First up is Game of Thrones’ (2011-2019) Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner. As the eldest daughter in the Stark family, the rulers of Winterfell and the North, Sansa’s arc can only be described as traumatic. Sansa starts the series as a naïve and spoiled girl, whose only dream is to move to the capital, marry prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and become queen of the Seven Kingdoms. However, she is easily influenced by master manipulators Queen Cersai Lannister (Lena Headey) and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillan), leading to her witnessing her father’s death and forced to marry Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) for their own gains. As things begin to look up for Sansa when she escapes King’s Landing, she falls into another trap by being forced to marry the sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), becoming an abused prisoner in her own home. It is when she is finally reunited with half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) that she overcomes her role as a victim in people’s games, providing the army that wins back the North from the Boltons and gaining justice over her enemies. She uses the manipulative skills she learned from Littlefinger against them, reclaiming her homeland and being rightfully declared as Queen in the North.
She also explains her struggles with sexism every day as a female police detective
Moving away from the drama now is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s (2013-) Amy Santiago, played by Melissa Fumero. A career-driven and eager-to-please police detective in Brooklyn’s 99th precinct, Amy might initially seem to be just a love interest for Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta. Always trying to impress Captain Holt (Andre Baugher), it’s implied Amy is one of the best detectives in the precinct whilst also joining in with the heists and pranks that ensue. However, she also explains her struggles with sexism every day as a female police detective, often being underestimated by her colleagues and the general public. Her hard work and dedication pays off when she becomes a sergeant, getting one step closer to achieving her dream of being the youngest person to become captain.
The complex nature of the fearless killer that is Comer’s Villanelle will go down as one of the most memorable female characters in television.
More recently, Jodie Comer’s award-winning performance as Russian assassin Villanelle in Killing Eve (2018-) has been a talking point for many. Created by Fleabag’s (2016-2019) Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Comer shocked many with her flurry of accents and comedic yet psychotic performance as Villanelle. Working for a crime group known as The Twelve, the series digs deep into the complex relationship between Villanelle and MI5 intelligence agent Eve (Sandra Oh) as they become obsessed with each other in a game of cat and mouse. Villanelle is possibly one of the most intriguing female characters of recent times, as she can easily flip from a charming and witty young woman to a brutal murderer in seconds, flaunting the deaths of her victims as she escapes unnoticed. The complex nature of the fearless killer that is Comer’s Villanelle will go down as one of the most memorable female characters in television.
Some honourable mentions include Game of Thrones’ dragon queen Daenerys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke), who suffered a similar fate to Sansa prior to the birth of her dragons, and assassin Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa’s younger sister who spends most of her storyline independently exacting revenge on her enemies. Stranger Things’ (2016-) Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who has fought an unbeatable monster using her telekinetic powers three seasons in a row, and Peaky Blinders’(2013-) Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), the matriarch of the Shelby family and adviser for criminal gang leader Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Overall, if the decade has done anything at all, it has provided audiences with memorable women who prove they can carry TV just as much as the men.