How To Do the Unlikable Protagonist Properly (ft. Fallon Carrington)

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by Shreya

In this era of questionable Netflix content (see Emily in Paris, The Kissing Booth), it is quite common to come across a protagonist that is completely unlikable. And unfortunately, whatever TV universe they might belong to is probably incredibly popular and addicting. Take Emily in Paris for example, a show which has already been appropriately bashed all over the internet, the main argument being that Emily is made to seem like a very relatable and likable person but comes off as incredibly rude and self-centered. However, there is a market for them, and some shows have managed to create a proper unlikable protagonist. Define proper? In this sense, proper means that it is clear the protagonist is made to be deeply flawed and unlikable, and the audience will be privy to their character growth throughout the series. My favorite, and go-to example for this category is: Fallon Carrington from Dynasty. If you are currently one of the many, sadly uninformed humans of the 2017 remake of Dynasty, allow me to enlighten you. 

The show follows the immensely wealthy Carrington family dynasty in Georgia, starting with Blake Carrington’s engagement to Cristal Flores. Fallon is Blake’s daughter, and self proclaimed heir to Carrington Atlantic, the family company. From the first episode, it is shown that she is deeply ambitious, feisty, manipulative, and quite self-centered. And, yet I and many viewers alike find ourselves drawn to her. And to prove how unlikable she can be, I thought I’d count down her top worst moments, and what they show about the art of the unlikable protagonist.

  1. Fallon Leaks Cristal’s Sex Tape

The show begins with Fallon heading back to the family manor, at her father’s request, mistakenly believing he was going to promote her to COO of Carrington Atlantic. Instead she finds him engaged to the Head of PR: Cristal, and learns that not only will he go through with the marriage despite her protests, she is also being given the promotion of COO. Her immediate reaction to this massive betrayal, is to form a rival company, backed by her father’s biggest nemesis (Jeff Colby) and become the CEO of Carrington Atlantic’s active competition: Carrington Windbriar, which sends her and Blake into a workplace battle. After growing increasingly frustrated with Cristal’s new place as her father’s No. 1 girl, Fallon finds a sex tape of Cristal and her former lover (Matthew), who had been recently killed, and releases it to the press in an attempt to sabotage Cristal’s start as COO. Aside from the betrayal of this action, Fallon was also incredibly shortsighted, failing to realize that the news would devastate Matthew’s widow (Claudia), who was unaware of the affair. 

This is a tactfully written example of how to show Fallon’s underlying insecurity. The writers built up over the first three episodes, examples of Fallon’s jealousy towards Cristal: Cristal being promoted instead of her, Blake calling Cristal the most beautiful woman, and being replaced as Ms. Carrington for a charity gala. Even though she is extremely privileged, and much of her life has been influenced by nepotism, it is not hard to see that Fallon has worked extremely hard for her father’s recognition. She is almost always in business-mode, constantly feeding him tips on what might better the company, and Cristal has managed to earn everything she had been working for her whole life and steal her father’s affections. At the core, Fallon is justified in her feelings and comes across as surprisingly relatable. Most TV shows with unlikable protagonists fail to link their questionable or downright malignant actions to a core problem. It is a similar concept with creating villains. Villains are most effective and their stories are most enjoyed when they come from a detailed backstory. People don’t want to hear or read about how a person is just completely evil, they want to see and feel the events that led to their current state. It is why movies such as Cruella (2021) and Maleficent were so successful; they both added depth to previously two-dimensional people.

  1. Fallon two-times Culhane with Liam

After the murder mystery, and craziness that Season 1 left us with, Season 2 turned it up on the drama. The show picks up months later with Fallon picking up the fallout from Blake’s disappearance due to Cristal’s death, and getting CA ready for sale. Fallon is also back with Culhane, after a long buildup and the two get engaged in the first episode. However, there is the resurfacing of Fallon’s ex-fake-husband, Liam, whose family (the VanKirks) is buying the company. Fallon is forced to pretend to still be married to Liam, so that the sale of the company can go through. The two do get closer emotionally, and it is hinted that they have lingering feelings for each other but nothing comes of it. Until their divorce party, where Fallon is doubting Culhane’s honesty, and she kisses Liam in front of their guests. The two end up making out in the club’s security room before Fallon sees Culhane talking to another woman. This situation leads Fallon to have a continued presence at CA, mostly so she can spend time with Liam. Fallon and Liam do end up together in the end, but the way she carried on while her and Culhane together was not honourable or mature which is why it makes my list.

This, like the previous one, is another example of Fallon’s deep insecurity and inability to communicate. From the moment that Liam is back in her life, Fallon finds herself doubting her relationship with Culhane and seeing, even creating giant holes in it. She accepts a marriage proposal from Culhane just because she is feeling so insecure and thrown off by Liam suggesting that she still has feelings for him. Deep down, I think Fallon is simply scared of the fact that she is fallible and can make wrong decisions. Simply put, she is willing to stick to the decision of being with Culhane just so she can hang onto the fact that she initially chose him over Liam. I remember while watching the show, becoming so frustrated with her character because her stubbornness was clearly preventing herself from making the right choice. Clouded judgement, and large egos is another example of how the Dynasty screenwriters, not to mention Liz Gillies, were able to elevate Fallon’s character so that the audience is disappointed with her and yet still wants the happy ending for her.

  1. Fallon tries to frame Heidi so she can steal her child

This last one is quite something. Essentially, Fallon tries to frame a completely innocent woman for auto theft so she can win custody over her child because she wants to raise him as her own. In Season Three, newly engaged Fallon and Liam face the challenge of Liam’s birth child resurfacing after they were informed he was adopted. Liam’s ex (Heidi) and her son (Connor) magically show up one day, thoroughly shocking the couple, especially Fallon. In an even more shocking twist, Heidi basically dumps Connor with the couple, leaving behind a note that she isn’t suited for motherhood anymore, much to Fallon’s dismay. We see her old jealousy begin to resurface as Liam starts spending more time with Connor than her. However, the two eventually bond and Fallon becomes accustomed to the idea of being a stepmother. In another twist of bad timing, Heidi returns, having missed Connor so much and decides to take him back to California with her. Newly-attached Fallon isn’t happy about that to say the least, and enlists Blake to help her hatch a plan to gain custody of Connor. First, they try to prove that the farm retreat that Heidi went on when she took off was some sort of drug trip, but finally resort to framing her with auto theft. Even though she succeeds, Heidi quickly reveals that Connor isn’t actually Liam’s son, but his brother? 

Weird plotline aside, this is possibly the most drastic action has ever taken and when you break it down, it is actually quite brilliant. First, we see the green-eyed-monster arise again, but instead of her place as Blakes No 1. Girl being taken, it is her place as Liam’s No. 1. After she accepts the idea of sharing Liam, and becoming a parent essentially to someone else’s child, he is being involuntarily ripped from her life. We know that Fallon is ambitious, and that carries over to her personal life as well so this “kidnapper” arc of hers really isn’t that out of the blue. Simply put, her deep fear of abandonment and replacement has been thoroughly flushed out, and this is why her character is such a brilliant example.

If you aren’t a die-hard Dynasty Fallon fan after this, I’m definitely disappointed but I understand. However, it is impossible not to recognize the value of having characters like her exist in mainstream media, not just for their iconic quotes and personas, but to show that unlikable protagonists can be understood and written in a way that lets the audience feel empathy for them, just look at Blair Waldorf.

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