Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TV Characters We're Thankful For This Year

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One of the oft-overlooked holidays is Thanksgiving. I think it’s because so many stores jump straight from Halloween to Christmas — orange pumpkins replace green and red trees pretty quickly, and snowflakes are painted on window displays by November 1. But Thanksgiving is a great holiday, if only because it allows us to take one day to be reminded of all of the things in life we often take for granted. We get the chance to reflect with our families, friends, and loved ones.

Around here, I usually craft a listicle near Thanksgiving with ten or fifteen characters I’m thankful for each year. But this time around, I decided that I would rope some of my writing staff into the journey as well. Even though 2016 has been disastrous in a lot of ways, a lot of good things have come out of this year. And in the midst of an election season in America that sought to divide and drain us all of our belief that humankind is decent, it’s nice to take the opportunity to be reminded that so much good — creatively speaking and literally — has come out of this year.

So below, you’ll find some of the TV characters we are most thankful for in 2016. Grab a slice of pumpkin pie or a mug of hot cider (or both!) and join us as we celebrate some of the great characters that television has brought us.

JENN IS THANKFUL FOR...


Greg Serrano (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

I fell in love with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pretty quickly. I’m a sucker for meta musicals, and even more of a sucker for well-written series involving complex female leads. And while Rebecca Bunch is, indeed, the star of our show and the character whose lens we filter everything and everyone else through, the real breakout character for me this year was Greg Serrano. Greg (played expertly by Santino Fontana) enters the series as a surly, sarcastic bartender who also happens to be Josh’s best friend — and Josh, of course, is who Rebecca is seeking to be with the entire series. Or so we think.

Over the course of the first season, we come to know Greg better — we learn that he doesn’t have the best relationship with his father, that his mother is remarried with kids, and that he’s always wanted to go to Emory but has never really tried. Greg is the epitome of someone stuck in a rut but who complains about that rut rather than trying to get out of it. But if you look past the anger and self-loathing, you realize that Greg is just a guy who is scared of failing so he never tries. His journey to self-discovery and self-improvement is so important to me. It would have been easy for the show to keep Greg as this one-note character — the bartender who just spouts bitter lines and sarcastic jokes and occasionally sings a fun song — but the writers knew that Greg was more than just that.

In fact, one of the most surprising things is not that Greg develops into a more fully-realized character but that we continue to learn things about him until he departs. It would be easy for Greg to stay in West Covina — to try things again with Rebecca, to still live at home, to keep his old job. But he doesn’t do any of that. Through AA, he realized he used alcohol as his crutch and that he had to start letting things go and start actually moving forward with his life. He had to start trying again, even if that meant failing. And he did. He leaves West Covina (I’m still sad about this because I love Greg so much), and Rebecca behind to truly embark on his own journey.

Greg Serrano is an incredibly complex character, and I’m grateful that there’s a character on TV who recognized his addiction, got help, and genuinely changed for the better because of it. I absolutely adored Santino Fontana in this role, and he brought so much charm, charisma, and vulnerability to the character. If you haven’t watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend yet, please do! You’ll be thankful for his character too.


Eleven (Stranger Things)

I watched Stranger Things on the advice of a co-worker who assured me that it wasn’t THAT scary (fun fact: I watched the second episode at night, was scared, and then got a text from my roommate that she wouldn’t be coming home that night. Cue Jenn double-checking all of her doors were locked), and once you got over the whole mysterious jump-scare monster, it really wasn’t. Even though every single cast member on the Netflix series is deserving of thanks in their own right, this blurb is to discuss Eleven. Because man, what an amazing character.

Eleven is a child who has been used as a weapon her whole life. That makes her dangerous and also, at the same time, very vulnerable. She doesn’t know how to communicate well, but she can sure throw someone across the room with her mind. In spite of the fact that Eleven hasn’t ever really had someone to love her deeply and treat her like a human, rather than an experiment, she finds family and comfort in a group of young boys who adopt her as one of their own. Eleven is incredibly loyal, smart, and also still a child.

She craves human contact after she experiences the joy that it can be and, throughout the series, learns the value of friendship. She exudes loyalty and learns how to love. She’s always been controlled, but at the very end of the series makes the ultimate sacrifice for the people she cares most about. Eleven breaks free of the chains and people that bind her and is able to use her powers for good — to protect, not to harm. I absolutely love Eleven and think that Millie Bobby Brown is a fantastically talented young actress who will go far in her career.

Plus, Eleven loves Eggo waffles. How can you NOT love a character like that?


Nick Miller (New Girl

If you know me at all, you know that New Girl is my favorite show on television. Over the years, it’s had its moments (here’s to looking at you, season three), but it’s been one of the most consistently funny shows on television for a long time. This year, however, the show did incredible things with Nick Miller. Nick began the series as a “chubby, damaged flower who hates himself” (Schmidt’s words, not mine). Over the course of six years, though, Nick has gone from a damaged, broken person to someone who genuinely knows what he wants and is willing to fight for it. Furthermore, this year proved that Nick is becoming the successful adult that he avoided being for years. He has a steady girlfriend, and was able to express how he felt about her. He’s making a long-distance relationship work, and has been able to learn and grow from the experience itself. Nick took a leap at the end of last season and went with Reagan — his aforementioned girlfriend — to New Orleans over the summer. He finished his novel there (being inspired by the atmosphere) and, surprisingly, Schmidt loved the story. Not only is Nick a writer, but he’s also a consistent writer. Finally, Nick is running the bar now as a manager, and he’s doing a pretty great job at it.

I love the way that Jake Johnson plays Nick Miller. I love that Nick is absurd and doesn’t understand so many simple things, but that he has genuinely come to a place where he can open up about his feelings and thoughts and learns from his experiences in order to become a better version of himself. Even though he might not have a five-year plan, Nick has grown leaps and bounds since he and Jess broke up back in “Mars Landing.” He is more confident and more willing to take risks.

Boy, am I thankful for Nick and his character development this year. Seriously.

MER IS THANKFUL FOR...

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Demelza Poldark (Poldark)

Demelza Poldark (nee Carne) is such a unique and refreshing character. On a show that takes place during a time when women were expected to be docile, subservient, and silent, Demelza is none of those things. And best of all, she knows her own worth. This season on Poldark, Demelza was put through the wringer. Her husband — Ross, who I adore and hate in equal measure much of the time — betrayed her in the worst way possible. Even before that, he was cold and closed off and dismissive for much of the season. And Demelza shouldered it, carrying on and caring for his household and his child and his friends with dignity and grace. But she is no shrinking violet, and she didn’t do it silently. She let her husband know exactly what she thought of his behavior and his betrayal.

In addition to her strength and ferocity when it came to Ross, she also demonstrated those qualities toward others, leading her friends and tenants away from a violent confrontation, helping to tend to the sick, needy, and pregnant, offering a sounding board and advice to Dwight and Caroline, and more. She always stands up for what she believes in and stands up to bullies regardless of the consequences, and she fights for those she loves. As Demelza says herself to her husband in this season’s finale: “I am fierce and proud and steadfast and true, and I’ll not settle for second best.” Well, Mistress Poldark, you’ve got nothing to fear here. You’ll always be number one to me.

(P.S., Thank you to @poldarkedfangrl for making this GIF especially for me!)

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Evelyn Sanders (Pitch)

On a show that has no shortage of strong, independent female characters, Evelyn Sanders stands out. She isn’t your typical WAG (Wives and Girlfriends). No, she’s much more. She’s Blip’s better half, Ginny’s friend and confidante, and she has business knowledge to boot — offering sage advice to Will Baker without breaking a sweat. On top of that, she’s got perfect hair, gorgeous make-up, and an enviable wardrobe. Basically, she’s my role model. She’s funny and fun, supportive and strong, fierce and protective and a take no prisoners kind of woman. Pitch is full of characters to be thankful for, and that’s one of the things that makes it so fantastic.

But as a mother of a daughter (and a son I hope will be a feminist too), I’m always looking for female characters they can look up to. Evelyn delivers in spades. It’s clear who the boss is in her marriage, and Blip doesn’t seem bothered in the least to let his wife run the show. And with a wife like Evelyn, who can blame him? Blip Sanders is a lucky man, and he knows it. Ginny and Will are also lucky to have a friend like her, and — of course — the viewers are lucky to have Evelyn. And for that, I’m thankful.

ANNE IS THANKFUL FOR...



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Rebecca Bunch (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

I have the strong belief that this television season has not just continued the trend of bringing us great TV — and, by extension, great female characters — it has simply spoiled us. It’s not that women characters have necessarily been expected to be demure on TV; I don’t think that’s been true for a very long time. But even as we’ve had women on TV definitively be kick-butt and fierce, I’ve always thought they could stand to be more complicated. Enter Rebecca Bunch, and — by extension — enter Rachel Bloom.

Rebecca Bunch is my favorite character on TV. One reason why is that I greatly (and often unfortunately) resemble her. The other is that I have never seen a character whose flaws balance so well with her strengths. I’ve never seen a character so frequently forced to deal with the ramifications of her actions, or a character who is questioned, criticized, and ultimately loved by those around her. Rachel Bloom takes a character that in less capable hands could have been abrasive or annoying and transforms her into someone whose situation is a lot more nuanced than anyone else. Plus, what a killer voice.

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Maeve Millay (Westworld)

I love everything about Westworld. I want to talk about it all the time. As someone who does not watch Game of Thrones, I rarely get a chance to talk on the frontlines of a TV show and read Reddit forums to figure out who is a robot, who is Arnold, and how many timelines I think there are (2). I’m a binge-watcher who doesn’t care about spoilers. I don’t ever get to be immersed!

Maeve Millay, played to perfection by Thandie Newton, is my favorite part of this phenomenal show. For all of the ambition Westworld demonstrates in juggling its (probably) two-timelined structure, Maeve Millay’s arc is arguably the most straightforward, the most typical: a robot develops sentience in a world of humans who think they are gods. But this journey is the standout of the show, in major part because Thandie Newton embeds her character with so much complexity and emotion that it’s hard to remember she’s supposed to be a robot. Maeve is charismatic but guarded, terrified and terrifying, often within the same episode. She elevates every scene that she is in. In a show that is so dense in philosophy, mystery, technology, and terror, Thandie Newton’s Maeve is the ultimate representative of the show’s stakes — of the sheer emotion that powers this so-called pretend world.

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Chidi Anagonye (The Good Place)

I have said about Chidi Anagonye that he is the most confusingly handsome man I have ever seen in my life. I say “confusingly” not because William Jackson Harper isn’t cute as heck — he is — but because Chidi Anagonye’s demeanor is such that it doesn’t boast its attractiveness. He’s meant to act as the straight man to Eleanor’s craziness; in fact, he’s as good as employed to be the straight man, teaching our heroine about all sorts of ethical standards for her to partially abide by.

But in a world like The Good Place — where every detail is so fantastic it must be a creation of the imagination, where there are flying shrimp and “besties” who can name drop Anderson Cooper, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift within the course of a few episodes, where there are outlandish rules and bonkers mysteries and characters who are superlative, exaggerated, in so many regards — it’s nice to have someone like Chidi, who acts not just as the moral center of the show but as the emotional one.

The rules of “the good place” are such that every other character besides Eleanor is “the best of the best,” but the show’s readily made clear that an abundance of moral “points” says nothing to the amount of improvement a person needs. In no other character is this more clear than Chidi; his experiences both in our world and this one lend him a weight of complex emotional stakes that complement his outstanding moral character.


MARILYN IS THANKFUL FOR...



Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

I still love Felicity Smoak. I have since I first saw her hit the screen on Arrow, and I’ve loved her through the seasons as we’ve seen her character go from being an occasional appearance to the leading lady. She hasn’t gotten the attention so far this season that she’s gotten in the last two seasons, but I feel that’s mostly due to the show wanting to go “back to basics” which is just code for “back to Oliver.”

Still, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity shines in all her scenes. She makes the most of what she is given on paper and her fellow actors always praise her, saying she elevates everyone around her. You can see it on screen. She’s natural in her scenes, pulling you to root for her and want only good things. I have high hopes for Felicity Smoak. We hear there are big things coming for her in the back half of the season and I’m excited to see them. Because if there’s one character I love the most and who I think deserves the most, it’s her.


Nate Heywood (Legends of Tomorrow)

I have a fondness for the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow that can’t really be explained by logic. With a week of television watching that includes shows sporting some rather heavy themes, Legends of Tomorrow is a breath of fresh air. It’s silly at times and campy; but where the show struggled with that during their first season, now in their second season, they’re comfortable with that reality. The new guy, Nate Heywood (played by Nick Zano), adds a certain zest to the show that I didn’t even realize it needed. He’s lovably geeky and authentic and before you say “wait, isn’t that basically just like Ray Palmer?” I want to say that it is but it’s also different.

Ray is a dork. Nate is a geek. He has an easiness with humor that manages to sell the most “fantastic” scenes with a basis of reality. From the first moment this character dashed through the halls of Star City’s City Hall in an effort to get a meeting with Mayor Oliver Queen, to feudal Japan, to Civil War-torn America, I’ve fallen in love with this character. I look for him on screen and smile as I watch his growth and expansion. Mark my words: this character one is one to watch!


Kevin Pearson (This Is Us)

There are a lot of characters that stand out on This Is Us. It’s a fantastic show if you love great character work, like I do. I love every one of them too, but the character that stands out to me week after week is Kevin Pearson, played by Justin Hartley. I think it’s because I can see there’s a lot going on with his character that we’re only just getting glimpses of now. He has some stuff buried down in his psyche that he covers with his charm and flirtatiousness. It’s no surprise this man pursued acting — a means to further escape from his real self. But I see that real self pushing at the bounds each episode and those are the moments that I feel make the entire show shine. Like the talk he had with his adopted brother’s children one night after he accidentally gave them an existential crisis about life and death. Kevin is a perfect representation of a guy who’s “not just another pretty face.” And I look forward to digging further underneath the surface with him.

MADDIE IS THANKFUL FOR...


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Mylene Cruz (The Get Down

In most narratives involving young people, first love is held as something magical that must be guarded above all. That's why I'm so thankful for such an amazing, nuanced, and delightful character as Mylene Cruz. She is completely unapologetic about valuing her dreams and ambitions before anything else. Furthermore, personal feelings aside, she refuses to be with someone who will not fight for what they want in life as hard as she does. I'm additionally thankful that the show does not vilify her for that. So it is not hard to see why Zeke is in love with her. It takes a lot of strength to be kind, show empathy, and hold onto joy when living in hard times, but Mylene does not allow her environment to compromise who she is. She stands firm in her convictions and knows her worth. Her friendships are as beautiful as her voice and looks. I'm so glad to get know this character this year and cannot wait to see her shine further when The Get Down returns in 2017.


ERIN IS THANKFUL FOR...


   

Stella Gibson (The Fall)

I never thought a character would come along that would rival my love of Dana Scully, but then the very same Gillian Anderson gave me Stella Gibson. She is the strong feminist role model I didn't know I needed. Stella is fierce, compassionate, and smart. She stands up to pure evil by going head-to-head with serial killer Paul Spector. She challenges misogyny from practically every man with which with she is in contact. And not just for the sake of challenging it. They (sadly) always give her a reason to put them in their place, and it is a thing of beauty.

Stella balances a hardness and a softness that I didn't think was possible. The first two seasons of The Fall, Stella was no-nonsense, but you could tell she was a truly empathetic individual. In season three, this side of her really shines as she sits with an elderly stranger in the hospital, hugs a child who needs comfort, or takes the time to talk to a troubled teen. Even with all this tenderness, Stella is still incredibly tough. She rarely breaks her composure, especially when someone else is in need of her strength. I am forever thankful to Allan Cubitt for creating this character and to Gillian Anderson for playing her so perfectly. Like, painfully perfect.


Beverly Goldberg (The Goldbergs)

Beverly Goldberg is the complete opposite of the kind of mother that I am. She is a “smother.” I think nice thoughts and hope somehow my child will sense them. Beverly will do anything and everything for her children and not think twice about it. She continually praises them for anything from doing something good to doing something totally mundane, and takes pretty much everything to the extreme. The teachers at school fear her. She takes pride in making department store employees cry. She's a loud and proud mama and doesn't care who knows it and God help you if you get in her way. While I will never come close to resembling Beverly, I still learn a lot about motherhood from her.

I may doubt the execution of her motherly ways sometimes, but I never doubt her sincerity. It always comes from a place of pure, unconditional love. Beverly’s kids often loathe her antics, but the second they hurt her feelings they scramble to make it right again. They are unable to bear living in the absence of her “smothering” that they claim to hate. I find it admirable that her kids are her passion. I will gladly take pages from her wildly different motherly playbook. Beverly never ceases to amaze me with how far she’ll go and how funny she can be along the way. Wendi McLendon-Covey is a comedic powerhouse bringing this gaudy sweater-wearing, big-haired, foul-mouthed matriarch to life. I am thankful for the glimpse into this crazy world of parenting, Goldberg-style.

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Frankie Bergstein (Grace and Frankie)

Frankie is so honest and candid, it's remarkable that she's as lovable as she is. Oftentimes people who are relentless with their truth-telling can be grating and exhausting, but you can't help but love her. Many people around Frankie try to resist but they inevitably are charmed by her. And she isn't even trying to charm them; she is just being herself. Grace put up a valiant effort to close her heart off to her. Frankie just continued being the same person she always is. She didn't insist that they become friends. Unknowingly, she chipped away at the walls that Grace put up and they were able to develop a strong bond. One that the other characters as well as the audience admire and even envy.

I can be quick to roll my eyes at extreme granola and hippie dippiness, but with Frankie I eat it up. It is just another one of her endearing qualities. She wears her heart and soul on her flowy bohemian sleeves. She is generous with her wisdom and her spirit. Frankie is strong but never loses her vulnerability. Somehow I think her strength actually feeds off of her vulnerability. I hope I have even an ounce of her chutzpah when I grow up. Everyone in Frankie's life is thankful that she's in theirs and I am thankful for her unique warmth and humor that Lily Tomlin is so adept at conveying.

CHELSEA IS THANKFUL FOR...


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Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp)

One can say that I’m a sucker for the Veronica Mars-esque damaged heroines with hearts of gold, and Ms. Earp fits that bill. She’s brash, sarcastic, callous, and gives off the impression that she doesn’t care about anybody. She’s been burned by the townspeople of Purgatory, tormented as a teen after accidentally killing her father, and distanced herself from the little family she has left. The sad thing about Wynonna is that she cares and feels too much underneath the snark. She doesn’t want the title of “screw up” the town has bestowed upon her. She is still dealing with the loss of her family and trying to rebuild that relationship with her sister, while also dealing with this supernatural destiny. The gal has gone through so much and is a just a gift to television.

Aside from all the dark things Wynonna has dealt with, she’s just so dang funny. She is sarcastic and always looking for a fight, but is still super clumsy and goofy and inappropriate. Melanie Scrofano brings out the dorky side of our protagonist and helps us take in this dark world with a wonderful amount of comedy. Wynonna grew so much in season one, from the cynical and broken woman to the lovable gruff saving the town from the undead.

She is one of the most completely realized characters I’ve ever seen, and that is thanks to Scrofano and creator Emily Andras. Whenever I’m feeling down, I just pull up an episode and let the wit of Wynonna take me away. And while meeting Melanie Scrofano at San Diego Comic-Con is one of the highlights of my year, it’s nothing compared to the happiness us viewers get from her as Wynonna. Strong, stubborn, scrappy, and beautiful, she’s the one character on television I just feel and understand where she’s coming from, and I cannot wait for her to return to my screen.

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Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton (Saturday Night Live

This past year in politics has been a crazy mess that ended with sadness, anger, and frustration. News and social media has been a wreck to be on since summer of 2015, and has only gotten worse with each passing day as we await whatever nonsense or scandal has been unsurfaced. The one thing that helped make politics somewhat bearable this fall was the greatness that is Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live.

This fall wasn’t the first time McKinnon stepped into Madam Secretary’s pantsuit. But with new head writers this season and opposite Alec Baldwin’s fantastic Trump, McKinnon has never been better. She has embraced the oddities of HRC and made the impression distinctly different that Poehler’s past greatness. Her version is more robotic and cheesily over-the-top about being a woman candidate, but McKinnon never demonizes her for her gender or being smart. She’s tough as nails and revels in her competition. It’s a joy to watch as she skewers the current landscape and how the media has controlled the election.

A lot of us have gone through most of the phases of grief (sorry acceptance, that’s not happening soon), trying to figure out where we go from here in an America that doesn’t seem to represent our values. Post-election night, McKinnon opened SNL with the perfect tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, giving viewers a speckle of hope as she sang through the trauma of the week (all while in character as Hillary), telling us all to not give up. It’s the small and sincere moments McKinnon brings to the character that make her the star of the show. I would’ve gone crazier this year if it wasn’t for the delight that is Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary and the hope she breathes into this world.

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Laurie Hernandez (Rio Olympics and Dancing with the Stars)   

I’m cheating a little bit because my third favorite character on television this year wasn’t a character, but a real-life person. Every four years I crawl out of my sports-less cave to cheer on the world during the Olympics, and consume every minute of gymnastics as possible. From the moment I saw her in trials, I knew Laurie Hernandez was a special personality in the world. She brings so much fun to gymnastics. Even when she’s on the world stage and more nervous than ever, she still winks at the judges and is unafraid to talk about how she’s really feeling to the media. The youngest of the Final Five, she was the best sport during competition, cheering on her fellow athletes and participating in all the crazy, inane press that came with the competition. Watching her mouth “I got this” after saluting the judges, then throwing on a smile before jumping on the beam and crushing her routine inspired audiences and captures the spirit of the Olympics and competition that we all love. She makes me super salty about the two athletes per country rule, as she could have easily medaled in the all-around and possibly the floor competitions. She left Rio with a couple medals and with the door open for her to return.

Mere weeks after leaving Rio, Laurie began her journey on Dancing with the Stars, my newest guilt-less pleasure. The moment I found out she was going to be on this show though, I knew I was going to have to let it suck me in. She has the perfect personality for Dancing with the Stars. Anybody who has seen her floor routine knows she actually brings the artistic dancing elements to her routines that most gymnasts trade for tumbling. She came out the gate this season crushing every routine and rising to every dance challenge. But more than that, she let viewers who loved her during the Olympics continue this journey with her, and we saw her mature into a stronger, vulnerable person. (By the way, she was doing all of this while performing on the Kellogg’s Gymnastics Tour. The girl hasn’t had a break.)

Laurie was the youngest on Dancing with the Stars and on the U.S. Gymnastics team, but the person she displayed is wise beyond her years and is turning into a lovely young lady and role model. After winning that mirror ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars, I hope she takes a well-deserved break before returning to gymnastics. I’m so proud of this gal and the amazing year she had. And I hope to see her back in Tokyo in 21020, and cannot wait to cheer her on again.

REBECCA IS THANKFUL FOR...


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Dustin (Stranger Things)

If you’re looking for the cutest and most talented kids in the history of the world, Stranger Things is the show to watch, and Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin “Toothless” Henderson is my star. Dustin is loyal and lighthearted, protective of his friends, and loves food — in other words, we’re the same person. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but also knows when to be serious — except when he’s attending his best friend’s funeral and critiques the family’s knockoff Nilla Wafers.

Oh, and he’s smart. Like, crazy smart. Dustin is the one who figured out the group’s compasses were all screwed up when they were walking near the laboratory. This is how they figured out the Upside-Down stemmed from the building where Eleven had previously been kept. He also was the only one who thought to bring snacks when the boys and Eleven decided to go search for Will. How did the rest of the group expect to do hours upon hours of physically and emotionally draining work without being properly fed?

Outside of the show, Gaten Matarazzo has spoken heavily on living with cleidocranial dysplasia, a disease that inhibits bone growth, which is why he (and Dustin) have not yet grown into their teeth. Raising awareness of a condition many people, including myself, haven’t heard of before is such an admirable thing, and I have the utmost respect for him. Not to mention the fact he decided to take a picture with every fan who asked to take a picture with him — so adorable. I absolutely cannot wait to see what antics Dustin gets into in season two.

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Yorkie and Kelly (Black Mirror)

I hadn’t heard of Black Mirror until all of the sudden, everyone I knew was telling me to watch it. It’s been around for a couple of years on British TV, but the third and most recent season premiered on Netflix in October. I like it because it’s low commitment, and I have a lot of other shows to watch right now. Every episode has a different plot and cast; you don’t have to watch them in order or anything. Black Mirror reminds me of The Twilight Zone: surrealist (and sometimes creepy) storylines with sci-fi elements that provide commentary on our society

Anyway, the episode of season three, titled “San Junipero,” is where we meet Yorkie and Kelly, two young women who meet by chance at a bar and end up developing a romantic relationship. They continue to meet up at this bar, called Tucker’s, every Saturday, until one day Kelly isn’t there. Yorkie (just go with me here, you’ll understand when you watch it) then has to travel through time to find Kelly again. Each woman has a battle within herself that inhibits the ability to simply be with the other, and watching them wrestle with themselves individually is so fascinating.

This episode is so good that I don’t want to give the big plot twist away, but I will spoil the ending for you and tell you that they end up together, which is refreshing. Our media likes to make the lives of queer characters miserable (if they even live at all), so I was overjoyed to see Yorkie and Kelly living happily ever after — especially considering that they’re an interracial couple, as well. We all know the media feels the same way about characters of color as they do about queer characters, so this ending was just overall perfect. It’s definitely the best episode of Black Mirror I’ve seen so far (and I’ve watched almost all of them), and will have you crying tears of joy, tears of sadness, and tears of every other emotion.

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Asher Millstone (How to Get Away with Murder)

Let’s get one thing straight: I LOVE Matt McGorry. So when I found out he was going to be in How to Get Away with Murder, I knew I had to watch. But I have to admit, I was a bit put off at first by his character; Asher Millstone is a wealthy, snobby, privileged white boy who doesn’t have a clue about the world. He said and did some things that bothered me in the beginning of the show, but he’s quickly become one of my favorite characters, especially this season. Season three has made me a hardcore Asher fan. The na├»ve boy who relied on his money and father is gone; in his place is an independent and smart young man who is trying so very hard to be a better person — and for the most part, he’s succeeding.

Asher absolutely cracks me up. His one-liners (like the pure shock he experiences when he learns Frank has shaved his beard) never fail to bring comic relief to what is otherwise a serious and suspenseful show. I’ve also loved watching his romantic relationship with Michaela unfold. It’s clear Asher has no concept of race or what it means to be a black woman, and Michaela constantly has to remind him of his privilege, which is both comedic and educational for the viewer. But my favorite thing about Asher are his futile attempts to understand Connor and Oliver, and in turn, homosexuality as a whole. He tries so, so, so hard, but always falls short (for example, “I’m so freakin’ mad I wasn’t born gay” — hilarious in the context of the scene, but the line is full of problematic undertones, as if being gay is as easy as having blonde hair).

But aside from just being funny, Asher has shown so much growth. Like, the character development is UNREAL. Shout out to the writers and producers for doing such an amazing and transformative job with him.

Which television characters are you most grateful for this year? Sound off in the comments below!

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