Our Favorite Characters of the Decade

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These characters helped define an entire decade of television -- maybe not for everyone, but certainly for our TV Fanatic staff and readers!

Please remember that with have almost two dozen favorites lists that we couldn't showcase every show on every list, so we parsed them out a bit to make it more fun.

And these lists are not in any particular order. They're in the order the entries were received by TV Fanatic staff, so don't read into them!

To qualify, a show that began in another decade had to be airing during the decade, run a larger number of seasons from 2010 through 2019 if it started before 2010 or run the entire decade. Here we go!

Characters of the Decade

Walter White, Breaking Bad - AMC (2008-2013)


The protagonist of one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, Walter White is a true testament to the power of long-form storytelling. Beginning as a sympathetic good guy, Mr. White slowly morphs into an anti-hero before becoming an unredeemable villain who goes by the name of Heisenberg.

He had depth, goals, and motivation, as well as a fleshed out and lived in backstory. As a man who craved power and control, he was always an active protagonist who constantly pushed the series forward.

A fantastic character in his own right, what truly makes Walter White a villain for the ages is how he holds up a mirror to the viewers watching him. How long are you willing to root for him? How long will you defend his actions? And what does that say about you?

It was a thrilling and tense experience watching Walt drag down everybody around him, but his horrifying ability to drag the viewer into his twisted point of view is what makes him an all-time great.

Olivia Pope, Scandal - ABC (2012-2018)


Whether you loved her or hated her, Olivia Pope was a character that made an impression.

She was so much more than a D.C. fixer, and over the course of Scandal’s seven-season run, you saw her white hat get darker and darker as the underbelly of politics began to cloud her judgment.

Kerry Washington put her heart and soul into this breakout role, and her presence as a leading black woman on a network television series will forever place her in the history books.

Olivia was strong, vulnerable, frustrating, intelligent, and more than anything else, she was compelling. You couldn’t take your eyes away from an Olivia monologue, and there were many.

We were privileged to witness Scandal in its heyday, and even more privileged to experience the wonder that was Olivia Pope.

Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke, Revenge - ABC (2011-2015)


Revenge is an emotion we can all relate to, even if we’ve never been to the Hamptons, and it’s what the main protagonist, Emily Thorne (real name Amanda Clarke) personified.

Throughout the four-season run, she maintained her cover to get close to the Grayson’s for one sole purpose: getting revenge on them for destroying her family and framing her father.

Emily kept her true-self tucked in under a cold, calculated, and brilliant exterior, but allowed her childlike, soft-natured side to peak through, usually, whenever Jack Porter was around, making it impossible to despise her or her bad decisions.

Audiences felt for her and cheered her on after realizing she was just a woman haunted by her past who couldn’t let go or move on.

Oliver Queen, Arrow - The CW (2012-2020)

As superheroes became more mainstream, The CW decided to throw their hat in the ring with Arrow.

They had millions of heroes driven by a selfless need to help others to choose from, yet they chose the anti-hero that is Oliver Green, AKA Green Arrow. Oliver is unlike any hero that television has ever seen, especially since he wasn’t a hero at first.

\Over Arrow’s eight seasons though, Oliver has evolved into a person who is willing to sacrifice his life in service of others while still being the hardened man who was saved from that island all those years ago.

Oliver is a complex character who has been a joy to get to know, love, and disagree with at times. His legacy will live on forever as the Arrowverse continues to create more television shows that all started with the green hood.

Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU - NBC (1999-present)


No list of the character of the decade would be complete without the woman who has been inspiring rape survivors, fictional and real, for two decades.

Olivia is the cop everyone wishes they could meet if they were ever unfortunate enough to need one.

She is equal parts social worker and detective, doing whatever it takes to get justice for rape survivors and make sure that their experience doesn’t break them.

Annalise Keating, How To Get Away With Murder - ABC (2014-present)


While it never quite caught on the way Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal did throughout the decade, How To Get Away With Murder was a stable performer throughout it’s run and it introduced to a character we don’t see often on television.

Annalise Keating is a strong, capable woman riddled with flaws. And while she’s marketed as the hero of the story, the series never shied away from showcasing her triumphs and her mistakes.

By allowing the audience to see all sides of Annalise, the good, the bad, and the ugly, it added depth to a character who could have easily been overshadowed by the larger cast of characters.

She’s relatable and yet mythical all at once, which is a testament to the tremendous writing and the powerhouse performance of Viola Davis.

Jack Pearson, This Is Us (2016-present)


The list wouldn’t be complete without Jack Pearson. This Is Us has one of the best ensemble cast currently on air, and it has some of the most relatable, authentic characters too.

But the series orbits around the life and death of the patriarch, Jack Pearson. From the past to the present, his presence is felt in every scene, every action by the other characters, and every word.

Jack easily could’ve been a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu), but the seemingly perfect man was revealed to be a convoluted character with a dark past and many flaws.

From alcoholism to secrets, to the effects of war, Jack Pearson was a man who experienced so much darkness but still managed to be a beacon of light in the lives of his loved ones.

Raymond Reddington - The Blacklist - NBC - (2013-present)


Who is the real Raymond Reddington? For years, fans have been trying to figure out who this man is and what he’s about, but no matter what, he’s been intriguing and has gotten our undivided attention and loyalty.

He’s the lovable antihero of The Blacklist, and James Spader brings such nuance to this role that no matter what Red does, he’s nothing if not lovable.

Red is a complicated man, mysterious, intriguing, with a shaded past. He’s witty and funny, violent, and loving. His love and devotion to Elizabeth are the most fascinating and endearing parts of him.

He’s at the helm of The Blacklist and is a credit to how the series has been able to find success.

Eleven, Stranger Things - Netflix (2016-present)


The face of one of the most popular television shows of the decade, Eleven is pretty much a pop culture icon at this point.

With every Halloween that passes, you are guaranteed to see at least one person dressed in a pink dress with a blonde wig and holding a box of Eggos.

And even though she is young, no one can deny the impact Eleven has made.

She is a fierce fighter with a heart that never wavers. Eleven is a character that anyone of any age can look up to and is one of the reasons for Stranger Things’ success.

Michonne - The Walking Dead AMC (2010-present)


Michonne has shown tremendous character growth through The Walking Dead.

She began as a stand-offish character and transformed into a warm, loving, yet still bad-ass women. As the series has changed, she has stepped up in more than one way.

She has become a true leader in Alexandria. Michonne is trusted and respected by the nearby communities and sought after for guidance.

Beyond that, she became a mother to Carl, Judith, and RJ, and was a fierce partner to Rick Grimes.

Regina Mills - Once Upon a Time ABC (2011-2018)


All hail the Queen! Regina is one of the most evolved characters on T.V. Her arc is extraordinary from the misunderstood daughter to the horrid Evil Queen to a well respected, and beloved friend and hero.

Regina truly fights against her inner darkness to be the best mother for Henry. As the series goes on, she faces different trials and challenges that could send her back to evil, but she continues her fight.

Even as she loses love for the second time, she never gives up on rewriting her story, and on becoming a hero worthy of a happy ending.

Though all her pain and suffering she is finally given a gift, the people of Storybrooke choose her as their leader and rename her “The Good Queen.”

Don Draper, Mad Men - AMC (2007-2015)


Handsome and successful with a beautiful family, on the surface, Don Draper had it all. Except due to childhood trauma and the decision to outrun his past, he wasn’t Don Draper at all.

Son of a prostitute and an alcoholic, Dick Whitman saw the opportunity to rebrand himself when his commanding officer, the real Don Draper, suffered a terrible fate in the service.

Committing fully to his alter-ego, Don achieved everything with his assumed persona that he didn’t think he deserved as Dick except happiness. By hiding himself at the very core, comfort and peace eluded him.

But his success in advertising and the friendships he made along the way, notably with Peggy Olson, moved Don toward enlightenment which he might have achieved and then shared with Coca-Cola in one of the most feel-good advertising campaigns of all time.

What character do you think defined the decade?

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