It's been an eventful year for television so far, that's for sure! From several series reaching their season finales to the return of fan favorites, one could only describe this year's television as unmissable. I've been trying to come up with an article that could accumulate all of the highs of this past few months in television, so I thought I'd take a look (in no particular order) at the top TV performers of the year.
Contains some spoilers.
Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier, The Walking Dead)
I've said it for years: Carol is easily the best written character on The Walking Dead. She has had one of the greatest character development arcs in television history — starting out as an abused, mousy housewife and evolving into the biggest, badass bitch on primetime — Carols' journey thus far has been remarkable. Melissa McBride doesn't get enough credit, and she should've been nominated for awards for her role as Carol. This week in the season finale, Morgan found Carol and attempted to persuade her to come back to Alexandria. As always, McBride delivered an award-worthy performance. In a moment that could reduce even the coldest person to tears, McBride's Carol pleaded with one of the Saviors to kill her. In an epic moment, Morgan broke his 'no-kill' rule to save the person he disagrees with the most. Carol's journey is far from over, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the seventh season will take Carol.
Cameron Monaghan (Ian Gallagher, Shameless)
Despite a large focus on Frank's shenanigans and the chaos surrounding Fiona's wedding, the best thing about this week's Shameless finale and the sixth season in general, was Ian. The character has been through an emotional rollercoaster of events (and that's just in the past two seasons) and this week we finally saw Ian get closer to even a little bit of happiness. Nobody died, no shots were fired, and nobody fought — we were given a stripped-back, simplistic, excellently written and performed scene that saw Ian fight for himself and more importantly, what he deserves. Cameron Monaghan played the scene beautifully, highlighting again why he is the greatest thing about Shameless and has been for several years now. To touch on a few issues, the character has dealt with a lot over the years — from the whole Mickey/Svetlana wedding, to Kash, and of course dealing with bipolar disease — but what I love about Ian is that the character is not identified by any of this (or by his illness or his sexuality), he is defined by the way he acts under tough situations. Monaghan's Ian reminded us all that it's okay to be who you are and that nobody should be allowed to deny you something based on this principle. It was a great temporary ending for a character that has struggled a lot over this past year and I cannot wait to see what Ian is up to in Season 7. Not what you'd expect from a show of this genre, but Shameless does a damn good job of raising awareness for important issues. The fact that the Shameless cast are often overlooked during award season is confusing considering the level of acting on this show is a lot higher than other shows on network and cable television.
Sarah Lancashire (Catherine Cawood, Happy Valley)
Described as the British version of The Wire, the popular Happy Valley returned for its highly anticipated second season earlier this year. Airing weekly in the UK on BBC, the series arrived in the US as a Netflix original series in March. Happy Valley is the most realistic piece of drama I've ever seen and the storylines are incredibly written. However, most of the brilliance comes from lead actress Sarah Lancashire. Perhaps best known for her role in Last Tango in Halifax, Lancashire's acting ability is largely equal to that of Meryl Streep or Jessica Lange and her portrayal of Sergeant Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley continues to prove it. It's not just what Cawood says, it's how Lancashire manages to convey her emotions without even having to say a word. Lancashire will more than likely win a BAFTA this time around as she continues to thrill in Happy Valley and is arguably the greatest female actress on global television.
James Norton (Tommy Lee Royce, Happy Valley)
Playing the villainous Tommy Lee Royce, James Norton manages to make us quiver with fear every time he is on screen in Happy Valley. Norton is in high demand at the moment, but here he (somehow) manages to shed all of his real life charm and completely morph himself into the psychotic Royce. He is equally as compelling as Lancashire, playing her nemesis. When Royce is onscreen Norton conveys his hostility and distain for Catherine and for all those who have 'wronged' him and he does it wonderfully. I thoroughly look forward to the third series to see how Norton continues to terrify us.
James Norton (Sidney Chambers, Grantchester)
Same actor, different role. Norton brings his softer side to Grantchester vicar Sidney Chambers, who is one of the most complex characters currently on television. While seemingly care-free, Chambers has his own struggles — many that often stem from his past during the war. Furthermore, his sweetheart Amanda is forced to marry into money, leaving the poor vicar alone and unhappy. Currently airing its second season in both Britain and in the US, the highly rated drama follows Chambers and Police Inspector Geordie Keating as the pair investigate murders. Norton's high demand proves how good of an actor he is, and the second season has given Norton the opportunity to dive deeper into Sidney's state of mind and the questioning of his views. I look forward to seeing how the second series of Grantchester will play out for Sidney Chambers.
Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter, Marvel's Agent Carter)
I'm a huge superhero fan, but I have no problem admitting that Peggy Carter is easily my favorite on-screen Marvel character. Hayley Atwell is an absolute joy to watch; she is a wonderful actress and was born to play Peggy Carter. The chemistry between Atwell and James D'Arcy who plays Jarvis is astounding. Marvel's Agent Carter bridges the gap between the Captain America films and ultimately gives the viewer an opportunity to delve into previously uncharted territory with Carter's character. Atwell is magnificent in the role and I thoroughly hope ABC makes the right decision and renews the series for another season, as I would argue that it is the best of the Marvel television products.
Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash, The Flash)
In arguably the best of the DC superhero series, Grant Gustin continues to thrive as the scarlet speedster in the second season of The Flash. Gustin has been magnificent to watch this year, specifically when it comes to the emotional scenes, such as the Earth-2 episodes. Moreover, his performance as Earth-2 Barry was both hilarious and brilliant. With so many interpretations of superheroes today, it's rare to find an actor who embodies the character as well as Gustin embodies both Barry Allen and The Flash. We can talk about Gustin not being cast in the DCEU until we are blue in the face, but the reality of the matter is that it's not Gustin losing out, it's Zack Snyder and the other DC executives. If The Flash does one thing well it's the explosive episodes, so I cannot wait to see Gustin's Flash throughout the remainder of the second season, as I have every faith that he will continue to inspire.
Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl, Supergirl)
Supergirl is a rare gem — in a world notorious for its darker adaptations of superheroes, Supergirl tells the story of Superman's cousin Kara and does it with charm. Of course, a large part of that charm comes from Glee's Melissa Benoist, who couldn't be more perfect for the role if she tried. Like Marvel's Agent Carter, Supergirl gives a voice to a (unfairly) presumably secondary character, shedding all ties with her male counterpart: This is her story. Benoist embodies the role and just like Gustin in The Flash, she becomes the character. Now, in our minds when we think of Supergirl, we think of Benoist's portrayal.
Emmy Rossum (Fiona Gallagher, Shameless)
Just like Monaghan, one cannot fault Emmy Rossum's incredible portrayal of Fiona Gallagher. This season saw Fiona try and repair some of the damage to her life as well as rid herself of unnecessary baggage. The character of Fiona has been on a downward spiral ever since the drug charges in the fourth season, but this season she is finally seen getting back on her feet. Rossum has always been amazing in the role, and this season is no different. What I love about Fiona is that she is very 'real' — she's not perfect nor does she pretend to be - perhaps that's what makes her so charming. Fiona has also had a lot of heartbreak over the series and this continued into season six and as always, Rossum conveys this excellently. In fact, when Fiona goes into her rage-fueled rants (usually over Frank or protecting her kids) this is when Rossum shines the most.
Isidora Goreshter (Svetlana Milkovich, Shameless)
There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe how good Isidora Goreshter is as Shameless' Svetlana Milkovich. If I'm being honest, when Svetlana first arrived I took an immediate dislike to her — Mickey's father was using her to defeat Ian and Mickey's relationship. However, the minute that we, the viewers, actually got to the opportunity to get to know Svetlana as a character (as opposed to Mickey's fake wife who was pregnant), we discovered just how good Goreshter is and just how incredible the character of Svetlana is. I cannot emphasize this enough — despite being a recurring character, Svetlana is one of the top three characters on the show. Who could forget memorable moments such as "Orange boy" or her performing "wifely duties" on Kev and V. In fact, one of the greatest storylines Goresther was involved in happened this season: her relationship with Kev and V. The only thing that I didn't like about Shameless this year was the lack of Ian/Svetlana scenes — that pairing has so much chemistry and I love Ian's relationship with Yevgeny. Nevertheless, Svetlana remains one of the greatest characters on the show and arguably the funniest character on TV. If I had my way Isidora Goresther would be a series regular and appear in every episode. She is just that good.
Kellie Bright (Linda Carter, EastEnders)
Soap operas aren't often mentioned when it comes to acting or writing, however there are some exceptions. Kellie Bright, who plays Linda Carter in EastEnders, first caught everyone's attention during a storyline that saw her character getting raped. Bright's performance was praised by critics and fans, and ultimately led to her winning both Best Serial Drama Performance and Best Actress awards at the British Soap Awards. This year is no different, as the Carter family welcomed in the New Year with Linda and husband Mick (Danny Dyer) finally getting married. It also saw the culmination of the rape storyline. It's somewhat of a travesty that Bright didn't receive a nomination this year, as she is arguably the best actress in 'soapland.' Bright continues to be remarkable, specifically as we head into a new era for the Carter family, when Linda's life is turned upside down following an accident involving her youngest son. I look forward to seeing what the remainder of the year has to offer Linda — as Bright continues to thrive in the role.
Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Marvel's Daredevil)
I binged the second season of Marvel's Daredevil like there was no tomorrow. As we saw with the first season, Charlie Cox does an excellent job as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and he continues to do so throughout the second season. What I love about Cox's performance is that he makes Matt Murdock equally as compelling as his vigilante persona. Marvel's Daredevil is brave in that it is less superhero show, more show about a corrupt city that requires a savior. Perhaps dating back to Batman Begins, the darker superhero seems to be the norm nowadays — and this Netflix series is excellent for many reasons — but I ultimately find myself drawn to Cox's Matt Murdock. The character is multi-dimensional and this gives the series so much depth. There are several episodes where the Daredevil uniform is barely, if even, adopted by Murdock — his character is more important to the series than the actual Daredevil outfit. Cox does a sensational job and I'm looking forward to hopefully another season, because as far as superhero shows go this one is arguably the best.
Jon Bernthal (Frank Castle/The Punisher, Marvel's Daredevil)
"One patch. Two patch. Penny and Dime." Those words still haunt me. Perhaps a testament of how good Jon Bernthal is as Frank Castle in the second season of Marvel's Daredevil. Perhaps best known as the unlikeable Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead, Bernthal embodies the role of The Punisher incredibly well. Caught on the wrong side of the law, Frank Castle fights to get to the truth about what happened to his family. What was great about his portrayal was that Bernthal made the viewer empathize with Castle despite the fact that he had become a cold-blooded murderer. His performance will go down in history as one of the all time great portrayals of a comic book character and I hope that this isn't the last that we've seen of Frank Castle.
Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance/Black Canary, Arrow)
Arrow has been pushed to it's limits over the past two years, with many arguing that it's past it's better days. Whether or not that is true is yet to be seen, but the one thing that has kept the series above water is Katie Cassidy and her remarkable portrayal of Laurel Lance and her Black Canary alter ego. Although we've seen less Lance and more Canary as of late, Cassidy's character is full of potential and deserves to recognised as arguably the best thing about the series. This season has seen the Black Canary rescue Oliver and co more times than I can count. Similarly Cassidy shone in the courtroom scenes, which were a flashback to the great Laurel Lance from season 1. I think the character of Laurel has been somewhat neglected as of late - we rarely see Lance fulfilling ADA duties anymore. If Laurel really is the character who ended up in the grave, then the creators have killed their own show - as Lance's journey had so much story left. Not only that, but Cassidy deserves to be recognised for her contribution to the show, as her character evolved immensely over the course of the series, similar to Carol's evolution in The Walking Dead. I hope there is a twist coming, because Cassidy's portrayal of Laurel and Black Canary remain the greatest adaptation on the character to date.
Italia Ricci (Siobhan Smythe/Silver Banshee, Supergirl)
We all know the old saying that quality outweighs quantity and the same thing applies here. Italia Ricci may only have been in a handful of Supergirl episodes, but it's about what she accomplished during her stay in National City that put her on this list. Ricci, best known of playing April Carver in Chasing Life, plays Cat Grant's bitchy assistant Siobhan Smythe. Ricci brought the role to life, making us who had seen her in Chasing Life forget about her previous roles and made us love to hate Siobhan. Ricci quickly became a part of the Supergirl family and shared chemistry with the entire cast, specifically Jeremy Jordan. The character is rich, but Ricci made her better. Her performance as the villainous Banshee is excellent, making her Supergirl's most memorable villain to date. I hope we see her again in the future, as Ricci is truly a remarkable actress.
Viola Davis (Annalise Keating, How To Get Away With Murder)
There's not much I can say here — Viola Davis's accolades speak for themselves. Viola Davis does a remarkable job week after week as Annalise Keating. I personally found the second season of How To Get Away With Murder to be a lot more compelling than the first, and Viola Davis is responsible for a large portion of that. It's evident watching Davis in action why she won that Emmy for this role: She is unmatchable. Her acting ability is out of this world and she proves that every week.
Jack Falahee (Connor Walsh, How To Get Away With Murder)
When I first started watching How To Get Away With Murder, I found myself rather drawn to Jack Falahee's Conor Walsh. Maybe it was the 'no apologies' kind of attitude or something, but whatever it was I remember being in awe of such a strong, confident character and the methods he used to get his own way. I liked the way Connor evolved during Season Two. Moreover, Falahee is excellent. Scenes between Falahee and Davis are exceptional and usually occur when the series is at its best. Connor is frequently featured in the main storyline and this benefits the show as both Falahee and his character are brilliant.
Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead)
We've gotten to the stage now that Andrew Lincoln is so good that he is often overlooked. This season we finally saw remnants of the old Rick return to his character, as the blood-lust was gone and Rick was finally able to move on with his life. Lincoln played his role beautifully, and it was genuinely pleasant to see some happiness among the group, no matter how short-lived it may be. What I loved about Lincoln's performance in the sixth season is that we saw glimpses of Season 1 Rick — the family man who protected his family but managed to maintain an element of humanity. Over the past few seasons, Rick morphed into a leader and along the way lost some humanity (who could blame him) as he struggled to keep his group safe. It was nice to see a return to the original Rick Grimes. I don't think it's fair that the Emmys tend to overlook The Walking Dead — zombie show or not, the acting is of a high standard, especially where Lincoln and Melissa McBride are concerned.
I'm sure I've missed some, but there you have it: a definitive list of the greatest performances on TV this year. Comment below if there is someone that you think should be included. We're almost half way through 2016, and with so many great shows still left to air (including the iconic Game of Thrones) who knows what we'll see. Until then, I hope you've enjoy this article!