From Game of Thrones to True Detective and back again, these are the top 10 TV characters in 2014 but who made the cut?
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The best television shows in the world are only made so great by a combination of factors but most importantly the writing and the acting involved. The best actor in the world can be cast in an awful role (hello Al Pacino in ‘Simone) and vice versa if a great role is written but not acted properly, the show goes nowhere.
In 2014, we were treated to not only some of the best acting on the planet, but flawless execution in bringing a character to life from script to screen. Many of the best characters this year were brand new to us while a few others were reinvented and given new life while a few more just kept going on a tidal wave of excellence.
So in today’s ‘Best of 2014’ series, we count down the best TV characters for the year while also applauding the writing and acting that made them so great. We only went for the top 10 so apologies for any fringe characters who got cut and even those at least one show makes a double appearance, trust us when we say these were the best of the best of the best. If you disagree, please leave your comments below!
10 ) Dandy Mott in ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ (played by Finn Wittrock)
Listen, there hasn’t been a lot to be happy about with ‘American Horror Story’ this season because ‘Freak Show’ has been an utter mess for the biggest part of 10 episodes, but the one bright shining light this year has been the discovery of Finn Wittrock, who plays spoiled brat turned serial killer Dandy Mott.
Dandy was an over privileged whiner when the show started, but now he’s developed into a straight up psychopathic joyride complete with blood baths and long, Patrick Bateman-esque diatribes that still keep this show being watchable.
Best Line of the Season: “This body is America. Strong, violent and full of limitless potential. My arms will hold them down when they struggle. My legs will run them down when they flee. I will be the U.S. Steel of murder.”
9 ) Oswald Cobblepot in ‘Gotham’ (played by Robin Lord Taylor)
The debut season of ‘Gotham’ has faced a few ups and downs, but the strongest point of the season by far has been the introduction of Oswald Cobblepot, who will one day rule the streets as the vile crime lord known as ‘The Penguin’. From his very first scene where he’s handed a club and allowed to beat a man while he gleefully laughs away while pounding away with each hit, Cobblepot has been equal parts riveting and frightening.
The episodes where he’s allowed to spread his wings have been the best in the series and Cobblepot’s interactions whether it’s with Jim Gordon or Fish Mooney, he brings out the best in everyone. When ‘Gotham’ gets picked up for season 2 (and it will get picked up for season 2), the continued evolution of Cobblepot into Penguin will be one of the best parts of the show.
Best Line of the Season: “What drives you? What’s your passion? When you know what a man loves, you know what can kill him.”
8 ) Erlich Bachman in ‘Silicon Valley’ (played by T.J. Miller)
‘Silicon Valley’ was by far the best new comedy of 2014 and it was impossibly hard to narrow down the field to just one character in an ensemble that requires each part equally. ‘Silicon Valley’ was like ‘Entourage’ for nerds — and just like a show based around a Hollywood A-lister and his hanger-on friends, this show wouldn’t be the same without all four friends (plus Big Head) who made up the nucleus of Pied Piper.
That said, the best lines week in and week out were delivered by the head of the house, Erlich Bachman as played by comedian T.J. Miller. Whether he was doling out orders to a hired Asian employee or setting up for his grand speech at TechCrunch Disrupt, Erlich just had a way with words all season long and they were always funny. From his mushroom induced haze where he accidentally kidnapped a child to his idea to contract a street artist to make a new logo for the company, Erlich was full of schemes and while only a few of them panned out, it was a hilarious ride from start to finish.
Best Line of the Season: “Until then, we need to do what any animal in nature does when it’s cornered—act erratically and blindly lash out at everything around us.”
7 ) Boyd Crowder in ‘Justified’ (played by Walton Goggins)
First off let it be said — Walton Goggins is a goddamn national treasure.
This guy could act his way around pretty much anybody on television, but when he straps on his best pair of Doc Martens, rolls up his jeans, spikes up his hair and dabbles in a slow, Southern draw as Kentucky crime lord Boyd Crowder, he is at his best.
Boyd was a character who was supposed to be killed off in the series debut, but the reaction from fans was so strong to the portrayal, producers opted to keep him around and it’s a good thing they did. While Timothy Olyphant does an admirable job playing rough around the edges U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, it’s Boyd Crowder who gets to have all the real fun on ‘Justified’. Whether he’s blowing up opponents with explosive laced cigarettes or finding a way to get free from a Mexican drug lord, Boyd always has something up his sleeve and it’s always fun to find out what he’ll do next.
Best Line of the Season: “I’ve been accused of being a lot of things — inarticulate ain’t one of them.”
6 ) Tyrion Lannister in ‘Game of Thrones’ (played by Peter Dinklage)
It would be very easy to rank Tyrion Lannister as the best character on television every year ‘Game of Thrones’ stays on the air. Tyrion is the wit and wisdom of the show as well as the comic relief much of the time. While almost everyone on the series gets great lines during the season, Tyrion seems to excel in getting the best of the best.
This season was a particularly compelling year for the imp as he watched his cruel nephew die from poisoning before he was accused of the crime. He went on trial for his life where the courtroom was a mockery of justice and he told anyone who would listen much the same. His fate was decided in a battle and later Tyrion exacted revenge on the man responsible for bestowing the greatest amount of suffering on him since the day he was born. I can’t wait to see what’s next for him in season five.
Best Line of the Season: “I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had! Watching your vicious bastard die give me more relief than a thousand lying whores!”
5 ) Marty Hart in ‘True Detective’ (played by Woody Harrelson)
The other half of ‘True Detective’ was just as important a part as the main man played by Matthew McConaughey. Sure, Marty wasn’t as smart or philosophical as his partner, but he was the kind of every man most of us envision when we think of jockular cops who investigate cases, bang girls on the side and then wash it all down with a glass full of whiskey at the end of the day.
Marty was a no non-sense, only sees what’s right in front of him kind of cop, but there was something charming about him. Of course his family was falling apart right before his very eyes while he was jumping into bed with a girl half his age and twice as crazy. He wanted crimes to go from A to B and never imagined there would be a C or D stuck in there so that’s where his partner came in and he had to go along for the ride.
If Rust Cohle was the character we were all fascinated by, Marty was the one we could relate to the most. When his daughter got busted with two boys and not a lot of clothes on, he handed them both a jail house beat down and that’s something most men would probably think about doing just the same. He’s always tempted and more often times than not gives into those temptations because that’s what men do. Marty wasn’t terribly dumb, but he wasn’t overtly smart either and that’s what made him such a relatable character because he was right down the middle. Just like most of us.
Best Line of the Season: “You are like the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch”
4 ) Carol Peletier in ‘The Walking Dead’ (played by Melissa McBride)
While most of the lists containing the top characters on TV for 2014 when choosing from ‘The Walking Dead’ will go straight for Norman Reedus and his portrayal as bad boy gone good Daryl Dixon, but I would argue that he’s so predictable in his movements that he’s almost too likable at this point in the show. Don’t get me wrong, Daryl is the closest thing this generation is going to get to an emo John McClane in the zombie apocalypse, but the real star of ‘The Walking Dead’ this season has been his co-hort, Carol Peletier (played by Melissa McBride).
She started the season finding her friends trapped in Terminus and soon waged a one-woman army to get them free. Carol turning into Rambo was one of the more bad ass moments in recent TV memory. But then the real gravitas to the role came through after she saved the world because it was clear Carol didn’t want to be around people any longer. People hurt. People made you hurt and Carol was done hurting. After she executed a very sick and disturbed child last season, Carol was just ready to be left alone but she couldn’t walk away fast enough and before she knew it she was back to being part of the group.
Carol has become the most compelling character on ‘The Walking Dead’ and now that Rick seems to be joining her on the ‘slightly bat shit crazy’ side of the fence, these two are going to lead the group in a very interesting direction when the show picks up in 2015.
Best Line of the Season: “I don’t think we get to save people anymore”
3 ) Lorne Malvo in ‘Fargo’ (played by Billy Bob Thornton)
Much like ‘Silicon Valley’, this season of ‘Fargo’ was just so good from start to finish and every part of the cast was just as integral as the next, but Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of cold blooded assassin Lorne Malvo was by far one of the best of the year.
From the moment he popped on our screens when meeting poor hapless Lester in a hospital to the mass shooting he committed when taking out a crime family or flat out messing with a grocery store magnate to get all of his money, Lorne Malvo was just a special brand of sociopathic.
He never hesitated to pull the trigger and it appeared like his only real joy came when he was killing someone or exacting some kind of torture on another human being. Lorne’s different ‘personalities’ that came out during different parts of the season from dentist to preacher were all brilliant and it’s almost sad that ‘Fargo’ was set up as an anthology and we won’t get to see him again.
Best Line of the Season: “Is this what you want?”
2 ) Oberyn Martell in ‘Game of Thrones’ (played by Pedro Pascal)
He only lasted through eight episodes of a season, but Oberyn Martell made quite the impression on ‘Game of Thrones’ fans. With the Stark family dying off like flies since the first season began, it was nice to see a character pop up who had nothing on his mind but the ultimate demise of the Lannister clan and he brought some style to the show unlike anybody before him (and probably after him as well).
His first day in King’s Landing, Oberyn was hunkered down in the middle of a brothel with his paramour looking for the finest flesh this house of ill repute could offer him, but women weren’t enough because the prince of Dorne knew that only looking at half the sexes meant half the pleasure and this guy was all about the pleasure. The moment he heard the faintest humming of ‘The Rains of Castamere’ from a room away, Oberyn switched from horny to vengeful and as he slammed his dagger into the hand of a Lannister guard it was clear this was one guy who was not about to play games.
Of course, Oberyn’s downfall came when he got a little too close to the fire as he allowed emotion to overwhelm him in the moment he had ‘The Mountain’ Ser Gregor Clegane down on the ground and ready to get finished and instead he had his face bashed in and his skull crushed. It was another sign that in the world of ‘Game of Thrones’, the good guy definitely doesn’t always win (if ever). Oberyn was only around for part of one season but his impact will be felt for much, much longer.
Best Lines of the Season: “It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters.”
“Tell your father I’m here — and tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”
“Elia Martell of Dorne. You raped her, you murdered her. You killed her children.”
1 ) Rust Cohle in ‘True Detective’ (played by Matthew McConaughey)
It was obvious from the first moments when ‘True Detective’ landed on our TV screens that Detective Rustin Cohle was going to be somebody worth watching. Whether he was quietly navigating a murder scene with his big leather bound notebook in hand or waxing intellectual about the philosophical meaning of life and humanity’s place in the universe, Rust was a character like none other that had ever been on television before.
His car ride conversations with partner Marty could have been a show all by themselves, although watching Rust’s brief interactions with the rest of the world was just something to behold. Rust was a Nihilist who teetered on the edge of agnosticism and had no problem calling out his partner when he committed any number of infidelities. He had a razor sharp edge to him in the mid-90’s while investigating the murder of Dora Lange and still carried a wicked tongue and mind like a steel trap more than a decade later when he crawled out from a hole to put a close to the case that never got finished in the first place.
Rust was your best friend and your worst enemy. He was his own best asset and the reason his life was torn apart. Rust was by far the best character on television in 2014 and it wasn’t even close. You could psychoanalyze where creator Nic Pizzolatto came up with Rust in his own head, but it would almost spoil the complex layers that made up this detective turned bartender turned vigilante. While we know that Rust is gone from our television screens forever, there’s a small part of me that hopes Pizzolatto eventually gets back to writing books one day and releases one in the voice of this iconic character because I could listen to him talk all day long and never get tired of hearing what he had to say.
Time is a flat circle after all.
Best Lines of the Season: “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of shit. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible.”
“The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.”
“This is like someone’s memory of a town and the memory’s fading. It’s like there was never anything here but jungle.”
“Of course I’m dangerous. I’m the police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity.”
“People incapable of guilt usually do have a good time.”
“All the dick swagger you roll, you can’t spot crazy pussy?”
“Wash up, you got some pussy on you.”
“It’s Thursday and it’s past noon. Thursday is one of my days off. On my days off I start drinking at noon. You don’t get to interrupt that.”
“Someone once told me time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re going to do over and over and over again and that little boy and and that little girl are going to be in that room again and again and again. Forever.”
“I know who I am. And after all these years, there’s a victory in that.”