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The 18 Best Television Characters of 2015

2015 delivered a fantastic year in television, with shows like Mr. Robot, Master of None, Fargo, Empire, and The Knick. With the year drawing to a close, we look back at some of the best television characters to grace the small screen and why they made such an impact. Let us know in the comments who belongs on the list!

titus andromedon

Titus Andromedon
TV Show: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

It might be Kimmy’s show in everything including name, but the breakout character of this Tina Fey-penned Netflix comedy hit is Titus, an openly gay struggling actor who finds his path entwined with Kimmy’s when they become fast roommates and near-immediate best friends. Burgess’ comic timing is perfect, and he infuses Titus with warmth, humanity, and some brilliant moments of bone-dry wit. Also: see ‘Peeno Noir’ for his immediate social media and cultural impact. I can’t wait to see what he gets to do in Season Two. — Chris

leslie knope season 7

Leslie Knope
TV Show: Parks and Recreation

The seven-year run of the incredibly funny, heartwarming, sweet Parks and Recreation came to an end early this year and it proved a showcase for Poehler’s civil servant Leslie Knope who radiated strength, kindness, and a very human struggle to have it all. She and the rest of the Parks and Recreation regulars deserve spots up here, but Leslie Knope is the core to the group and the guiding moral light that made us fall in love with the show years ago. — Chris

saga noren the bridge

Saga Noren
TV Show: The Bridge

This runaway hit Danish and Swedish crime series has inspired several global adaptations, and it’s mainly down to the brilliantly spiky and addictive relationship between Helin’s autistic Saga and her more affable colleagues (Kim Bodnia, and later Thure Lindhardt) as they solve brutal crimes in the bleak series. Series Three was a hit for a number of reasons; the plot, involving paternity, fidelity, and murders posed to resemble modern art, was mesmerising and interesting, but the core was Helin’s portrayal of the distant, cold, abrupt heroine Saga as she deals with a spiraling loss of control, of mounting pressure, and cracks showing in her professional veneer as her past comes to haunt her. Helin is breathtaking, managing to be both unsympathetic and thoroughly sympathetic at the same time. Her Saga is a triumph. — Chris

jessica jones

Jessica Jones
TV Show: Jessica Jones

What can’t I say about Jessica? As the latest Marvel superhero, she drinks hard, loves rarely but fiercely, and kicks a frightening amount of ass. Both a hero with superpowers and a victim of someone else’s powers, Jessica has a lot going on, but the show never judges her unfairly for it. She’s allowed to screw up, and allowed to be successful, so the audience gets a fully three dimensional character who leaps off the screen. Played by Krysten Ritter in what looks like almost no make up (almost none on the character, for the whole show!), Jessica spends this first season fighting her greatest fear and protecting her friends. The show is dark, the world Jessica inhabits is even darker, but I was moved by this series. It celebrates many different kinds of strength in many different kinds of women, and it never lets up on the tension or the thrill of noir storytelling. Jessica Jones is an incredible hero in an incredible series. — Sara

jane the virgin

Jane Villanueva
TV Show: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin had a stellar first season, and is well into an entertaining and zippy second season. All that success rests on the shoulders of its funny, sympathetic, and powerful lead heroine Jane, played by Golden Globe-winning actress Gina Rodriguez. This year we saw Jane give birth to her son, break up with both her boyfriends, and forge new friendships. I’m personally rooting for her to finally befriend her long-time rival, Petra (Yael Grobglas), who really had a rough year. Everyone could use more Jane in their life. She’s an inspiring character, at times both sincere and silly. As the audience, we’re constantly rooting for her. Keep moving forward, Jane. You got this. — Sara

jake peralta

Jake Peralta
TV Show: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Jake (Andy Samberg) has been an unexpected treasure for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In the early episodes, he looks like the typical frustrating sitcom manchild, but the writers keep giving Jake more to do, never letting him settle into stale tropes. The show rides that line of how silly a character can be before he becomes grating, and they know just when to pull back with Jake. In a recent, moving episode, Terry’s wife goes into labor while Jake is her only companion, and he acts with grace and maturity to help his friend’s family. He also shines as a character who never makes cheap jokes about his female coworkers, and is shown to repeatedly reject the casual sexist or racist subtext that is so often written into the manchild sitcom character. He fits into the stellar cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I hope more sitcom men take their cues from him in the future. — Sara

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Robert Durst
TV Show: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Sure, Robert Durst is a real person (although I found it quite hard to believe that he was throughout HBO’s miniseries), but that doesn’t make him any less of a character, and one of the most gripping ones I’ve ever encountered. He’s terrifying, goofy, evil, a murderous pig and every kind of creepy, and a squinting symbol of (nearly) everything wrong with America. — Andy

jimmy mcgill better call saul

Jimmy McGill
TV Show: Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk proved in Better Call Saul that he’s more than capable of carrying his own show and delivering a performance requiring both comedy and serious emotional depth, which makes Jimmy McGill AKA Saul Goodman one of the standout characters of 2015. The character of Saul Goodman is first introduced in AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad as Walt and Jesse’s sleazy lawyer. Jimmy McGill is the younger, less morally corrupt version of Saul, yet both versions are likable and sympathetic. So far, Better Call Saul has done a fantastic job of taking us through this extraordinary character journey and I can’t wait to see where they take this character in Season Two.

bojack horseman

BoJack Horseman
TV Show: BoJack Horseman

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more human character than the titular cartoon Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) at the center of Netflix’s depressing animated series about Hollywood celebrity, friendship, love and how humanity/animality is incapable of being happy. — Andy

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Kilgrave & Jessica Jones
TV Show: Jessica Jones

It’s impossible to talk about either of these characters without the other, as Jessica Jones created one of the most fascinating and best hero/villain dynamics ever. I could spend 10,000 words on how awful some of the supporting cast was and how they existed solely to make the show 13 episodes long (rather than what should’ve been a transcendent 10), but I won’t. Instead, I’ll laud David Tennant’s fully formed and exceptional Kilgrave as the scariest comic book villain ever, with the ability to make anyone do anything he says. The show is a masterwork in playing that up for stress, paranoia and suspense for the viewer. Sarcastic-sassy-badass Jessica Jones is a shining beacon in a male-dominated (superhero or otherwise) world, someone not only allowed to be a whiskey-swilling bitch, but beloved for it, with the wonderful capacity to beat the crap out of nearly anybody she wishes, and to stand up to her oppressors. Jessica Jones isn’t just superhero entertainment; it’s one of the few shows to accurately and effectively tackle PTSD and sexual abuse, showcasing not only the power of the comic book medium to tell impactful stories, but the power of TV in general. — Andy

jeff winger community

Jeff Winger
TV Show: Community

With Community officially ending this past June, I’m choosing Jeff as one of the best characters of 2015 because of his progression through the entire series and where he ultimately ends up. Jeff started off as a student at Greendale Community College and ended as a professor there. What struck me the most about him in this last season was how he grappled with his emotional growth. He’s always been terrified of getting old and losing his friends, but it wasn’t until his friends started moving on without him that he came to terms with it. Rather than doing what Season One Jeff would’ve probably done and sabotaged Abed and Annie’s chances of leaving the school to pursue their careers, he let them go. He sacrificed his feelings for Annie in order for her to go out in the world and gain new experiences. He put his friends before himself, before what he wanted. Jeff started the show as a selfish person and ended it as an unselfish one. — Isabella

dev master of none

TV Show: Master of None

This heartwarming series gives us an insight look into Dev’s life, a 30-year-old actor trying to make it in New York. Luckily for us, Dev is played by Aziz Ansari who is not only hilarious but genuinely charming throughout the show. His very authentic confusion about life and its ups-and-downs makes him so relatable and puts him at the top of my list! — Yara

meredith grey

Meredith Grey
TV Show: Grey’s Anatomy

Meredith Grey has survived a lot in the past 12 seasons, but losing the love of her life tops the cake. The fact that her character can even merely make it past so many things to one day be without her very own McDreamy baffles me. Her genuine though very sad journey has become a way of portraying the character’s most inner strength which is why she became one of my favorite characters of 2015. Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for all of the tears. — Yara

alex parrish quantico

Alex Parrish
TV Show: Quantico

Women ruled 2015 in TV with shows such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Mindy Project, Supergirl, Jessica Jones, Jane the Virgin, Once Upon a Time, and many more. ABC’s freshman television drama Quantico stars Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish. Parrish is framed as a terrorist when all evidence leads to her after Grand Central Station is bombed. The series uses flashbacks to tell her story and her fellow colleagues at FBI training academy. Parrish is ballsy, smart, and HOT which shows that women can be beautiful and kick some ass. As one of Bollywood’s highest paid actresses, Chopra had her choice of American scripts to choose from and, needless to say, she chose wisely. — Whitney

jane doe blindspot

Jane Doe
TV Show: Blindspot

Jaimie Alexander made her way back to our television sets with NBC’s freshman television drama Blindspot as Jane. Jane was found by the FBI in Times Square naked in a duffel bag, covered in mysterious tattoos with no recollection of who she is. FBI Agent Kurt Weller’s name is among the tattoos on her body and he is assigned to uncover who Jane is and to solve the mysteries her tattoos will uncover. — Whitney

countess american horror story

The Countess
TV Show: American Horror Story: Hotel

The breakthrough performance of the season is Lady Gaga as The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel which earned her a Golden Globe nomination as well as a People’s Choice and Satellite nominations. The Countess is the former owner of Hotel Cortez (based on the legendary Hotel Cecil) who is unlucky in love in the haunted hotel. Lady Gaga’s transition from music to television hasn’t been easy but with the right role and mentor (AHS creator Ryan Murphy), she has succeeded gracefully. — Whitney

raven reyes the 100

Raven Reyes
TV Show: The 100

Raven will always top my chart of favorite characters until The 100 eventually ends. This girl has had so much done to her, but no matter what, she always comes out stronger because of it. Last year, the Season Two episodes that aired included Raven undergoing surgery to remove a bullet from her spine, her learning how to cope with her new disability, and her ex-boyfriend’s death. The latter half of the season that aired this year was much more about her incorporating her tech skills in order to get their friends out of Mount Weather while still dealing with her leg. She’s still vulnerable and hurt, but she doesn’t let it get to her too much. She’s reckless, but when she learns of her mistakes, she fixes things, much like how she fixes everything else. She’s stubborn, incredibly intelligent, courageous, hopeful, and sensitive, but above all, she cares for her friends. She does everything she can to help them, even if it means sacrificing herself, like she did in the season finale, to get them out and safe. — Isabella

riley girl meets world

Riley Matthews
TV Show: Girl Meets World

I decided to marathon the first two seasons of Girl Meets World this past month and I was instantly hooked. Although I have a soft spot for all of the characters, I have a special care for Riley. I’m not sure how else to describe her apart from ‘actual sunshine.’ She’s selfless and caring toward all of her friends, but her relationship with Maya is especially beautiful. Despite them both liking the same boy, Riley decides to subdue her feelings so that Maya can be happy. She always puts Maya first, above everything else. She’s loving and adorable, but under this, she’s insecure. She’s afraid of what people think of her and sometimes feels invisible, but this doesn’t stop her from being herself. She’s idealistic and hopeful, but most of all, she stands up for what she believes in, whether that’s her friends, family, or herself. — Isabella