2018 was yet another pretty disappointing year for the men of Hollywood, but at least we had some fierce ladies on TV to lift our spirits! So we're continuing our tradition with a new list, rounding up some of the greatest characters of the year, who graced the small screen with intense grit, inspiring gumption and infinitely quotable moments.
From an under-appreciated MI5 officer on the hunt for a seductive serial killer to a KGB agent staring down her swan song, to a sociopath, a speedster, a ballroom queen and a wicked witch, there was truly something for everyone amid the year's standout performances -- from established actresses and fresh faces alike.
So slip off your Southside Serpents jacket, climb on into a nice, hot "bubble bath" and enjoy our list -- in no particular order, of course -- of the ladies of TV that we couldn't get enough of this year.
Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) - Killing Eve
It's hard not to root for Sandra Oh's Eve Polastri on Killing Eve. The Emmy-nominated star of BBC America's buzzy drama perfectly plays a British intelligence agent whose mission begins innocently enough. Tasked with catching the gleefully manic assassin, Villanelle (played to equal brilliance by Jodie Comer), soon her fascination turns into a dangerous obsession.
On the surface,Killing Eve is a spy show, but dig deeper and you'll find that there's so much more to the cat-and-mouse game between Eve and Villanelle -- and much of that is due to what Oh and Comer bring to the table. -- Philiana Ng
Elizabeth Jennings/Nadezhda (Keri Russell) - The Americans
It may have been her onscreen husband and real-life partner, Matthew Rhys, who finally broke The Americans’ Emmy drought in the lead actor categories this year, earning a much-deserved statuette for his performance in the FX spy drama’s final season, but Russell was undoubtedly just as worthy. (Ever the gentleman, Rhys credited his co-star as “the woman who truly got me this award” in his acceptance speech.) The actress’ performance as KGB spy Elizabeth Jennings through The Americans’ six-season run was nothing short of a masterpiece -- icier than the Cold War itself, with a bleeding heart that even she struggled, at times, to feel beating.
Elizabeth was a talented spy, but her evolution as a wife and mother was just as captivating. “I relish this experience,” Russell said at FX’s Television Critics Association press tour duringthe show's farewell panel in January. “It’s been such an enjoyable, creative [time]. I know we’re set in this 1980s spy show, but it’s truly one of my favorite marriage stories, couched in this Cold War spy world. It’s just really sparse, interesting storytelling.”
And, it will likely be her face that’s remembered most from the celebrated series’ closing moments -- Elizabeth staring out the window of a train as she realizes that their daughter won’t be joining her and Philip on their escape to a new life in the motherland -- a powerful punch of hope and heartbreak that seemed to define her character over six sensational seasons. -- Meredith B. Kile
The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) - Doctor Who
The newest Doctor is in – and we love her! While we've enjoyed each previous iteration of The Doctor throughout the BBC series’ long history, there’s just something about the Thirteenth Doctor that has fully reinvigorated the franchise. (And no, it’s not just because Jodie Whittaker is the first female Doctor fans have ever seen in the Tardis. That’s just an added bonus!) The Time Lord is perky, precocious and bursting with an infectious energy that we can’t get enough of.
"I think the best thing about playing this role is, nothing is decided," Whittaker told ET at San Diego Comic-Con in July. "Within in any person stepping into the shoes of playing the Doctor -- and also for me, episode to episode, scene to scene -- it's making sure you're playing the truth of the scene, listening to what everyone else is saying, and then responding. That can be polar opposite to the response you maybe gave in the episode a moment before, and that's what's fun about it. There's no rules, and everything is a discovery." -- Leanne Aguilera
Amma Crellin (Eliza Scanlen) - Sharp Objects
The women of Sharp Objects -- the HBO miniseries adaptation of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s debut novel -- are each a force to be reckoned with, in their own stormy way. There’s Amy Adams’ Camille, a cub reporter who returns to her hometown chasing a story, but also trying to piece together the bits of her broken childhood without cutting herself on them. There’s her mother, Adora (played to perfection by Patricia Clarkson), who viewers learn has been pulling sinister strings in her family for decades. And then there’s Camille’s younger half-sister, Amma, who, from the start of the series, seems to inhabit a multitude of personas, each of which slip across her face at will and whim, distorting like a funhouse mirror.
The lingering questions about Amma remain until the very final moments of the series, thanks to Eliza Scanlen’s captivating performance as the dutiful daughter with a double life. Is she just a textbook mean girl, skating circles around her sleepy town and bossing around her friends and half-sister because there’s nothing better to do in Wind Gap, Missouri? Or is she a true monster, murdering classmates out of spite and a sociopathic sickness that seems to be hereditary? We learned the truth eventually, but we’re still afraid to tell Mama. -- Meredith B. Kile
Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy) - The Flash
When it comes to TV characters, there’s no denying that Nora West-Allen has won the genetics lottery. Not only did she race onto our screens in The Flash with her dad’s signature speed and bubbly personality, she also inherited her mother’s gorgeous looks, passion and purple lightning.
The Flash's fifth season isn't done bringing the drama -- or the shocking revelations from the future -- but for now, we love that Nora is a perfect blend of her two super-powered parents and a fun addition to the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Overall, we think she's pretty damn "schway." -- Leanne Aguilera
Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) - Timeless
If you're a fan of strong, intelligent women, then Timeless'Lucy Preston -- played by the delightful Abigail Spencer -- is the girl for you. Unapologetically independent and a total badass, Lucy is the TV role model we all could use right now.
Spencer adds a touch of heart and a dose of empathy into her portrayal as the show's leading lady, and it's been a fun ride charting Lucy's evolution from a timid, by-the-book history professor to an accomplished leader of the Time Team. -- Philiana Ng
Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) - Westworld
Few performances are as completely vulnerable as they are shrouded in mystery, but that's exactly what Thandie Newton gives to Westworld. The actress captivated audiences as madam Maeve Millay, the host who runs the park's brothel, in season one of the HBO series. It didn't take long for Maeve's layers to unravel, giving her more human components than most characters on non-sci-fi dramas, and with the stakes upped in season two, Newton delivered. The actress' standout episode of the season was no doubt episode five, "Akane no Mai," which follows Maeve's journey through Shogun World.
The episode, which Newton called "punishing" due to the weeks of work she had to spend learning Japanese and embodying the culture, ended up earning her a Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series win at the 2018 Emmys. "I've been playing Maeve for two seasons now, and I kind of thought that [I might win in] season one, but after that, you know, the time was gone for awards," she told ET backstage at the awards show. "But here I am!"
And deservedly so. Amid Westworld'ssprawling, stunning landscape, Maeve plays some of her best moments in commanding close-up. “Revenge is just a different prayer at their altar, darling,” she calmly tells Evan Rachel Wood's Dolores in one of season two's pivotal moments. “And I’m well off my knees.” -- Jennifer Drysdale
Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) - Riverdale
When it comes to kickass characters, Toni Topaz is at the top of our list! This Southside Serpent has been a sensational addition to the teen-driven drama of Riverdale thanks to her wildly fearless behavior in a pint-sized package. Not only was she the only one to melt through Cheryl Blossom’s icy exterior, but this bisexual beauty warmed all of our hearts with her inspiring loyalty and her ability to love honestly.
Betty may be dating the Serpent King, but in our unwavering opinion – the Serpent Queen crown should be paired with Toni’s iconic pink hair. -- Leanne Aguilera
Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore) - Pose
The fierce and fantastic women of Pose have deservedly been celebrated all year for their standout turns in Ryan Murphy’s tribute to the New York City ballroom scene at the height of the ‘80s AIDS crisis.
But the “frostiest b**ch in New York” gets a special nod, not just for her larger-than-life performances, but for her heartbreakingly human moments as well. In fact, one of Angel’s most captivating scenes comes when she's sitting across from Stan’s wife, Patty, at a diner -- as the wife of the man she's been having an affair with asks her to prove that she's a transsexual.
“You want to see my d*ck?” Angel asks point-blank, though her face tells us she already knows the answer to the inappropriate question. “If you want to see who I am, that's the last place you should look.” -- Meredith B. Kile
Theodora Crain (Kate Siegel/Mckenna Grace) - The Haunting of Hill House
Even though we watched most of this terrifying Netflix series while peeking through our fingers, it’s clear to all humans and ghosts alike that Theodora Crain was the absolute best part. Despite her heightened empathy and special gifts, Mckenna Grace and Kate Siegel’s seamless performances as younger and older Theo, respectively, helped keep this supernatural story grounded and refreshingly relatable.
Plus, no one on TV can rock a pair of satin, elbow-length gloves quite like Theo. -- Leanne Aguilera
Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) - Daredevil
The Marvel heroes of Netflix are fading fast -- and that's truly a shame for the stellar talents that make up the less-appreciated defenders of New York -- and the cast of characters beside them that, time and time again, prove themselves to be equally valiant.
In Daredevil’s third season, perhaps the series' best yet, no supporting star shined brighter than Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page. In lesser hands, the role could have been a one-and-done damsel in distress, but through the years, Woll has shaped her character -- a legal aid-turned-intrepid reporter -- into a powerful force that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Kingpin and The Punisher. (In the case of the latter, Woll’s chemistry with Jon Bernthal has fans crossing their fingers for her return in The Punisher’s upcoming new episodes, after a celebrated crossover in the spinoff’s first season.)
Woll even got an episode of her own in Daredevil season three -- telling Karen’s truly tragic origin story in a series of stark, heartbreaking scenes that will be even harder to watch now that we know the character, as we've loved her, may be done for good. -- Meredith B. Kile
Alexis Rose (Annie Murphy) - Schitt's Creek
Mmkay, so you might think this is totally random, but we promise it’s super not and it’s actually really cute – we’re literally obsessed with Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek. Like, it’s a problem. She may have started off as a vapid, yet undeniably likable socialite, but after four seasons of growth and quotable one-liners on this delightful gem of a show, Alexis is shining brighter than ever.
From her quirky and endearing mannerisms to her now-iconic way of accosting her brother -- “David!” -- Alexis is the ultimate TV best friend we wish we could have in real life. -- Leanne Aguilera
Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle) - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Praise Satan for giving us the hallowed gift of Prudence Night this year! Not only is this witch the wicked leader of the Weird Sisters, but she’s also equal parts vicious and highly ambitious when it comes to her spellbinding duties within the Church of Night. She’s badass, brilliant and has the best hair in Greendale. (Sorry, ‘Brina – it’s true.)
Basically, if Netflix wanted to rename the series Chilling Adventures of Prudence, we’d gladly sign our name in the Book of the Beast to make this happen. -- Leanne Aguilera
Our love for Brianna Randall Fraser could fill up the pages of nearly a dozen novels, but considering Outlander author Diana Gabaldon has already done that, we’ll keep our adorations short, but sweet. Not only has Bree inherited the very best parts of her star-crossed parents – including Jamie’s fiery hair and her mother’s stubborn personality – she has also developed her own uniquely independent and passionate spirit.
Now, in Outlander's fourth season, Bree’s kindness and courage have led her into the brave new world, and we can’t wait to see how actress Sophie Skelton gracefully maneuvers Bree’s rocky path ahead. -- Leanne Aguilera
Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) - Vikings
For five seasons and counting, Katheryn Winnick has given fans around the world a strong, powerful woman to look up to in the form of Vikings’Lagertha. Viewers have seen the shield maiden through the heartbreaking loss of a child, devastating infidelity, intense battles and even an abusive relationship — but she’s always come out on top.
“I think right now, we need more role models like Lagertha. We need more women who speak out, and characters on TV that people look up to... someone that has substance, somebody that has true value, somebody that young girls can try to relate to and aspire to be,” Winnick recently told ET of her character. “And I'm blessed and honored to say that I believe Lagertha has had that influence.”
Lagertha was dethroned as the queen of Kattegat in the season 5A finale, but you better believe she’s coming back for that crown. If there’s one thing we know about Lagertha, it’s that she wears her scars as a badge of honor; they don’t keep her down, they make her stronger. -- Jennifer Drysdale
Alyssa (Jessica Barden) - The End of the F***ing World
In the first episode of The End of the F***ing World, a Channel 4 adaptation of a Charles Forsman graphic novel that was picked up by Netflix in 2018, Alyssa seems doomed. Literally. She’s chosen as the object of not-quite-affection by James (Alex Lawther), a classmate who fancies himself a murderous sociopath in search of a victim. But Alyssa, played with doe-eyed determination by Alyssa Barden, is far more than she seems -- as is the relationship between the troubled teens.
As they take off across the English countryside, in search of a place to belong and something to satisfy that persistent adolescent itch for a happier life, the pair shows their true colors, to each other, the viewers, and themselves. James' murderous urges fade to something more understandable, and undeniably human, while Alyssa's steely conviction softens until she's ready to be vulnerable -- and they're both the better for it.
It's a perfectly imperfect match, a love story from the unlikeliest of pairings, and Barden and Lawther sell it magnificently, with real pathos and just the right amount of sweetness. -- Meredith B. Kile
Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell) - Howards End
Stepping into Emma Thompson’s shoes in any capacity is a daunting task -- even more so when it means taking on a role that won the celebrated performer, and newly minted dame, her first and only Best Actress Oscar to date. But Hayley Atwell was well-prepared, with a long-standing friendship with Thompson to bolster her confidence -- or, more likely, tease her into relaxing about taking on the substantive part.
Margaret Schlegel’s mannerisms would probably not stand out in modern times, but in Edwardian England she's practically revolutionary, raising her younger siblings in a liberal household that values artistic expression and lively discourse, eschewing status in favor of comfort. Atwell led the cast of the E.M. Forster miniseries adaptation with a commanding presence -- it's easy to see how Matthew Macfadyen's Mr. Wilcox is at once awed and perplexed by her.
And as the messy entanglements of Howards End begin to unravel, it's Margaret who stands strong through it all -- defending her estranged sister from a shameful secret and reuniting a family torn apart by tragedy. It's a powerhouse performance that made Atwell's omission from the Emmy nominations earlier this year seem a glaring mistake. -- Meredith B. Kile
Connie the Hormone Monstress (Maya Rudolph) - Big Mouth
If there was an Emmy for "Best Delivery of a Single Phrase," Maya Rudolph would have it on lock for the way she -- as the reigning female Hormone Monster of Netflix’s raunchy coming-of-age animated series -- says the words “bubble bath.” (Truly, it's become enough of a thing that it inspired an outstanding drag routine by Miami-based queen Miss Toto, which quickly went viral.)
Big Mouth’ssecond season finds its main characters facing all sorts of adolescent obstacles, but Connie is focused mainly on guiding her charge, Jessi (Jessi Klein), through her parents’ tumultuous divorce, which manifests itself in rage, sadness and the urge to shoplift lipstick from a drug store. We've all been there, and in Connie, it's nice to meet the voice in our head that's guided some of our most self-destructive urges.
The Hormone Monstress isn't all horniness and bad influence, however. The scene where she rescues Jessi from a near-crippling bout of depression-- embodied as a sleepy, seductive cat intent on literally smothering the young girl in a comfortable cocoon of inescapable laziness -- is a truly heartwarming moment amid the show's sillier fare.
NOTE: This list doesn't even come close to accounting for all the ladies on TV that we've loved in the past year. For a look at even more characters we're still marveling at, check out last year's roundup!