Since our last best new TV characters party back in March, television has really ramped up its production of great new TV characters. Is the industry trying to turn this once-annual list into a weekly excursion? Slow down, TV!
Still, the last few months have introduced us to so many new TV BFFs that we couldn't not do another list, so I asked the TV.com staff to suggest some of their favorites, and here's what we came up with. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
Vanessa Ives, Penny Dreadful
At first, Vanessa seemed like the odd character out in Showtime's Victorian monster-mash. She wasn't Frankenstein or his monster, she wasn't Dorian Gray, she wasn't an American gunslinger, she wasn't a master vampire hunter... she was just a pretty lady played by a former Bond girl. But then she started levitating, channeling demons, and having sex with invisible monsters and it was ON! By the end of the season, Vanessa had become the undeniable star of Penny Dreadful's ensemble cast, and thanks to an all-consuming performance by a very game Eva Green, one of the biggest surprises of the year.
Oberyn Martell, Game of Thrones
The smooth-talking, tan-skinned Lothario from Dorne strutted into Game of Thrones' fourth season as if he'd always been part of the show, leaving us to lament that we didn't get to meet him until now. But the Red Viper's quest for revenge ("Say her name!") gave Oberyn the perfect "in," for the season, and even though he fell just a head short of getting payback, his demise will set things in motion for Season 5. Big ups to Pedro Pascal, the perfect actor to convey Oberyn's undeniably charming arrogance; we wish you could've stayed longer, dude! (Honorable mention for best Game of Thrones character in Season 4: Ser Pounce.)
Lester Nygaard, Fargo
The story of a man going from pipsqueak to BMOC—while possibly selling his soul at the same time—isn't anything new, but Mr. Nygaard's case involved murder, revenge sex, and some of the most weaselly squirming we've ever seen on television. And what really made his "journey" special was the series of awkward steps he took toward the point of no return, until he'd gone so far that the Salesman of the Year Award was a lock. The excellent Martin Freeman made Lester's roller coaster come to life, transforming him from pushover to nervous ball of pure evil to karmic victim over the course of 10 episodes; the character was essentially a condensed version of Breaking Bad's Walter White, and as compliments go, it's difficult to come up with a higher one than that.
Yvonne "Vee" Parker, Orange Is the New Black
Orange Is the New Black Season 2 ventured into sitcom territory with its loose interpretation of how a women's prison operates, but its Big Bad was as serious as a life sentence. Vee was a nasty piece of work, a scheming criminal who preyed on the aimless under the guise of maternal protection. She used Crazy Eyes as her own personal guard dog, she flipped Taystee into her righthand woman, and she did it all for her own selfish gain. She was bad news, yo, and exactly what the show needed in its sophomore run.
Take your pick, Silicon Valley
Good luck choosing just one favorite character from the HBO tech satire. In fact, our debate over who to include on this list grew so heated that we cheated and went with "all of them" just so we wouldn't kill each other. But that's a testament to Silicon Valley's excellent ensemble. Who are we to value Richard's endearing social awkwardness over Erlich's mouthy cockiness? Or Gilfoyle's Satanism over Dinesh's scathing sarcasm? Or Jared's unfortunate ambition over Big Head's big head? So many great options! We probably should've just agreed on Peter Gregory, but we couldn't bear to leave anybody out.
Rebecca the Science Teacher, Under the Dome
We know what you're thinking, "Isn't this a list of the BEST new characters?" Well, sometimes the worst characters on TV can get so bad that they turn out to also be the best, especially when you're dealing with CBS's all-out assault on logic and common sense, Under the Dome. The "sci-fi" drama runs on the fuel of blind stupidity, and Rebecca the Science Teacher is so one-sided and singular that she can't see anything but science. Her actions have propelled the plot all season long, but it's her permanent grumpyface and bitchy attitude toward anyone who doesn't recognize her public high-school teaching credentials that've made her one of the most entertaining characters of the season, even if it's unintentional. (Blame Tim for this one.)
Frank Winter, Manhattan
Even though we've only seen one episode of WGN America's striking new atomic-bomb drama, Dr. Winter is already the most stressed-out and conflicted hero of the TV year. In the messed-up, pressure-cooker insanity of Los Alamos, it's Frank who carries the most weight, and his scientific brilliance is his only shot at crawling out from beneath it. Oh, and if he does his job well? The result will be a dangerous step in the progression of next-generation weaponry and lead to the deaths of thousands. Throw in some family strife from his intelligent wife and free-spirited daughter, the threat of a team member selling secrets to the enemy, and competition from another bomb-making squad, and we'll be surprised if he doesn't swallow a cup of plutonium just to put an end to the madness.
David Rees, Going Deep with David Rees
You've probably never hard of this show, and you've probably never heard of this man—but you should probably change that. National Geographic's Going Deep with David Rees explores simple concepts (like how to tie a shoe, how to make ice, etc.) by breaking them down in an extremely complicated way, all in the name of achieving maximum efficiency and potency. And Rees, an author, cartoonist, and comedian, is the perfect host to take viewers on this wacky, informational ride. Armed with an undeterrable sense of what he wants and a robotic (in a good way) sense of humor, Rees is the key to our favorite new edutainment series.
Deputy Parrish, Teen Wolf
All right, so Deputy
Cutie Parrish has technically been a resident of Beacon Hills since January, but he's become a much more integral character in Season 4, and that's just fine by us. And not just because he has a nice face (100 percent of the people who live in Beacon Hills are attractive; it's basically a requirement to buy property/squat in deserted lofts). The fact that Parrish is on the dead pool means he's of some supernatural origin, and it means he's either going to die or he's going to become a Big Damn Hero. We vote for the latter, not just because he's willing to bend the rules, or because Lydia finding a freezer full of dead bodies didn't phase him, but because he's still a mystery, he genuinely seems to care about protecting people, and we wouldn't mind it if he became a member of Scott's pack.
Cameron Howe, Halt and Catch Fire
Last summer, AMC struggled to piggyback on the success of Breaking Bad and Mad Men with the ultimate example of the derivative anti-hero drama, Low Winter Sun. But THIS summer, the network took a different and much better approach with its computer-revolution drama Halt and Catch Fire—it paid attention to women. Sure, the series' punk whiz-babe Cameron Howe is a kind of historical aberration, but that's what makes her so cool. She more than holds her own with the show's slick and conventional lead Joe, she exudes both super intelligence and sexuality in every scene she's in, and she somehow keeps finding new ways to write code on non-computer surfaces. Whether or not Halt and Catch Fire lives to see a second season, TV absolutely needs more characters like Cameron.
Eleanor Nacht, The Bridge
Who woulda thunk that one of summer's most interesting villains would be an exiled Mennonite lady who's now working for a deadly Mexican drug cartel? Franka Potente's Eleanor Nacht has made a huge impact on the second season of FX's still-figuring-it-out The Bridge, leaving dead bodies in running cars, seducing teenagers, and generally acting as odd as possible. It's exactly the kind of thing the show needs after a first season that was often stymied by a dragging murder plot but soared during the brief moments when it loosened up and got a little weird. With Eleanor, there's more than enough weird to go around, and Potente is reveling in it all.
Who are YOUR favorite new characters of the summer (and late spring)?