From a meth kingpin to a megalomaniac spy to a sex researcher who is deeply into her work, 2013 was a year of unforgettable characters on the small screen. It would be easy to list 100 or more amazing fictional folks from the last 12 months of television, but hopefully you’ll agree that TV was made more memorable by these 10 in particular.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) – Breaking Bad
Too obvious? Too bad. What an insane trip it’s been, following the rise and fall of a chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin over five incredible seasons. And unlike some series finales (cough, Dexter, cough), Walt’s ultimate fate was actually satisfying.
The Governor (David Morrissey) – The Walking Dead
The Governor felt a bit two-dimensional in the previous season of AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama, but his return this year fleshed out the character and his motivations. We didn’t want to see him go.
Tiffany Doggett (Taryn Manning) – Orange is the New Black
Really, ANY of the women on this Netflix dramedy could top a list of the best characters of the year. But there’s something about “Pennsatucky” Doggett that’s fascinating, terrifying and all too real.
Raymond Reddington (James Spader) – Blacklist
At this point we’d probably watch Spader in a series about a man who sits in a bare room reading the phone book, but as the slippery, inscrutable former spy Raymond “Red” Reddington, he absolutely owns this show.
Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) – Boardwalk Empire
While Harrow wasn’t always a major player, it was impossible not to be mesmerized by the character’s quiet conviction whenever he was on the screen – and not just because of the mask that covered his grotesque war wounds.
Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) – Archer
This ribald animated series about the dysfunctional employees of a spy agency has produced one of cartoondom’s most amazing men, a douchebaglorious antidote to James Bond.
Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) – Game of Thrones
No character did as much with as little screen time as the wise, prickly, hilarious Lady Olenna, and whoever cast Diana Rigg of The Avengers (the ’60s British spies, not the superheroes) as the Tyrell matriarch deserves an immediate raise.
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) – Veep
If you’re not watching Veep, what’s wrong with you? It’s smart, funny and has one of the strongest comedy ensembles on TV, headed by Louis-Dreyfus in the best role of her career (and yes, that includes Seinfeld).
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) – House of Cards
Love him, hate him... why not both? This Netflix-first series has given us one of the most memorable TV politicians in years, and Spacey nails it so well that it doesn’t even seem odd when he breaks the fourth wall to talk to us directly.
Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) – Masters of Sex
It’s hard to choose between Caplan and her co-star, Michael Sheen, in this period drama about sex research pioneers Masters and Johnson. But aside from being the soul of the show, Caplan is also frequently naked. That’s a whole other level of performance anxiety.