This is always one of my favorite categories as I get to see the types of characters I was drawn to over the past year. There are usually trends that can be picked out (and that’s certainly still true this year) and it’s a good look back at the arcs that shows were able to pull off particularly well.
Who were your favorite characters this year?
1. Emily Foster (Chicago Fire) Chicago Fire has successfully added a lot of new characters in the past year and a half but none have reinvigorated the show quite as much as Emily. With her arrival, we’re seeing a shift toward celebrating the women on the show and the camaraderie that they’ve made in their very male-dominated profession. We’re seeing what three talented women who support each other and champion each other are capable of tackling together and it’s been wonderful. While that’s a choice the writing team has made, it’s one Emily would be proud to take partial credit for if she were real. She is all about ensuring the ladies in her life are taken care of in the manner that they deserve to be and she wouldn’t hesitate to stand up for them personally or professionally. It was Emily that told Kelly that he needed to step up and be better if he thought he wanted to try to fix his relationship with Stella (or leave her alone if he couldn’t or wouldn’t do that) without prioritizing his feelings or her tone and Emily that recognized Sylvie wasn’t happy and needed to come home and led the charge to bring her back. Her girls are everything to her and we could all use someone in our life who fights for us as much as she does.
2. Stevie Budd (Schitt’s Creek) It was a really great year to love Stevie. She took changes on herself and let herself be vulnerable, first with Emir and then with Cabaret, and while her romantic relationship didn’t work out the way she might have liked, she was an amazing Sally Bowles and her performance of “Maybe This Time” was nothing short of remarkable. Even more than that, Stevie was so loved. She’s a part of the Rose family now and every single one of them got to had moments where they supported and believed in her in a way that she’s never really had before. Her friendship with David continues to be a highlight of the show and I love that it was her blessing Patrick wanted before the proposal. She may feel like she’s behind or that everyone is moving on in life while she’s standing still but she has come so far and I cannot wait to see what the final season has in store for her.
3. Charley Bordelon (Queen Sugar) I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to write about my undying love for Charley. She has been my favorite from the very beginning, even when she is making the worst choices and allowing the privilege she enjoyed from her marriage to Davis blind her from the harm she was doing. She is ruthless and willing to fight for everything she feels she deserves and has always been fascinating and complex. As the seasons have gone by, she’s become a part of the community of St. Jo and fought for its Black farmers with as much ferocity and certainty as she’s fought for herself in the past. This season, she ran for city council to push back at the Landry’s influence on the parish and won, despite accusations that she set her mill on fire and the revelation of past scandals and it was truly glorious to watch. She may not have won the long game yet but she’s undeniably a force to be reckoned with and I will continue to love watching her take people down.
4. Emma Hernandez (Vida) Emma coped with being kicked out of her house as a teenager for being queer by hardening herself so nothing could ever hurt her again. You don’t get second changes in her world and are frankly lucky if you get a first chance. People are there for a purpose and get dismissed when the purpose is completed or they fail to live up to her need for controlled perfection. And that goes doubly for herself. She’s the one with a plan who is going to go in and fix everything and to hell with anyone who gets in the way of that. But when that illusion shatters, when people and life don’t respond as they should, she breaks hard. But by the end of the season, we see her start to let her guard down. She lets Nico in, she apologizes to Baco for treating him terribly, and she gives Lyn some long overdue recognition. She still has things to fix and her own trauma and learned responses to contend with but she’s trying. I want to see what an Emma who is able to accept the vulnerability that comes with relationships and intimacy looks like and until then, will love her just as she is. She’s trying so hard all the time and I love her for it, even when she goes about things in exactly the wrong way.
5. Lu Montesinos (Elite) I didn’t mean to love Lu quite as much as I do. She’s terrible and a jerk to Nadia and often condescending to anyone she views as lesser, which is pretty much everyone. She’s used to her position of privilege and the adoration that comes along with her looks, wealth, and intellect and can and will wield them like weapons. She has comfortably constructed her world in a way that makes her feel as though she’s in control and in doing so, has boxed herself in. She’s convinced herself she’s the hero of her story when she’s often the villain in someone else’s. All of her effort has gone into maintaining her perfect facade and it’s held her back from making any real or lasting connections. The closest she comes all season is with Omar but even that is full of complications thanks to Lu’s vendetta against Nadia. She’s happy in the world she’s made except for those rare moments where you see how alone and empty she feels. It’s that dichotomy that bled through a little more in season two and makes her more fascinating than the stereotypical mean girl she often is.
6. Catra (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) My heart always breaks a little for Catra even though by now, her refusal to deal with her own pain and sense of loss and insistence on doubling-down on her bad choices is making things so much worse for her and everyone else. She so desperately wants to be enough for someone and can never seem to manage it. She hadn’t gotten over Adora leaving before Shadow Weaver left then Entrapta seemed to pick Horak over her and she pushed Scorpia away and Double Trouble decided the princesses were a much more lucrative alliance. All of them had their own reasons for leaving the Fright Zone and not all (but some) had to do with Catra but she’s taken them all to heart after a lifetime of feeling like she was second best. We see those glimpses of heartbreak and trauma come through before she pushes them down again and tries once more to prove her worth to someone else only to still be unhappy. She’s gotten herself into this situation and all I want from s5 is to see her start to break her way out of this cycle she’s found herself in. I want to see her heal and find a place where she can be certain she belongs and is wanted.
7. Lola Carmichael (All Rise) After the pilot episode, I was already ready to declare my undying love for Lola and that’s only grown throughout the first season. Perhaps idealistically, she stands for justice and genuinely believes the truth will prevail. She is unafraid to care and find a solution that does the most good for the parties involved, even when her solution is unconventional. She is clearly knowledgeable and I imagine will only continue to grow in confidence and skill as a judge and she will do it all while remaining true to herself. She was the girl who looked at Uhura and believed she could do anything and now she’s inspiring that in others and making a difference and I don’t know how you couldn’t root for that. Her relationships with everyone else in her life are incredible and a source of strength and support that I love seeing. They make her better and she makes them better by knowing her. I need to keep her around for about ten more seasons at a minimum, so winter hiatus would be a great time to catch up, just saying.
8. Alex Alvarez (One Day at a Time) I cannot believe Alex (and Marcel tbh) is growing up so fast. He’s a teenager and attempting to find out who he is and where he fits into the crowd and watching that navigation this season was incredible. Yes, he’s a teenager and does stupid things sometimes and doesn’t necessarily make the best choices but he’s also showing that he’s going to be a good man who is considerate and kind. You see the best parts of the people in his life in him and the way he interacts with the world and how much he values their influence and opinions. He has Lydia’s confidence and charisma, Elena’s awareness and empathy, and Penelope’s heart all wrapped up in some teenage self-absorption and boundary pushing. But as he showed with his decision to tell his mom when Schneider was struggling shows, he has smart instincts and can only continue to grow from here. I was overwhelmed with pride watching his journey this season and am especially grateful that we’ll see him continue to become a man we can all be proud of.
9. Elektra Wintour (Pose) Showing gradual growth on TV isn’t always easy, especially when the person already thinks they’re pretty great to begin with. Elektra is often entitled and much harsher of a mother than Blanca or Lulu but after losing her house and her source of income at the end of season one, she’s learning that she sometimes needs other people. Whether it’s to help dispose of a body or take a needed trip to the beach, her girls will show up for her and she’s starting to want to do the same for them and the wider community. She’d always held herself as separate from this community of people but now she’s taking her place and it’s truly wonderful to see. I love the thorny relationship with Blanca and the way it deepened and grew over the season and while it may not be something I would personally respond to, I love that she gives her ambitious kids somewhere to belong where that is celebrated and actively pushed. It’s taken some calibration but she’s become so much more than the fierce and antagonistic woman she could have been and I love that she’s been able to maintain that side of herself while also embracing the people around her.
10. Sutton Brady (The Bold Type) I love seeing characters go after their dreams and that is exactly what Sutton did this season, even if she ultimately decided to go a different direction. She branched out and tried her hand at fashion design and did a terrific job but realized she was already in the best field for her. But without trying, design would have remained a “what if” that would have always bothered her and sometimes it’s only in choosing the wrong path that we are able to clarify what it is we truly love. She also managed to have the most functional romantic relationship on the show – one built on trust, communication and mutual support. It was a season of learning who she is, what she wants, and not being afraid to ask for it even when she knows the answer might be “no”. She’s unwilling to compromise who she is and as a result, has gotten more than young Sutton could ever have dreamed. I also love that her willingness to state her needs carries over into her sex life. Her frankness continually delights me and I am all for more women on TV owning their sexual pleasure.
Honorable Mentions: Emily Lacy (Harlots), April Sexton (Chicago Med), Zeph (Killjoys), Petra Solano (Jane the Virgin), Sister Michael (Derry Girls)