Cant agree more.. Awesome article.
Villains do not need no reason. They are because they are evil. Explaining villains are lame-o.
How villains lose their shit: 1) They get redeemed. Like Sylar, supposedly. Or, I suspect, like Ben on Lost, who's already becoming a much more sympathetic character. (Although he still has the immoral psycho edge, as when he's willing to kill everyone on the freighter to get revenge on Keamy.) The ultimate example of a redeemed villain who loses his mystique is Darth Vader, whose redemption at the end of Return Of The Jedi presaged his whoah-TMI over-explanation in the prequels, which brings us to...
2) Too much information. Even Doctor Who's archetypal nasty, the Master, isn't immune. He went around killing and wreaking havoc for 30 years without any explanation other than "he's a sick fuck." But "he's a sick fuck" wasn't enough for writer Russell T. Davies, who had to give the Master an origin story that explained how he became evil. It was the weakest point of an otherwise great story. Sometimes, knowing why the villain is a psycho isn't the point. The best part of TDK's Joker is the fact that he keeps telling different origin stories, all of them completely fishy
3) They become analogs of real-life nasties. It's just way too easy to make your villain just like Bill Gates, or Dick Cheney, or Hillary Clinton, or Ahmadinejad or whoever. (I almost wrote "Hillary Klingon," which I would pay to see.) In a few rare cases, it can make villains creepier — as in the plethora of Margaret Thatcher monsters coming out of England in the 1980s — but most of the time, it's just a cheap shortcut.
4) We see too much of their world. James Callis, who plays Gaius Baltar, said recently that he thought bleak space-opera Battlestar Galactica made a mistake by letting us inside the Cylons' Baseships and showing us their internecine bickering and weird internal decor sense. We stopped thinking of them as the implacable masterminds of human genocide, and started thinking of them more as The Real World: Baseship.
5) Too many defeats. This is one of the things that went wrong with the Borg. (The other one being the ridiculous "Borg Queen" which I think comes under the heading of "seeing too much of their world.") When we first meet the Borg, they're so unbeatable, Captain Picard basically has to beg Q to get the Enterprise away from them. And then the good guys defeat the Borg once, against tremendous odds. After that, every victory gets easier and easier, until finally Captain Janeway is reducing the entire Borg collective to rubble with a few well-placed kicks.
6) Too many victories. This is why I'm somewhat startled that the movie version of the Joker has so much power: he's a dillweed in the comics. The comic-book Joker is a victim of his own success. Where do you go after you've killed Robin and destroyed Batgirl in the same year? Away, that's where. The Joker should have been retired in the comics after "A Death In The Family" and "The Killing Joke," and in fact he did disappear for a year or two. But it was too tempting to keep bringing him back, and he's stuck being a has-been villain who can never top his best (worst) year, which was 20 years ago now. I've read hundreds of Joker comics published since 1988, and none has left much of an impression.7) The villain that's a reflection of the hero. This is really where Iron Man and Incredible Hulk fail. (Someone emailed us about this a few months ago, and I'm afraid I can't remember who now.) You have a guy in super-powered metal armor? Who should he fight, if not another guy in super-powered metal armor that's a knock-off of his own? A big green guy? Let's create another big green guy from his blood and make them fight. A unified theory of villainy: We need good villains, for the health of our society. Good villains make great stories. A truly chilling villain makes the hero seem more important because the stakes are important, and the hero's actions matter.
What I tell myself everyday.
To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien