2015 Year in Review: Best Television Characters/Performances

Top 5 Female Characters/Performances

1. “Emma Swan” portrayed by Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon a Time)

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Emma Swan has always been an amazing character and beautifully portrayed by Jennifer Morrison, but 2015 was a truly exceptional year. It began with the threat of the Savior’s heart turning dark and overcoming those threats only for, in true Savior form, Emma to sacrifice herself and take on the greatest evil of all time and become the Dark One. And while she struggled with the darkness, made mistakes, and took drastic measures, all was to destroy that darkness, and more importantly to save those she loves. Because she could not bear to lose him, to save Killian’s life she had to embrace the darkness and in the end still had to say goodbye to the man she loves. But she came out of all of these challenges and tragedy stronger. She was able to truly overcome so much of her feelings of insignificance as she not only truly embraced romantic love, but love of herself. She fights back and exclaims she is not nothing, she was never nothing. It was a powerful moment of self discovery that was very profound and inspiring. In Emma’s journey from Lost girl, to Savior, to a woman who is stronger than ever, she is braver and absolutely determined, with her heart completely open and willing to go to Hell and back to save Killian, embracing her family’s steadfast motto that they will always find the ones they love. This year has been quite an extraordinary journey for Emma and it was brought to life with grace, vitality and utter brilliance by Morrison. She is always done such stunning work but this year allowed her to explore both familiar and new territory with her character. As the newly transformed Dark One we saw the internal struggles, the torment, and the times darkness was able to disappear into moments of joy. As the Dark Swan, Morrison did something completely different than the Emma we know . Her demeanor was formal and posture very straight with a deliberate, slower gait, and a tendency to stand with her feet crossed. Her voice was lowered an octave and speech much slower, sometimes cold and yet there were always glimpses of the heart of the true Emma inside. The choices and performance were astonishing especially when the entire story and her motivations were revealed. Lastly, in the moments where Emma was losing the man she held so dear, the sheer pain and heartbreak was so painful and devastating that one could not help but shed as many tears as she. And when she discovered that her beloved’s sacrifice was in vain, her anger towards Rumple was frightening and absolutely fantastic. We saw an expression completely new for she has never felt this way in her entire life. You could feel every single emotion and Morrison delivered the best performance of the year for the show and beyond.

Memorable Quote: ” I am not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don’t need!”

2. “Peggy Carter” portrayed by Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)

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Agent Carter the show rests on the shoulders of Peggy Carter the character and the performance by its star Hayley Atwell. And for that reason we have seen the show deliver poignant and dynamic television. Peggy is strong and brave no doubt, but it’s the moments of vulnerability even when she tries to push that aside that make her even stronger. It’s this moments when she is determined to gain the respect she deserves, all with dignity, that she becomes even braver. And it’s the moments when she says that she understands and knows her value and that everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter that she becomes even more of an inspiration than she already was. Peggy Carter is exactly the kind of character television needs more of and Atwell really shines at breathing life into this modern woman living in a time where it was difficult for them to find equal respect in life. Atwell’s performance showcases Peggy’s many beautiful qualities – warmth, compassion, tenacity, gumption, physical and emotional strength with fantastic results and believability. Every single person that loves Steve Rogers and Captain America should be watching because after all he would say “Listen to Peggy.” She wanted to protect him but in the end found the courage to finally let him go. Peggy Carter may not always have garnered the credit she has earned many times over but the beauty of her character is that she knows what truly matters is that her self-worth is not determined by others.

Memorable Quote: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

3. “Kimmy Schmidt” portrayed by Ellie Kemper (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

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There are so many words to describe the incomparable Kimmy Schmidt and Ellie Kemper’s performance: sweet, hilarious, uplifting, surprisingly inspiring, and realistic. Yet despite the extreme circumstances of her character and satirical nature of the show, Kimmy feels very grounded in realistic pathos and one could not help but relate to her feelings of insecurity, uncertainty and doubt, but also beautiful ability to look on the bright side of things and fight back against those who would try to keep her down. Did I mention this was a comedy? Yes – peppered throughout the hilarious, raucous, sometimes absurd plots, are these very real and relatable character traits. She is called “unbreakable “and the theme song says “females are strong as hell. “Ain’t that the truth! Kemper portrays Kimmy like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day and makes you believe that anything is possible. Life can be amazing. We should all endeavor to possess Kimmy’s fighting spirit.

Memorable Quote: “Just take it 10 seconds at a time. Everything will be okay.”

4. “Demelza Carne” portrayed by Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark)

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Lovely, angelic, compassionate, feisty, bold yet and insecure, Demelza is such a beautifully human character. Abused by her family, she never victimized herself and when the man she would eventually fall in love with gives her a job as a maid she finds her place with him and within the world. Through all her trials, she is always loving and brave even when others try to make her feel inferior. Tomlinson portrays her with ethereal radiance and grace but also grounded in a very sympathetic and realistic sense of insecurity and desire to be loved and find your place in society. Her goodness is admirable without feeling pious. Even when she thought her husband still carried a torch for his first love Elizabeth she still cared for her, her husband and their sick baby, never leaving their side until they were recovered. And in the process she and her own child became ill. Her poor daughter succumbed, but she survived, leaving her devastated and still hopeful that life can go on- that Ross and his cousin can mend fences and they can endure anything. Demelza’s strength is an inspiration.

Memorable Quote: “I don’t believe there’s ever cause to give up hope.”

5. “Laura Diamond” portrayed by Debra Messing (The Mysteries of Laura)

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In the underrated crime drama The Mysteries of Laura, Laura Diamond is one of the best homicide detectives in the NYPD, juggling being a single mother and sparring with her ex-husband who is now her partner. In 2015 she solidified what makes her such a dynamic, relatable and wonderful character demonstrating intelligence and ingenuity at her job, a sense of love and beginning of forgiveness toward her ex, and a realistic look at a modern woman balancing being a mom while maintaining a very important job. Sure it’s great when female police detectives are chic and sophisticated in demeanor and wardrobe, but what makes Laura Diamond so great is Messing’s very real, likeable and grounded performance. She is undeniably beautiful but also completely believable and practical in her dress. No stiletto heels or designer suits for her. Her attitude is strong but not closed off, understanding, sometimes stubborn, but usually right on the money, using whatever she must to solve her case. She feels like a real person- a woman who is intelligent, funny, loving and protective. If you’re not watching this show you definitely should.

Memorable Quote: “I’m desperate for any conversation that doesn’t include the words “homicide” or “pokemon”!”

Honorable mentions:

“Leslie Knope” portrayed by Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

“Sue Heck” portrayed by Eden Sher (The Middle)

 

Top 5 Male Characters/Performances

1. “Killian Jones” portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time)

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Much like his equally brilliant scene partner with much of the story, Jennifer Morrison, 2015 was a truly exceptional year for the character Captain Hook brought to the screen with a brilliant performance by Colin O’Donoghue as the character went through a very moving journey. Killian Jones is more than the pirate Hook. He is a hero and a good man who overcame his demons and continued to prove to be devoted, supportive, and loving towards his one true love Emma. Despite dark circumstances, the true heart of Killian always shined through, especially when he sacrificed himself twice to save Emma and her family. The latter came after he became the one thing he hated the most that he had been battling for centuries. Becoming the Dark One threw him right back into that darkness he took so long to overcome and feeling betrayed by Emma he let it consume him in the name of revenge. But the sight of her pain woke him up from the darkness as he decided once and for all to be man he wanted to be- the man he truly is. A man of honor. Asking Emma to kill him with Excalibur, he destroyed his metaphorical demons and the physical ones that threatened everyone he held dear, restoring Emma back to her true self. His noble sacrifice was the mark of age of true heroism and proved that love is not only stronger than greatest Darkness but also that Killian Jones is. This was a paramount moment for his character and the show and one that will never be forgotten While tragic and heartbreaking, it led Emma to vow to go to Hell and back and find and save him willing to share her heart with him. He once said he would to go to the end of the world for Emma and now she will do the same for him. Of course the journey would not hold as much poignancy if not for the stunning performance by a O’Donoghue who was given a multitude of opportunities to show his range and the many layers to his character. From Rumple posing as him with O’Donoghue brilliantly delivering nuances that mirrored Robert Carlyle, to the beautiful vulnerability of revealing his happy ending is Emma, and the sweet earnestness of the meek deckhand of the Alternate Universe, to the chilling ways in which the darkness took hold which also caused a change in demeanor and speech unlike anything we’ve seen, not even in his darker pirate days, O’Donoghe showcased moments of warmth anger, love, and strength with vigor and beauty. But it was the moments that Emma had to watch him die that O’Donoghue moved us to tears; we felt every breath of his struggles and emphasis on comfort believing that all that mattered was Emma’s future. His performance was nothing short of remarkable and truly, truly poignant. If anyone deserves to be rescued from the Underworld it is Killian Jones.

Memorable Quote: “I was weak. Now let me make up for it now by being strong. Let me die a hero. That’s the man I want you to remember, please.”

2. “Henry Morgan” portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd (Forever)

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Dr. Henry Morgan is such a special character and 2015 concluded Forever’s brilliant and beautiful one and only season with moving results for him in his varied relationships and incomparably unique, everlasting life. Intelligent, charming, resourceful and brave, Henry had to keep the truth about himself a secret but that did not alter his integrity as a doctor. In fact, living such a long life made him both realize how precious life is and not be afraid of death, especially if it meant protecting his son and his friend and partner Jo especially from the nefarious fellow immortal Adam. Perhaps the most touching moments came when Henry discovered the truth about his late wife Abigail, who died to protect the truth about him, and when he was prepared to die for his family at the hands of Adam himself. Throughout these moments Gruffudd proved to be deeply moving, charismatic and thoroughly gripping. Moments of pain, of realization, courage, humor, love, grief, and honesty, Henry is the type man that we all long to find in our real lives that have a time table. Gruffudd has played many wonderful characters but Henry Morgan may be the very best.

Memorable Quote: “What kills you, is not what causes your heart to stop beating. It’s what prevents you from living.”

3. “Ross Poldark” portrayed by Aidan Turner (Poldark)

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Perhaps the greatest thing about stalwart Captain Poldark is that all of his fine qualities (bravery, kindness, willingness to work hard and make his way in the world honestly, and be an honorable man) is mirrored with the very the human and realistic struggles and mistakes he makes. He married Demelza to do the right thing and while his feelings for her were true, the brevity of those took time making the moment he fell deeply in love with her feel so real and moving, finally moving past pining for his first love Elizabeth who married his cousin Francis. Speaking of which, his rashness and competitiveness came to the surface with this cousin, but what was admirable was his awareness of his faults and flaws and willingness to work to be a better man. Throughout all Turner, handsome and roguish, gave Ross a heartbeat and breadth of real feeling and poignancy. You would follow Ross Poldark into battle whether on the battlefield of war, or the drudgery of life, believing him, trusting him, admiring him. And we would all be better people because if it.

Memorable Quote: “I would rather fail fighting than throw up my hands and wait for the end.”

4. “Ron Swanson” portrayed by Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)

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While the entire cast of Parks and Recreation was exceptional in its final season, there was something special about the final journey of Ron Swanson, the curmudgeonly libertarian who does what he wants and as he pleases, and always says he doesn’t like to talk to people. But in the end, he showcased a profound vulnerability and well earned sense of peace. When you discover the real reason for his falling out with Leslie one could not help but be touched. Deep down Ron loves his friends as if they were his family, even if he can’t always openly express it, and even when they have vastly different opinions on life and politics. When his final job allows him to be one with nature, you could see a man strong in his love of the natural world. Finding solace and fulfillment it was beautiful and Offerman gave Swanson a sense of sweetness paralleled with a hilarious, grumpy exterior – like a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt that we cannot help but love and were very sad to say goodbye to.

Memorable Quote: “Rangers, my name is Ronald Ulysses Swanson, your job and mine is to walk this land and make sure no one harms it. If you show up on time, speak honestly, and treat everyone with fairness we will get along just fine. Though hopefully not too fine as I’m not looking for any new friends. End of speech.”

5.”Rumpelstiltskin” portrayed by Robert Carlyle (Once Upon a Time)

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In 2015, Rumpelstiltskin continued to be a fascinating character with both new and familiar dynamics and as wonderful a performance by Carlyle as we always expect him to give. We saw him descend into darkness so far that his blackened heart was literally killing him, saved and spared and given a blank slate, and forced into finding his courage so he can pull Excalibur from the stone for Emma. And while he did find that courage and was heroic for Belle, and in the end, selfless as he sent her out of Storybrooke for her safety, his heroism still felt rushed and we discover there was a very distinct reason for that. When the opportunity presented itself he could not resist getting his power back willing to let Emma sacrifice herself and stood idly by while Killian instead made that choice to destroy the darkness, or so he thought. Rumple betrayed everyone and while it was shocking at first, in hindsight it revealed a truth about his character we never should have forgotten. He is the main villain of the series, addicted to power, capable of goodness but unable or unwilling to maintain it. Because of the impeccable performance (which also included the brilliant move to have him appear in the mind of the new Dark Ones as a flamboyant, funny, cheeky but still sinister version of Rumpelstiltskin), we could feel both empathy for him such as when he revealed how undeserving he felt of Belle’s love and forgiveness, and frustration and disappointment when he once again chose power and himself over doing the right thing. You hate what he does but love to watch him do it, because as always Rumpelstiltskin is a fascinating villain and I’m glad he is the Dark One again from a storytelling and acting standpoint. For only in the end should the Dark One be destroyed; whether Rumple will be as well or he finally redeems himself will be very dramatic to witness.

Memorable Quote: Emma: “You found a loophole, betrayed us all again.”

Rumple: “It’s what I do. It’s the man I am.”

Honorable Mentions:

“Edwin Jarvis” portrayed by James D’arcy (Agent Carter)

“Barry Goldberg” portrayed by Troy Gentile (The Goldbergs)

 

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5 thoughts on “2015 Year in Review: Best Television Characters/Performances

  1. Wonderful analysis of your favorite characters. You have detailed their strongest performances showing your talent for recognizing and sharing the gifts the actors/actresses have shared with their viewers. There are several of your choices that have been on my “to view” list. You have confirmed for me how to fill the long hours of hiatus or Winter schedules. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much Sharon. I am so happy you enjoyed the list and that you have found some shows to put on your “To See” list. They are all well worth your time in my humble opinion.

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  2. This is such a fantastic list. I love the way you talked about Peggy! I can read about her all day. I’m especially intrigued with Kimmy Schmidt now and I really want to start the series! So thanks for convincing me with this! Perfect list, darling

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    • Shoot, I worded that poorly. Now I feel bad, but I am human. I was trying to say that he gave as wonderful as performance as we always expect him to. Yes he is always fantastic. Thanks for bring this to my attention actually because I can edit this and word it better 🙂

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