Although the era of prestige television has ensured that new classics like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones will stick in the minds of viewers for years after coming to their conclusions, great characters are typically the foundation of a great show.
A character’s development can even surpass the preliminary story of a series, showcasing excellent growth and allowing them to evolve beyond their original constraints. Users of Reddit have voiced which TV characters have had the best character development of all time.
Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
One of the facets that made Game of Thrones such a phenomenal show was its intriguing characters. Reddit user doubleapowpow says that Arya Stark was “my favorite character development”. Maisie Williams played the headstrong House Stark princess, earning the actress two Emmy nominations.
Stubborn in her convictions, Arya is a character that stayed true to herself. Similar to Mad Men’s Joan Harris, her tenacity defied the odds of her gender. Opposite her sister Sansa’s journey back to Winterfell throughout the series, Arya’s trek was a test of true strength, achieving individuality by the show’s end.
Steve Harrington, Stranger Things
Similar to Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman, Stranger Things Steve Harrington wasn’t meant to last after the show’s inaugural season. Reddit user Grinberry felt that Steve “had good character development for me”.
Joe Keery plays the charming high schooler, who starts his character journey as an 80s upperclassman jock, but Steve soon has one of the best evolutions on the show. His friendships with Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) softened Steve, making him not only more warm-hearted but also reflecting that he’s a pretty cool dude and awesome ally.
Theon Greyjoy, Game of Thrones
Arya Stark would not be the only well-developed character to come from Game of Thrones. Reddit user Doughie28 feels that Theon Greyjoy “had a complete arc”. Nominated for an Emmy in the show’s final season, Alfie Allen portrayed the once overconfident prince of House Greyjoy.
Theon’s metamorphosis is one that was the result of self-reliance following devastating traumas and indescribable tortures. He becomes a more compassionate version of himself, earning redemption for the past atrocities he committed. While Theon’s death is one of the show’s saddest, it ultimately served as complete liberation from his demons.
Alexis Rose, Schitt’s Creek
Alexis Rose’s glow-up in Schitt’s Creek is remarkable, with this Reddit user “loving that journey for her!”. Annie Murphy’s performance as the spoiled brat Alexis earned her a Primetime Emmy in 2020.
The Rose Family losing their wealth was a crash Landing that hit Alexis the hardest, in denial over her status. These unfortunate losses brought about great gains that may not have otherwise happened, as Alexis earned independence by using her strengths to navigate a world where her name was unknown. By the series’ end, Alexis had become an overall nicer and more sincere person.
Bojack Horseman, Bojack Horseman
Redditor earhere feels “Bojack Horseman” was a very well-developed TV character. Even though the show had a divisive ending, Bojack Horseman was full of unique players, with the show’s eponymous character being the most intriguing. Voiced by Will Arnett, there is beauty in Bojack’s darkness, stemming from trauma and vulnerability.
Only those closest to Bojack know his narcissistic demeanor is one of his many layers to protect himself. He greatly sabotages relationships and opportunities because he feels he isn’t worthy of receiving love or happiness. Bojack’s flaws made him a protagonist to cheer on, all the way to the very end.
Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman, Better Call Saul
Breaking Bad hosted some of the most captivating characters to ever come across television screens. One such character would be the flashy lawyer Saul Goodman played by Bob Odenkirk, also known as Jimmy McGill. Reddit user nascentia thinks it’s pretty cool that Saul got a spin-off “100% dedicated to fleshing out his character and development”.
Just like Bojack Horseman, Jimmy McGill is a flawed protagonist on Better Call Saul. He was established as a sleazy ambulance chaser, but there was so much more behind his infomercial facade. Jimmy is a character with underestimated intelligence and heart, making him likable in his complexities.
Joan Holloway Harris, Mad Men
Reddit user trailblaiser said that Mad Men‘s Joan Harris “is by far my top pick” for one of the most well-developed TV characters. Wonderfully played by multiple Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks, Joan was a pioneering example of feminism’s rise in the 60s and 70s, which highlighted the journey’s struggles due to the character’s constant sexualization due to her stunning beauty.
Joan’s Mad Men transition was slow but powerful, acknowledging her vulnerabilities while shining in her strengths. Her unwavering intelligence and assertiveness propelled Joan’s independent success, with her sass and transparency both admired and envied.
Carol Peletier, The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is primarily known for its action-packed episodes and excellent SFX gore makeup, but the series showcased one of the best character developments in the form of Carol Peletier, played by Melissa McBride. Reddit user alaynaj18 “loved her development from seasons 1-4 especially”.
Similar to Theon Greyjoy, Carol’s courage was brought about through horrifying tragedies, specifically the deaths of her abusive husband Ed (Adam Minarovich) and daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz) in the first two seasons. Carol is a true phoenix, rising from the ashes of anguish to ascend with adversity.
Walter “Heisenberg” White, Breaking Bad
Reddit user HueGray felt that “Walter White’s transformation into Heisenberg” highly ranks as one of the best character developments on television. Bryan Cranston won four Emmys (three consecutive) for playing chemistry teacher Walter White and his alter ego Heisenberg on Breaking Bad.
Early on, Walt is presented as very meek and mild-mannered, festering in the shadows of past success until a cancer diagnosis leads to his drug trade involvement. Through Heisenberg, Walt achieves control of the narrative through nefarious means. However, he does redeem some of his awful actions by the end of the series.
Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
Taking the top spot in Rolling Stone‘s 2022 list of 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, Redditor Plainchant thanks Tony Soprano “is the best answer” for the most well-developed TV character of all time. The late James Gandolfini won three Emmys for playing the Soprano patriarch, an Italian American who climbs the New Jersey mafia ranks to being his own crime family.
Tony Soprano is a shining antihero. Angry by nature and colder as the series progresses, Tony is a character who does not change himself but becomes more self-aware about the people and predicaments around him.
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