The Mentor Figure is a vital element of the Hero's Journey and the television landscape is awash with these venerable and respected teachers, coaches, guides, and bosses.
Some are warm and fuzzy. Others come with a bit more of an edge.
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The unifying trait is always the understanding that they care about what happens to their charges. We would like to think all their motivations are noble and self-less but that would be pretty unrealistic, wouldn't it? Not to mention BOOOORING.
We've collected here some of the most memorable mentors whose secret (and not-so-secret) flaws came to light. Whether a Watcher with a wicked childhood, a captain with capricious aspirations, or a doctor with a dark side, we thank them for their service and appreciate their humanity, spots and all.
Stick was young, recently-blinded Matt Murdock's salvation, teaching him to harness his enhanced senses to become a formidable fighter. Keeping his affection for his student tightly under wraps, Stick trained him with ruthless brutality. Even when Matt grew up to become the Daredevil and discovered that Stick had been manipulating him all along to fight for the Chaste against The Hand, he still begged Elektra to spare the life of their mutual mentor.
Bull: Dr. Jason Bull
The captain of the T.A.C. Team addresses his crew regularly from his own special sort of podium but left to his own devices, often finds himself making personal blunders and waking up in strange places with stranger company.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Rupert "Ripper" Giles
Buffy's Watcher is one of TV's most reliable mentors, with an encyclopedic memory for demons and magicky stuff (and actual encyclopedias for everything else). However, he spent much of his youth rejecting his path as a Watcher and earning the moniker "Ripper" while he was at it. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 6, "Band Candy", the Scooby Gang gets an eyeful as exciting-as-oatmeal Giles regresses to his Ripper days... and hooks up with Buffy's mom? Woah.
C.S.I.: Gil Grissom
For most of his time on the O.G. C.S.I. iteration, Gil Grissom could be summed up in three words: evidence, logic, bugs. He seemed to have less than no private life to distract him from the job and never got emotionally involved with a case. EXCEPT for that time (CSI Season 3 Episode 15, "Lady Heather's Box") with Lady Heather, the amazing recurring dominatrix entrepreneur character. Yeah, THAT Lady Heather.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Melinda "The Calvary" May
Agent May is the kick-ass, most-experienced S.H.I.E.L.D. operative on Coulson's team and the one you want at your back in a fight. But her experience came with a price as she voluntary left life as a field agent after the Rescue in Bahrain (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 17, "Melinda") which left her traumatized and eventually led to the breakdown of her marriage.
The Wire: Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin
The Majors of the Baltimore P.D. don't come any larger than life that Bunny Colvin. But despite a decorated and respected career, he was forced to resign when his fervor to make a difference in the Baltimore drug landscape caused him to overstep his authority in setting up "Hamsterdam," a pseudo-legalized drug-dealing zone in his corner of the city.