Every Main Character In Fatal Attraction Ranked By Their Ability To Ruin Your Life

Few women in cinematic history have been vilified so much as Alex Forrest. Played by Glenn Close, this wild and seductive career woman terrorizes her married lover, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), after a weekend fling in the mother of all erotic thrillers "Fatal Attraction." The original Alex is the epitome of a femme fatale and embodies the saying, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Released in 1987, Adrian Lyne's film has been reevaluated through the lens of modern sexual politics, with a much more sympathetic reappraisal of Alex's character and a refusal to see Dan as the story's hapless victim. A reboot from creators Kevin J. Hynes and Alexandra Cunningham attempts to reckon with this complicated legacy in an eight-part series starring Lizzy Caplan and Joshua Jackson as the toxic lovers.

The series begins with an incarcerated Dan (Jackson) confessing his sins in a parole hearing 15 years after he was convicted of murdering Alex (Caplan). The updated story plays out in parallel timelines depicting the original affair in the past and the present-day fallout as Dan attempts to clear his name with a new trial. Midway through the series, we're still not sure who killed Alex or if she's even dead, but we do know that she is far from the only character guilty of reckless judgment. To help navigate this updated cast of new and old faces, we've ranked each character by their potential for destruction and the likelihood that they would take an opportunity to ruin your life.

Arthur Tomlinson

Though painful, Dan's affair eventually benefits his wife, Beth (Amanda Peet). Somewhere between the two timelines, the convicted felon requests a divorce and asks her to stop visiting him in prison so he can avoid thinking about the life he might have had on the outside. She later marries her best friend and business partner, Arthur (Brian Goodman), and tries to leave her painful past behind. Beth's new husband may not be as charismatic as her first, but he's just about the nicest guy she could hope to meet. Arthur provides a shoulder for Beth to cry on as her marriage implodes, and he helps raise her young daughter, Ellen (Vivien Lyra Blair), as if she were his own child. Even more impressive, Arthur does not harbor any resentment when Dan attempts to rebuild relationships with Beth and Ellen (Alyssa Jirrels) after his release. He treats Dan and his best friend Mike (Toby Huss) as family, even though the return of his wife's first husband threatens the life they now share.

Arthur is a large man with a background in construction, but he doesn't appear to have a vicious bone in his body. He's much more likely to invite you in for a homemade brunch than he is to harm you. Arthur would not only be the last person to ruin your life, he would probably be the first person you'd go to for help putting it back together.

Richard Macksey

The present-day timeline shows the wreckage of Dan's life as well as the long-term effects of his actions on his adult daughter, Ellen. Now a college student studying psychology, she discusses connections between her father's affair and Jung's theory of the shadow self with her thesis advisor and mentor, Richard Macksey (David Meunier). While Professor Macksey may have a firm grasp of psychology, he's severely lacking in professional ethics and common sense. Ellen learns that the teacher she views as a father figure has been sleeping with a student — Ellen's friend, Stella (Isabella Briggs). This affair no doubt brings up painful memories from her childhood, watching the destruction of her family caused by Dan's infidelity.

Professor Macksey seems to genuinely care about Ellen and doesn't understand the turmoil his behavior has caused in her life. It's unlikely that he would intentionally harm her, though his cluelessness may cause accidental damage. Like Dan, he uses his position of power to seduce a much younger woman and compromises the futures of everyone involved. However, much has changed in the years since Dan first slept with Alex. Stella may learn some painful lessons about dating a teacher, but Professor Macksey is unlikely to destroy anyone's life but his own.


Beth's father, Warren (John Getz), may dote on his only child and granddaughter, but there's no love lost between himself and Dan. The wealthy businessman has a never-ending supply of subtle jabs at his son-in-law's expense and can't understand why Dan wastes his time and talents in the public sector rather than opening a lucrative private practice. Warren can barely contain his glee when he learns that Dan has been passed over for a coveted judgeship, and his disapproval exacerbates Dan's feelings of failure in the shadow of his late father's legacy on the bench.

 Warren's backhanded compliment at a family dinner bruises Dan's already fragile ego and sends him down a path of destruction. Not only does he crash his company car after having too much to drink, but soon after, he seeks validation in the arms of a mistress. However, Kevin J. Hynes and Alexandra Cunningham take pains to show that Dan is the architect of his own fate. Suffering insults and misfortune do not justify reckless behavior or betrayal. Warren's casual cruelty may destroy Dan's day and ruin a special family dinner, but mere words aren't enough to destroy a life.

Earl Broker

Not much gets past this sharp detective. Dan's colleague and frenemy, Earl Broker (Reno Wilson), has a keen eye for details and the ability to sniff out a lie from across a crowded parking garage. As the lead investigator in the case against Dan, he has no interest in reopening the files and flatly refuses to entertain the idea that there may be another killer on the loose. He slams the door in Dan's face when the convicted felon asks for information about the fifteen-year-old crime. Earl softens a bit when Mike returns to question Earl on his own, but even then, the strong-willed detective will only consent to discussing the details of his vegetable garden.

Earl's dedication certainly benefits victims of the cases that cross his desk. His laser-like focus and unwavering attention have likely led to a decorated career filled with successful convictions. However, if we are to believe Dan's claims of innocence, Earl played a hand in ruining his life. Once he decides that Dan is the killer, Earl becomes fixated on putting him behind bars, and no amount of evidence will change his mind. Earl is a loyal friend to the innocent, but criminals should steer clear of this tireless public servant. 


Beth's mother, Sophie (Jessica Harper), may be the life of the party, but she's a bit of a mess. This gregarious grandmother has a good relationship with her daughter and son-in-law despite a cavalier approach to parenting and a tendency to loosen her tongue with wine. Sophie's honesty about the reality of motherhood may seem refreshing to the audience, but often it frustrates her daughter and long-suffering husband. She also proves to be a disastrous house sitter. Her failure to follow simple instructions sets in motion a deadly string of events that leads to the ruination of Beth's comfortable life.

After a few glasses of wine, Sophie realizes that she's let Beth's dog out of the backyard. She bumps into Alex, who coincidentally happens to have found the beloved pet wandering the neighborhood. Believing her to be a friendly neighbor, Sophie invites Dan's mistress into his house and gives away information about the inner workings of his family. She then falls into the pool while trying to retrieve an errant float, giving Alex the perfect opportunity to hurt the love of Dan's life. Alex closes the pool cover over Sophie and drowns the poor woman to punish Dan for rejecting her and his wife for existing. While Sophie can hardly be blamed for her own murder, her carelessness and lapse in judgment lead to one of the most devastating days of her daughter's life.

Conchita Lewis

Alex is not just new to the Victim's Services Department of the L.A. District Attorney's Office. She's also a new resident of the bustling city. She quickly befriends her supervisor, Conchita Lewis (Toks Olagundoye), who frequently works with Dan as an advocate for his clients. This popular public servant connects the ill-fated lovers by assigning Alex to Dan's high-profile case. Like most in her office, Conchita thinks highly of Dan and especially admires his dedication to providing a voice for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Investigating his case in the present day, Dan turns to Conchita when he learns that Alex may have harassed another coworker. Unfortunately, we learn Conchita has let her affection for Alex cloud her professional judgment. During Dan's trial, she could have provided his attorney with a complaint filed against Alex by one of the court's guards, but she kept this evidence under wraps. Outraged by Dan's victim-blaming defense strategy, Conchita chooses not to come forward with this exonerating file, allowing her former friend to go to prison as punishment for vilifying Alex on the stand. A steadfast ally, Conchita will always advocate for the victims of violent crimes. Unfortunately, Dan fails to understand that he is not the true victim in the case of Alex's death, and Conchita effectively seals his fate by refusing to come to his aid.

Gabriel Ibarra

Conchita Lewis is not the only court employee unwilling to speak up in Dan's defense. Before Alex crossed paths with Dan, she briefly dated courthouse guard Gabriel Ibarra (Tiago Roberts). He now treats Alex with professional courtesy but tells her in no uncertain terms that he is not interested in a romantic relationship. Perhaps hoping to change his mind, Alex brings him a fritter wrapped in pink paper. Gabriel accepts the gift, likely hoping to avoid an awkward situation but then pawns the food off on Dan's subordinate. Alex spies the pink wrapper on which she'd pinned her romantic hopes and realizes how little her kind gesture means to her former flame.

Though this passive insult ruins Alex's day, Gabriel's actions have an even more devastating effect on Dan's case. Uncomfortable with her flirtations, Gabriel files a report, accusing Alex of harassment in the workplace. As another object of her intense affection, Gabriel could be a powerful witness for Dan's defense. However, like Conchita, he chooses to keep his experiences with the unstable woman to himself. Outraged that Dan would vilify a woman suffering from mental illness, he remains silent while Dan struggles to defend himself on the stand. As an honorable officer of the court, Gabriel would probably answer honestly if asked about his history with Alex. However, Dan is more concerned with painting Alex as an evil seductress, and Gabriel sits back and watches Dan sink himself with his own lies.

Marcella Leyva

Dan probably owes his rapid rise through the district attorney's office to two things: the path laid out by his late father and his close friendship with District Attorney Marcella Leyva (Wanda De Jesus). A powerful player on the city's political landscape, she could probably force Dan's appointment to the bench should she choose. However, Marcella values her credibility above all else and informs Dan he'll simply have to wait a few more years before receiving a promotion.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, Marcella has no doubt worked exceptionally hard to achieve her present position and will not risk damaging the reputation of her office to help out a friend. When Dan is anonymously accused of sexual harassment, she immediately suspends him, regardless of her personal feelings about his innocence. Marcella welcomes Dan back with open arms after an internal investigation exonerates him but makes it clear that she will always run her office by the book. With a murder charge looming in the earlier timeline, we can expect Marcella to take a similar stance regarding Dan's position and guilt. This accomplished woman is a powerful ally who will no doubt go to great lengths to support you, but she won't hesitate to cut you out should you give off the slightest whiff of corruption.

Frank Gallardo

On the opposite end of the professional spectrum is Dan's fellow attorney Frank Gallardo (David Sullivan). This slimy lawyer keeps a "morning-after" closet in his office to cover up his own affairs and loans out items to help his coworkers lie to their families. Frank has built a career on his chameleon-like ability to impress the right people and grease the wheels of the toxic culture that thrives in high-powered legal circles.

Fairly low on the totem pole in the earlier timeline, Frank has reached the full zenith of his powers by the time Dan emerges from prison. Convinced he can redeem himself and erase the mistakes of his past, Dan goes on a rather humiliating job hunt, leaning on personal connections and favors from old friends. He reaches out to Frank, now running his own firm, with his hat in hand, prepared to accept a position well beneath his level of expertise. However, it seems Frank has been waiting 15 years for his chance at petty revenge. He makes Dan suffer through a degrading interview only to rub his newfound power in Dan's face. Frank laughs at the thought of ever hiring Dan, then sends him on his way, more dejected than he was before. While he's probably a competent lawyer, Frank is just about the worst person you could hope to work for. He stores away every grievance while weaseling his way up the corporate ladder in hopes that he will one day have the opportunity to kick you at your lowest moment.

Beth Gallagher

Beth Gallagher is the closest thing to a hero the "Fatal Attraction" world has. As Dan's long-suffering wife, this trusting and kind contractor has worked hard to build a comfortable life with her husband and daughter. Beth may not know much about Dan's habits at work, but she's no fool. Episode 4 shows this whip-smart woman putting the pieces together to figure out exactly what (and who) Dan has been doing on the nights he claims to be working late. She probably would have figured out Alex's role in her mother's tragic death, as well, if she weren't lost in grief.

When Dan confesses his affair, Beth wastes no time ending their marriage and points out the selfishness of Dan's choice to unburden his conscience on the night of Sophie's death. Despite her pain, Beth does her best to hold herself together for the sake of her daughter and spends the years of Dan's imprisonment making her life infinitely better. She marries her best friend, Arthur, and moves to a gorgeous house where they raise Ellen and run their construction company. Even more impressive, she maintains firm boundaries in the present-day timeline and will not let her newly paroled ex-husband sabotage her life for a second time. Beth doesn't have a malicious bone in her body, but should you try to pull anything over on this headstrong mother, your life will likely end up in shambles.

Ellen Gallagher

The apple doesn't fall far from the Gallagher tree, but the jury's still out on which of her parents Ellen (Alyssa Jirrels) more closely resembles. At first glance, she seems to have a strong relationship with her mother and stepfather, Arthur, and sees a therapist to deal with the trauma she experienced in the wake of Dan's affair. On the other hand, Ellen has an unhealthy obsession with Jung's theory of the shadow self and spends most of her time listening to recordings of her professor's lectures on the subject. 

Ellen reacts to the news of Stella's relationship with Professor Macksey with stunned disappointment, though it's difficult to understand why. Had she been hoping to seduce the professor herself? Perhaps she has feelings for Stella and views her advisor as a complication in what could be a burgeoning love story. More likely, Ellen has seen the destructive power of an illicit affair and hopes to prevent two people she cares about from suffering the same fate. Or perhaps she's more traumatized by the mysterious afternoon she spent alone with Alex as a child than her parents realize. What we do know is that Ellen has inherited both her mother's intelligence and her father's attraction to destructive desires. Only time will tell what secrets are lurking in the shadows of Ellen's mind and how far she'll go to get what she wants.

Mike Gerard

Before we see the story's central affair, we're treated to a glimpse into Dan's life before Alex derails it. After drinking away his disappointment at losing the judgeship, the disappointed lawyer attempts to drive home but sends his company car careening off the road. He immediately calls Mike to take care of the messy details and, aside from having to walk home, gets away with this criminal act scot-free.

A likable investigator for the district attorney's office, Mike took Dan under his wing long ago, and the two men are virtually inseparable. He refuses to believe that Dan is capable of murder and stands by his side throughout his trial and imprisonment. Upon Dan's release, the friendly detective dedicates his life to proving his friend's innocence and uses his connections to dig up new evidence. This investigation comes at the expense of several people who crossed paths with Alex 15 years before and now find themselves suspects in a murder to which Dan has already confessed. Mike may be skilled at steering Dan toward safety, but he's potentially ruining the lives of several strangers in hopes of clearing his friend's name. Mike would be a wonderful friend to have in your corner. Just make sure you don't run afoul of anyone he cares about.

Alex Forrest

Were we to base this ranking on Adrian Lyne's original film, Alex Forrest would probably top the list of destructive characters. However, the new iteration of this complicated woman is so much more than a femme fatale. Episode 3 gives us a glimpse into her troubled psyche, revealing a woman desperate for love but convinced she'll never receive it on her own merits. Suffering from an unnamed mental illness, Alex alternates between manipulating others and lashing out with threats any time she feels even slightly insulted. Despite this more sympathetic portrayal, Alex is clearly unstable. She's orchestrated every random encounter leading to her affair with Dan and expertly guided him into her bed. When he tries to end their fling, she engages in self-harm and fakes a suicide attempt to try to regain his sympathy.

Alex tries everything in her power to reunite with Dan. She files an anonymous complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct, shows up at his house, kidnaps his daughter, and murders his mother-in-law to punish him for not loving her and convince him to leave his family. We also learn that Alex has a history of erratic and dangerous behavior. A neighbor she briefly dated moves away in the dead of night, and her former therapist wants nothing to do with her. Who knows how many lives she's destroyed before moving on to Dan? Given her troubled mental state, Alex is not the most dangerous or malicious person in "Fatal Attraction," but she's definitely a woman you'd want to steer clear of.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Dan Gallagher

The top spot on this list goes to the original film's victim, Dan Gallagher. This self-described family man lies to his friends and cheats on his wife in a vain attempt to soothe his bruised ego after a minor disappointment. Dan would have you believe that he has simply fallen into the clutches of an evil woman, but he has every opportunity to walk away from Alex. He sleeps with her of his own free will. He then makes matters worse by continuing to see her and concocting a string of lies to cover up his misdeeds. Though we still don't know what happened to Alex or if she's truly dead, we can reasonably assume that Dan did not kill her. However, everything else happens as a result of his own choices.

The series begins with a satisfying moment as Dan stares at a parole board and takes responsibility for Alex's death. Unfortunately, we later find out he's simply lying once again to get out of prison. He still sees himself as the victim of the story and vows to find out who's to blame for what he sees as his misfortune. Dan is the most dangerous character in "Fatal Attraction" because he cannot accept that the only person responsible for ruining his life is himself.

Read this next: 14 Remakes That Are Better Than The Original

The post Every Main Character in Fatal Attraction Ranked by Their Ability to Ruin Your Life appeared first on /Film.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published