10 TV Villains Who Weren’t As Smart As They Thought

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Summary TV villains often fail because they overestimate their own intelligence and miss crucial details.
Even characters who are geniuses in certain areas can be foolish in others.
Arrogance and hubris ultimately lead to the downfall of many TV villains.
Even the most strategic, well-planned TV villains have to lose at some point, and often, it’s because they’re not quite as brilliant as they thought they were. The “villain monologue” often comes when an evil character thinks they’ve already won, and the most important thing left to do is to ensure everybody knows it. But shortly after the most dastardly speeches comes that villain’s downfall, as their arrogance and hubris have led them to miss something vital, giving the hero room to stop them.
Despite being steps ahead through seasons or episodes, many of TV’s villains aren’t as brilliant as they think. In some cases, like Walter White in Breaking Bad, the character may be a genius in certain areas but a fool in others. After all, there are different types of intelligence, and Walter White isn’t as all-knowing as he thinks. Since he’s technically the protagonist of his show, he wouldn’t count, but he’s the perfect example of a character who’s clearly a genius but not as smart as he thinks.
Related 10 Smartest TV Villains Who Were Always One Step Ahead Of Everyone Plenty of TV shows have intelligent villains, but ten of them, like Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger, stand a cut above the rest in terms of intellect.
10 Cersei Lannister
Game of Thrones
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Part of what makes Game of Thrones so fascinating is the number of intelligent characters in every house, between genius military tacticians and political schemers. Cersei Lannister is ruthless and cunning, but she fell victim to the ending of Game of Thrones as many other characters did, which saw her character dulled down for plot convenience. After Tywin Lannister’s death, Cersei makes some decent moves, but she’s self-destructive, and her actions primarily cause her downfall. It’s not in Cersei’s nature to give up what’s hers, but she actively damages her position by feuding with the Tyrells and other potential allies.
Related 11 Smartest Characters In Game Of Thrones Maintaining power in Westeros takes more than skill with a sword, as these Game of Thrones characters know all too well.
9 The Thinker
The Flash
For a villain named The Thinker, it’s hilariously ironic that he wasn’t as smart as he thought. The Flash struggled to create worthwhile foes for the titular speedster after the first season’s Reverse Flash. Zoom and Savitar had their merits, but speedster villains were growing tiresome after three in a row. Clifford DeVoe solved that problem in The Flash season 4 as a villain whose power was his advanced intellect with a plan to diminish the intellect of all other human life forms on the planet. But what DeVoe ultimately lacked was an understanding of emotions, as his wife Marlize ultimately unplugs his mechanical chair and kills him.
8 Plankton
SpongeBob SquarePants
As the owner of the Chum Bucket, Plankton constantly aspires for more in SpongeBob SquarePants, pitting him against rival restaurant owner Mr. Krabs. Plankton’s primary goal is to steal the secret formula of the Krusty Krab, hatching various evil schemes that always fail. Plankton and Mr. Krabs were childhood friends divided by the secret formula, and Plankton’s obsession and ego over the matter have caused him to waste his intelligence. Despite his genius, Plankton doesn’t work to build up his own brand because he can’t mature and move on with his life.
7 The Man In Black
Lost
The conflict between Jacob and the Man in Black is purposefully ambiguous in some ways, but it’s fair to say his fatal flaw is underestimating the survivors in Lost season 6. He has a cynical view of those Jacob brings to the island, seeing them as corrupt individuals who can’t work together. He feeds into that, using the John Locke appearance to manipulate and turn the island’s inhabitants against each other. What he doesn’t realize in his master plan is that removing the cork of the isle turns him into a mortal, allowing Jack to defeat and kill him.
6 Dan Jenkins
Yellowstone
In the first two seasons of Yellowstone, Dan Jenkins has an air of arrogance about him as a wealthy land developer with money and resources at his back. But competing in Montana against a family like the Dutton is a different game than he’s used to, and Jenkins is entirely out of his depth. Jenkins makes decent moves, but he’s constantly outsmarted by Beth and John Dutton, even finding himself hung from a tree at the end of season 1, though they’d decide to spare him off-screen. Jenkins ultimately perishes from the Beck brothers’ hit men, who are playing a mean, vicious game that he’s not equipped for.
5 Littlefinger
Game of Thrones
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Littlefinger, by all accounts, makes genius political maneuvers throughout Game of Thrones. Everyone knows he’s not trustworthy, yet he consistently creates a dependability that makes him a valuable asset to those he claims to support. He rises from nothing to form his own noble house, finding himself on the Small Council, the Lord of Harrenhal, and a Lord of the Vale with an army at his disposal through his influence over Robin Arryn. Littlefinger is a victim of the restrictive writing of the late Game of Thrones, which saw many characters make uncharacteristically unintelligent decisions. Still, his season 7 arc saw him drastically underestimate the Starks, resulting in his death.
4 Mr. Burns
The Simpsons
Mr. Burns is another ruthless, evil cartoon villain who overestimates his intelligence. He’s had some astounding victories over the years, but he’s also been thwarted by children and Homer Simpson on multiple occasions. He’s a clever businessman, but the joke with him is that he’s past his prime but doesn’t realize it and would be nothing without the support of the loyal Smithers.
3 Windom Earle
Twin Peaks
An FBI agent who’s gone rogue, Windom Earle is an essential antagonist in Twin Peaks season 2. After Laura Palmer’s murder is solved, the series finds itself in a lull, making season 2 the worst Twin Peaks season. Earle’s antics fill the gap until the fantastic final episodes, as a seemingly intelligent villain who is constantly steps ahead of Dale Cooper. Earle believes himself capable of understanding and harnessing the power of the Black Lodge, which is ultimately his fatal flaw. The Black Lodge is incomprehensible even to a genius. Earle is out of his depth, and he’s consumed by it.
2 Stringer Bell
The Wire
He’s smart, but he’s not bigger than the game.
Stringer Bell’s arc in The Wire season 3 ties into the season’s theme of reform. Stringer’s aspirations to legitimize the Barksdale Organization through business practices don’t necessarily lead to his death, but his ruthlessness as a gangster ultimately catches up to him. He doesn’t understand the business world well enough to be a force in it, resulting in him getting scammed by Clay Davis, and his practices ultimately make him untrustworthy in the drug business, resulting in Avon giving him up. He’s smart, but he’s not bigger than the game.
1 The Governor
The Walking Dead
One of the most vile characters in the series, the Governor is easily one of the best Walking Dead villains. He’s shown to be cunning, but he overestimates his leadership and the loyalty of his followers. He’s a narcissist who falls victim to his own cruel instincts, causing followers to abandon him when his purpose becomes plagued by violence and vendetta.

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