This was an abnormally difficult category for me this year. While I watched about the same amount of television as I did last year and my overall enjoyment of them was higher (thanks to dropping some shows I wasn’t connecting with), there were fewer characters who really grabbed my heart. Part of this was almost certainly due to the fact that I watched Leverage for the first time this year and my love for those characters took up a lot of emotional space. I also seemed to be more drawn to found families even more than usual this year and connecting more with larger group dynamics than specific characters. But I truly don’t know how to watch TV without getting attached to characters and the emotional journeys they go through, so even in this harder year, there were still plenty of characters who inspired me and who I loved enough to want to recognize.
1. Sana Bakkoush (Skam) It’s been well-established by this point in time that I love characters who learn to let down their walls and find love and acceptance waiting for them on the other side. It is a story that will resonate with me every single time and this year, I got a particularly great one in Sana. She had already been my favorite going into the final season because of her loyalty, her fierce protectiveness of her friends, and her lack of interest in putting up with sexist or racist idiots. She seemed so confident in who she was and what she believed. This season, with her as the main character, we got to see how much of a front that confidence was and it only made me love her more. What we found underneath was a teenage girl who was torn between two worlds and two culture who couldn’t shake the idea that she was always coming up short and disappointing someone. She never felt like she could be enough of what people expected or needed her to be and so she stopped letting people see enough of her to truly know her. She gave so much and loved her friends fiercely but never gave them the chance to love her just as much. She was too ready to believe they would let her down and not accept the Muslim or Moroccan of her. It was hard to watch her continue to isolate herself as they seemed to validate every one of the fears she’d been holding on to, but a little communication goes a long way, and they showed her how important she was to their friend group. She came to realize that she was wrong and that her defenses were only holding her back and she decided to drop them. She showed them exactly who she was and revealed her vulnerabilities to them and they responded by loving her all the more. It’s often the characters we want to protect the most who reveal the most about ourselves and our own insecurities and who teach us the most and that was definitely true of Sana this year.
2. Nova Bordelon (Queen Sugar) I will never get enough of characters with soft, kind hearts who are also full of anger and drive to change their world and that perfectly describes Nova. She is so full of compassion and love for her family and friends and community and that shows in everything she does. It is the reason she gets up and fights every day and the reason she is the one they go to when they are looking for understanding and empathy. She is quick to celebrate the achievements of others and comfort them in times of sadness. She is a passionate activist who sees the wrongs that have been done to her city and her people and uses her voice as a journalist to speak out against those wrongs. She knows who she is and she knows why she fights and through it all, despite the things she has experienced, she has never let it make life hard or cruel. She doesn’t try to shut off her emotions when it all gets to be too much, she lets them push her forward and work harder. She can be stubborn and hard-headed which can be a problem when others disagree with her but it also makes her relatable to me. She is everything I want to be and a character I needed a lot this year.
3. Jacqueline Carlyle (The Bold Type) We’re all familiar with the horrible female boss stereotype. They’re successful but they are also cold and impossibly demanding, with little regard for anything resembling a work-life balance. They create an unpleasant environment for their (typically female) employees. The Bold Type chose to do something different. While Jacqueline is every bit as successful as the Miranda Priestlys of the fictional world, she doesn’t run Scarlet through fear. She’s a true mentor to Kat, Jane, and Sutton, pushing them and encouraging them to be the best they can be, both personally and professionally. She shows them how to find and own their voices. She has a supportive and loving husband, which is truly rare, and she’s unafraid to be vulnerable with her employees as the situation calls for. There is really no one else like her on television and I am so grateful that she exists.