At long last, we’re living in an era full of complex female characters on television. After decades of women being relegated to the role of long-suffering wife or relative of the male anti-hero — often facing unnecessary ire from fans anyway — complicated women are finally taking center stage.
While male anti-heroes — the oft-unethical, complex lead of the series, à la Tony Soprano or Walter White — have often been celebrated for their imperfections, their female counterparts have been generally (and unjustly) chalked up to insufferable or straight-up unlikable. But now, we’re seeing a shift, with more dynamic and complicated women characters on our TV screens than ever before.
This past week, HBO’s newest limited series, Sharp Objects premiered, introducing us to our latest slate of badass women. The dark series, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, follows Camille Preaker’s (Amy Adams) return to her hometown to report on two grisly murders, forcing her to reunite with her estranged mother and half sister, as well as her deeply traumatic past.
In just eight-episodes, the series sees Camille forced to confront her dark and tragic past as it comes head-to-head with the case she’s reporting on. With Camille joining the canon of badass, complex women on television, we’ve round up a list of other shows featuring dynamic female characters.
Gillian Anderson can do no wrong. Anderson stars as police Superintendent Stella Gibson, who is sent to Belfast in search of a serial killer. Naturally, Stella is supremely badass, has a badge, and has no interest in playing by the rules. The hunt between Stella and Paul Spector (a really good Jamie Dornan) is messy and so captivating, that it’s nothing short of devastating that we only got three seasons of it. Watch it on Netflix.
In Netflix’s best foray into the Marvel TV cinematic universe, Krysten Ritter stars as the titular (non-practicing) superhero working as a private detective in New York City, who is also struggling with PTSD. But after an encounter with the man responsible for her trauma, Jessica decides to confront her past to take him down. In an era of so many superheroes, Jessica Jones is the unapologetically flawed hero we all need. Watch it on Netflix.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Can we take a minute to talk about the most badass teen of all time? Buffy Summers is certainly not your average high school student, because she’s not only dealing with the pains of growing up, but she’s battling vampires, demons, and all the other evil beings attracted to the Hellmouth her town was literally built on top of. Watch all seven seasons and you’ll never complain about your own high school stress ever again. Watch on Hulu.
Big Little Lies
Reese. Nicole. Laura. Shailene. Zoë. The drama may seem to revolve around a mysterious kindergarten bite — and the kindergarteners’ petty moms — but there’s a reason the series won every award last year and that’s because the drama is so much deeper. As an impending war between the Monterey moms heats up, the series devolves into one of resilience as painful secrets come to light…and someone doesn’t make it out alive. Watch it on HBO.
Killing Eve is everybody’s new favorite obsession: It’s a classic cat and mouse crime show on steroids. The series stars Sandra Oh as Eve, a bored MI5 agent on the hunt for ruthless assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). But as the game wages on, the pair develop a deep obsession with one another. With Sandra Oh involved, it means that this show is one of the most badass on television, but now add in Jodie Comer and it’s no wonder the series was renewed for Season 2 before it even premiered. Watch it on BBC America.
The BBC series follows police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) as she continues to see justice for her daughter, who committed suicide after being raped eight years prior. As she seeks to bring her daughter’s rapist to justice, she unwittingly finds herself going face to face with him as she investigates a kidnapping plot. Watch it on Netflix.
Sydney Bristow is one of the greatest spies to ever grace television. Played by Jennifer Garner, the wig-loving CIA agent dominated television in the early aughts as she worked as a double agent to bring down the agency that murdered her fiancé. In a truly tragic move, somehow Alias isn’t currently available to stream online. Someone call J.J. Abrams because this needs to change.
From the get-go, the USA series made it clear that Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) did commit the murder she’s accused of. Rather, the real question is why. But as investigators attempt search to for the answer, the key may be in Cora’s traumatic past. The series has so many twists, even Gillian Flynn would be impressed. Watch it on Netflix.
Fifteen years after being convicted for double murder, Grace Marks remains shrouded in mystery, possessing no recollection of the murders she’s been accused of. The story weaves between the present, where a psychiatrist attempts to determine whether she’s actually culpable, and the past, following Grace’s life up to the time of the murders. Based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, it’s safe to say things aren’t always quite as they seem. Watch it on Netflix.
A high school junior who also moonlights as a private detective? Meet the other most badass teen in all of existence. The cult series stars Kristen Bell as the titular teen detective trying to solve the murder of her best friend. In a crime we’re counting on Veronica to solve, the series isn’t currently streaming online, but hopefully the likes of Kristen Bell will change that very soon.