In any good stories, you have protagonists and antagonists, each with their own personalities, ideals, qualities and flaws but most importantly their goals. We have a clear definition of who a protagonist is- obviously the hero that we root for, the one that saves the day and gets the girl, but for a story to be truly great the antagonist must match the protagonist in every single aspect, if not surpass him.
But what is an antagonist? Wikipedia states that "An antagonist is a character, group of characters, institution, or concept that stands in or represents opposition against which the protagonist(s) must contend." but the short, more direct answer from Google results seems to fit better in this case. The search engine regards an antagonist as
"a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary."
Now that we've got down what an antagonist is, let's briefly understand who Kai Parker is.
The Vampire Diaries Wikia gives us the information that we need, saying
"Malachai "Kai" Parker was a major recurring character and the main antagonist of the sixth season of The Vampire Diaries.".
He was played by Chris Wood and was, hands down, one of the best, if not the best, villain on the supernatural TV drama. What makes him so special, you ask? Let's go over all of the aspects that separate him from all of the other villains on the show, making him stand out.
1. He has a personality disorder that isn't overlooked by himself or the other characters
Kai is a sociopath, someone "whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.".A trait that has proven to define his very being as it is the most obvious one, the one that the writers bring out the most. He does plenty of antisocial deeds, such as almost killing his entire family, leaving someone stranded and wounded in a parallel universe after chasing them and kidnapping them, going after his own sister only to get what he wants. Which brings us to our next point.
2. He has a goal
Janice Hardy's number one tip for having a strong antagonist is to have him try to accomplish something. And that is exactly what this witch does. Kai comes from a very unique coven, the Gemini coven, in which the twins, one they reach a certain age, merge and one of them, the one that survives the merge, gets to become the leader of the coven. He and his sister are twins, so the two of them had to go up against one another, where his origin story begins. Given his unique skill set, he is looked down upon by his parents, which choose to have another pair of twins.
And that is only when Malachai snaps and, in his desire to become the coven's leader, combined with his sociopathy and disgust for being looked down upon for so many years, kills three of his siblings before chasing down the younger twins. They escape and he is tricked into believing that his sister will merge with him before the rest of the coven converges to their merging spot and transport him to the parallel universe in which we meet him the first time, making his goal at the time escaping in order to merge with his sister and gain power.
3. He has unique abilities
We mentioned before that Kai has a "unique skill set", but which may that be, you ask? Well Kai is the only one in his coven which, instead of having his own magic, can absorb other magic in order to use it as his own and weaken the bearer of said magic. In a world with vampires, werewolves and witches -all of which have magic or were created through magic- you can see why he would pose the greatest danger. This is showcased when he absorbs the magic of Bonnie Bennett, a witch; a magically enchanted knife and even a whole bubble of magic around Mystic Falls which was created by an entire group of witches called The Travelers. This ability poses an even greater danger once he evolves, becoming stronger and adapting, becoming a greater threat, but we will talk about all of that later.
4. His character is fluid
While still an antagonist, which has done terrible things, he gets a "redemption arc" in the middle of the season when he merges with the wrong person, one of the twins that he had tried to kill in the past. Surprisingly, he gets traits of that person that he didn't possess before, giving the "merge" term quite a literal sense. What he didn't have before the merge was exactly what made him the villain, the bad guy; feelings. He feels guilt for his previous actions and he even goes on to describe tears as "this weird liquid pouring down from my eyes. Has that ever happened to you?". So it is obvious that prior to this moment he was unaware of what effect feelings had on a person, especially himself.
The former villain goes on even to try and help the one that he had left stranded before apologizing to her. Despite not being forgiven, he tries his best to make amends, going to yet another parallel universe to save someone whom he didn't know because he believed that it might win him some sympathy. Things don't go well for him as he is left there, stabbed, by the one that he had left in the other universe, with a few Heretics, a newly added species to the series which are a combination of witches that can absorb magic and vampires.
5. He adapts and is highly motivated to act
Another two aspects brought up by Janice Hardy. How does he adapt? The witch joins forces with the Heretics, only to escape the prison world that he was in and make an "explosive" appearance.
What he does is not only brave, but borderline insane, erasing his redemption arc completely and returning the character to his roots, making him a sociopath again but putting a lot more emphasis on that trait and his desire to not only get back at the one that imprisoned him but to remain leader of the Gemini coven. He finds out that his sister is pregnant with twins, so, while being cloaked, he stabs her in the stomach during her wedding right when she is about to say her vows. His impulse is obviously to erase any chances of him being replaced as the Gemini leader.
His next actions are:
- Making a building's windows implode after sending a sharp pain through everyone's ears
- Putting a curse on one of the protagonists, linking her "eternal" sleep to the witch's lifespan, so the protagonist, Elena, will sleep for as long as Bonnie is alive.
- He kills himself with vampire blood in his system, leading to his death and everyone else's death in the Coven as their lives depend on him living, only to have him come back as a Heretic
- Making someone choose between living without their loved one for sixty years or killing their own best friend
The most dangerous part about his evolution is that, as a Heretic, he can absorb his own magic that makes him a vampire, granting him unlimited magic and the ability to do virtually anything, which he uses to take hope temporarily away from the witch that locked him away, making her believe that her friends will choose to kill her to bring Elena back.
6. He is compelling
Sure, Kai has done many bad things, from the protagonist's perspective, and his personality and mentality definitely don't make it any easier to understand him; but it is obvious that he thinks he is doing the right thing. He refers to merging as a "birth right" that was taken away from him for the fact that he was different and he simply tries to take that back and keep it. When he sees that there is no way of showing people he had changed, he simply goes back to his old ways and wipes out everyone who decided he wasn't worthy enough.
Not only that, but the character, while displaying psychotic behavior, is charming and definitely attractive, accumulating a large fanbase over the short period that he was in the show. The proof for that are the countless YouTube videos which showcase his dark side, his soft side or the videos which ship him with Bonnie, their "official" name being "Bonkai.".
7. He is fun
This witch is a villain, a bad guy, an antagonist. He does bad things and is a complete sociopath; but that is exactly why the viewers love him! Kai provides the fun factor for all of the scenes that he is in, making witty comments and jokes.
He does unexpected things and keeps the viewers on his toes, even in his supposed "death scene" which surprised everyone by being instant. That, and hope that the writers wouldn't kill a character with so many fans, makes us believe that we haven't seen the last of this fantastic character.