Best of 2016 Characters

There’s no feeling quite as indescribable as finding a fictional character to care deeply for. A character who we perhaps see ourselves in or a character who’s just so well written, it’s difficult to turn the other cheek. There are a number of fantastic Best of 2016 characters — whether heroes or villains or somewhere in between, they’re so well written, they become a part of us. They become someone we cherish, someone we want the best for.

And whatever you do, in order to get the best of Year-End reviews, you need to check out the beautiful work Nerdy Girl Notes and TV Examined are doing as well.

The Heroines 

1. Emma Swan
Once Upon A Time

Emma Swan is always growing and with each season, she becomes more of an inspiration than before. (No one should be surprised she’s on our Best of 2016 characters list.) Emma’s journey in bringing her True Love home has been heart-wrenching on its own, but learning that she’s potentially destined for an early demise took the character places she’d never imagined. Emma’s grown a lot from the reserved, reluctant woman we met in the pilot, but this year she’s explored love with the idea that it may not come home with her. She’s taken on more than she anyone deserves to and she’s revealed just how much it’s hurt her, exhausted her, and broken her. But best of all, when Emma finally found the peace and ability to open her heart in quiet moments, she was struck with the visions that told her an end was near. Emma’s come a long way and while in the past she may have closed her off after learning such news, today she’s doing everything she can to take in the quiet moments. She’s taken initiative to make her life with Killian and Henry as beautifully close as can be. Despite the fear, she’s choosing to live in the now while remaining selflessly devoted to the town. And in doing so, she’s reminding viewers of the importance of spending time with loved ones. She’s reminding viewers of the significance that lies within allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. There’s unparalleled strength in vulnerability and Emma Swan has been the ultimate showcase of that fact for six years now.

2. Peggy Carter
Agent Carter

Peggy Carter is dearly missed, profoundly adored, and fiercely cherished. She’s undeniably a favorite for many of us, and this year she’s made sure the audience could see that she’s learned from what she’s gone through. Last year Peggy learned the importance of her value, and this year, she wore her strength on her sleeves while allowing herself to be vulnerable in love. Season two demanded Peggy to slow down. It demanded she understand that she shouldn’t carry her burdens alone because she’s surrounded by people who are ready to help. She’s got a legacy to protect, but a heart to take care of as well, and with season two allowing Peggy to explore all sorts of emotional and physical vulnerabilities, she’s grown to be even more heroic than before — making her death in Captain America: Civil War that much more heartrending. Peggy Carter is a true hero — an icon for women to look up to with the understanding that you can be strong even when you’re feeling weak because true strength comes from giving and enduring. (And a touch of Besame cosmetics’ 1946 Red Velvet will make you invincible. Kidding. Nope, not really. It does.)

3. Lorelai Gilmore
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

You know those characters that feel like coming home? Lorelai Gilmore is one of them. Lauren Graham jumped right back into it reminding us all of why the character is so beloved. But beyond this, I love what Lorelai stood for in the Gilmore Girls revival — forgiveness and self-love. It’s important for people to embark on quests of self-discovery to learn about themselves and to let go of the pain and voices within. Lorelai went through a lot in one year (including the years we haven’t seen) and she’s come out even more empathetic than before. She’s grown even more patient. She’s grown and evolved beautifully learning to live one moment at a time while trusting her heart’s desires.

4. Ginny Baker

Ginny Baker is the fiercest ball player on TV right now, one of the Best of 2016 characters we adore the most, and Kylie Bunbury is brilliant. Pitch is the one show each and every person should be watching — whether baseball is your cup of or not, Ginny Baker alone is more than enough reasons to give it a shot. A lot is expected of Ginny as the only female in Men’s Major League Baseball, and the complex, raw emotions we’re graced with makes her an inspiration to all. Ginny’s imperfect — as all humans, she struggles, fights, and endures more than she deserves, but the fact that she’s kept going has made her story beautiful to witness. Ginny’s grace and charisma make her riveting, but the emotional toils Kylie Bunbury takes us through in her portrayal are exactly the type of heroic female leads we need on our screens. Ginny Baker is a wonderful paradigm of a strong, imperfect woman who reminds us of the fact that though difficult, there’s nothing a woman can’t do if she works hard and sets her mind to it. And even when she falls, she’ll get back up.

5. Elizabeth McCord
Madam Secretary 

Elizabeth McCord continues to be my choice for our first female president. (It’s really too bad she’s fictional.) If you aren’t watching Madam Secretary, I don’t know what you’re doing because you’re consistently missing out on multiple Best of 2016 characters. And my favorite thing about the character continues to be the gorgeous way which she balances motherhood and a career. When we’re presented with woman like Elizabeth, too often they’re too much of one thing and not enough of another, but Elizabeth continues to be a shining example of possibilities. It’s possible to be the Secretary of State and an impeccable mother. It’s possible to be the Secretary of State and an ardently adoring wife. It’s possible to do all for the key is balance. A kind of balance Elizabeth’s established beautifully, but more so during this year alone, she’s reminded us of how fiercely she cares about her family, those working with her, and America. And I’ve loved watched her deal with each challenge with the kind of grace you’d expect from a woman in her position.

6. Lucy Preston

Because Lucy Preston is a History-nerd, it makes her 100 times more fabulous as a character, and as one of the newer characters on television this year, Lucy is so effortlessly adored, I can’t imagine a single person watching Timeless and being indifferent towards her. In what we’ve seen from the 10 episodes we’ve been given, Lucy’s heart is larger than the moon. She’s brilliant, compassionate, and admirably honest. And it’s this very earnestness that’s landed her a role in this list. In a world where people are to often afraid of vocalizing their emotions, Lucy isn’t — if there’s someone she cares for, they’ll know it. If there’s someone she cares for, she’ll fight for them. And the fierceness she’s fought with so far is nothing short of beautiful. Lucy’s love for her now-nonexistent sister is so incredibly potent, Abigail Spencer allows you to feel it, and in culmination with this, her protectiveness over her team, Rufus especially continues to leave me floored. Lucy sees it all — the intricate details that make a person wonderful, the struggles they battle alone, and the importance of what makes fate special. Her fervent beliefs and perceptiveness have thus far been gorgeous to witness.

7. Jessica Pearson

Jessica Pearson has been around for a while now and while she’s always been the woman I’d want as my mentor, this year, she left me in even more awe than I ever thought possible. Jessica’s always been the woman whose hard work and mind have defined her. She’s known how to approach almost every situation that presented itself onto her doorstep, and she’s done so with more grace than imaginable. But her decisions this season have made her even more admirable. Sometimes, no matter how terrifying the unknown may be, embarking on it is what makes us stronger. And Jessica’s choice to step away from the one thing she’s worked so hard to have was shockingly riveting. It’s what gave Suits a whole new depth. As a woman whose entire staff effortlessly respected her, you’d imagine that she’d stay. Thereby, her choice to follow love and her heart make her that much more fabulous. And I love how easily this debunks the conception that strong women don’t fall in love. Sometimes, a strong woman is the one who walks away from the top only to find herself discovering more than she ever thought possible. Sometimes, a strong woman gives into her emotions. And as I’ve always said, it takes more strength to be vulnerable, and Jessica Pearson is wonderful proof of this notion.

8. Eleven
Stranger Things

Eleven — the Eggo loving, pixie cut rocking kid we all wish we were way back when. Seriously, I didn’t look that adorable when I had short hair as a kid. Not only was I not that adorable, but I wasn’t that fierce. Or cool. And while Stranger Things may not be suited for all kids, it’s beautiful that whoever watches can gather the fact that fierceness comes from unshakable loyalty and compassion. El is special for a number of reasons but the fervency which she loves her friends with is what makes her special. She adoration she’s filled with at such a young age is undoubtedly going to take her far in life.

The Heroes

1. Killian Jones
Once Upon A Time

Killian Jones continues to be the ultimate paradigm of honor in the world of Once Upon A Time. In a world where villains continuously go back and forth with their desires, Killian has remained steadfast in his heroic journey doing everything in his ability to display valor and sincerity not only for Emma, but for others as well. And his journey into the underworld has unsurprisingly taught him a great deal about self-forgiveness along with the closure he’s desperately needed; thereby, resulting in a newfound understanding he’s used to help others. Killian’s fiercely protective and respectful nature has shined as a beacon of light in a season where betrayals have been too common. His adoration and unwavering loyalty to Emma have made it easier for her to fall back on him. His devotion to Henry and the rest of the Charming clan has made it easier for them to win battles. Killian has been torn apart too many times to count this year, but instead of resorting back to his villainous ways, he’s courageously showcased strength through spreading hope and love wherever he’s gone. He’s chosen to be selfless even when its been difficult and he’s acknowledged his mistakes reminding us all that though flawed, he won’t stop trying. If you ask us, there’s no one more deserving of the Captain’s title.

2. Jay Halstead
Chicago P.D.

Jay Halstead continues to be one of the TV characters I care so deeply far, it’s almost as if I know him. Or at least in some sense, it’s almost as if he’s real. From day one, Jay’s loyalty has radiated onto the screen effortlessly, and though this year wasn’t the easiest for him, no part of that loyalty has wavered. The amount of times Jay’s said he’s okay when he’s been far from it has been heart wrenching. While Jay may have had love at his side, he’s faced some of the greatest challenges this year. After losing Terry then watching Greg give his life to the Rangers again, Jay’s had to revisit his traumatic past more than he should’ve. But Jay hasn’t actually dealt with and that’s what’s broken my heart. He’s fought and endured without really letting it all out. He’s endured more than he’s ever deserved to and all he’s done is brushed it off as though he is fine. And now while Jay hasn’t really taken the time he’s needed in order to really absorb and let go, he’s had quiet moments where he’s let his walls down — moments where though alone, he’s allowed himself to break. But in the midst of all the trauma, Jay’s shown more love than any other character. His devotion to Lindsay has been breathtakingly gorgeous. His devotion to the unit has been marvelous. And it’s this very devotion that’s ceaselessly shown the magnitude of love he carries in his heart. Jay Halstead can’t sit back and watch anyone else suffer. He’ll fight through anything for justice and his rage is always in favor of the underdogs. He can’t stop fighting because if there’s anyway to heal the brokenness in him, it’s through giving. And he gives without expecting. He listens and cares with such attentiveness, it has made him the most fascinating character on Chicago P.D. And hopefully one day, Jay will start to believe that in the same way he treasures those around him, he deserves to be just as treasured — to have his wounds seen and healed.

3. Jon Snow
Game of Thrones

As the second character who’s come back from the dead Jon Snow’s accomplished quite a lot afterwards. And with Winterfell needing family to take over, it’s been a real treat to watch Jon find himself comfortable back home. It’s been a real treat to see him come around to the idea that alongside, Sansa, he can be the King. And with each step Jon took to find himself back home, you felt every ounce of his strength cobbled interestingly with doubts. Jon Snow is incredibly imperfect and yet noble, but his immense ability to love is what makes him perfectly fitted for the throne. In order to unite and prosper, Jon Snow’s the prime candidate — the legacy whose heart is seen through the kindness in his eyes.

4. Luke Danes
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As much as Lorelai Gilmore’s presence on our TV screens has been lovely, Luke Danes’ has been just as wonderful. Luke’s grown a lot as well, but some things never change and in this case, that’s a good thing. I loved watching his fierce protectiveness over Rory come out to play. And it was also beautiful to see just how proud he is of the work she’s published. It’s the little things and his admiration for the Gilmore girls has been one of the most unforgettable gifts the show has given us. And let’s be real, I loved his refusal to hand out the wifi password at the Diner. That old-fashioned grumpy goodness has been severely missed and needed on our screens.

5. Randall Pearson
This Is Us

Randall Pearson is without a doubt newest Best of 2016 character on TV right now and we haven’t even known him for a full season yet. There aren’t enough characters on our screens that walk around with such an immense capacity to love. As a child alone, Randall has evidently dealt with a lot more rejection than many of us face in our entire lifetimes, but the fact that he’s grown into a fiercely adoring man is admirable on a multitude of levels. So often in light of the kind of events Randall’s faced, people shut themselves off to compassion, but Randall’s done the exact opposite. He gives his absolute all to everything he does and every person he meets. And even when he learned about his mother’s betrayal, in the end, the grudge wasn’t kept for too long. Randall may be hurt and angry, but his incomparably loving nature has provided some of the warmest moments on television. His adoration for his girls, wife, and family have thus far never failed to bring me to tears.

6. Harvey Specter

For so long, I’ve been wanting to shake Harvey up in order for him to see just how much truly stands before him. But thankfully, the series did that for me allowing the character to finally grow in ways that he’s often desperately needed to. In truth, Harvey has always deserved a spot in our Best of 2016 characters list. He’s complex, multi-faceted and so well rounded.

As a result of the panic attacks that had begun last year, Harvey’s growth has taken place in a perfect pace allowing the audience to see that he now finally understands that there’s much more to life than winning a case. And so much of that comes from how much Harvey has actually lost within this year. As soon as Mike was sentenced to prison, everything changed for Harvey. And the showcase of vulnerability almost instantaneously made it easier for the character to grow. Harvey’s fierce persona remained stronger and more determined than ever, but because he’s learning to deal with his emotions, his heart’s on display more now. And it’s a real treat to see because for the first time, Harvey’s self awareness and consciousness of those around him are decreasing the burdens on his shoulders. And I’ve loved watching him open up while fighting intensely for rightful causes.

7. Henry McCord
Madam Secretary

Madam Secretary wouldn’t be what it is without Henry McCord as its leading man. And this year, Henry’s dealt with a lot outside of the house resulting in some of the finest showcases of honor I’ve seen. The amount of love Henry’s shown to his family is unparalleled, but the kindness and openness he’s shown to Dimitri has left me in awe. There aren’t many people that risk as much as Henry has and those risks have demonstrated exceptional characteristics. It’s easy to care deeply for Henry because of how easily he cares for those around him. It’s easy to understand Henry because of how much he opens himself up for the sake of others.

8. Wyatt Logan

What’s been incredibly fascinating about Wyatt’s character in the few episodes we’ve known him for is how respectful he is — unsurprising due to his background as a soldier, but still. And that level of respect demands incredibly high praise. It’s the kind of respect that’s allowed his team to see that he’s worth standing up for. He’s worth believing in and he’s worth following. Some men are born to lead and Wyatt’s ability to both follow and lead is incredibly vital. It’s a rare trait to carry and the character’s written with so much depth, thus far, it’s been riveting to explore.

Honorable Mention: Antonio Dawson (Chicago P.D.),  Rufus Carlin (Timeless), Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones), Barbara Holland (Stranger Things), Philip Jennings (The Americans), Mike Lawson (Pitch).

Be sure to check out our tribute to Sundance’s Rectify as the best thing on TV in 2016, our Top 16 Relationships, Top 16 Little Gems, and our Top 16 Performers of the Year.

Who would be featured in your Best of 2016 characters list?


  1. There are so many characters on here that I love. First, I need to tell you how much I love what you wrote about Lorelai. She is my favorite character on the show and you summed up her journey really beautifully.

    With as little as I know about Jay, I know he would be a character I love. I’m a bit of a sucker for characters who have been broken by their past but have so much capacity for love. They give others all the love and forgiveness and healing they won’t give themselves and there is something about their journey toward self-compassion and acceptance that gets me every time. I love how much you love him and it’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts on him.

    1. I’m always so nervous to write about Lorelai because she’s such a meaningful character to so many people! So thank you for saying I summed up her journey well. It truly means so much. And I’m not even gonna start talking about Jay because I will either cry or this will turn into an essay. That boy needs a hug. I honestly hate that Erin essentially falls in between him and Severide because I think the two of them could’ve been really great friends. And I hope the series is big enough to address that someday.

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