast member.
posted by automatic cabinet at 12:08 AM on June 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

Sneaky Pete might fit the bill.
posted by jmfitch at 12:13 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Bojack Horseman
posted by snarfois at 1:06 AM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


Mr. Robot
posted by fancyoats at 1:26 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Deadwood is the greatest show of alltime and you are worse off having never watched it.
posted by dobbs at 2:26 AM on June 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

Hell on Wheels
posted by Roger Pittman at 3:42 AM on June 19, 2020

House of Lies
posted by warriorqueen at 4:30 AM on June 19, 2020

Barry!!! Also, Search Party!!!
posted by saladin at 5:47 AM on June 19, 2020

The Boys
posted by Neekee at 5:58 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I liked Queen of the South. I also turned off the same shows you listed as no-gos but I like Queen of the South.
posted by apex_ at 6:20 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Older, but ahead of its time: Profit. Anti-hero does corporate malfeasance. Only 8 episodes.
posted by a person of few words at 6:25 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mr. Robot
Halt and Catch Fire
Killing Eve
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:49 AM on June 19, 2020

Please give Mad Men another shot. It took me a couple of tries to get into it, but when I did I thought "how did I ever find this show boring?!" I recently rewatched the whole thing and it was even better the 2nd time through.

And yeah, Better Call Saul is great. I might like it more than Breaking Bad.
posted by jabes at 6:58 AM on June 19, 2020

I think Mr Inbetween would be right up your alley. I've really liked Barry, though it's much more of a comedy than the others.
posted by Horselover Fat at 7:07 AM on June 19, 2020

I think Justified fits the bill--and it has the extremely lovable villain played by Walton Goggins. Sometimes the protagonist (played by Timothy Olyphant) and the villain almost trade places as hero vs antihero. Also features some interesting female characters, both sidekicks and not. The season featuring Margo Martindale cannot be beat. It's police adjacent (Olyphant plays a federal marshal) but not a procedural.

Maybe also take a look at The Shield.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:16 AM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Curb Your Enthusiasm
posted by askmehow at 7:23 AM on June 19, 2020

I hear good things about Leverage, and while I am really bad at watching serial television it's on my mental list of things to try.

Tuca and Bertie was amazing, there's only one season but it's being brought back. Animated nonsense is my jam, though, so if you don't like that don't bother.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2020

Definitely Veep.
posted by hangashore at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's still in its first season on HBO, but I'm enjoying Run!.

Bonus: Merritt Weaver from Nurse Jackie is in it. (Nurse Jackie is definitely a great anti-hero.)
posted by hydra77 at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2020

+1 on Justified and Halt & Catch Fire

I enjoyed the series version / remake of Get Shorty quite a bit.

Maybe Patriot, if you can hang with some ambiguity of tone & satirical absurdity.
posted by Bron at 9:26 AM on June 19, 2020

True Detective may scratch your anti-hero itch.
posted by pseudophile at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2020

Please recommend some more shows where you can’t decide whether the main character is a good guy or a bad guy but you love them anyway.

This pretty much describes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to a tee. Yes, it's a musical; yes, its title is (self-consciously) off-putting; yes, it looks bright & cheery on the surface. But it's so damn good, and your description fits the main character to a tee. It knows what it is from the first episode; so if you watch the first episode and don't like it, you probably don't have to stick with it.

I'll second the recommendations of Better Caul Saul & Bojack Horseman. Terriers (now available on Hulu!), The Leftovers, and Deadwood are fantastic shows too, but they're not really traditional antihero shows; IIRC there's no real ambiguity that the protagonists of Terriers are "good guys", and the latter two center more around an ensemble than around one or two main characters.

I'd also second the recommendation of Killing Eve except you say that you're "sick of spy shit" right now. Maybe file that recommendation away for later.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try giving The Umbrella Academy on Netflix a spin. It seems to me that each of the major characters is his or her own version of an anti-hero.
posted by Lynsey at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, came here to say Deadwood. Some slowness in the first season, but Ian McShane's performance is amazing. And, you don't have to wait a decade for the movie.
posted by thenormshow at 1:19 PM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might like Babylon Berlin on Netflix even though the main character is a police officer in Berlin pre-WW2. It is a German TV show originally so naturally all dialog is in German.
posted by Justin Case at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2020

The live action 'The Tick' with Peter Serafinowicz.

The Tick means well, but. The superhero is a baddy. The supporting cast is incredible and loveable.

Alan Tudyk voices Dangerboat.
posted by porpoise at 1:44 PM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

The End of the F***ing World (on Netflix)
posted by Thorzdad at 2:58 PM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Are you exclusively after genre shows? If not, perhaps Fleabag or Please like me? Both have deeply flawed but lovable characters in the "tragicomedy" (looks-like-a-sitcom-but-is-it?) type of show.
posted by Coaticass at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2020

Sons of Anarchy, UnREAL, You're the Worst
posted by willnot at 8:06 AM on June 20, 2020

I'll definitely co-sign 'Sons of Anarchy.' It gets progressively bad and the finale is legendarily horrible though.

But it was damned good diversionary tv for a good long run.

Katey Sagal (aka Peggy Bundy) is absolutely outstanding.
posted by porpoise at 1:31 AM on June 21, 2020

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