10 breakout TV characters of 2012
Mike Ehramntraut in "Breaking Bad"
Updated: January 28, 2013 2:43PM
Every year, a batch of TV characters (and the actors who play them) bring a little something special to their shows.
Here are 10 TV characters who stood out in 2012. (If you’re not caught up on these shows, spoilers ahead.)
1. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) — “Breaking Bad” AMC
One sour-faced dubious look from Mike was enough to know exactly what he thought of you and your idea. He’s the guy that any drug kingpin who doesn’t want to end up in jail or dead needs at his side. He’s loyal, smart and able to sniff out danger or a science-teacher-gone-wrong with his fine-tuned survival instincts. With boss Gus dead, the first half of Season 5 saw the gruffly likable Mike unfortunately brought even closer into Walt’s orbit. The remarkable thing about “Breaking Bad” is how Walt, once the quasi-protagnonist, has become someone worth rooting against. In this case, it wasn’t hard to side with Mike, a guy who lived by a code and had a soft spot for his granddaughter and sidekick Jesse. In the end, it was Mike going against the lessons of his hard-earned experience that proved his downfall.
2. Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) — “Sherlock” BBC
Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a powerhouse, charismatic, whipsmart performance as Sherlock. This is really the definitive Sherlock — an outrageous ego hiding small insecurities, a sexy but prickly exterior and a commanding hold of the six senses. Watching Cumberbatch unleash a mountain of dialogue detailing the clues he picked up to determine the victim was a left-handed, divorced, cigar-smoking night nurse, is a treat. Even better? Seeing him tap dance on societal nicities.
3. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) — “Game of Thrones” HBO
What George R.R. Martin does so well in his “A Song of Fire and Ice” series of novels (and the HBO show follows suit) is flip-flop allegiances, fates and our feelings toward the characters. Who would have thought that Jaime Lannister might actually become someone to root for? But if there’s one person whose basic goodness has not been marred, who was immediately a beloved addition to the huge cast, it’s Brienne. The statuesque Gwendoline Christie fills the large shoes of Brienne and brings the heart and essential vulnerability of a woman who doesn’t really fit in her world to a show already brimming with fantastic characters.
4. Lana (Sarah Paulson) — “American Horror Story: Asylum” FX
Instead of out of the frying pan and into the fire, how about about of the insane asylum and into the soundproofed basement of a skin-stripping killer with mommy issues? Nobody has had an easy go of it on the strong second season of “American Horror Story,” but Lana has really been put through the wringer. With each horrific turn of events, though, she somehow maintains a sense of dignity, strength and intelligence. Sarah Paulson has done a tremendous job of broadcasting Lana’s pain while still allowing us to dare to hope for a good outcome.
5. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) — “Boardwalk Empire” HBO
On a show where even the semi-decent people are constantly scheming to improve their lives, and loyalties change hands as quickly as black-market booze, Richard is a quiet example of devotion and honesty. Yes, he’s a killer, but the horrible scars he carries both inside and out make you want to gather him up, hug him and tell him it’s all going to be alright. And then there’s the endearingly odd scrapbook he keeps, one filled with ads of families and cozy homes, things Richard desires, but will never have.
6. Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) — “New Girl” Fox
Nick is a crankier, slightly more confident Chandler Bing for the 2000s. A “get off my lawn” old guy stuck in the body of a 30-something, like the show itself, he has really come into his own on the second season. Nick grounds a lot of the humor and gives the stories purpose, and nobody pulls off a scrunched-up grimace like he does.
7. Caroline (Candice Accola) — “The Vampire Diaries” CW
In the early going of the show’s first season, all Caroline seemed destined for was a quick death. Yet, now she’s evolved into the glue that holds the whole (increasingly undead) gang together, and one of the few characters (with the exception of Damon) with much of a sense of humor. Caroline has commented that when she became a vampire, she became a better person, and her character certainly went from a stock shallow popular girl to funny, strong-willed, still slightly shallow, but very faithful friend.
8. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) — “Last Resort” ABC
When an Andre Braugher character speaks, everybody listens. He brings a gravitas, intelligence and fierceness to his roles, and the role of a captain of a ill-fated submarine, was among his best. Caught between by-the-book duty and his own moral code, he brought intensity and humanity to an epic story.
9. Shania (Bebe Wood) — “The New Normal” Fox
When Shania spent an entire episode emulating the voice and mannerisms of Little Edie of “Grey Gardens,” my love for her (and Bebe Wood’s acting chops) was cemented. On a show that can swing wildly from very good to very uneven, Shania is comedy gold and sweetness. Her wide-eyed reaction to the carnival of craziness that occasionally surrounds her (mainly corteous of her biggotted grandma) is worth watching alone.
10. Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) — “The Mindy Project” Fox
The Morgan character literally came out of nowhere and at first seemed an odd fit for the show — one of those grating, weird-for-the-sake-of-weird characters. Instead, he’s become a comedic hurricane and a jelling force for the workplace characters. An oaf of a man who is unknowingly dangerous (accidental nose breaker/tackler) he’s also endearingly earnestness. Aside from Mindy Kaling’s title character, he’s been responsible for some of the show’s funniest and most memorable moments — accidentally setting up shop as a bathroom attendant or bringing out a karaoke machine that only plays songs in Spanish.