Best of 2014: Characters

When I look back at this year in television, what I most want to remember is how it affected me. I want to know what I loved or what impressed me and why and that’s exactly what this list and the ones that will be coming out over the next couple weeks set out to document. There is no formula for choosing what went on the list. Nothing here is objective, nor would I want it to be even it were somehow possible to objectively quantify an opinion. It will not look like anyone else’s list, though there will undoubtedly be similarities, and that’s a good thing. So enjoy my picks for my favorite/the best in television of 2014 according to me and please share yours in the comments below.

In any given year, there are a lot of characters I love. I admittedly have a tendency to love the emotionally guarded woman who is learning how to open herself up to love and happiness and this is the year many of those women did that in amazing ways. It was great year for so many of my favorites and the actors who brought them to life. There may have been better, more interesting, or more original characters on TV (if one can quantify characters in that way) but these are the 10 who touched my heart the most.

Kelly Severide (Chicago Fire) Kelly has always been one of my favorite characters but this year (this fall, in particular) has made me love him even more. Thanks to my years of TV watching, I had a horrible suspicion that both Severide and Shay wouldn’t make it out of the events of the s2 finale alive. Their friendship has been one of my favorite things about the show since it started and I was devastated to learn that my suspicions were correct. I watched him grieve for his best friend and turn into kind of a disaster for a few weeks only to wind up marrying a girl in Vegas who he barely knew and managing to turn it into something positive. He’s hurt and grown and has come out stronger. He and Casey have finally gotten their friendship back to where it should be and I have a feeling he’ll continue to be Casey’s support system through his problems with Dawson. If I can’t have his friendship was Shay on the show, I’ll take his friendship with Casey as a backup.

Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow) Sleepy Hollow may have fallen apart a bit in season 2 but Abbie Mills is still the best part of the show. She remains fiercely dedicated to her role as Witness, whatever that may entail. Need someone to stay behind in Purgatory so Katrina can do the magic needed to stop an Apocalypse? Abbie volunteers. Katrina needs a second person to help her do magic? Abbie steps up. Sheriff Corbin’s son needs saving? Abbie never gives up on him. She is loyal and true and a fighter and that’s why I love her. The episode where she and Jenny were briefly reunited with their mother and able to learn more about their family’s history was easily the best of the season because the focus was where it should be – on this incredible character and her role in fighting this war.

Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time) What a year it has been for her as a character and all of us as fans. We got more backstory about her heartbreaking past, we saw her be afraid and fall back on her instinct to run away and survive on her own, we saw her open herself up and find not only a home with her son and parents, but a dashing pirate who loves her, and a new friend who understands her. She’s growing and trying to be her best self and letting people help her along the way. It has been so incredibly rewarding to watch her allow herself to be vulnerable, especially as someone who struggles with that herself, and I can’t wait to see her continued growth and relationships with everyone in her life in 2015.

Kate Beckett (Castle) This was a great year to be a Beckett fan. She finally got closure and justice for her mother and she got to marry the man she loves and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of her. Watching her escort Bracken out in handcuffs was one of the best moments on TV for me this year, not for any reason related to the filming or writing, but because it was a huge victory for this character I have loved for years. Then after an emotionally difficult start to season 7, she and Castle decided to leap together and finally get married. I could not have asked for a better set of character moments in one year for one of my all-time favorite characters.

Mellie Grant (Scandal) I was still catching up on Scandal last year when I put Mellie on my list of Characters of the Year last year, but now that I’m officially caught up, I can say with certainty that it was a good choice. Mellie’s defining moment this year was the death of her son and her grieving process while struggling with her duties as First Lady. I have to admit, as heartbreaking as it was to watch Mellie completely fall apart in the early part of season 4, I do love the unfiltered Mellie who just doesn’t have it in her to care any more. She would be hilarious if the reason wasn’t so tragic. The way she pulled herself together for the State of the Union before physically collapsing because it was just too much showed her inner strength and her return to glory at the end of the season was amazing to watch. Her takedown of Elizabeth was exactly the kind of fire and grit that makes Mellie who she is. She’s been through too much to continue to be betrayed or used and she is no longer afraid to let you know it.

Juliette Barnes (Nashville) After a difficult end to season 3 (and the need to incorporate the real-life pregnancy of Hayden Panettiere), Juliette Barnes ended the year on a positive note. After a bad decision and many tearful conversations that led to her temporarily losing the man she loved, Juliette Barnes is in a place where she can finally be happy. She is going to be a mother and she is married to the man she loves and who loves her back, ugly past and all. She has the family that she’s been lacking all her life. She will still struggle with the effects of her past and as their daughter is born, I’m sure some unresolved issues with her mom will arise, but she will work through them all with Avery on her side as they learn to be a team again. She’s no longer alone and as a fan, that’s all I want for her.

Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones) This was the year Brienne was recognized (at least by some) for the marvelous character that she is and got to demonstrate all the various ways she is amazing.. Perhaps one of my proudest moments on Game of Thrones this year was when Lady Olenna complemented her and Brienne allowed herself a tiny, proud smile. This kind, strong, dedicated woman was noticed and admired by another woman who is so sure in herself and I couldn’t help but cheer. I’ve always loved how intensely Brienne feels and how strong her sense of duty and honor are and both of those traits were in full force in the Oathkeeper scene (one of my favorite scenes of the year). Finally, there was the battle with The Hound. She held her own against one of the best fighters in Kings Landing, an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. She showed her physical strength and her strength of character in one of her best seasons yet.

Poussey Washington (Orange is the New Black) With such a large cast, there is at least one character for everyone to love on Orange is the New Black. While I love many of the characters (or at least greatly enjoy watching them), none have stolen my heart quite as much as Poussey has. Aside from the fact that Samira Wiley’s smile is like a ray of sunshine, Poussey is half of the best friendship on the show. She cares so much for Taystee and though their friendship was damaged, I know it’ll come back strong. She loves so much and longs for the safety and stability that growing up as a military brat didn’t offer and the fact that she’s found that in less than ideal circumstances and that she can still find a way to smile is admirable to me.

Randy Hill (Enlisted) If I can’t have Randy back on my TV, I want more characters like him. Give me more characters in a traditionally masculine environment who buck stereotypes. Give me the guys who can’t help but cry over Toy Story 3. Give me a show that praises them for their kindness and their strengths, even if they aren’t conventional. Randy wouldn’t make a great soldier on the battlefield – he just doesn’t have the necessary skills or state of mind for it. But he makes a great Rear Detachment soldier. Unlike others in his unit, he is proud to stay behind and help the families of deployed soldiers. He listens to their concerns and helps them with household problems because he has a huge heart. His empathy and love are his primary characteristics and that’s what makes him so loveable. He can be a goof and a bit of a screw-up, but everything he does, he does with the best of intentions.

Danny Castellano (The Mindy Project) Danny has the ability to make me love him and grow in ways that make me so incredibly proud and then turn around and do something that makes me annoyed with him. I love a lot of female characters with pasts that have made them incredibly guarded and other than his gender, Danny fits that mold exactly. He’s struggling and learning how to be in a relationship and what a committed relationship with Mindy will look like and I’m perhaps less patient with him than I should be, but I love watching the process. Also, his was the year of Diamond Dan, so how could he not make this list?

Honorable Mentions: Diane Lockhart, Leslie Knope, Joe West, Jane Villanueva

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8 thoughts on “Best of 2014: Characters

  1. I love this time of year. I love reading about everyone’s favorites from this past year because they say SO MUCH about the people who made those lists. This list just screams “Heather” and I love everything about it. I especially love your unapologetic disclaimer that these are YOUR favorites from this year and there is absolutely no way to be objective about it. (Diane Lockhart would be proud of your unapologetic-ness.)

    I love that we have so many favorites in common, but this list is extra-great because you included a lot of favorites I didn’t include on the list I’m going to post. So instead of posting my whole list (since that will hopefully be up sometime tonight), I want to talk about a few of the fabulous characters you and I both love that aren’t on my list this year.

    1.) Juliette Barnes. I am so proud of her for overcoming the huge setbacks of the end of Season Three and becoming a stronger, better, more stable person not just for her future daughter but for herself. It might just be the fact that pregnancy looks so good on Hayden Panettiere, but Juliette looks so content and happy now that it makes me cry basically all the time. For a woman who came from such a broken family to be so genuinely excited to start her own family is beautiful. She’s actively choosing to let herself be happy and to be better than who she was, and you know I love those stories more than anything. The fact that she’s found a man in Avery who is ready to support her and their child as she stays on that path of being her best self is so wonderful that I struggle to find the words to describe it (which is not good because I need to write about them for one of my lists this year).

    2.) Brienne of Tarth. Oh my beautiful Brienne. This season more than any other showcased the two sides to her personality so beautifully—the warrior and the maid. We saw her fight with such strength against the Hound, but we also saw her smile this season which means the world to me because people have been so cruel to her and all I want is for her to have reasons to smile. Brienne’s gentle, loving soul came out so beautifully in moments like telling Cersei that Jaime saved her “more than once” and looking back at Jaime one last time before leaving on her quest. And her interaction with Arya in the finale was perfect because she was so pleased to see a young girl much like herself as a child. I’ve always loved the fact that Brienne looks like a stereotypical “tough” female warrior character, but she’s actually one of the warmest and most innocent characters in the series. And this season finally brought that dichotomy to light.

    3.) Danny Castellano. You hit the nail on the head when you said Danny makes you love him and makes you annoyed with him. He’s incredibly complex, especially for a sitcom character. He’s flawed and hard to love sometimes, but at his heart he’s a good man trying his best to love Mindy the way she deserves to be loved. This year gave Danny even more nuance, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I could watch Chris Messina act with only his facial expressions for an entire day. He’s just that good.

    I also LOVE everything you said about Mellie, Beckett, and Emma, but I don’t want to spoil too much of my list in this comment. 😉

    1. I got so annoyed at comments on various sites that clearly do not understand the way top 10 lists work that I felt the need for my unapologetic disclaimer lol. Anything that would make Diane proud has to be great, so thank you!

      I’m so glad that this list feels like me to you. Of all the lists I have planned, this one feels the most personal and I’m glad that came through.

      I cannot wait to read your post and what you have to say about the amazing ladies we love and to see your other picks for the year!

  2. I appreciate your unapologetic disclaimer! But even more than that I appreciate your list.

    I nodded along to Beckett, Brienne and Emma. I loved reading your thoughts about characters on shows I don’t watch. Here are my add ons:

    Xiomara Villanueva – No character surprised me more in 2014 than Xiomara. Her love for Jane, her true understanding of selflessness and her abject optimism that life is for the grabbing and there is a grandness to it all whether it be in signs or electric sparks added to a healthy dose of cynicism grounded in lived experience shot straight to my heart. Xiomara for me represents everything that a parent feels in navigating loving someone more than you love yourself. It is a beautiful character being drawn and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

    Christy Plunkett – Ana Faris’ portrayal of Christy went from being extremely heavy handed to unbelievably poignant over the course of the end of season 1 to the beginning of season 2. In doing so, she has grounded Mom into a show that is an honest reflection of the need for laughter when facing the challenges of living life according to the hand you are dealt. In the heighten camp Faris has found depth for this character and it has brought a richness to the mother/daughter relationships that serve as the backbone of the show.

    1. I could not agree more with everything you said about Xiomara. She is an incredible character and I’m so glad she’s resonating with you.

      I love these end of the year lists because you always watch things I don’t and make them sound incredibly appealing. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mom lately and I’m glad both Faris and Janney have found a show worthy of their talents. Theoretically, if I were going to start Mom, should I watch s1 or just jump in to s2?

      1. I would honestly say you can skim through season one and start fresh with season 2. Season 1 was very uneven and Faris I often found overreaching. I would suggest watching the pilot and the first 2-3 episodes of season 1 and maybe the last couple of season 1 just so all the characters who held over make sense in context to season 2. But then go ahead and jump into season 2. I have been really pleasantly surprised and it is hands down the most improved show. I feel like it rose up to meet Janney where she was and the actors relaxed into their roles. The genuine affection Faris and Janney have for one another plays really well now.

  3. This is a great list!

    I still need to catch up on Sleepy Hollow but Abbie Mills has always been the best part of the show for me, so I’m glad to hear she is still as awesome as ever.

    Beckett is definitely also on my list for favorite characters this year, and I definitely agree with you about the happiness that came from watching her journey. Some of my favorite episodes of Castle have aired this year and are the ones you’ve mentioned – where Beckett finally gets Bracken, and where Castle and Beckett get married (and their honeymoon). Beckett will be on my favorite characters of all time list, and I am so happy and proud of how much she’s grown over the years.

    Seeing both you and Katie put Mellie Grant on your lists makes me want to watch Scandal even more! I’ll have to see if I have time to fit it in sometime this year and catch up.

    Game of Thrones is one of the shows I need to catch up on, so hopefully sometime before the show comes back for the new season I’ll be talking to you about how amazing Brienne is! I’m looking forward to watching her character be awesome.

    I never watched Enlisted but Randy sounds like a great character. I love characters who twist stereotypes, and shows that portray characters with the complexity it sounds like he had.

    The Mindy Project is another show I need to catch up on, but I’m on Season 2 so hopefully I’ll get there soon! I’ve been enjoying Danny’s character growth a lot so far and to know that he gets even more growth as the show goes on makes me happy.

    I watch fewer shows than you do so my favorite characters of 2014 list is a bit shorter, but off the top of my head I would include Regina Mills, Joan and Sherlock from Elementary, Andy McNally from Rookie Blue, Sherlock from Sherlock BBC, and of course Kate Beckett. There are other characters I love quite a lot as well, but these are some of the characters who had some amazing growth and storylines this year that connected with me.

    1. I’m so glad you watched the OUaT midseason finale so you can read my and Katie’s posts!

      I didn’t realize you were already on s2 of The Mindy Project! I can’t wait for you to get to the midseason-ish point and beyond because the episodes are amazing and so great for both Mindy and Danny’s growth.

      I probably need to catch up on Elementary at some point since you’ve been enjoying the season so far. And start Rookie Blue since I know you and Nikki love it so much.

      Also I’m so excited for you to get to know Brienne on Game of Thrones and fall in love with her. And some of the other characters and arcs coming up, but mostly Brienne 😉

      1. I’m glad too! I was going to watch it with Nikki but we had scheduling issues and eventually I just decided to watch it by myself because I wanted to not have to try to avoid OUAT spoilers everywhere anymore lol

        Yes! I got through S1 of TMP and then took a little break, and I’m 3 or 4 episodes into S2 now. I’m really excited to see more of Mindy and Danny’s relationship growth because I know that awesome things are coming up 🙂

        Yes to Elementary! I still think its first season is the best, but I’ve been enjoying this season so far. I still have mixed feelings about the concept of adding a third party to the main twosome of Elementary, but I’m really liking Kitty as a character and the way the show is handling her. I just have so much appreciation for the way the show portrays female characters in general that even when I’m not as drawn in by the plot that sort of makes up for it lol.

        I would love to see your thoughts on Rookie Blue sometime! I am a sucker for procedurals so I think that’s part of it lol, but I truly love how that show feels the most like an ensemble cast of any show I’ve ever watched. Each character gets lots of growth and storylines, which I really appreciate. Plus there are some awesome ladies so I’m always all for that 😉

        I am most looking forward to meeting Brienne in my GoT catch-up because I know how much you and Katie love her! It’ll probably be slow going since I’ve got a few months, but hopefully I can catch up by the time the new season airs. I’ve gotten through most of S1 though I may have to refresh my memory, so we’ll see how fast it goes lol.

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