As I said in Sunday’s post, I watched less TV than usual this year. I think I loved the things I watched more on average but it did give me fewer characters to choose from. As I started making this list however, one similarity jumped out at me. It was a harsh year and as a result, I trended toward kind characters. I wanted to see people who cared about others and weren’t afraid to show it. I wanted characters who did what they could to make a difference. I wanted characters with strong connections to others. They were the perfect balm for me this year and I imagine will continue to be so in the future. What characters did you love most this year?
1. Penelope Alvarez (One Day At A Time) Justina Machado is one of the most underrated actresses on television right now, as I tend to mention on twitter after each new season of One Day at a Time and during awards seasons, so it’s unsurprising that Penelope is one of my favorite characters. She is strong, and driven, and an incredible mom, and most of all, feels so incredibly real and human. I love her when she is strong and fighting for herself and her family and I love her when she gets scared and wants to quit school and when she’s in the middle of a rough depressive episode. She is everything I would want to be in life and I feel so fortunate that she exists for me to love and admire.
2. Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista (Pose) This was a year of loving found families even more than usual for me and there is no one better to represent that than Blanca. When she was disowned by her biological family, she found a new one in the ballroom world. When Elektra couldn’t provide the emotional environment she desperately wanted, she went out and started her own house so that no one would need to feel alone and without anyone in their corner again. She has fought for the life she wants and she’ll fight to help her children and her friends have the lives they want as well. She is the kind of person the world needs more of and exactly the type of character I want to celebrate most this year.
3. Charlotte Wells (Harlots) My darling girl. She is a fascinating set of contradictions and complexity and I love her for it. She feels so deeply, whether that feeling is good or bad, and because of her position, she often needs to keep those feelings locked away because they are dangerous. She is full of love for her sister and her pa and for her ma, as she learned this season, even as she is full of rage and resentment toward her ma and Lydia Quigley and the entire system that has enabled their actions for the pleasure of men. She is simultaneously cunning, patient, impulsive, and reckless. For better and worse, she is the daughter of Margaret Wells and that has given her strength and a steely determination while also giving her wounds she may never fully recover from. Her reunion with Margaret only to lose her again was heartbreaking and I’m very curious to see where she goes from here as she steps up to run the house next season.
4. Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place) It’s been quite the year for Eleanor. She visited the Bad Place, got brought back to life, learned she and her friends were ineligible to ever get to the Good Place, made peace with who her mom was and wasn’t, and learned she was in fact still capable of love. Eleanor is a mess a lot of the time, but she’s also grown beyond the person she was at the start of the show. She has a strong group of friends, she’s facing her past demons and confronting them, and she’s found the value in doing good even without the potential reward of an afterlife. She’s become a better version of herself without fully losing the Arizona dirtbag part of herself and it’s been a terrific journey to watch.