A character is only as good as the actor/actress who breathes life into them. The actor or actress who puts their blood, sweat, and tears into ensuring that we’re able to understand the deeper nuances, which make the character special. And these 10 performers weren’t difficult to single out this year as they made each of their characters unbelievably relatable, complex, and beautifully evocative.
(A special PSA, you will not see any performers, specifically Elizabeth Moss from The Handmaid’s Tale on this list because while I thought she was unbelievable, and definitely one of the strongest of the year, I couldn’t finish the show to properly write for it. And it’s because of the groundbreaking performances on that show that makes The Handmaid’s Tale too difficult for me personally to stomach. It makes it too real.) But do not fret, Heather over at TV Examined had a lot of amazing things to say.
Also, be sure to check out our Series of the Year | Stranger Things article, as the number one performances, characters, relationships, and moments are all featured there. Essentially, they deserved their own special tribute.
And they lived happily ever after.
Episode Summary: The Black Fairy’s curse hits Storybrooke trapping Killian, Snow, Charming, Regina, Zelena, and co. in the Enchanted Forest while Emma’s in a Psychiatric Hospital and it’s up to Henry to help her believe again. As it turns out, if Emma stops believing that the life she once had is real, it’ll fade from existence. Rumple faces his mother one last time. The families reunite. And they live happily ever after.
Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time is a special show — for six years it has allowed us to begin our weeks with the faith and belief that no matter how hard things get, there’s always a happy ending in store. And while the “The Final Battle” was anything but a perfect episode, the stories it told were beautiful. Once Upon A Time may not be over for good, but a prodigious chapter has ended — a chapter that’s changed lives. A little bit of happiness in the midst of dark days where television series are uncertain, but where Once Upon A Time was concerned, we always knew it’d end well. It’d end leaving us with a surplus of hope. It’d leave us braver, kinder, better than ever.
“The Song in Your Heart” | Once Upon A Time
To be frank, I don’t know how to begin this letter because I genuinely don’t know if words will be able to properly convey my gratitude. As far as fictional characters go, you’ll always be number one in my book.
I’ve been inspired by a good number of strong female characters, but I’ve not seen myself in any of them the way I saw myself in you. It was hard to fully accept that I too, once upon a time, was a lost girl. When you’re bullied as a kid, it’s hard to understand that what people say about us isn’t accurate. As much as our parents can be there to remind us of our value, it doesn’t change the fact that over the years as your skin thickens, your heart also becomes more susceptible to pain. And as a result, you tend to build walls around it. Because I desperately wanted to fit in, I gave the world the chance to tell me who I was while I walked around unsure of what happened to the little girl who used to believe in happiness. Somewhere along the way, I was saved by my faith in Christ at 16, but the walls I had put up never fully went down. Somehow, it was always hard to believe that I could truly be happy, that I could open my heart even though it’s been shattered, and that I could be brave enough to show the world who I truly am — the nerdy, overly enthusiastic dork.
TVLine.com | Edited PS6
When Once Upon A Time’s 28th episode “Tallahassee” aired, it was easy to imagine that we’d end up here today, but in some senses, it was still very surreal. For five years we’ve dedicated time, tears, and happiness to this exquisitely beautiful couple’s journey in love. We’ve been captivated over and over again through their innately gorgeous, profoundly moving love story as we watched them effortlessly heal one another through love and selfless devotion. And today, we watched them embark on a new beginning to forever. Today, we watched them become husband and wife. And episodes like this deserve special kind of treatment. “Weddings are beautiful, but marriages between two people who’d take every opportunity they get to do whatever is necessary to express their love are immaculate.”
That was … strange.
Episode Summary: In flashbacks, with the help of Tinkerbell, Regina’s father tries to bring her to her happiness by helping her find the man with the lion tattoo, but instead, she makes it so the magical arrow points her in the direction of the person she hates most. Upon remembering that she’s the person she hates most, in present day Storybrooke, Regina combines her love with the Evil Queen’s hate, and they send her back to the Wish Realm where she can start over. Emma learns the truth about what Killian did to her grandfather and just as he’s about to come home from running off to find himself, Gideon tramps him in Nemo’s submarine.
Review | Analysis: If we stop trying to figure out Once Upon A Time’s timelines and realms, we won’t be confused right? That’s essentially where I’m at with this episode. While I thoroughly loved the thematic importance of “Page 23”, when things don’t make sense, it’s a little tough to be fully engaged and pleased. But nonetheless, “Page 23” highlighted the importance of self-love beautifully. And thankfully, we no longer have to deal with the Evil Queen anymore.
Once Upon A Time knows how to remind us of the struggles we continuously face in our lives and “Page 23”, much like “Murder Most Foul” did that best by reminding us of the fact that forgiveness and self-love go together. It reminded us of the fact that at the end of the day, love will always win. It’ll always be able to heal even the darkest souls.
“Tougher Than the Rest” was a solid season premiere that finally addressed something we’ve all been wanting to know.
Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we learn that a little last-name-less Emma was about to burn away pages of The Ugly Duckling story in order to keep warm after running away, but a kind stranger talks her out of it by telling her she’s capable of changing her fate. Back in the Evil Queen’s wish realm, Emma seeks August’s help to rebuild the wardrobe that sent her into our world while Regina seeks out Robin to learn if he’s happy in this land. Killian and Charming do everything in their power to find the hooded figure who’s after Emma while Rumple and Belle attempt to figure out their infant son is suddenly standing before them as an adult.
Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time is truly at its best when its focus is on telling our heroine’s story. And perhaps that may appear to be a biased opinion to some, but the truth is, while it’s engaging to get a twist on our classic fairy tales, it’s inexpressibly beautiful to watch Emma Swan’s story unfold. At its core, this series is about self-discovery and understanding the importance of our choices. It is a series that often highlights the prominence of rising after tremendous falls and persevering while climbing the steepest hills. While “Tougher Than the Rest” had its flaws, it was thematically exquisite.
“If we believe in something strongly enough, we all have the power to change our fate.”
We’re fairly certain that we can all agree in the words of Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Captain Raymond Holt that “everything is garbage.” While 2016 may have been an incredibly sad year, it has without a doubt been the best in television. Honestly, it’s difficult to recall the last time we’ve had such a hard time culminating our choices. And that said, performers are the heart of a series. Without them, the characters we cherish and adore wouldn’t be as extraordinary. They wouldn’t resonate with us in the seemingly effortless ways they do. Without their meticulously crafted performances we wouldn’t feel a single thing. Without further ado, it is these 16 performers that have made 2016 indescribable.
And if you haven’t already, check out the first part of our Year-End Reviews as we pay tribute to Sundance’s Rectify.
Before we begin discussing our favorites, be sure to check out the incredible work Nerdy Girl Notes and TVExamined have already done and will continue to do within the next few days.
One heart, one curse, and perpetual weeping by all fans until this is resolved.
Episode Summary: In flashbacks we’re taken back to a time where Charming and Snow met without ever knowing who the other was. In present day Storybrooke, the Evil Queen finds a new way to torture the couple when she comes accepts that they’re willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the town.
Review | Analysis: Belief has often been an incredibly powerful theme in the world of Once Upon A Time and in “Heartless” it serves as a gorgeous reminder of hope. It’s this very belief which has strengthened our characters to the core reminding viewers that encouragement is a weapon we must all use to brighten up the days of our loved ones. Come what may, the Charming family has always found a way to happiness — no matter how brief it’s been, their adventures have been worthwhile. And with this new challenge arising in their paths, it is bound to make them even stronger. Snow and Charming were once on their own, but today, there’s an army behind them. There’s an army believing with intense faith that they can break the new curse bestowed by the Evil Queen.