While everyone around them is playing their own game of checkers, with diagonal moves and small gains, there are a select few characters in TV history who play 3D chess. No move is beyond their imagination. No move is invalid on moral grounds, so long as it takes them into the end game with an advantage. Seduction, sacrifice, flattery and fear are their tools, and their cunning and intelligence means that they know exactly which should be employed at any given moment.
Some manipulators are psychologists, understanding what hopes and fears drive others, which flatteries they are inclined to believe, and which buttons they need to push in order to get their desired results. Some are story tellers, weaving together a complex web of lies and truth to entrap their victims. And some manipulators compell others to do their will through sheer force of will, or the promise of violence.
All of their games are ruthless, vicious, and terrifying, but they possess their own kind of abstract beauty. And, of course, they are the dark souls of some of TV's greatest offerings.
9. Caprica Six - Battlestar Galactica
"In a few hours, no one will be left to charge you with anything."
Caprica Six, a cylon charged with the destruction of the human race, is ruthless and focussed in the pursuit of her mission. Initially lacking the capacity for empathy, she thinks nothing of casually snapping the neck of a baby.
Caprica Six seduces Gaius Baltar, a key figure in the Colonial Defense System. Baltar, completely at Six's mercy, hands over the codes that allow for the system to be compromised, and billions of people are killed in a devastating nuclear attack.
Caprica Six evolves over the course of Battlestar Galactica, and starts to feel empathy, and even comes to love Gaius. But her complete and perfect manipulation of Gaius initially, to the end of the near total annihilation of humankind, secures her well-earned status as one of the most destructive manipulative forces in TV history.