Many TV shows have turned great characters into bad characters in later seasons, disappointing even the most loyal long-time viewers. For most audiences, it isn’t easy to find TV characters worth following. However, once viewers start relating to a character or begin to find them highly fascinating, a bond forms that is hard to break.
This is why TV characters whose arcs were ruined result in massive backlash for their offending shows. Beyond being entertainment icons, great TV characters are big steps forward for their respective genres and storytelling styles. Some have even helped fix the problem of marginalized sectors being underrepresented on TV. A person’s favorite television characters can also reveal not just their personal tastes, but their underlying social beliefs and perspectives as well. When great TV characters turn awful, it hurts both the show and the audience who’ve invested their time and emotions into following these fictional people. Unfortunately, TV shows that turned great characters bad in later seasons are all too common.
10 Beth Dutton In Yellowstone
John Dutton’s only daughter, Kelly Reilly’s Beth Dutton was once the most interesting character in Taylor Sheridan’s flagship Western drama series Yellowstone. Beth handles the financial management of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, is unafraid of wielding the power that comes with being a Dutton, and is one-half of the best romantic relationship in any modern TV Western. However, Beth’s long-running rivalry with her brother Jamie went stale early in the series, and what was once a crucial dynamic has felt like a crutch for the show. On the other hand, with the show approaching its final story arc, Yellowstone season 5, part 2 could turn things around for Beth Dutton.
9 Joey Tribbiani In Friends
The perpetually single actor and ladies’ man Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt LeBlanc on Friends, is one of the most lovable characters on the beloved formative ’90s sitcom. Despite his womanizing, Joey’s exceptional charisma, below-average intelligence, and wholesome perspective proved to be an emblematic combination of his sitcom archetype. This, however, came with the problem of Joey’s eternal bachelorhood getting in the way of him having a happy ending. Joey’s bittersweet ending is arguably realistic, but it also ultimately contradicts Joey’s long-term character development. As the only Friends cast member left single and alone, Joey Tribbiani’s story felt incomplete to viewers who related to the character.
8 John Constantine In DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Starring Matt Ryan in the title role, Constantine season 1 gave viewers a compelling and comic book-accurate version of the irreverent British exorcist. After Constantine was canceled and Ryan’s character was moved to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the definitive live-action John Constantine was relegated to being a side character. While Constantine’s death was a fitting farewell, it was the only DC’s Legends of Tomorrow episode that actually felt like a Constantine story in the character’s four-season run on the show.
7 Miranda Hobbes In And Just Like That…
Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda Hobbes expertly balanced her duties as a lawyer and single mother, and she was arguably the sharpest Sex and the City character. However, Miranda’s debut in the sequel series And Just Like That… immediately sees her committing racist microaggressions and saying that she can’t exist in this political climate. Miranda also cheats on her husband with a woman, doesn’t seem remorseful about it, and even blames it on the woman she cheated with. And Just Like That… also glosses over Miranda’s suffering from alcoholism. It’s as though the sequel forgot that Miranda frequently served as the voice of reason for her friends in Sex and the City.
6 Robin Scherbatsky In How I Met Your Mother
Cobie Smulders’s Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother’s gorgeous love interest for Ted Mosby, began as a charismatically flawed, hockey-loving fluff news anchor who was trying to become a serious journalist. Out of all the How I Met Your Mother characters, Robin had the most stunted character arc of all. She treated all of Ted’s exes unfairly, including the titular mother of Ted’s children, and broke both Ted’s and Barney’s hearts. From the beginning to the end of the show, Robin never stopped leading Ted on, which was then sloppily justified with the two ending up together, even though Robin stopped growing as a person in later seasons.
5 Bran Stark In Game of Thrones
Isaac Hempstead Wright’s Brandon Stark was a little boy who inadvertently became a catalyst for the central conflicts in Game of Thrones. The only main character with disabled legs, Bran’s circumstances gave him a truly unique character arc in a show brimming with side plots. However, even before the disappointing Game of Thrones ending, Bran’s journey toward becoming the Three-Eyed Raven somehow became the most tedious part of the series. Bran is where mysticism and politics truly intersect in Game of Thrones, and in hindsight, the fact that this wasn’t enough for showrunners to keep his arc interesting was an early clue about where the show was headed.
4 Villanelle In Killing Eve
Jodie Comer’s Villanelle was an untouchable assassin who developed a mutual obsession with Sandra Oh’s Eve Polastri, the M16 operative tasked with bringing her to justice. While Killing Eve began as a huge step in LGBTQ+ representation in the spy and crime genres, like other TV shows that turned great characters bad in later seasons, Killing Eve eventually didn’t know what to do with its complex leads. After the show teased Villanelle and Eve finally getting together — and Villanelle actually redeeming herself by killing The Twelve — Killing Eve‘s sad ending makes it no different from shows that give LGBTQ+ characters tragic endings for the sake of drama.
3 Negan In The Walking Dead
Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan debuted in The Walking Dead as the brutal leader of the Saviors, until he became so much more than just another villain. After Negan’s defeat and imprisonment, he eventually repented and became vital to the fight against The Whisperers. Negan wasn’t just an antihero, he was a budding protagonist. Negan also had a compelling dynamic with Maggie, whose husband was murdered by Negan but nonetheless trusts him to have her back. When The Walking Dead season 11 opened with Negan leaving Maggie to die, it felt like the show ignored his character development in the prior two seasons. This left Negan’s redemption arc feeling incomplete.
2 Sherlock Holmes In Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch was perfectly cast as the modern version of the world’s greatest detective in Sherlock. Through witty dialogue and stylized montages, the new Sherlock Holmes did justice to one of the most adapted characters in fiction. After Sherlock season 2, however, Sherlock’s story arc took a nose dive. From Sherlock’s fake death and his mutual obsession with Moriarty, to how he started developing ridiculous powers of deduction, Sherlock became more like a superhero series than a mystery. The first two seasons of Sherlock weren’t perfect either, but the foundations they laid for what could have been the definitive live-action Sherlock Holmes were wasted by the latter seasons.
1 Rick Sanchez In Rick and Morty
Rick Sanchez, the lovable and relatable antihero of Rick and Morty, started as a promising parody of the classic sci-fi mad scientist, exploring both the spectacle and dramatic potential of a trope that’s rarely examined with such intent. From Rick’s relationships with his family to the fates of the other Ricks and Mortys across the dimensions, Rick Sanchez’s antiheroic odyssey is both hilarious and evocative of ancient epic sagas. In time, however, the show’s formula of Rick experiencing an emotional epiphany — after yet another problem that he himself caused — has lost its luster. However, maybe things will change in the upcoming Rick and Morty season 7.