The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #79-70

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On January 10, 1999, a bathrobe-clad Tony Soprano first bent over to pick up a Star-Ledger in his driveway — and TV changed forever. We’re celebrating this new Golden Age of Television by paying tribute to our favorite TV characters who’ve debuted since The Sopranos premiered. No reality TV here, folks: just the 99 richest, most fascinating fictional characters from both comedies and dramas to grace the small screen over the past decade and a half. We love TV… and these people are the reason why.

79. Alice Morgan, Luther

We’ve seen it before: Detective starts a reluctant relationship with a villain he can’t catch. But the friendship between DCI John Luther and Alice Morgan — a brilliant sociopath who murdered her parents in the series premiere and delivered lines such as, “Some little girls grow up wanting ponies; I always wanted to be a widow” with non-cartoon precision — was beautiful in a different way. As Luther’s occasional, always-loyal accomplice, Alice wasn’t trying to make him to go bad; her goal was to get him to step away from his job before it did the one thing she never would: kill him. — Mandi Bierly

78. Mal Reynolds, Firefly

Captain Mal is a pirate with a heart of gold. He’s the Han who shot first; only instead of a Wookie, he has an entire crew of loyal misfits. He fights the good fight knowing full well that it’s a lost cause — not unlike his show. After an early cancellation, Firefly went on to be a cult favorite, due in no small part to the charisma of its captain. In fan screenings of the film Serenity, audiences still stand up and cheer when he says, “I aim to misbehave.” — Robert Chan

77. Bender, Futurama

Futurama's New New York is a hilarious dystopian vision of what happens when all our worst human impulses are taken to their logical conclusions, and Bender is the worst of the worst: larcenous, cruel, homicidal, megalomaniacal, and literally fueled by alcohol. But he's also Fry's best friend, and when the megalomaniac actually became a god, it turned out he was a benevolent one. So don't take it too personally when he tells you to “bite my shiny metal ass!” — RC

76. The Trinity Killer, Dexter

Arguably Dexter’s greatest (and scariest) foe, the Trinity Killer committed gruesome murders for over 30 years virtually unnoticed. How did he get away with it for so long? Because much like Dexter, Trinity was a relatively normal, loving family man. Dex passed up many opportunities to kill the monster known to his family as Arthur Mitchell, because he idolized Arthur’s ability to kill and blend into society. But after a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse between the two serial killers, Dexter finally did kill Trinity, only to find that his adversary had already murdered his wife Rita in the series’ biggest shocker ever. The spine-tingling scene still vividly haunts us, and every time we see John Lithgow, we’re reminded of his chilling, creepy villain. — Chrissy Le Nguyen

75. Nicki Grant, Big Love

Being the middle sister wife in Bill Henrickson’s polygamist family couldn’t have been easy, but it’s not like Nicki’s tricky personality made it any easier. Her upbringing on the compound instilled in her a strong belief in the “principle” of her religion and a suspicion of the outside world… and this extended deep into her family, with her constant conflict and judgment of her fellow sister wives, Barb and Margie. Though Nicki was often cold, blunt, and sneaky, it was in her rare vulnerable moments that we saw how passionately she loved her family and how far she would go to protect them. — Breanne L. Heldman

74. Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead

He hasn’t had a shower in five seasons. He sometimes communicates in grunts. And he’s never expressed explicit romantic interest in anyone. Yet not only is Daryl beloved, he’s also the show’s resident heartthrob. Why? He was a hot-tempered loner when the series began, but has evolved into a caring, loyal, valued member of his makeshift family. In the old world, Daryl was written off as a redneck; post-apocalypse, his skills are the ones that matter, a fact that has given him the confidence to become a leader. (Oh, and don’t forget that hair.) — Kimberly Potts

73. Mort/Maura Pfefferman, Transparent

Jeffrey Tambor is already a first-ballot TV Hall of Famer for giving us Hank Kingsley and George Bluth, but his performance here as a retired college professor who tells his adult children he’s becoming a woman might be a career best. As a man, Mort was an unhappy, distracted parent, but as a woman, Maura is gentle and patient with her kids’ understandable confusion. Those kids have plenty of problems of their own, too, making Maura an unlikely source of stability and inspiration as they struggle to shed their own skins and become who they truly were meant to be… just like Moppa did. — Dave Nemetz

72. Claire Underwood, House of Cards

Is she the feminist warrior some have deemed her to be, or the female sociopath behind the male sociopath that is her POTUS hubs? Why choose just one, when First Lady Claire has proven time and time again that she can be both? Claire has often back-burnered her own aspirations to help Frank’s come to fruition, co-signing his most outrageous machinations (Zoe, meet train) and goading him into others (farewell, President Walker). And it says everything about their complicated relationship that Frank supports — or, more accurately, is afraid not to support — the promise that her turn will come soon. —KP

71. Arya Stark, Game of Thrones

Heroes are few and far between in Westeros; strong principles tend to be rewarded with swift deaths. Which is why we root for Arya: Most of her family is dead, and she’s spent the last few seasons surrounded by the people who killed them. Through it all, she’s stayed true to the Stark sense of honor and to her own puckish nature while learning how to survive in the harshest of environments. She’s like Little Orphan Annie with a deadly needle. — RC

70. Dwight Schrute, The Office

Over nine seasons, Dwight was many things: successful paper salesman, beet farmer, volunteer sheriff’s deputy, paintball and sci-fi enthusiast, in utero twin absorber, surprising seducer, dabbler in military strategy, budding real estate mogul, dojo senpai, weapons collector, Trans Am driver, believer in vampires, gullible know-it-all, loyal friend, and assistant (to the) regional manager. But most of all, this bizarre weirdo with his off-putting center part and rubber face (Rainn Wilson packed so much judgment in his tilted head, cocked brow, and agape mouth) was the ultimate sidekick to needy boss Michael Scott, while often simultaneously stealing the show. Easy to do? False. — Carrie Bell

The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #99-90
The 99 Greatest TV Characters Since Tony Soprano: #89-80