The Wire: Michael Lee
Although he was only around for two seasons, Michael Lee’s transformation from quiet eighth-grader to contract killer struck a real chord with fans, putting him near the top of those controversial character ranking systems you might have heard something about. His deal with the dark side (Marlo’s crew) was especially heart-wrenching because Michael believed it was the only way to save his younger brother Bug from the abuse and poverty he had endured growing up. And while his first murder at the end of Season 4 might have ostensibly clenched his transformation, his farewell to Dukie in Season 5 was an equally defining moment in his arc. As the two shared their last moment together in Michael’s car, Dukie tried to lighten the mood with the memory of a summer day when they threw “piss balloons” at some tennis players, which Michael confessed he couldn’t remember (see above). These moments of self-realization — when a former good guy realizes there’s no turning back — are always pretty sad because they signal a sense of loss, and Michael’s case was especially haunting because he couldn’t even recall who he once was.