We love a good villain. Villains with complex characters, mysterious motivations, and great resourcefulness are the best. The hero needs to be challenged, right? The better the villain, the greater the hero’s triumph will be at the end. (Going by movies such as Thor and The Avengers, Loki hits pretty high on the villain scale. This is a character that challenged not only one hero, but an entire group. Even Holmes had his Moriarty, a villain so great that they both went over Reichenbach Falls.)
When villains are emotionally sympathetic, we even like to cheer for them at least a little bit; however, appreciating them as characters is not the same thing as wanting them to win entirely. When it comes to criminal stories, we can’t allow the villain to truly win. It’s not in our nature. By the end of the book, movie, or episode we want, even demand the resolution that allows the villain to be brought to justice. In those rare instances where the villain gets away, it is only because at some later date the villain will return and have to face justice then.
But what if that’s not the case? Rereading the story of Jason and Medea got me thinking about how she got away in the end. She murdered her children, Jason’s fiancée Glauce, and Glauce’s father Creon, and then set fire to a city before disappearing completely. She got away. She never faced justice.
Okay, some may say that what she did actually balanced justice. Jason betrayed her, first, and she responded as was befitting (I won’t debate whether acts of murder and arson are equal to casting Medea aside.)
What about a villain who was not wronged first? Shakespeare’s play Othello has a lot in common with Medea's story, especially concerning the villain Iago.
[Some bad just goes bone-deep...]