Movies & TV / Columns

The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 TV Character Transformations

February 27, 2015 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 TV Character Transformations

Bryan Kristopowitz
5. HANK VOIGHT – When Hank Voight made his debut on now sister show Chicago Fire he was a vile, evil douchebag. You couldn’t trust him and you couldn’t root for him at all. However, when he became the star of his own show, Chicago PD, something about him changed. He was still somewhat corrupt and willing to break the rules to get what he wanted, but he now had a sense of duty about him. His day-to-day life wasn’t all about enriching himself and his family and wielding political power within the Chicago police department; now, as the head of the intelligence unit, it’s about taking down the bad guys. And the guys Voight goes after are the worst of the worst. You can root for that.

4. DR. JOHN CARTER – When John Carter started out on ER he was, for the lack of a better phrase, a terrible doctor. He just didn’t seem all that with it. But, as the show went on, Carter gained experience and confidence and became a badass doctor. He went through so much stuff over the course of a decade that it’s amazing to me that even survived to the end of the show (think about how many characters died on ER. And wasn’t he addicted to drugs at one point? Jesus, he should have been killed at some point). And when he went to Africa and started up his own clinic he really had arrived. Did anyone see that coming from a rich kid with no stomach for the nastiest stuff in the world?

3. ROBERT GOREN – When you look at Detective Goren at the beginning of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the end of CI you can see how the job ran him down. At the start of the show he was livelier, more generally in tune with the world around him. As the show went on, though, as he dealt with arch nemesis Nicole Wallace, the destruction of his remaining family, the death of his captain, and the betrayal of his profiling mentor Declan Gage, Goren just wasn’t the same man. He was still a brilliant detective and could still do the job but he wasn’t necessarily the same. I mean, he stopped wearing a necktie and always looked bloated and unshaven. Would the Goren of the beginning of CI have not worn a tie? I don’t think so.

2. THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN – According to The X-Files lore, the Cigarette Smoking Man wasn’t supposed to appear beyond the pilot episode. He was just some guy standing in the background. And then he started showing up more and more, and before long he became the show’s top villain. He was never necessarily the leader of the super-secret cabal that knew about the aliens and the black oil and all that, but he was a major part of the organization and he could never be replaced (at least that’s how it seemed for the longest time). By the end of the show the CSM was just some weird guy living in a cave, a sort of forgotten monster. Did anyone else see that happening? I didn’t. And I know I didn’t see him as the show’s main villain while originally watching the pilot. I mostly wanted to know why he didn’t say anything. And who the hell was he?

1. STEWIE GRIFFIN– When Family Guy started Stewie Griffin was nothing more than a homicidal baby that wanted to kill his mother. He had access to all sorts of weaponry and seemed to exist solely to find a way to kill his mother Lois. As the show went on and that joke got old Stewie mellowed a bit and became more about hanging around with his dog Brian. Stewie still has access to advanced technology (he built a freaking time machine) and continues to despise his mother, but he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in killing her anymore. He doesn’t seem to be interested in killing anyone, for that matter. It almost seems like Stewie should be the infant equivalent of a time bomb waiting to explode. Is he just waiting for the right time to strike? Doesn’t seem like it. It seems he’s content with just, again, hanging out with Brian. I never thought that would happen when I saw that first episode. Never in a million years.

5. TIM RIGGINS When Friday Night Lights began, Taylor Kitsch was obviously the poster boy as bad-boy Tim Riggins, a guy who enjoyed beer more than school and hanging out with his football buddies. He was a selfish jerk in the first years, stealing the girlfriend of his paralyzed teammate and getting into trouble. But as time went on, we saw him grow nicely with a great moment when Lyla said she’d be willing to stay with him rather than go to her dream college and he bluntly told her “Go,” knowing it was better for her. He became a man willing to take the fall for a criminal enterprise rather than have his brother go to jail. He was bitter afterward but soon realizing how he had to accept things in order to move on and that his heart was “Texas Forever.” All the FNL characters had amazingly organic arcs but Riggins may have been the best to show how the guys who may be high school jerks all have to grow up and maybe better along the way.

4. GABRIELLE When Xena Warrior Princess began, it was obvious Xena was the ass-kicking heroine and Gabrielle the comic relief sidekick. But from the start Rene O’Conner showed great layers to the character, acting as Xena’s conscience and offering her own wisdom. The first change came when she was inducted into the ranks of the Amazons, becoming more of a fighter, still awkward but soon learning. Before long, she was an able partner for Xena with various events transforming her even more, becoming harder, her staff weapon replaced by twin daggers and a more revealing outfit. But she never sacrificed the true essence of herself, still with the humor and heart that made their obvious bond so meaningful. From start to finish on the show, Gabrielle was as key to things as Xena herself and grounded the series while still making it so magical.

3. LONDO MOLLARI and G’KAR When Babylon 5 began, we figured we knew these two instantly. Londo was the drinking, joking, foolish diplomat who would be comic relief. G’Kar was the sinister schemer who seemed set to be the main villain of things. But as the show progressed, their roles shifted dramatically. Londo soon embarked on a quest for power that made him an accomplice to mass genocide and responsible for the deaths of millions, a heavy weight he carried throughout. Meanwhile, G’Kar was soon shown to be a man of incredible honor and nobility who soon emerged as the show’s most popular character. They were constantly linked by mutual hatred that became respect and even friendship. Yet their final fates were long destined, Londo facing the consequences of his actions while G’Kar had to make sacrifices of his own for a better future before meeting their end together. A fantastic summary of why B5 still ranks among the best sci-fi series ever and how you can never take a cliché at face value.

2. WESLEY WYNDHAM-PRYCE When he first showed up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he was laughable: A by-the-book Watcher with no field experience in suit and glasses, completely out of his depth with things and treated as just a buffoon to mock. When he moved to Angel, it appeared much of the same, just throwing in research but not much else. But soon, he transformed into a very capable man with his own inner demons but doing his best to help. That desire to do right took him to a very dark place as he betrayed Angel for what he thought was a greater good only to get his throat slashed and turned on by the gang and spending months in a dark emotional place. It was fantastic seeing him so rough, coming out with a harsher attitude, a real action man willing to kill if need be and not above playing with dark forces. He seemed to get out of it in season 5 with his relationship with Fred only to have that end badly and send him to another dark spot. His final fate was sad but still fitting for a man who had shown his true merit, despite the costs to himself and reminding us how much can change in the Whedonverse.

1. WALTER WHITE Who else could it be? In the first episode of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston shows us a weak-willed, meek high school science teacher, a mild-mannered man who cooks meth to provide for his family after discovering he’s dying of cancer. He was a guy totally out of his league, over his head and seemed ready for a hard fall. Over the course of six seasons, we watched him transform into a ruthless drug lord and cold-blooded murderer, a man willing to manipulate anyone and do anything to secure his place. What made it so fascinating was the question whether Heisenberg was created by Walt to handle this world or if it was always in him and just waiting to come out. Whatever the case, it is astounding to compare the character from season 1 to the finale as his quest causes him to lose it all, brought down hard yet still rising for one final blaze of glory. A fantastic example of a major anti-hero for our time, a guy we rooted for even while we were horrified by his actions and a character whose name we’ll always remember.

5. ANDREW BERNARD – There’s a lot of characters that ended up completely different from the pilot episode, and while he didn’t come along until later, no transformation was greater than the Nard Dog. Before his trip to Anger Management, he was arguably the most obnoxious, unlikeable character ever. It wasn’t even like Michael, or Dwight, who were at least entertaining, Bernard was an ass, and that was it. However, as the years passed he became the most sincere and likeable character of the whole series. He truly loved his co-workers, and only assumed they returned it as he always aimed to please, but could remind you once and a while that the rage was still there. I will say however, we’ll forget about the writers trying to completely abandon all of the originality they built with him in a desperate attempt to turn him into another Michael Scott once Steve left.

4. JAX TELLER – The man who was destined to be King from day one was originally a bit confused about his role in life. While he felt he should uphold the traditions of SAMCRO set forth by Clay and his mother, he soon learned his father had always wanted more for the club. Eventually this too became his mission, as he quickly despised Clay’s leadership and questioned all that he did. However, he would eventually learn that the old adage was true, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Soon he’d find himself making a lot of the same decisions he once swore against, dragging the club down to unknown depths, as he continued to lose more and more of who he once was. In the end, personal loses almost completely wiped out the Jax Teller of old, as he became a jealous, hate-filled destructive force that acted with zero rationality or thought for the ramifications that would fall upon his club. However, a final hour would show that even the greatest of lost causes can find a worthwhile redemption.

3. JERRY SEINFELD – In the beginning, Jerry cared about the feelings of others, and would nurture relationships. However, as the show progressed he realized what futile and pointless tasks things like that had become, and transformed into the apathetic entertainer I’ve often considered a role model. The only time you’d see him even attempt to keep from offending someone was if he thought there was a chance for sex, and even then he’d only put in so much effort. Beyond that, the best you were going to get from him in the sympathy department was “that’s a shame”. Of course, there was that one time he let his feelings out, so much so that he eventually became aware of a salty discharge from the eyes, but thankfully he was scared straight. He didn’t care about being an “adult”, he didn’t care for most of the pointless social rituals we all put ourselves through, he just wanted to be left alone with his friends, his cereal, and Superman. God bless you, Jerry.

2. DEXTER MORGAN – For the record, I preferred the hip, swinging, serial killer bachelor version of Dexter, as he’s forever and a day one of my few fiction heroes. However, it was so interesting to see the character go from one end of the spectrum, that is to say he’s beyond redemption, to having a loving wife, and family. A family that isn’t simply a cover-up, but one that he truly cares for, that he’s truly built organic feelings for, and hasn’t had to manufacture them in order to slip into normalcy. One of the brilliant points of the show was that rooting for Dexter wasn’t based in the simple victories of life, or good being triumphant over evil, but vastly more complicated ones, such as learning that he’s not only a good person, but capable of being an actual person, and not just having to fake it. However, I would at this point please like to request we completely forget that the abomination of season 8 ever happened, and that Dex, Deb, and Harrison continued on their marry way in Miami after dealing with super awesome Ray Stevenson.

1. WALTER WHITE – It’s such a slam dunk answer. I could imagine that there would be a thousand monkeys sitting at a thousand typewriters working for a thousand years, and they still couldn’t come up with character evolution as great as this. I mean, this goes just beyond TV. This excels past movies, Broadway plays, and even classic literature. The evolution of of Walter White from an honest, simple, slightly bitter science teacher into Heisenberg, the biggest, and arguably most deadly meth dealer on the planet is absolutely nothing short of brilliant. Not a single step in the evolution was missed, rushed, or improperly handled. Everything was laid out in full view, as be became a guy who once cooked meth in his BVDs, to the man who had others shitting in theirs at the mention of his name.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation