Having a hissable, recurring villain adds that special something to any TV procedural.

Elijah Stone has been filling that role on The Rookie, tormenting members of the LAPD’s Metro Division over the past two seasons (although it feels longer).

Sadly, complex villains such as Stone have recently become less of a thing on broadcast TV.

Let’s look at the famed Hawaii Five-0 villain, Wo Fat, as a case study.

During the series’ original run, Wo Fat was a crime boss, a red Chinese spy who answered to Peking (it was a different time) and served as the primary enemy of Steve McGarrett (played by Jack Lord).

Wo Fat (portrayed by Khigh Dhiegh) hung like a dense fog over that version, appearing in 15 episodes over nine of the show’s 12 seasons.

In the rebooted series, Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) was a crime boss and former Chinese Ministry of Interior agent. appeared in 11 episodes over five seasons as the archrival of Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), then returned in two posthumous episodes as well.

Dacascos’s modern incarnation was a more layered, scheming villain. But he lacked the menace the original projected (although that may be coming through a nostalgic haze). He was gone at McGarrett’s hands on Hawaii Five-0 Season 5 Episode 7.

Why are there fewer recurring villains on network TV today? Here are a couple of possible reasons.

First, cable and streaming programs can get away with so much more in terms of character development. Because of censorship standards, network villains are bound to pale in comparison.

Second, with networks canceling series willy-nilly with little warning, why put too much effort into developing a long-running, recurring villain? Instead, a villain will appear for a season, tops. There is no sense in getting attached to one.

That’s why the emergence of Stone has been such a revelation. He’s an old-school villain in a modern world.

Much of that credit should go to the actor who portrays him: Brandon Jay McLaren.

The always enjoyable Canadian actor has been best known for good-guy roles on shows such as Graceland and Ransom.

That’s why playing Elijah represents a 360-degree turn for McLaren. And he attacks the role with relish.

Perhaps running through Stone’s clashes with Metro will help to reveal more about his character.

The actions of a desperate Wesley Evers on The Rookie Season 4 Episode 1 began Elijah’s increasingly frequent interactions with Metro.

Angela Lopez, Wesley’s wife, had been abducted by cartel leader Sandra de La Cruz and taken to Guatemala.

Evers asked Elijah for help in locating her. Stone agreed in exchange for Wesley becoming his dirty lawyer.

During Stone’s subsequent three appearances, Evers attempted to fulfill his promise to Elijah while staying on the right side of the law. Stone made this more difficult by threatening harm to Wesley’s family.

Their relationship was severed on The Rookie Season 4 Episode 9, when Evers tried to wear a wire to implicate Stone. Elijah realizes what’s happening and threatens Lopez and the LAPD.

In that same episode, Stone was arrested after most of his crew by Abril Rodas, de La Cruz’s second in command, who sought vengeance on him for revealing Angela’s location to Wesley.

But the case against Elijah fell apart on The Rookie Season 5 Episode 6.

Also introduced in that episode was the public face of his empire, lawyer Monica Stevens, portrayed by the always watchable Bridget Regan. Monica was also Wesley’s ex-fiancee, adding to the palpable tension among the trio.

To avoid a lawsuit, Evers reluctantly issued a public apology to Stone in front of the media on The Rookie Season 5 Episode 7.

Elijah got away with machinations a couple of more times despite the best efforts of Angela and her detective partner, Nyla Harper.

Lopez hatched a scheme to take down both Stone and Abril on The Rookie Season 5 Episode 15. This went awry after Aaron Thorsen accidentally tipped off Elijah, and the two gang leaders became partners instead.

Things fell apart for this new partnership on The Rookie Season 5 Episode 17 when the LAPD interrupted a drug deal between Stone and Abril, and Monica got wounded in the shootout.

It takes the combined efforts of Lopez and Harper to take down Elijah, who boasted that he’d sent a hitman to kill Evers. But Wesley survived, largely thanks to bodyguard Charlie Bristow.

A battered Stone ended up in prison with the ever-talkative Oscar Hutchinson, who has had his share of adventures with Metro, as his neighbor. That can’t be a positive development.

So, a savvy villain is now imprisoned. Does that mean that Elijah has flamed out?

What’s the first rule of imprisoned villains on TV? Just because they’re inside doesn’t mean they’re out of the game.

Monica, who seems to be repping every baddie (including Oscar now), is still on the outside.

Stone may not have appeared onscreen on The Rookie Season 6, but that doesn’t mean his influence hasn’t been felt.

One, Monica makes a phone call to an unidentified someone, and one of the Fed bank robbers ends up dead.

Also, why does Monica represent Oscar if not on Elijah’s command after he receives valuable intel?

Coincidences? Who knows? But likely not.

Let’s hope Elijah, one of the most intriguing villains on broadcast TV, still has his hand in it.

Because the medium could use more memorable villains such as him.

Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.

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