Rise of a Villain: What Caused Our Favorite Baddies to Turn To The Dark Side

Everyone has a hero, and every hero has a villain. Some would say the villain make the hero. Sometimes the villain is the hero. Some villains turn to the “dark side” because of some past personal tragedy. Others become the villain because they are forced to face their mortality and believe they haven’t accomplished what they were destined too, and some are villains because they don’t give a f***. Whichever the case, most villains are more interesting and tragic then the hero they were meant to contrast.

No villain is more iconic then the asthmatic Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. From his helmet to the buttons on his chest to his cape, and even the most misstated quote ever, “I am your father,” Darth Vader is recognizable, even for those who know nothing about Star Wars at all. In his first appearance, Vader was an imposing and terrifying figure; as dark as the shadows and as ruthless as a hungry boa on feeding day. He allowed an entire planet be destroyed as an interrogation method.


Throughout the Original Trilogy, however, you learn more about the Dark Lord. You find out, as Anakin, was the one who betrayed the Jedi. You also find out he is willing to turn his children over to his Master, and you also learn that, under all those gears and gadgets, Vader still has a heart. Vader didn’t start off as a bad guy. He was a carefree slave, who was taken from his mother at a young age, brought before the Jedi only to be turned down, and later find out that the only man who believed in him had been murdered. When he was finally accepted into the Jedi Order, he proved to be an exceptional Padawan learner, however, he let his emotions get the best of him. After having visions of his mother’s death, Anakin went on an investigation, along with his secret love, Padmé, only to discover his visions were true; his mother had been killed by Tusken Raiders. Acting on pure hatred, Anakin slaughtered the Sand People, “And not just the men, but the woman, and children, too.”



Soon after, the Clone Wars engulfed the galaxy, and although he struggled with his feelings about his mother’s passing, he managed to put them away long enough to become a galactic hero during the war. Noticing his struggle with letting go, Yoda decided to give Anakin his own student, knowing that sooner or later he would have to let her go. As the Clone Wars dragged on, Anakin’s faith in the Jedi had diminished. He felt that the Jedi fighting in the war was against their ways and traditions. Being generals and leading an army was not the same as keeping the peace. Anakin, however, lost most of his faith in the Jedi when they accused his Padawan of murder and expelled her from the Order without giving her a chance to prove her innocence. As she went on trial, Anakin conducted his own investigation and discovered the true murderer, and in turning her in, saved his Padawan. However, knowing that the Jedi Order, the only thing she knew in her life, didn’t trust her, Ahsoka refused to return to the Order, and left Anakin behind, a failed Master, whose Padawan didn’t pass her ultimate trial by choosing to walk away.



Soon after, Anakin was once again plagued by visions of death, this time of his secret, pregnant, wife during child birth. Dealing with so much loss already, Anakin vowed to do anything he could to prevent her death, and thus, joined with the enemy he had been unknowingly fighting against the entire time, who had been manipulating him from the first time they met, over 12 years back. Anakin, now Darth Vader, slaughtered many Jedi, including younglings, with the help of his 501st. Vader’s lust for the power to prevent his wife’s death eventually lead to her demise by his own hand, causing him to become the empty, “more machine then man,” we all know and hate to love from the Original Trilogy. Vader’s traumatic past turned him into the villain an entire galaxy feared, until the faith and love of his son restored his soul and redeemed Anakin Skywalker.

While Anakin started off as a hero and transformed into the bad guy due to personal tragedy, Walter White became the villainous Heisenberg because he was going to die without having a legacy he was proud of. Before high school teacher Walter White “broke bad,” he was a hot shot co-founder of an up-and-coming company called Grey Matter Technologies. Because of reasons yet-to-be revealed, Walter sold his share of the company to his “friends” and went on to become a high school teacher. Not making enough money, Walter’s wife Skylar was forced to sell some of their belongings over the internet, while Walt had to work for a demanding and rude car wash owner named Bogdan. One day while working at the car wash, Walter collapsed, and awoke inside an ambulance. After being X-Rayed, Walt learned he had aggressive cancer, and was given two years to live with chemotherapy. Faced with his mortality, and fearful of leaving his family in debt, Walt remembered how much money could be made by manufacturing crystal meth, and decided to blackmail an old student of his, Jesse Pinkman, into helping him get into the business.


Throughout his criminal career, Walt was forced to lie to his family, kill innocent and not-so-innocent people, met drug kingpins and cartel leaders, and also rose to the top of the criminal food chain until his DEA brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, discovered his secret and nearly brought him down. That job was reserved for Walt’s own business partners, the White Supremacists, led by Uncle Jack and his creepy nephew Todd, who were able to murder 10 guys in prison,within a two minute window, on Walt’s orders. After being captured by Hank, Walt called off the help from Uncle Jack and allowed Hank to slap the cuffs on him. However, Jack didn’t follow orders this time and showed up anyways and got into a gun fight with Hank, resulting in the latter’s demise. While throughout the series we saw Walt doing bad under the cover of providing for his family, upon Hank’s death, Walt’s actions finally weighed heavy, and we realized he was actually the bad guy of his own show, especially after he tried to throw the blame on Jesse for joining with Hank.


Everything that happened was Walt’s doing, however he was never actually able to take the blame and say why he really got into the business until the series finale “Felina,” when Walt finally told Skylar he didn’t do everything for his family; he did it for himself because it made him feel alive. Still believing Jesse was the reason for his downfall, Walt confront Unclr Jack and his merry gang to end things once and for all, including killing Jesse after finding out the latter was still alive and cooking meth. Walt believed Jesse had figured out a way to weasel out of getting killed by Jack, by agreeing to cook meth for him. However, Jesse didn’t have Walt’s luck or skills of deception and manipulation, and when Walt finally stood in front of him, Walt finally saw, through the pain in Jesse’s eyes and the scars on his face, all the bad things Walt has ever done.



Having a change of heart, Walt decided to allow Jesse to live, while massacring Jack and his gang. Walt even took a fatal bullet for Jesse, and while it didn’t fully redeem him, we saw Walt finally happy and content with everything he did, especially being with his legacy, his “Baby Blue” and also knowing that he accomplished what he had set out to do, by forcing Gray Matter Technologies to “donate” 10 million dollars to his family. Walt died in peace, finally able to accept his mortality, and die with his true love.

Darth Vader did bad things for love. Walter White did bad things for money. The Joker does bad things just to do bad things. With so many incarnations of the Joker, from TV to movies to books, my favorites are Mark Hamill’s maniacal clown prince of crime from Batman: The Animated Series, and, of course, Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker from The Dark Knight. This one I believe fits what the Joker is really about is from The Dark Knight. In the film, The Joker gives different “origin” stories on how he became who he was as an intimidation device, but we never learned where he truly came from. I liked to believe that he was a small-time crimina, who was kidnapped by the League of Shadows, lead by Bane and Talia Al Ghul, who, as a tribute to her father, tortured the poor man, cut him up and beat him to near death, until he became the sick, twisted, criminal mastermind he was in The Dark Knight, and unleashed him upon Gotham to test Batman’s limits, but that takes away from what The Joker was supposed to be.


Batman represents order. Batman gets an origin because order has to start from somewhere. Order has to be created and enforced and sustained. The Joker represents chaos, so it’s not supposed to make sense, Chaos just is chaos. The Joker doesn’t need to have a reason to do what he does, he just does it. You can almost imagine The Joker, from The Dark Knight, Batman’s bad dream, as if The Joker wasn’t real. Or as a force of nature, born out of the need to restore balance in a world controlled by Order.

Darth Vader turned to the dark side to save his loved ones. Walter White became Heisenberg to create his own legacy. The Joker spread chaos, just because he could. With the Joker, no f***s were given.