Our lives may be full of all the same boring people we've always known—ma and pa, that cute barista who we never have the courage to ask out, that guy who keeps bugging us to sell our kidneys—but thankfully, we have television to keep things interesting! The medium is a rotating door of fresh faces, and with the 2014 midseason well underway, there's a parade of new characters marching through our living rooms! So I asked the TV.com staff to name their favorites, and you'll find the results below in list-like form. Check 'em out, then share your own picks in the comments!
Captain Flint, Black Sails
A true pirate isn't trusted by anyone, not even other pirates. Thick as thieves, but thin as pirates as they say ("they" in this case = people I just made up). And Black Sails' Captain Flint is the truest of pirates. Ostensibly the series' main character, Flint flutters between being a protagonist and an antagonist, a hero and an anti-hero, a noble captain and a selfish jerk. And it's that intriguing uncertainty, portrayed brilliantly by Toby Stephens, that makes Flint so great; even after watching the entirety of Season 1, we're still not sure whether to salute him or flip him the bird.
Lincoln, Broad City
Yeah, you probably expected us to include Abbi and Ilana instead (which would've been the obvious yet totally acceptable option because they're great), but our Broad City representative is Hannibal Buress's hopeful punching bag Lincoln. The running gag is that Ilana simply doesn't appreciate her loyal f*ck-buddy (he was mid-coitus with Ilana when we met him in the pilot, and she was paying more attention to her simultaneous Skype session with Abbi), even though he's probably too good for her. Lincoln's mellow vibe is a perfect counter to Ilana's hyperactivity, and it's Buress's subtlety that usually steals the scene. But you wanna know the best thing about Lincoln? He's a dentist!
Rust Cohle, True Detective
No one stormed television in 2014 like beer-can origami master Rustin Cohle, the enigmatic half of True Detective's odd couple. His trademark mouth diarrhea was full of philosophical nonsense (or was it metaphysical brilliance?), inspiring millions of people to quote him online and probably a dozen people to ill-conceived tattoos. And even though the man was difficult to work with, he was hella-good at his job. Matthew McConaughey is a lock for an Emmy with his performance, and kooky Rustin might just make the our list of the best TV characters of all time. Alas, True Detective's anthology approach means we've seen the last of Cohle for good... aside from a bazillion internet parodies and bad couples' Halloween costumes.
Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, Helix
Syfy's insane Friday-night drama needs a steady anchor, and that man is Dr. Hiroshi Hatake. While the rules of physics and nature crumble and cause chaos for everyone else, Hatake is there to calmly keep them cool. And we assume that "Hatake" means "ninja-like question dodger" in Japanese, because no matter what entirely reasonable queries the CDC scientists throw at him, he always manages to end the conversation with, "Now is not the time to discuss that"—especially when "now" is the PERFECT time to discuss "that." Then he just goes about his business brewing immortality gene therapy like a boss. And none of it would work if it weren't for Hiroyuki Sanada's appropriately stoic performance.
Forrest MacNeil, Review
Comedy Central's hilarious new series wouldn't work without its host and "life experience" reviewer Forrest MacNeil. The things he rates on a five-star scale—stealing, addiction, making a sex tape—are funny on their own, but it's MacNeil's deadpan delivery and earnest approach to each experience that makes the series more than just a simple gag. When he became very addicted to cocaine while doing his research and actor Andy Daly unleashed the fury of a man whose altered brain chemistry had flipped on the party-mode switch, it was magical.
Kira, Teen Wolf
Teen serials with tight-knit casts always face a big risk when adding a new character to the mix. Nobody wants a Cousin Oliver situation, least of all Teen Wolf with its, uh, "passionate" fanbase. But Kira's introduction felt both organic to Season 3 mythology (she's a kitsune!) and added a new audience surrogate to the weird world of Beacon Hills. Plus, you know, she's pretty awesome in her own right... those instantaneous samurai sword skills alone! And don't even get us started on her mother's stone-cold badassery. Assuming Kira survives the current season (which is NEVER a guarantee), she should make an invaluable addition to Scott's pack in the future.
Harold Levinson, Downton Abbey
Paul Giamatti's Harold Levinson is the honey badger of Downton Abbey. In the wake of his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal, Cora's fabulously rich but gleefully curmudgeonly brother was forced to join their mother on her European tour, complete with a visit to the in-laws and the full-grown adult nieces he never bothered to meet because screw them—British people are weird and his sister sold out for a title. But the way to Harold's heart was through his stomach and he thought the food was great, which put him right in line with one of our most beloved of tropes: the douchebag with a heart of gold. Don't let his crunchy exterior fool you; when one of Rose's fellow debutantes was offered up as a pretty young trophy wife, Harold was horrified and let his mushy side show. He's just a big ol' softie underneath.
Randy Hill, Enlisted
Fox's Army comedy is a whole lot more than "clean the latrine" jokes; creator Kevin Biegel has paid extra attention to make sure Enlisted has heart, and Randy Hill (Parker Young) is what makes it beat. Randy is defined by two characteristics: an unstoppable and disarming earnestness, and a serious case of the dum-dums. In concert, those traits reveal the show's heartfelt core through the eyes of an idealist, in stark contrast to the views of his two brothers, the cynical Derrick and the guarded Pete. And okay, even though we just gave you the academic reason for our appreciation of Randy, we'll happily admit that the real reasons he's on this list are his sensitivity to Pixar lamps and his fear of hats.
Jay and Roscoe, Justified
FX's southern crime drama has fantastic characters coming out the wazoo, but this season's new duo of Jay and Roscoe stood out from the rest. Just the kind of opportunistic thug that Justified loves to throw into the mix to stir the pot, these brothers (played with charisma by real-life brothers Steve and Wood Harris) were a big reason this season broke out of its mid-season slump when they decided to take advantage of certain business partner's slack. We're always talking amongst ourselves about possible subjects for a Justified spin-off, and this pair of siblings is high up on our wishlist.
Mary Watson, Sherlock
When Mary Watson (née Morstan) joined Sherlock this
season, she was a pleasant addition to a series that's basically about
two dudes hanging out and solving crimes. Much more clever (and funny) than
her husband and baby-daddy, she was the smartest person in the room
after Sherlock, which made her instantly likable and meant that she
didn't put up with any of Sherlock's shit. She also posessed the mysterious power of
getting Watson to shave his mustache, for which the entire world is grateful.
Her former life as an assassin came out as a silly surprise in "His Last
Vow," but the clues were all there, interspersed within seemingly innocuous
moments of dialogue. But the fact that Mary might be an asset rather
than a liability was the most refreshing of developments, because the
last thing the series needs is a damsel in distress.
Who would make YOUR list of the best new TV characters for the 2014 midseason?
AIRED ON 6/22/2014
Season 1 : Episode 13