Skip To Content
  • bestof2017 badge
Posted on Dec 19, 2017

25 Breakout TV Characters That Made Us Gasp, Cry, And Say "What The Fuck?" In 2017

Superhero Bob Newby in Stranger Things stole our hearts.

by ,

Warning: A year's worth of TV spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

1. Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery, in Stranger Things

Netflix

Breakout moment: Season 2 turned Steve Harrington into a beloved character, most notably when he becomes the supportive mother he was born to be while driving Dustin to the Snow Ball dance.

2. Janet, played by D'Arcy Carden, in The Good Place

NBC

Breakout moment: Janet's death montage in "The Eternal Shriek," in which she face-plants blankly into a pile of sand over and over and over and over again, was somehow increasingly hysterical.

3. Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff, in Mindhunter

Netflix

Breakout moment: His interviews with serial killer Ed Kemper perfectly showed just how far Holden was willing to go to understand the mind of a serial killer. During the second interview, Kemper wraps his hands around Holden's throat to demonstrate how to properly suffocate someone and, despite his obvious fear, Holden lets him do it.

4. Samantha White, played by Logan Browning, in Dear White People

Netflix

Breakout moment: Sam's monologue at the end of Episode 1 where she lays out the experiences of a person of color in a predominately white institution. It's blunt, it's passionate, and it's the honest truth.

5. Denise, played by Lena Waithe, in Master of None

Netflix

Breakout moment: During Season 2 we watched seven years' worth of Denise's Thanksgivings with her family that culminate in the emotional scene of her coming out to her family.

6. Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, in 13 Reasons Why

Netflix

Breakout moment: After a season of listening to Hannah's tapes, we finally saw how Hannah died. It was one of the most brutal moments on TV this year, hands down.

7. Billy Hargrove, played by Dacre Montgomery, in Stranger Things

Netflix

Breakout moment: Billy is a bully, a terrible stepbrother, and a borderline psychopath, but despite all that he was one of the best parts of Season 2. His flirty conversation with Mrs. Wheeler was incredibly uncomfortable but we couldn't look away.

8. Reggie Green, played by Marque Richardson, in Dear White People

Netflix

Breakout moment: We watched Reggie at a party acing trivia games, dominating beer pong, and dancing along to silly pop songs. This all immediately stops when a campus security guard pulls a gun on Reggie after the party gets chaotic. We see Reggie in a moment where his humanity was stripped away, and that stayed with us.

9. Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss, in The Handmaid's Tale

Hulu

Breakout moment: When Offred goes to the bridge in an effort to convince Janine not to jump while holding her own child.

10. Nathaniel Plimpton, played by Scott Michael Foster, in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

CW

Breakout moment: The song "Let's Have Intercourse," in which Nathaniel begrudgingly accepts that he wants to have sex with Rebecca. It's 10/10 hilarious.

11. Kevin Pearson, played by Justin Hartley, in This Is Us

NBC

Breakout moment: After losing his necklace, Kevin drunkenly returns to a girl's house to search for it. When she doesn't have it, he begins to sob on the front lawn and reveals that it was the only thing he had left to remember his father by.

12. Lenny Busker, played by Aubrey Plaza, in Legion

FX

Breakout moment: Near the end of Season 1, Lenny performs a dance number that is both terrifying and sexy but that, above all, shows the audience that she is not to be fucked with.

13. Betty Cooper, played by Lili Reinhart, in Riverdale

The CW, The CW / Via stilinskikissme.tumblr.com

Breakout moment: While Season 1 had some amazing Betty moments, it wasn't until this season when Betty is forced to manipulate her friends on behalf of the Black Hood that she truly becomes a force to be reckoned with.

14. Sam Sylvia, played by Marc Maron, in GLOW

Netflix

Breakout moment: Sam is the sarcastic asshole you can't help but love. He doesn't beat around the bush and will always tell the cold hard truth. In Episode 6 he's trying to convince Debbie to work with Ruth, but Debbie angrily yells, "She fucked my husband!" to which Sam simply replies, "Oh, so what? That's life. Get over it already."

15. Ofglen, played by Alexis Bledel, in The Handmaid's Tale

Hulu

Breakout moment: When Ofglen is taken captivate for being a "gender traitor" and we watched her wordless struggle as one of her friends is killed. In this moment, Bledel washed away Rory Gilmore completely.

16. Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, in Star Trek: Discovery

CBS

Breakout moment: When she decides to break the rules and jet off into an unknown asteroid field on nothing more than a hunch. Also she's the first black female lead of a Star Trek series. Boom. Drop the mic.

17. Jacqueline Carlyle, played by Melora Hardin, in The Bold Type

Freeform

Breakout moment: She redefined what it means to be a female boss on TV this year. Her powerful breakout moment comes in the Season 1 finale when she takes the weights and reveals that she's a survivor of sexual assault.

18. Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, in The Good Doctor

ABC

Breakout moment: In the pilot episode when Dr. Shaun, a young surgeon with autism, goes before the hospital board of directors and tells them why he would make an excellent doctor.

19. Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin, in Stranger Things

Netflix

Breakout moment: When Bob becomes a superhero and sacrifices himself in order to save Joyce, Hopper, Will, and Mike from the "Demo-Dogs." He saved the entire town of Hawkins and we're grateful.

20. Easter, played by Kristin Chenoweth, in American Gods

Starz

Breakout moment: When Easter fights back against Wednesday and unleashes her incredible power. She turns her gorgeous estate into a barren wasteland, and it was badass.

21. Frank Castle/The Punisher, played by Jon Bernthal, in The Punisher

Netflix

Breakout moment: Frank Castle violently assassinating his enemies within the first five minutes perfectly describes what's in store for the latest Marvel series.

22. Jason Mendoza, played by Manny Jacinto, in The Good Place

NBC

Breakout moment: Jason really became the breakout star of Season 2. In the second episode, he gives Michael some hilarious, heartfelt, and surprisingly useful advice by telling the story of his 60-person dance crew back in Florida.

23. Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn, in Better Call Saul

AMC

Breakout moment: Kim has been a main character since the beginning, but this season truly belonged to her. She is so dedicated to her career that, even after being involved in a car accident, she's more worried about losing a client than her own broken arm.

24. Adrian Chase/Prometheus, played by Josh Segarra, in Arrow

The CW

Breakout moment: The best villain Arrow has given us so far, Adrian Chase/Prometheus wrecked havoc on Star City in Season 5. The moment that left us with our jaws on the floor was when he lures Oliver and his team to Lian Yu, kidnaps Oliver's son, and proceeds to blow up the island with everyone on it.

25. And finally, the entire female cast of Big Little Lies

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images, HBO

Breakout moment: The very definition of an ensemble cast. Their defining moment comes at the end of the series when they band together to protect Celeste from Perry.

For more Best of 2017 content, click here!

TV and Movies

Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

Newsletter signup form