Years after Tony spawned Don, Dexter, and Walter, perhaps the greatest generation of small screen anti-heroes are preparing to take their final bow: Matthew Weiner has reportedly confirmed that Mad Men's next season will be its last, Dexter is currently midway through the home stretch of its murder spree, and with the premiere of its final eight episodes airing this Sunday, Breaking Bad is about to cook its last batch of high drama. But this year, a new group of dark lions continues to emerge, poised to take over our televisions.
The Show The Blacklist (NBC), premieres September 23
Who: A master criminal ready to turn on his Rolodex of underworld contacts as an FBI snitch.
Why he's so bad he's good: Spader does ham like no other, but in the scenes where he plays it straight, he reveals the menacing power broker that Reddington once was—and still could be.
Antihero Antecedent: Ignore the fedora. This guy's twisted morality and heady inner workings are reminiscent of Tony Soprano.
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The Show Bates Motel (A&E), returns spring 2014
Who: The erratic mother of the famous psycho.
Why she's so bad she's good: She's wildly inappropriate (stop undressing in front of your son, Norma!), and Farmiga plays her with a dedicated ordinariness that makes you think your mom could have been two quirks away from raising a killer.
Antihero Antecedent: Game of Thrones' smother mother Cersei, whose son went from mama's boy to sadistic monster.
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The Show Low Winter Sun (AMC), premieres August 11 after Breaking Bad
Who: A Detroit cop with a haunted past who's tricked into murdering his detective partner.
Why he's so bad he's good: Strong speaks in a growl and glowers with scary intensity, but his visceral panic and distilled anger over being used as a pawn make for anxiety-inducing television.
Antihero Antecedent: There's a reason the show airs right after Breaking Bad. Agnew's single grave misstep warps him into his own worst nightmare.
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The Show Hannibal (NBC), returns midseason 2014
Who: The not-so-good doctor who helps his FBI-agent partner (Hugh Dancy) track down serial killers while concealing his own predilection for eating people.
Why he's so bad he's good: The steely Mikkelsen can go from calculating psychologist to eerily calm cannibal with flesh-crawling ease.
Antihero Antecedent: Dexter, that other crime-solving serial killer—without the conflicted conscience.
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