5 of the Best Female Leads in Recent TV History

Awesome female characters come in all varieties on TV. There are women who literally battle enemies, and there are women who battle in the boardroom. Women who stand up for their beliefs, who fight to protect those they love and who are complex, interesting characters are all worth watching. Start TV streaming the shows featuring these multi-dimensional women today.

Buffy Summers (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)


Buffy’s just a small-town high schooler who goes to classes, hangs with friends and … battles the undead. Destined to be a Slayer, Buffy struggles with this identity at first, wanting desperately to live a “normal life.” It isn’t long before she sees that she’s destined for something more than she had planned.

Buffy is a compelling female character not simply because she’s strong and fights escapees from hell, but because she struggles with balancing everyday issues with her supernatural lifestyle. She has a good rapport with friends. Eventually, Buffy goes on to college and examines whether or not she’ll ever be ready for a long-term relationship — especially with the vampires who catch her eye.

Daenerys Targaryen (“Game of Thrones”)

According to Slate, Daenerys isn’t the only female in the “Game of Thrones” series to see a significantly more fleshed-out role in the translation from page to screen, but she’s easily one of the most impressive. Daenerys Targaryen starts “Game of Thrones” as a meek young girl forced into marriage by her domineering, abusive older brother for political gain. The siblings are runaway heirs to the thrones of Westeros living in a land across the sea. Her brother believes Daenerys’ new husband’s people will assist him in overthrowing the king of Westeros.

Daenerys grows from scared and submissive to actually fighting to regain the throne for herself. She loves, she strategizes, she fights, she leads — but during it all, she never loses sight of her goal: to return to her homeland as queen.

Debra Morgan (“Dexter”)

There are many sides to Debra Morgan, homicide detective and sister to vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan on “Dexter.” She’s passionate about her job. She loves her brother and his kids more than anything, not aware initially about Dexter’s dark side. She searches for love, leaving a messy trail of relationships behind her as she examines what she wants out of life. No matter the tragic events thrown her way, she perseveres, but she’s human. She struggles to find a way to cope, and that makes her interesting to watch.

Michonne (“The Walking Dead”)

In the post-zombie world of “The Walking Dead,”  there are all kinds of strengths, but physical strength and ingenuity is a must for survival. Michonne meets up with the main group of survivors in season three, but her arrival was highly anticipated by fans of the comic series. Wielding a katana sword and keeping two pet zombies on chains as she walks the countryside, Michonne is as tough as nails.

However, there’s more to her than physical prowess; she grows to care about her friend Andrea and she’s distrusting of many of the people she meets, for good reason. It’s interesting to watch her deal with the distrust of others and subtly manipulate the situation until they actually trust her, not because she has ill intentions, but because she understands the new world’s reality.

Liz Lemon (“30 Rock”)

Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan

Based on Tina Fey’s stint as a “SNL” writer, “30 Rock” features her fictional counterpart, Liz Lemon, writing for a sketch comedy series. To say Liz’s life is complex is an understatement. She’s got everything on her plate from a brother who has a mental illness that makes him believe it’s still 1985 to an alcoholic and rude boss (memorably played by Alec Baldwin). Liz considers herself a geek and has awkward social skills, but she’s a talented writer and comedic talent. Liz struggles with her self-image and relationships, but viewers love rooting for her, knowing she’ll make them laugh along the way.

Multifaceted female characters are hardly anything new on TV, but in recent years, there are more compelling shows than ever featuring dynamic women. Tune in for the dramatic storylines and keep watching incredible women like these. If you’re late to the party and the shows are still airing, stream the shows in a marathon until you get caught up.

Buffy Summers photo credit: Loren Javier / Foter / CC BY-ND

Liz Lemon photo credit: mobu27 / Foter / CC BY-ND


About the Author: Ella Colucci is a journalist and TV reviewer.