Every year we come across a TV personality who seems to define it. For many people in 2016, it was Barb (who sucked) in Stranger Things. For me, it was Poussey Washington from Orange is the New Black, whose death by guard mirrored the unarmed fatalities at the hands of cops across North America. In 2017 we got our fair share of “Nancy is the worst” takes of course. And 2017 gave us more of Randall Pearson from This is Us— a black and successful man whose anger within his predominately white world echoes a similar sentiment shared with those in 2017’s Trumpian landscape.
As viewers, we have strong emotions for the characters we watch—love ‘em, hate ‘em, can’t stop watching or reading recaps about them, etc—so much so that an ardent TV watcher like me will create some complicated tournament thingy to prove which character is the best. So here we are, where I survey the television landscape in 2018 and crown the character who I think will best define this year.
- All characters selected are from shows that average at least an 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, anyone who doesn’t meet this criteria forfeits the right to be included.
- Characters are separated by divisions that are totally subject to whatever the hell I felt like classifying them as. No one character from a division will be seen in another.
- Only characters who have survived into 2018 qualify (Sorry Bob Newby) and only shows airing this year (Sorry Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks fans) will be included.
- Character rankings are based on popularity and the current conversation; not necessarily based on talent.
- There’s so much TV, I’m soooo sorry I’m don’t watch your favourite show. I’m sure it is very good.
‘I love that Guy/Girl’ Division
I love that scene in Shawshank Redemption when my man Andy Dufresne parades all bare chested in the pouring rain and laughs at that thunder. He finally escaped. If you’ve seen it, you should damn well love it too. It’s just plain lovable. And it makes me happy. Kinda like a good Kanye West rant. The following characters pretty much personify that same feeling. You just can’t hate on ‘em. And we also couldn’t include our lovable Boby Newby ( Stranger Things 2), because we all know what happened to him
Randall Pearson / This Is Us (1) Issa Dee / Insecure (2)
Jimmy McGill / Better Call Saul (3) Kimmy Schmidt / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (4)
Mad Sweeney / American Gods (5) Bill Tench / Mindhunter (6)
Rainbow Johnson / Black-ish (7) Dev / Master of None (8)
Titus Andromedon / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (9) Toby Damon / This Is Us (10)
Bill Potts / Doctor Who (11) The Ghost of Duke Ellington / Big Mouth (12)
Joe Carmichael / The Carmichael Show (13) Denise / Master of None (14)
Courtney Rose / The Mayor (15) Carmen Wade / Glow (16)
Round of 16:
Randall Pearson vs Carmen Wade: Randall Pearson
Dev vs Titus Andromedon: Dev
Mad Sweeney vs The Ghost of Duke Ellington: Mad Sweeney
Kimmy Schmidt vs Joe Carmichael: Kimmy Schmidt
Bill Tench vs Bill Potts: Bill Tench
Jimmy McGill vs Bobby Carmichael: Jimmy McGill
Rainbow Johnson vs Toby Damon: Rainbow Johnson
Issa Dee vs Denise: Issa Dee
Randall Pearson vs Dev: Randall Pearson
Mad Sweeney vs Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy Schmidt
Bill Tench vs Jimmy Mcgill: Jimmy Mcgill
Rainbow Johnson vs Issa Dee: Rainbow Johnson
Randall Pearson vs Kimmy Schmidt: Randall Pearson
Jimmy McGill vs Rainbow Johnson: Rainbow Johnson
WINNER: Randall Pearson
This was a challenge. Rainbow Johnson played by Tracee Ellis Ross is a natural comedic ball bearing of goodness. Her expressiveness goes from mother to maniac on a dime and often within the same frame. And in a lot of ways, the only thing that hurts her in this black family dynamic of a show ( Black-ish) is that she’s regulated to riding shotgun instead of driving the damn bitch. In the case of Randall, if you don’t already know for some reason, he’s the adopted third within the family of a white father, mother, brother and sister in This Is Us. There’s a whole lot of dialog around yearning for one’s biological roots here. Each episode of This Is Us is forever a new wrinkle and layer to a family dynamic that in some way mirrors our own. Randall himself is the same anxiety-ridden, but so-damn-lovable person that he’s carried on from past seasons. But we get more vulnerabilities here, especially with an incoming death of a family member and these moments that make him so relatable. And despite his inner conflicts, the nurturing he can still give and receive at both ends of the black and white spectrum make him “that guy.”
Best Asshole Division:
This could easily be that guy/girl that dresses in dark primary colours, sporting overly dramatic plot reveals, while choosing the ‘rule the world’ option from the one through 23 “ways to be villian” catalogue. You won’t find any tired Negans ( The Walking Dead) of the TV world here. This isn’t for the slow talking, gotta-reveal-everything through diatribes, jockish villain sorts. These characters/things are essential to making their respective heroes, and the ways in which they go about their business are way removed from the traditional. Some are just really assholes though.
The Shadow Monster / Stranger Things 2 (1) Aunt Lydia / The Handmaid’s Tale (2)
Renata Klein / Big Little Lies (3) The Commander / The Handmaid’s Tale (4)
Billy Russo / The Punisher (5) Charles McGill / Better Call Saul (6)
Ed Kemper / Mindhunter (7) Perry Lenny Busker / Legion (8)
Tyrell Wellick / Mr. Robot (9) Mr World / American Gods (10)
Vince Lonigan / Sneaky Pete (11) Dylan Maxwell / American Vandal (12)
Rachel Duncan / Orphan Black (13) Rick Sanchez / Rick and Morty (14)
Cardinal Angelo Voiello / The Young Pope (15) Lawrence / Insecure (16)
Round of 16:
The Shadow Monster vs Lawrence: The Shadow Monster
Perry Lenny Buster vs Tyrell Wellick: Perry Lenny Busker
Billy Russo vs Dylan Maxwell: Dylan Maxwell
The Commander vs Rachel Duncan: The Commander
Charles McGill vs Vince Lonigan: Charles McGill
Renata Klein vs Rick Sanchez: Rick Sanchez
Ed Kemper vs Mr World: Ed Kemper
Aunt Lydia vs Cardinal Angelo Voiello: Aunt Lydia
The Shadow Monster vs Perry Lenny Busker: Perry Lenny Busker
Dylan Maxwell vs The Commander: The Commander
Charles McGill vs Rick Sanchez: Charles McGill
Ed Kemper vs Aunt Lydia: Aunt Lydia
Perry Lenny Buster vs The Commander: The Commander
Charles McGill vs Aunt Lydia: Aunt Lydia
WINNER: Aunt Lydia
Let’s be honest here, the current times dictate that a character like The Handmaid's Tale’s The Commander is “easy” asshole material right now. He’s the next level upgrade to every sexist, shitty cis-white-male out there. Behind the holier than thou bravado, the bullshit pleasantries, he’s just an ordinary man with ordinary insecurities. All of these characters in same way do what they do for a particular gain on their end; some are just nutso. But then you got folks like Aunt Lydia.
There’s nothing scarier than a believer that so earnestly follows all the wrong kinds of fucked up-ness. Her Bible is the nightly read. And she still appears to have something you can call morals. This is a woman that actively ensures that other women under her wing function in a system whose sole purpose is to shrink them to the point of subserviency. In this dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale, where women's rights are a pipedream, she only exists to keep the status quo going in her very motherly, but disturbing way. The Commander, being the man that he is, goes with the grain. Functions as he should. Aunt Lydia, being a woman, empowers it, and that’s infinitely more disturbing.
You know the kind. The wrong ones. The brooding ones. The ones you accidently fuck with, only to get the wig pushed back while having that whole life you once loved taken…kinda ones. These characters aren’t what you’d call inherent killers, but there’s something tough about them that goes beyond just flash—an emotional toughness. Something beyond just a beat-down or kill that can still be easily conveyed.
Eleven / Stranger Things 2 (1) Daryl Dixon / The Walking Dead (2)
Offred / The Handmaid’s Tale (3) Annalise Keating / How to Get Away with Murder (4)
Frank Castle / The Punisher (5) Joyce Byers / Stranger Things 2 (6)
Claire Underwood / House of Cards (7) Claire Fraser / Outlander (8)
Ivar The Boneless / Vikings (9) Mike Ehrmantraut / Better Call Saul (10)
Molly Carter / Insecure (11) Czernobog / American Gods (12)
Lenny Belardo / The Young Pope (13) Ruth Wilder / Glow (14)
David Haller / Legion (15) Michael Burnham / Star Trek Discovery (16)
Round of 16:
Eleven vs Michael Burnham: Eleven
Ivar The Boneless vs. Claire Fraser: Ivar The Boneless
Frank Castle vs Czernobog: Frank Castle
Annalise Keating vs Lenny Belardo: Lenny Belardo
Joyce Byers vs Molly Carter: Joyce Byers
Offred vs Ruth Wilder: Offred
Claire Underwood vs MIke Ehrmantraut: Mike Ehrmantraut
Daryl Dixon vs David Haller: David Haller
Eleven vs Ivar The Boneless: Ivar The Boneless
Frank Castle vs Lenny Belardo: Frank Castle
Joyce Byers vs Offred: Offred
Mike Ehrmantraut vs David Haller: David Haller
Ivar The Boneless vs Frank Castle: Frank Castle
Offred vs David Haller: Offred
Frank Castle is probably the most mentally damaged, physical-pain-resistant anti-hero in the Marvel universe. His family was killed off, and he’s been seeking revenge in the most fatality-rich way possible ever since…because he can. But what constitutes “not to be fucked with” doesn’t have to necessarily include physical abilities. There’s a certain strength in the case of Offred in being turned into some fertile breeding machine for the rich, without looking to off herself in the process. In a dystopian, anti-women world, still having the mindfulness to survive and still hold hope, and an inner rebellion in the face of hopelessness clearly is something not to be fucked with. She survived 2017, and many are looking forward to how she’ll hopefully fuck up the system in 2018.
The New Guy/Girl Division
In many ways, this whole tournament is a tournament of new faces, but these were the ones that did amazing things without fitting into any one category. Some were complicated, others were plain funny, and they all qualified as folks we want to see more of in 2018.
Laura Moon / American Gods (1) Debbie Eagan / Glow (2)
Madeline Mackenzie / Big Little Lies (3) Micro / The Punisher (4)
Nola Darling / She’s Gotta Have It (5) Mr. Kraz / American Vandal (6)
Samantha White / Dear White People (7) Eileen "Candy" Merrell / The Deuce (8)
Jughead Jones / Riverdale (9) Cheryl Blossom Riverdale (10)
Darlene / The Deuce (11) Abigail 'Abby' Parker / The Deuce (12)
Celeste Wright / Big Little Lies (13) Grace Marks / Alias Grace (14)
Holden Ford / Mindhunter (15) Catherine / Master of None (16)
Round of 16:
Laura Moon vs Catherine: Laura Moon
Eileen “Candy” Merrell vs Jughead Jones: Eileen “Candy” Merrell
Nola Darling vs Abigail 'Abby' Parker: Nola Darling
Micro vs Celeste Wright: Celeste Wright
Mr. Kraz vs Darlene: Darlene
Madeline Mackenzie vs Grace Marks: Madeline Mackenzie
Samantha White vs Cheryl Blossom: Samantha White
Debbie Eagan vs Holden Ford: Debbie Eagan
Laura Moon vs Eileen “Candy” Merrell: Eileen “Candy” Merrell
Nola Darling vs Celeste Wright: Celeste Wright
Darlene vs Madeline Mackenzie: Madeline Mackenzie
Samantha White vs Debbie Eagan: Debbie Eagan
Eileen “Candy” Merrell vs Celeste Wright: Eileen “Candy” Merrell
Madeline Mackenzie vs Debbie Eagan: Madeline Mackenzie
WINNER: Eileen “Candy” Merrell
Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) begins her work on a sidewalk. Frizzled hair, curly, blonde and platinum wig; she’s got a beat, she serves the men, makes that money, and answers to no one. In The Deuce, Candy, a sex worker, simultaneously navigates an industry that objectifies her while utilizing it to elevate her circumstances. There’s something to be said for making an enterprise out of anything at all, but in a damn world that aims to use you? That’s intriguing. In Candy, we see the equal parts beauty and ugliness of a 1970s sex industry. Her body is imperfect, exposed and almost worn, and yet, isn’t demonized. Madeline Martha Mackenzie from Big Little Lies may have “the cool,” the one-liners, and all that good anti-hero shit (watch the show), but Candy’s exposed vulnerability and inner-workings of a world we rarely get to see is the kind of “new” and refreshing we want in 2018.
Randall Pearson vs Aunt Lydia: Randall Pearson
Offred vs Eileen “Candy” Merrell: Offred
In terms of the pure quality, talent, and value, these characters are just about evenly matched. But when deciding on a final two, there has to be some real-world importance factored in here. You have Randall Pearson, a living rarity; he’s the representation of the much needed idea that black folk aren’t all the same. We’re more than a trope. This role wasn’t a character written as a black man, this was a character written “for” a black man. There’s a difference. One falls in the way of assumptions, and the other recognizes that what makes us black doesn’t come down to a character trait; it is what it is. Aunt Lydia, while terrifying as fuck in her complacency, can’t compare to the necessity for black images that appear more well rounded in today’s age.
And of course there’s Offred; the protagonist of the oppressed world of Handmaid’s. Her world is the shitty abyss that exists in the absence of #metoo movements and sexual allegations. There’s a strength in her ability to defy all in spite of it too. It’s in the subtle ways her imposed silence conveys the rage around her circumstances, and the fact that she’s able to still maintain her sanity, without offering up the satisfaction of breaking down; that image of strength makes her far a more necessary character in 2018, than the still powerful Eileen “Candy Merrell, who operates in a less demanding scenario.
Offred vs. Randall Pearson: Offred
We expect both (and all) of these characters to do great things in 2018. But in terms of necessity—the right now kind of necessity—we gotta give it up to Offred. Not only does she make for a great fictional character to root for, she also represents the many victims in our current day who’ve been forced to stay silent under similar circumstances; her fiction speaks to a truth that needs to be addressed. And her circumstances are a mirror to what can happen if certain problems are in fact not addressed. She’s definitely the championed pick going into 2018.
Oh wait, you thought we forgot? You thought this was only a list about 2017’s best going into the big 18? Here’s ten new faces—i.e. Characters from shows premiering in 2018— that we think are going to have a big impact on the year.
Jeff / Jim Carrey - Kidding
Henry Deaver / André Holland - Castle Rock Takeshi Kovacs / Joel Kinnaman - Altered Carbon Andrew Cunanan / Darren Criss - American Crime Story Brandon / Jason Mitchell - The Chi Black Lightning / Cress Williams - Black Lightning Beth Boland / Christina Hendricks - Good Girls Kyle / Romel De Silva - Heathers Michael O'Connor / James Ransone - Mosaic Unknown / Emma Stone - Maniac
Winner: Brandon - The Chi
There are a ton of great selections here, but we're talking about the most influential, and The Chi’s Brandon wins out here.
When Chicago comes to mind, the general assumption is a city defined by black on black death. It’s the same tired talking points you’ve heard from hillbilly racists around cop on black fatalities. And it’s the figurative talking points around the pitfalls of black culture. In the case of The Chi, there’s a more accurate POV here. It attempts to reveal that good people can actually exist within these climates.
Bradon played by Jason Mitchell (proven range) is the same guy like myself who has had friends that have been murdered. We contain the feels without letting it define us. His goal to be successful despite his demons is the sort of “refreshing” that’s specific to the archaic visions of Chicago. Given our so called woke age of dispelling myths and stereotypes, I have no doubt that Brandon is going to be making a major impact in 2018. Follow Noel Ransome on Twitter.