The Most Anticipated Face-offs In TV History
Good versus evil, light versus dark. Every great story comes with a fight between opposing forces seeking different goals, and more importantly, carrying irreconcilable philosophies. The audience is generally drawn to root for the beloved hero, but sometimes the villain may be equally, if not more, charismatic. After all, they say, “a story is only as good as the villain in it” – and from the clash of these two archetypes flows the very heart (and the most entertaining part) of the story.
However, not all stories require the hero and the villain to fight right from the first moment. Sometimes, it’s better to let them follow their individual journey for a while and keep them separated for as long as possible until their conflicting objectives will inevitably make them meet. That is the perfect tension fuel, as the viewer’s anticipation grows bigger and bigger by the minute, and whenever it explodes, the output is through the roof. Of course, this technique has been used a number of times not only in films but in TV shows as well – and the longer the runtime, the higher the tension.
So buckle up, and let’s dive into these Top Five TV Moments where the Hero and the Villain finally meet!
5. Jonas Meets Adam (Dark, s. 2 ep. 4)
When it comes to convoluted plots, even Christopher Nolan himself would be put to shame by the German Netflix series Dark (2017-2020). The plot focuses on 16-year-old Jonas (Louis Hoffmann) trying to shed light on the disappearance of several children in Winden, Germany. What he (and many more after him) will find out is the existence of an ominous time machine that connects several timelines in a full-on temporal wormhole. This trope has been done plenty of times, but what makes Dark stand out from other entries of the genre is the plethora of characters, events, and subplots that populate every single episode.
While the first season is centered around the mystery surrounding the missing children, season 2 introduces some conflicting forces and rivalry dynamics with the reveal of the series’ main villain Adam (Dietrich Hollinderbäumer). The character captures the viewer since the first scene, also due to his creepy appearance – he’s an old man whose face has been burnt and disfigured beyond recognition. His unseen presence in the first season, mixed with the impeccable build-up in the first three episodes of the second, keep the viewers wondering what will happen when one of the main characters will eventually (and inevitably) confront Adam.
Of course, it’s up to our protagonist Jonas to finally go face-to-face with him. The scene in question handles the tangible tension with a calmness and sobriety that might come unexpectedly. Jonas is not our typical hero – he’s an introverted, shy kid terrified about everything happening to him. Jonas and Adam have a simple conversation about the villain’s true identity and philosophy. Showrunner Baran bo Odar’s direction serves its purpose with an excellent handling of the silence and just a handful of razor-sharp lines. There is no epic fight nor open clash between good and evil, yet the scene manages to be spine-tinglingly climactic thanks to a mind-blowing plot twist that Adam reveals in the end.
4. Jon Snow Meets Ramsay Bolton (Game of Thrones, s. 6 ep. 9)
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one reference to Game of Thrones (2011-2019), the fantasy-drama series that has been at the center of attention in the television scene since its debut. Although it has its ups and downs and a polarizing finale (to say the least), it is undeniable how the series has gifted viewers with some of the most stunning plotlines, characters, and dynamics television has ever seen.
Season six is all built towards the catastrophic Battle of the Bastards. Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have clearly learned a lesson from what is considered the quintessence of epic battle scenes in cinema history – the battle of Helm’s Deep in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). Despite being very different from one another, these two conflicts both present an accurate, attentive search for tension before the actual fight so that when the battle finally begins, it’s twice as nail-biting. This is particularly true in episode nine, where fan-favorite Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and his half-sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) finally face off with the infamous Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) right before the battle in Winterfell.
The scene escalates in a subtle yet gravitas-filled way. Every character’s personality emerges from this dialogue, as they all expose their proposals and demands – an arrogant Ramsay offers Jon mercy in exchange for Sansa, an incautious Jon replies by proposing a duel just between the two of them, and a furious Sansa storms off after predicting Ramsay’s death the following day. The viewers have been waiting for this moment for entire seasons. Yet, this tension-filled face-off keeps them on the edge of their seats, in the curious paradox of hoping for some kind of agreement between our heroes and the despicable villain and, at the same time, knowing very well there will never be one.
3. Matt Murdock Meets Wilson Fisk (Daredevil, s. 1 ep. 9)
Fans have been quivering for the anticipated return of Charlie Cox in the role of Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, in the upcoming Disney+ series Daredevil: Born Again. Along with him, Vincent D’Onofrio is also returning as his ruthless arch-nemesis Wilson Fisk, who already appeared in Hawkeye (2021). In the meantime, let’s revisit the wonderful season one of Netflix’s Daredevil (2015-2018), specifically, the first encounter between the two characters.
The entire season does an incredible job of introducing the two main characters. The viewer learns from the first episode about Matt’s double life as a blind Hell’s Kitchen attorney by day and as a rough yet just vigilante by night. Fisk’s introduction, however, is much more subtle – and contributes to his mysterious and terrifying aura. The audience is left with a thin path of breadcrumbs throughout the first four episodes until Fisk is finally shown in all his power and brutality. From that point forward, Matt, along with his friends Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy (Elden Henson), try to build a legal case against New York City’s biggest and most dangerous mob boss.
However, it’s not until episode 9 that Matt finds himself face-to-face with the apparently unbeatable Fisk. In trying to discover his enemy’s past, the attorney visits the art gallery where Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer), Fisk’s love interest, works. Our hero pulls off his loveable charm by engaging in a playful conversation with Vanessa, only to be surprised a minute later by Fisk himself entering the gallery. Although Fisk has no clue that Matt is the masked vigilante that’s been messing with his business lately, Matt’s rage and nervousness immediately kick in as he faces the man who’s slowly sinking his city into an ocean of crime. The audience knows it as well – and that is exactly what makes this brilliant scene a worthy third position on the list.
2. Rust Cohle Meets Errol Childress (True Detective, s. 1 ep. 8)
The first season of True Detective (2014-present) is widely regarded as one of the best seasons in television history. And rightfully so – its spine-chilling, dark tone is both a compelling detective story and a profound philosophical study. Being an anthology series, every season is a standalone experience for the viewer. Such a miniseries-like contentment works in favor of the enjoyment of the audience, who will watch the eighth and final episode at the edge of their seat for the final showdown.
The story follows Louisiana detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and their investigation of the brutal ritualistic murder of a local girl. Despite being completely antithetical in their personalities and beliefs, Rust and Marty work hard on the case and soon discover that the poor girl was but a small piece in a wide series of killings by the hand of a sadistic child predator. The viewer follows the events with the exact same knowledge the two protagonists have, so until the last episode, not only is the ending unpredictable, but the very identity of the killer is unknown, too – behind all this is the horrifying Errol Childress (Glen Fleshler).
Technically speaking, this is not exactly Rust’s first encounter with Childress. Back in episode three, the murderer was working as a gardener at one of the buildings Rust and Marty visited during their investigation, and Rust even had a chat with him, unaware of his true identity. However, their final face-off is much more satisfying, as the series carefully builds the tension throughout the whole season not only by showing the horrific nature of the murders but also how psychologically devastating the case has been to the two detectives. McConaughey’s mesmerizing Rust finally confronting the animalistic Childress in the last finger-biting sequence is one of the many reasons the first season of True Detective was so universally acclaimed.
1. Sherlock Holmes Meets Jim Moriarty (Sherlock, s. 1 ep. 3)
In True Detective, the final face-off between hero and villain is revealed not to be their first encounter and that they had met before (unbeknownst to the hero). The BBC crime series Sherlock (2010-2017) follows this exact trope and even elevates it to thrilling new heights. The series offers a reimagination of the iconic titular character in the 21st century but keeps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s spirit intact, as it offers some of the greatest cases our beloved private investigator has ever worked on.
The first season does an awesome job of introducing both Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his friend/sidekick John Watson (Martin Freeman), but that’s not it. In the first two episodes, showrunners Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt carefully fed the audience some subtle foreshadowing of Sherlock’s arch nemesis Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), the villain for whom all the minor antagonists up until then have been secretly working. All these little hints point toward the two characters finally meeting in the final episode of the season.
At the end of a plot full of cat-and-mouse dynamics, where Moriarty tests Sherlock’s investigating ability like some sort of sick game of chess, the two can finally face off as the villain holds Watson hostage with an exploding vest. Right then, Sherlock realizes that Moriarty is in fact his assistant Molly’s boyfriend she introduced him to earlier in the episode. This is shocking for the audience, who have seen Sherlock cracking all kinds of impossible cases and making all kinds of impossible deductions throughout the series – so this Moriarty guy must be really smart… and dangerous. This final showdown is so tense that every line indeed feels like a chess move, and it all ends with a soul-crushing cliffhanger (can’t imagine having to wait two full years to find out what happens next). Anyway, this fantastic scene is well deservingly going down in TV history as the best face-off between a hero and a villain.
It’s no coincidence that all the entries on this list come from some of the most appreciated and impactful TV shows of all time. The television scene is full of great clashes between hero and villain, and viewers all over the world watch them with bated breath, hoping their hero will finally emerge victorious – no one will ever forget the excitement of seeing Walter White going up against Gus Fring in Breaking Bad (2008-2013), or Billy Butcher kicking the living heck out of Homelander in The Boys (2019-present). However, as stated before, the best part of this kind of scene is the tension-building, something all these shows have skillfully mastered.
What’s your take on this list? Do you agree, or do you have some other iconic face-offs in mind? You can find Dark streaming on Netflix, Game of Thrones, and True Detective on HBO Max, Daredevil on Disney+, and Sherlock on fuboTV. In the meantime, stay tuned with Dead Talks Entertainment for more articles and lists!
Sherlock: Series 4 (2017) Official BBC One Trailer
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|Federico was born on July 20, 1998, in Trieste, Italy. Film enthusiast for as long as he can remember, he graduated in Philosophy at the University of Turin, and he's written, directed and acted in many amateur short films. His lifelong dream is to become a storyteller -- no matter the profession. He's currently planning his next steps to (hopefully) make this dream come true, always following and being true to his inner artistic voice.|