Greetings Halloween lovers, and welcome back to my series of October features revolving around the world of televised horror. About two weeks ago, I shined a spotlight on some of the cruelest, vicious, and most sadistic twist endings in anthology show history. It was one of my most well received pieces to date, and I once again got some promising suggestions for a possible second edition. Today, I count down my picks for the best devils in TV history. Whether they go by Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness, or something else entirely, they all share one commonality: being deliciously evil.
Note: This was originally intended to be posted before Halloween, but a lack of time last week followed by an unexpected cold pushed it to November. Sorry Ragers.
#9 - Trey Parker in 'South Park' - 1998-2006
The Devil is known for many things. Famine, pestilence, war, etc. One thing he isn't usually known for is being an emotional wreck, which is exactly the side of Satan that 'South Park' creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always seen fit to focus on. Psychologically damaged by his unhealthy relationship with Saddam Hussein, Satan never really seems sure what to do with himself. Should he take over the Earth? Repair relations with his estranged son? Or just find a new lover to replace the Saddam shaped hole in his black heart? The 'South Park' interpretation of Lucifer hasn't played a major part in the show since 2006, but we all know it's only a matter of time before he gets sick of hanging out in Hell.
#8 - Robert Englund in the 'Married with Children' episode "Damn Bundys" - 1997
The 11th and final season of 'Married with Children' was far from its greatest, but it did still contain this gem featuring Freddy Krueger himself as the Prince of Darkness. Al Bundy decides to sell his soul to The Devil in order to take the Chicago Bears to the SuperBowl. Of course, being the father of lies, an absolutely gleeful Englund comes to march Al off to Hell on the day of the big game. After all, he said he could "take" the team to the SuperBowl, not "play" in it. Al actually takes a liking to Hell, that is until Satan brings the rest of the Bundys (and Darcys) down to keep him company. Of course, it was all a dream in the end. At least Al hopes it was.
#7 - Thomas Gomez in 'The Twilight Zone' episode "Escape Clause" - 1959
'The Twilight Zone' was home to several memorable portrayals of Ol' Scratch, with two making this list. The first is Thomas Gomez, who played a man named "Mr. Cadwallader" in the Season 1 episode 'Escape Clause.' As Rod Serling states in the opening narration, the main character "has one interest in life and that’s Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation, the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society, that if Walter Bedeker should die how will it survive without him?" So, when the ever devious lord of hell pops up asking Bedeker if he'd sell his soul for immortality, he jumps at the chance. Of course, one should never make a Faustian deal without reading the fine print...
#6 - Burgess Meredith in 'The Twilight Zone' episode "Printer's Devil" - 1963
Burgess Meredith had already appeared in a few classic 'Twilight Zone' episodes before Season 4's 'Printer's Devil,' but none had allowed him the freedom to have as much scenery chewing fun as he does here. Meredith plays 'Mr. Smith,' who is one of the more obviously evil devils I can recall that didn't just come out and call themselves The Devil. Still, that doesn't stop a struggling newspaper owner from employing his services as a reporter. Unfortunately, every story Smith reports comes true, and we all know tragedy sells the most papers...
#5 - Jamey Sheridan in 'The Stand' - 1994
Some call him 'The Dark Man.' Others refer to him as 'The Walkin' Dude.' Whatever moniker you find preferable, Randall Flagg is most definitely Satan. Or at least his son. Flagg arrives on Earth shortly after the doomsday virus "Capt. Tripps" is released, which decimates the human population. Only two factions of survivors remain, those loyal to heavenly emissary Mother Abigail and those loyal to ol' RF. Flagg appropriately sets up his home base in Sin City itself, and plans to bring infernal extinction to all who oppose him. He also possesses what may be the most devilish grin in the history of pop culture. Let's just ignore how easily he gets defeated at the end of the mini-series. As much as I love the work of Stephen King, endings are definitely not his strength.
#4 - Gary Cole in 'American Gothic' - 1995-1996
Is Lucas Buck the Devil? 'American Gothic' never really clarified that, but if it acts like a Satan and makes Faustian deals like a Satan, I'm calling it a Satan. Multi-talented character actor Gary Cole met what is arguably his perfect role as Buck, the iron-fisted sheriff of of Trinity, South Carolina. Trinity had all the outward appearances of a quiet, peaceful place to live, and it very well could be. Life in Trinity could be as pleasant as the day is long, at least for those who stayed on the good side of Sheriff Buck. For those that crossed Lucas, Trinity quickly became its own little corner of Hell on Earth.
#3 - Mark Pellegrino in 'Supernatural' - 2009-2012
Much like many 'Supernatural' fans, Mark Pellegrino's Lucifer spent a long time absolutely obsessed with getting his hands on Sam Winchester's body. Unlike those people, Lucifer wanted Sam's body for the purpose of bringing about the apocalypse. Being an angel (albeit a fallen one), Lu can't operate without a willing human vessel, and only Sam is strong enough to contain his dark essence. Pellegrino actually made for one of the more sympathetic Devils I can recall. He was essentially a scorned son that hated humans for coming between him and his father, God. Not that that stopped him from doing horrible things to Sam and Dean on a seemingly constant basis. As of Season 9, Lucifer is still hanging out in his Hell cage, but he has to get out eventually, right? Get on it, 'Supernatural' writers.
#2 - John Glover in 'Brimstone' - 1998-1999
While Pellegrino's Lucifer could be sympathetic at times, no TV lord of darkness is as downright tragic as John Glover in FOX's short-lived 'Brimstone.' The show only ran 13 episodes, meaning we never got the full peek into Satan's backstory that had long been hinted at. What we do know is that Glover's devil definitely had feelings, and had even once been in love. He was also sort of a punch-clock villain, and didn't really seem to care either way about humanity at large. He was simply doing the job assigned to him by God, and trying his best to have some fun along the way. Lead human character Ezekiel Stone even came to regard him as a kind of friend by the end of the series run, although he wisely never fully trusts him. If you give your trust to The Devil, you kind of deserve what you get.
#1 - Ray Wise in 'Reaper' - 2007-2009
When I set out to make this list, I knew right away who would take the #1 spot. Ray Wise has had a long and distinguished career on both the big and small screens, but the stars truly aligned when he was cast as Satan on the cult hit 'Reaper.' Wise pulls off a perfect balancing act between making The Devil appealing and likable enough to draw people to the darkside, and making him frightening and intimidating enough to ensure that nobody dares cross him. Series protagonist Sam Oliver almost finds himself beginning to like his infernal employer on several occasions, that is until The Devil screws him over in an incredibly harsh way. It almost seems like Satan is doing this for Sam's own good, reminding him that this is a boss-employee relationship, and not some cozy friendship. Of course, Sam later finds out that his ties to The Devil do indeed go deeper than he thought, casting their back and forth up to that point in a completely new light.
And with that, my month of horror related features has come to a close. I had a lot of fun doing them, and will likely do a second round next October. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a rather friendly looking gentleman at my door. I wonder what he's selling...