122 – Redeeming a Villain

The Mythcreant Podcast

Everyone loves a villain. Sometimes we love villains so much we want them to be heroes. But how best to redeem them? Should they even be redeemed? Join us this week for a discussion on what goes into flipping a character from team bad to team good. We talk about our favorite and least favorite redemptions. Oren and Chris argue (again) about Bellamy. Wes wonders where the line is between a foil and a redeemed villain. Everyone gushes a little about Zuko.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Transform a Hero Into a Villain


Character Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey

Peter Hale



Darth Vader


Bellamy Blake



Draco Malfoy

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  1. Bryony

    I think Malfoy’s redemption is when Harry, Hermione and Ron are all captured and he won’t say who they are to keep them safe. Considering Harry nearly killed him only a year ago, that’s a pretty self-less thing to do.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      So maybe I got this wrong, but I just finished book 7 and I was pretty sure the implication in that scene was that he didn’t recognize Harry. Otherwise it’s super weird because he legit tries to kill Harry later.

      • Bryony

        It is a while since I read it, but I always felt like he said it because he thought he could get away with it; he had plausable deniability. Something about the wording around the look on Malfoy’s face/in his eyes. I might need to re-read to back up my point at all.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        There’s something odd in the description for sure, but I interpreted as signs of the extreme stress Malfoy is going through, not that he saw through Harry’s disguise. It was certainly foreshadowing a redemption, since he’s not having a great time on Team Evil, but I didn’t think it was a conscious act at that point.

  2. MichelleZed

    Agree! When Malfoy refuses to betray Harry to the bounty hunter dudes, that’s his moment when he wins the “not as much of a jerk as he could have been” award.

    It’s true that Malfoy’s redemption is weak, but it’s written that way on purpose. Rowling didn’t want him to be one of the good guys. With the Malfoys, she was intentionally writing bigots, small e evil dudes. Malfoy is just a cowardly, rich asshole, but he is still just a kid, and he is not an evil mastermind. The Malfoys want to live easy, privileged lives where they’re free to be awful to people they feel are inferior to them. They go in over their heads and Voldemort tries to make them cross a line they don’t want to cross, but they’re not really actually good. They’re not heroes, and they’re not supposed to be.

    At the end of the novel when Malfoy is at the train station with his kids, all he and Harry do is sort of nod at each other. They have learned to tolerate one another in a world with no war.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I mentioned this above, but when I read that scene a couple months back, it seemed to me that Malfoy didn’t recognize Harry, not that he intentionally hid Harry’s identity. I could be wrong, but it would be a little weird for him to save Harry’s life in that scene, but then try to kill Harry later.

      • MichelleZed

        Nah, it’s not. Malfoy’s evil attempts become half-hearted and remain that way for the whole year, along with the rest of his family’s. They want to take the off-ramp on evil, but can’t. Malfoy waffles back and forth because he is not fully redeemed in the book–nor is he supposed to be.

        • Cay Reet

          Well, the nod in the last scene shows that some way or other they have actually put their differences aside.

    • SunlessNick

      Malfoy’s mother does pronounced Harry dead, after he tells her her son is alive. I wouldn’t call it redemption – rather an expression of hope – with the hope for her son’s survival answered, she can muster hope for other things, like this whole horrible mess going away – but that takes Harry being alive, so she helps him survive.

      I *do* however think it was motivated by selfless feelings as opposed to selfish ones, because it’s also IIRC the only time anyone ever successfully lies to Voldemort, which implies one of those pure-motive of deals.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Yeah that’s how I remember Draco’s mom. Really a sign that Voldemort is losing his hold on his followers, because he’s given Lucius and Narcissa so much crap (including threatening to kill their son) that they’ve finally turned against him. I wouldn’t call it a redemption though, they still believe in Wizard Nazism, they just got beef with Wizard Hitler.

  3. C. R. Rowenson

    This was a great episode! It got me thinking, not just about how this can go wrong, sometimes coming off a bit tropeish, but how it could be subverted to strengthen the stories and get your readers/viewers excited.

    *Spoilers, if that matters to you*

    I’m talking about Jessica Jones. They take a couple of episodes making it seem like Killgrave is working towards some sort of F’ed up redemption arc. The even hit the point where Jessica is questioning if she can make him into a good person… then she says “screw that,” sedates him, and locks him in a hermetically sealed chamber.

    This worked for me on so many levels. It cemented Jessica’s character as the anti-hero I wanted to see, gave me a stand-up-and-cheer moment to see the *insert expletive* go down, and didn’t try to make me care about a man I detested.

    • SunlessNick

      The idea that the victim of abuse has to fix the abuser is a pernicious and very gendered idea, and I can’t imagine that short arc was anything but a direct and intentional refutation of it.

      I also like it because the way Jessica gets round his protections and captures him is really smart.

      • C. R. Rowenson

        Oooohh That’s a great point!

        I absolutely loved (in a grim, painful way) how they explored the trauma that can surround some of the Super Powers we take for granted in our comics and literature any more.

  4. Roxie

    I love this episode a lot. I am especially frustrated about Malfoy. Because if JK Rowling had been good at writing redemption arcs, Draco could have been a great character to redeem. As it stand I think Malfoy has the beginning of redemption arc, but not a full one.

    He would have been great to redeemed because to me Malfoy in the first 3 books, is pretty much a less tolerant, slythering version of James Potter. I think that a good redemption arc should have started in book 4 and 5. With book 6 maybe having Malfoy be Harry’s spy, because up until the end Harry never trusted Snape.

    I will always mourn the story that could have been told with Draco. Either a good redemption or at least make him a real foil to Harry. Make him evil, using Draco’s character as commentary on The Magic Nazi forcing their hate and belief into their children. About how you’re not born with hate, but you are thought to hate. Or have a full redemption I talked about before.

    It’s weird to me because I can think of at least two different ways to make an evil Malfoy, and at least other two or three to make a redeemed Malfoy. But what we got was just a big grey area. It’s like JK Rowling wasn’t sure on what to do, so she left Draco in the grey area permanently.

    Sorry for the long rambly comment, I have a lot of feeling and thoughts on Draco Malfoy.

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