For the past few years, this category’s been the most difficult — trying to pick through my favorites without too much repetition from past years and the desire to give other characters the opportunity to be on here as well. But my inability to choose could’ve been due to the fact that there just weren’t that many options in the first place. And this year’s special — in both the TV verse and cinematic. And these ten characters are ones I’m certain I could not love more even if I tried. Some old with exceptional growth and some new pushing me into a state of gratitude for just how great TV’s been this year.
- Lucy Preston
I don’t think there’s ever been a character as adored as quickly as Timeless’ Lucy Preston. And season two pulled the darling historian through the darkest of revelations only to have her come out of it even more generous than before. Lucy’s heart is inexpressible –there hasn’t been a character like her in a while, and it’s been a stunning ride watching her continuously open her heart despite the fact that the one person she trusted most in her life turned out to be the villain in her story. Whether it was fighting alongside the women who were to be executed during the Salem Witch Trials, standing with Suffragette Alice Paul, or welcoming Jessica to the team despite her feelings for Wyatt — Lucy’s benevolence is selflessness in its most evident form. She is nobility personified, for even when she could be choosing for herself, fighting for her own future, the other person’s effect is always taken into deep consideration, too. But the thing I appreciate most about Lucy is that even with all the compassion running in her veins, she’s not one to allow anyone to take advantage of her — she understands that goodness and naiveté aren’t the same thing. She’s fought back when she needs to. She’s cried when she’s been in pain. She’s doubted. She’s believed. She’s gotten excited. She’s shown viewers a wide range of emotions authenticating the fact that women are beautifully complex. She’s many things, but above all, she’s a woman who’s walked through fire and instead of letting it burn her, she’s used it to fuel the good fight instead. She’s walked out with the flames as phoenix feathers — stronger, wiser, and even more compassionate than before.
2. Miriam “Midge” Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I binged the show in entire two days and can’t not talk about what a gem Midge truly is. A Jewish housewife (separated), mother of two, a daughter, a friend, a comedian, a woman. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is filled with compelling characters, and at the top of that list is its leading lady, gorgeously brought to life by Rachel Brosnahan. Midge is an easy character to love, you sympathize so much with her in the first season, and by the end of it, you’re rooting for her happiness above all, but it’s in the second season where her growth’s even more palpable than the first. There’s a lot I personally adore about Midge, but my favorite is her ability to live in the midst of chaos. Midge feels, she’s most certainly not emotionless, not even the slightest bit, but her choice to keep moving forward is pretty darn inspiring. And what’s so captivating, thereby making her so well written is the fact that her actions play on the idea that women like Midge are too much. They never stop. But that’s what makes her such an excellent character, especially watching her in the 21st century when we as women are done trying to be something we’re not. We’re done masking our actual emotions in a patriarchal society that’s consistently trying to write off normal, human traits as overbearing or excessive. I’ve always been told I’m too intense, whether it’s with my passions or my mechanisms in dealing with day-to-day activities, but characters like Midge do a fine job of reminding viewers that we shouldn’t dim our light. I care a lot about Midge because even when she’s using her family, friends, and pain for comedy, (Because, really, who doesn’t? The legendary Carrie Fisher stated: “Take your broken heart, and make it art.”) she loves them all fiercely, cares about their opinions, and with her actions, she makes it clear that there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for their happiness. She’s taking risks, knocking on doors, and figuring it all out one spotlight at a time. And if that’s not a compelling character than I don’t know what is.
3. Eleanor Shellstrop
The Good Place
Eleanor Shellstrop would certainly be in the Good Place if it were up to me. This season has brought our show’s unlikely heroine so far, it’s made me cry too many times. (The Good Place obviously makes me cry a lot. Don’t hold it against me. I’m a sap.) Eleanor’s learned to love, she’s learned to forgive, and most importantly she’s learned that doing good even when you aren’t receiving it matters exponentially. She’s learned that while human beings are imperfect, they’re capable of anything they set their minds to. She’s learned that she herself is capable of the very thing she’s never received, love. And it’s that very love that’s eventually brought out the good in her. It’s upon giving that love where she’s learned how to receive it, too. It’s that very love, that’s inspired her to take risks in order to help inspire a few more people even when she didn’t fully understand it herself. (Flying all the way to Australia!? C’mon now. Good Place goals.) It’s that very love that’s inspired her to get back up even when the good life wasn’t working for her and running off to old ways sounded much more comfortable. Eleanor’s continuous fight despite the very raw, governing emotions that tell her she’s getting nowhere has made for some of the most extraordinary development yet. And this is still just the beginning for her.
4. Julia Wicker
Julia Wicker for character development of the year — truly, in every sense, the embodiment of taking rage and finding the magic in it. It may be the more appropriate word usage for a series like The Magicians, but my goodness it’s been beautiful to see how far she’s come from the very first episode. Julia’s choices, the struggles, and the utter light she’s shown has been an absolute delight to witness. It’s the delightful showcase of how the underdogs always come out top, and for the longest time, that’s what Julia was –the underdog, the failure, the screwup, the nobody. She wanted magic so bad, but it didn’t want her. And when the world tried to destroy her in one of the, if not the most, gruesome of ways, she fought back with grace and fought for her magic instead. She chose not to give up. She chose to chase the destiny she felt was hers and she came out on top. She may not be the Queen of Fillory, but she sure is a queen. She’s a queen with magic and goodness flowing through her veins because she chose never to give up on what she believed she deserved. She knew she wanted it, she believed she deserved it, and she fought beautifully to earn it.
5. Jess O’Brien
We all have that one character we’d protect all costs (Or in some cases, plenty of them.) And Jess O’Brien is most certainly one of those characters. I still cannot believe how far Jess has come, and I also can’t believe how much material a Hallmark show’s given us. (No offense, Hallmark. But you know.) There’s only so much a single person can do when they’re already struggling and perceived as the one who’s constantly needing to be picked up. Jess has not only proven that she can be reliable in whatever she sets her mind to, but through her, we’re able to see one of the most realistic struggles of our time. We don’t all know exactly what we want. We don’t all succeed in the first job we have. We don’t all keep the first thing we touch. We don’t often exhibit the trials of not having a set career or at least, a consistent job, even if it’s temporary. But in Jess, we’ve seen what it’s like for someone to fail, ache, and get back up. We’ve watched her struggle with the Inn then we watched her struggle with love. And after she finally found her place last season, this year she dealt with losing it all — she dealt with betrayal, self-doubt, and ridicule all over again. She stood up to David’s disapproving parents, she lost the inn she’d worked so hard for to termites, and on top of that she dealt with the good ol’ O’Brien family drama. But that didn’t stop Jess from fighting because even when she’s upset and complaining, Jess is such a realistic representation of how women can be when they’re struggling. We don’t always have it together. We cry. We lose hope. We doubt ourselves. But we get back up. And today, we know a Jess O’Brien who knows her worth even when she doesn’t have it all.
- Matthew Clairmont
A Discovery of Witches
I’d like to put it in writing once more that Matthew Goode is the sole reason vampires can be leading men again. That’s it. That’s the tea. But in all seriousness, the series has done a remarkable job with Matthew Clairmont’s development, making him far less of a patriarchal man than in the books; thereby, allowing the character to be admirable and greatly appreciated. Matthew’s encouragement of Diana and all that makes her wonderful is at the top of the list of qualities that make him so appealing. It’s the choice to see her for all that she is and consistently choosing to be the beacon of strength that reminds her she shouldn’t be afraid of what’s new her. It’s the tireless effort to ensure that those he cares for are taken care of even when he’s not best at showing it. And I mean, I suppose it’s a part of his ever-so elegant brooding act, he’s got to keep it up so the world doesn’t learn that this vampire’s heart is far too extended for his own good. It must’ve been all that wine, keeping him young and compassionate even when he’s filled with utter rage. There are a number of things that could be appreciated about Matthew, but his ability to understand when he’s wrong is what’s most commendable — the choice to sit in silence when he’s called out as opposed to defending his “honor.” Or his choice to consent in whatever’s concerning Diana. 500+ years old and setting examples for how men should behave in the 21st century. Imperfect and most certainly flawed like the rest of us, but on a path towards exquisite growth because of his choices to listen and respect those around him, especially the women.
2. Randall Pearson
This is Us
At this point it’s a law, universally acknowledged by all This is Us viewers that Randall Pearson deserves the absolute world along with eternal protection — in the words of Leslie Knope, “he’s precious cargo!” Randall’s goodness and distinct means of sensitively adoring those around him never fail to astound me. There is such a thing as caring too much and in every sense, Randall is one of those people, but in his case, it’s always a plus — it works for his benefit and all those around him. It allows him to be of genuine assistance to others even when he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. So much has happened in Randall’s life, but his patience and wisdom are far greater than anything else on the series.
3. Henry McCord
I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of writing about Henry McCord and the infinite reasons as to why he’s the all-around perfect package. Henry’s patience cobbled with the immense capacity to love have managed to resort me to tears more often than not. And it’s these very traits that make him perfectly suited to be the first ever, first-man. He’s always been the man beside the woman, and it’s something he’s done beautifully — the full, incomparable support he exhibits towards his family all while using his doctoral skills to help make the world a better place never fail to give him the simplest, yet most evocative ways of standing out. Who wouldn’t want a life partner as Henry McCord? I sure would. Whether he’s attempting to talk his kids through broken hearts, break through to those who are uncrackable, or being the ardently adoring, level-headed husband and person to Elizabeth, Henry’s understanding of ethics continue to inspire his acutely effective ways of communication beautifully.
The Good Place
I cannot believe how much I appreciate last-name less anything but a demon Michael — leader of the Soul Squad. Michael’s turn around and the astounding dedication to ensuring the Soul Squad actually get in to the Good Place has made me cry too many times to count at this point. The Good Place is a show about human redemption and togetherness, but it’s character growth like Michael’s that showcases the fact that even the darkest hearts could be changed with the right amount of love. It’s character growth like Michael’s who exhibits just how much what we do matters. At this point, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the Soul Squad — there’s nothing he wouldn’t risk. What he’s done to protect each and every one of them and what I imagine he’ll continue do is the definition of astounding character development. And Ted Denson’s brilliant portrayal of him is as incomparable as perfectly made peppermint barks — tis the season, friends.
5. Wyatt Logan
I’ll never forget being introduced to Wyatt and tragically having no hope that he’d be anything more than a pretty boy. (I’m so happy to have been proven wrong.) And while he proved that he’s certainly a special breed shortly into season one, it’s the exponential growth that took place in season two that’s left me stunned. So much of his growth was based on letting go of the lone wolf spirit in order to be part of a pack that’d inspire the best version of him to come forward. And that’s kind of the thing about season one Wyatt vs. season two — he’s always had goodness in him, he wouldn’t have been a soldier without such a spirit, but finding himself through the Time Team has brought out a fight in him like nothing and one else could have. It has brought out a desire to do something greater than anything he’s ever imagined he’d be capable of, and in choosing to stay with them, he’s found the stamina and drive to fight as long as it takes to ensure that his team is always at their best. He’s found it in his heart to apologize when need be, and at times, even when he’s childish at best (re. Flynn) his intentions come from an honorable place. But this year especially, I’ve appreciated just how much of Wyatt’s layers Matt Lanter has shown us with an ever present tinge of sadness in his eyes believing in the idea that he’s perhaps doomed to true happiness. With the torment tirelessly lingering in his spirit, it’s never said, but it’s shown beautifully, and that’s something to commend.
Honorable Mentions: Diana Bishop (A Discovery of Witches), Elizabeth McCord (Madam Secretary), Jake Peralta (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Rebecca Pearson (This is Us), Beth Pearson (This is Us), Fred Andrews (Riverdale), Blake Moran (Madam Secretary), Rufus Carlin (Timeless)
Who are your favorite characters this year? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out TV Examined’s lists as well.