Good, bad, whatever
Shades of grey? Better. Depth. But.
What happened to the rainbows?
I don't want to read about good guys and bad guys. I want to read about the Whatevers. The freaks, the ones that don't fit the boxes. And the reason is simple. Well, reasons. Identification being a big part of it. But mostly- you can tell more stories that way.
The Bad Guy, the Good Guy, they have one story each. And it is really only one story between them, because they're just flip sides of each other. Bored now.
The other people, the ones who don't just find one action and stick with it, they can do *anything*. All the stories. And it is interesting, because once again there is suspense, and surprise. When the Good Guy is tempted to do the Bad Thing, we know he will or he won't. Both have been told. New story please.
When someone who doesn't accept that framework is faced with a situation, they could do anything. The Right Thing, The Wrong Thing, juggle bananas or give God the finger - anything. Everything. They get to *choose*.
Bad Boys? Are not Bad Guys. They can love, they can fight, they can pick sides and switch sides and have opinions that aren't all lily white and shiny. Spike in season 4 was fun because he was the only wild card. Buffy will save the world, the Big Bad will try and destroy it. Spike will... snark, steal lamps, make deals with the Big Bad, save the Scoobies. All or any. You never know for sure what he'll do next.
Even then, Bad Boys aren't quite the characters I'm looking for. There is a veneer of not caring, a tendency to strut, all the worst masculine excesses that only get dropped with their one beloved. Their relationships are kind of 1d - they have someone they care about, and then there's the rest of the world. Not much of a web. To grow into a web of relationships, a range of reactions to others, they have to start outgrowing the Bad Boy thing.
My second favourite character, for sheer breadth of possibility - Methos. Lived for 5000 years but quite willing to die should it come to that. Good guy, bad guy, he's tried on all the costumes and he can swap into whichever will get things done. But somewhere in there is Methos, just a guy, who feels and connects and wants to live (not just survive) and will risk everything for that chance. He is fascinating. He's like humanity in one (very attractive) package.
But right up there at the top for expanding the story possibilities, there is Ethan. Catalyst supreme. Drop him into a story and anything is possible, for a value of anything only limited by imagination.
It isn't just that he can choose his actions, that he has the full pallette available. It is that he broadens all the *other* characters too. Buffy being the damsel? Xander the hard man? No problem, Ethan's around. And what Ethan brings out in Giles... oh yeah, added depths. Ethan is the catalyst supreme.
The only trouble with his usefulness this way is he can end up being something to react to, rather than someone who also reacts. He gets treated like a force of nature. There are stories to be written about wind or fire, but they are all about how people react to them, not about the elements themselves. Ethan is not an element. Everything he does comes from him wanting to do it. Everything that happens to him results in a reaction. There is a character in there, just not one limited to a single set of choices. Hence the fun.
Ethan can choose to do whatever he wants to, and is the cause of whatever kinds of reactions in others. He expands the possibilities. He adds colors. So with him I can tell the most stories. And this, more even than the hotness, is why I love him.