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Hands Down, 2014's Most Exhilarating Television Characters

By Cindy Davis | Guides | December 23, 2014 |

By Cindy Davis | Guides | December 23, 2014 |

There are plenty of great characters on television these days; people like Fargo’s Molly Solverson, Dinklage’s Tyrion, and Justified’s Boyd Crowder. And then there are those who practically jump through those plasma/LED screens, demanding our eyes and ears latch onto every word — every expression. We forget there are writers, we see past the costumes and sets, and completely invest in whatever it is they’re selling us. These are the people who held us rapt, and took our collective breath away.

Oberyn Martell, Game of Thrones


From the moment Pedro Pascal’s Prince Oberyn stepped onto the Game of Thrones set and managed to upstage the likes of Tyrion, Cersei and Tywin Lannister, we knew someone truly exhilarating had arrived. With that flirty twinkle in his eyes and an accent to drop the panties of any man or woman, practically every word the Red Viper uttered was an invitation to quote; every movement and gesture, Tumblr-ish dances demanding capture. Whether offering Cersei a taste of her own sarcastic medicine, or making an off the cuff speech in a prison cell, Martell commanded our attention every second he spent onscreen…until that oh-so-bitter end. — Cindy Davis


Rust Cohle, True Detective


The year of Matthew McConaughey also brought us one of 2014’s best characters; a haunted, amateur philosopher in the guise of an obsessive cop, whose next move was as unpredictable as his partner’s explosive temper. Sporting an irresistible southern drawl and spouting fantastically quotable monologues about a world that could barely contain him, Rust Cohle was that incomprehensible man whose head we needed to get inside. — Cindy Davis

Annalise Keating, How to Get Away with Murder


I know the feelings shared by my fellow Pajibans on this particular show, and I respect them. But they are WRONG because, without any hyperbole or overstatement, this show is a flawless souffle of perfect perfection made of wonder and awe. Walking the most perfect line between campy delight and riveting drama, HTGAWM is one of the very best debuts of 2014, but without its lead, it would be nothing. As Annalise Keating, Viola Davis is stunning. Strong, ferocious, vulnerable, badass. From the moment she removed her armor and presented her husband with the evidence of his affair (“Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?”) to the final reveal of the season, Keating sways effortlessly from stone cold to desperate and raw. She’s the female lead network television has always needed and we’re so, so happy we have her. — Courtney Enlow

Bobbi Morse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


Near the end of the first season of Agents of SHIELD, during the Captain America: Winter Soldier arc, the series transformed from a tedious show into a compelling one. The storylines improved, the mythology grew more interesting, and the stakes increased significantly. Unfortunately, the first season — as much as it had improved — was still weighed down by the same characters. Sure, they had evolved, and weak links, Grant Ward and Skye, stopped being completely insufferable. But it wasn’t until the fifth episodes of season 2, “A Hen in a Wolf House,” that Agents of SHIELD finally began to hit on all cylinders. The better writing and better storylines finally landed a character that could carry them sufficiently and inject the necessary energy into them: Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi Morse, i.e., Mockingbird, a tall drink of ass kickery poured into a pair of leather pants and infused with a little liquor and spice. Bobbi Morse was the much-needed presence that Agents of SHIELD needed to kick it into the next gear. — Dustin Rowles

Jonah Ryan, Veep


If the “Looks like a six foot turkey” kid from Jurassic Park hit a growth spurt and developed political aspirations, he’d be Jonah Ryan. Crude and incompetent, Kanye West Wing is no lovable sitcom punching bag. Veep creator Armando Iannucci smartly made his villain a gangly, delusional, egomaniacal buffoon bereft of any redeeming qualities. You can never feel bad for Jonah, never think an insult directed his way is unwarranted or over the line. But no character (except maybe The League’s Rafi) comes close to matching this jolly green jizzface’s laughs-per-appearance ratio. — Brian Byrd

Erlich, Silicon Valley


The entire cast of HBO’s comedy Silicon Valley is solid, each coming together to form a hilarious ensemble. But there’s something about T.J. Miller’s Erlich that stands above the rest — the series wouldn’t be the same without his bombastic claims of grandiosity. Miller delivers Erlich’s delusions with such a precise and confident deadpan you can’t help but root for this character; his Steve Jobs-esque gimmick at the show’s take on the TechCrunch conference was inspired and far-too-short. He’s an ass, but he’s a delightful one. Who else could get away with bitch-slapping a kid? — Sarah Carlson

Mary Watson, Sherlock


With all of the big personalities from the first two seasons of Sherlock, you might have thought that they wouldn’t be able to squeeze in any more. You’d be wrong. Mary Watson was a delightful surprise. Smart, funny and charming, she was completely believable as the woman that could win over both Watson and Sherlock. And thank merciful Gatiss and Moffat for Sherlock and Mary’s relationship. If I had to sit through one more naggy, antagonistic, buzz killing version of Mary, I’d have been out. Instead we got a skip code reading, Sherlock-lie detecting, (SPOILER ALERT) former secret assassin. Someone extraordinary enough to interest Sherlock. Sweet, but dangerous enough to make John love her. Now that she’s here, how did we ever get by without her? — Emily Chambers

Edgar and Lindsay, You’re the Worst


There was a proliferation of rom-com sitcoms in 2014, and the one thing they had in common besides mostly being terrible, is that the best-friend characters in all of them were the weakest characters. Except for one. Edgar and Lindsay not only rivaled Jimmy and Gretchen as the best characters on You’re the Worst, they stole many of their scenes. Edgar is like Ross from Friends on pills, and Lindsay slept with everything (despite her marriage) and she owned that. You’re the Worst used the two leads to play with and subvert rom-com conventions, but Edgar and Lindsay were completely unique characters on their own, unlike any other characters we’ve seen on television. Considering how exhilarating Jimmy and Gretchen were, it says something about Edgar and Lindsay that they could still enter a scene and give the series even more offbeat and sometimes darkly hilarious energy. — Dustin Rowles

Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal


We’ve rooted for bad guys before, but not like this. Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal has managed to manipulate and deceive everyone in his circle — from the FBI to his lover; from patients to his psychiatrist. He’s so completely attuned to people’s thoughts, feelings…their smells, that Lecter can outwit anyone who even begins to sniff out the truth. It is his uncanny ability to be several steps ahead that provides the consistently thrilling hours we spend in Hannibal’s presence. Our hearts were set pounding by a season-opening fight with Jack Crawford, and didn’t stop until the impossibly terrifying closing rampage. And yet, seeing Hannibal escape with a glass of champagne and Dr. Du Maurier by his side, we couldn’t help but feel jump-started anew. Our blood is pumping and guilty excitement resumes; he’s gotten away again. — Cindy Davis

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