As the saying goes, this isn’t television; it’s HBO. The prestigious cable network has been delivering quality content since their two breakthroughs — Soprano And Sex and the city — cementing it as the home for critically acclaimed boundary-pushing shows.

The 2010s was an all-time great decade for HBO, and the 2020s look set to follow suit. Indeed, the network has churned out some of the greatest projects of all time over the last thirteen years, introducing some of the best characters on television. From a queen in the making to a superhero great, these characters revolutionized television and cemented HBO as the titan of the television industry.



10 Arabella Essiedu — ‘I May Destroy You’ (2020)

Image via HBO

Michaela Coelmasterpiece I Can Destroy You remains the most underrated project, if admittedly, in HBO’s modern library. The miniseries stars Coel as Arabella, a woman reassessing her life after being sexually assaulted at a nightclub.

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I Can Destroy You isn’t always easy viewing—it’s a challenging and often distasteful exploration of trauma bolstered by a spectacular performance from Coel. Arabella is a complicated creation of many layers – anxiety, anger, frustration, pain, confusion. Coel brings these emotions to life with subtle precision, creating a modern heroine for the #MeToo era.

9 Angela Abar/Sister Night — ‘The Watchman’ (2019)

Sister Night stands in an open field with the police behind her in Watchmen
Image via HBO

Make appropriate follow-up to Alan Moorefamous graphic novel never give up Guard not an easy task. However, Damon Lindelof meets the challenge and delivers a thoughtful, cohesive, and satisfying continuation: the 2019 miniseries Guard.

Lindelof’s Guard starring Oscar and Emmy winners Regina King as Angela Abar, a Tulsa police detective caught in the middle of a violent war with a white supremacist group. King is the ideal and genius choice for the role: assertive but approachable, tough but vulnerable. The actress delivers a reassuring and compassionate portrayal of vigilance, backing the show’s convoluted narrative on her capable shoulders. No wonder she won another Emmy for her work.

8 Kevin Garvey — ‘All That’s Left’ (2014-2017)

Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey in The Leftovers
Image via HBO

With so much content available, some shows are bound to qualify, including those that are certified works of art; Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotadrama The remaining is a perfect example. Justin Theroux stars as Kevin Garvey, a police chief who struggles to maintain order in a world where 2% of the population has suddenly disappeared.

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The remaining somber and prickly; however, its thought-provoking, insightful, and introspective narrative is undeniably rewarding. Theroux doesn’t have an easy task with the character; Kevin is a walking bundle of contradictions, an elusive and often erratic figure who is constantly hiding something from the audience. Still, the actor deftly handles Kevin’s side, crafting masterful portrayals of grief, dissociation, and even absurdism that rank as one of the best performances of any modern HBO show.

7 Maeve Millay — ‘Westworld’ (2016-2022)

world western phase maeve world shogun world samurai thandie newton

Western World never been a consistent show. It goes through high peaks and very low valleys, with fans never knowing what to expect. However, one aspect that can always be relied on is Thandiwe Newtondepiction of Maeve Millay. Initially acting as a mistress at Sweetwater, Maeve gains awareness of her nature and becomes a key player in the host’s struggle to leave Westworld.

Newton played Maeve with chilling charm. Perceptive and manipulative, Maeve is one step ahead of everyone, unafraid to switch sides if necessary, and ready to do what it takes to win. Newton’s performance is brilliant, embodying Maeve’s increasing ruthlessness without giving up the vulnerable aspects that made her appealing in the first place.

6 Ask McQuoid -— ‘White Lotus’ (2021-)

Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid in The White Lotus
Image Via HBO

The iconic one Jennifer Coolidge gave the best performance in his long career at Mike Whitedelicious satire White Lotus. The veteran actress plays Tanya McQuoid, a bundle of insecurities and anxieties who recovered from her mother’s death while falling prey to those who know how to manipulate her vulnerabilities.

At the hands of Coolidge, Tanya is a tragic accident, the heroine of a funny opera sings in an empty theater. The actress plays Tanya with great confidence, walking the fine line between silliness and true devastation. Cute but never funny, Tanya is White Lotus‘ the absurdity is realized, and Coolidge joins in on the joke.

5 Joel & Ellie — ‘The Last of Us’ (2023-)

Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us poster looking back
Image via HBO

Last of us was a huge hit for HBO. Based on the eponymous video game Naughty Dog, the plot centers around Joel, a tough smuggler whose job is to escort Ellie, a young girl, across a dystopian United States that is being ravaged by a dangerous virus that turns people into mindless savages.

Pedro Pascals And Bella Ramsey portrayed the main character, giving two of the best performances on modern television. Broken and weary, Joel and Ellie find solace in one another, developing a unique bond that allows them to trust and love again. Last of us is one of the best video game adaptations, thanks in large part to the excellent work of Pascal and Ramsey, who find humanity lost amidst the zombie massacre.

4 Barry Berkman — ‘Barry’ (2018-2023)

Bill dresses up as a Renaissance character on Barry.
Image Via HBO

When Bill Hader left Saturday Night Live, many lamented his absence and the emptiness he left behind. However, Hader made up for it by creating, writing, directing, and starring in HBO’s dark comedies Barryabout a hitman who becomes an actor after traveling to Los Angeles in search of work.

Masterfully blending comedy, cruelty, vulnerability, and pathos, Hader creates one of the finest killers on modern television. Barry Berkman is a clash of opposites: warm and approachable one moment, violent and unforgiving the next. Hader portrays the character’s nuances with eerie precision, finding grim and sinister humor in Barry’s darkest sides and delivering a tour de force performance in the process.

3 Rhaenyra Targaryen — ‘Dragon House’ (2022-)

Rhaneyra Targaryen looks into the camera at House of the Dragon.
Image via HBO

Game of Thrones leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of audience members, with many believing the show’s sins were too great to be forgiven. However, Dragon House manages to erase those bad memories with an amazing story that echoes back to the political mind games that were first created HAVE RECEIVED great success.

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At the center of the action is Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by Millie Alcock as a child and Emma D’Arcy as an adult. Unlike her book counterpart, the live-action Rhaenyra is smart and level-headed, self-centered but never mean, and self-absorbed without being unpleasant. Rhaenrya is the worthy heir to Daenerys’ legacy, a powerful queen with layers beyond all meets the eye.

2 Logan Roy — ‘Succession’ (2018-2023)

Brian Cox as Logan Roy wearing sunglasses in the office at Succession
Image via HBO

Brian Cox delivers a scenery-chewing, profanity, and utterly unhinged performance as Logan Roy in the Jesse Armstrong play Succession. As its title suggests, the show focuses on the internal conflict among the Roy clan to decide who will control the family’s global media conglomerate amidst the patriarch’s failing health.

However, the patriarch wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Mercurial, ruthless, and downright terrifying, Cox’s Logan Roy is the modern day Goliath, an industrial juggernaut whose name alone can bring an entire company to its knees. Logan is corporate America brought to life: unattainable, unsympathetic, Machiavellian, and nearly inhuman, a bold and brutal creation only a veteran of Cox’s stature could play.

1 Selina Meyer — ‘Veep’ (2012-2019)

Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) celebrates on the podium in 'Veep'

HBO’s slate of great antiheroes is already populated by some of television’s best characters — Tony Soprano, Stringer Bell, Cersei Lannister. However, one more name must be added to the famous collection: Selina Meyer. Played by a television legend Julia Louis-DreyfusSelina is the protagonist of Armand Iannuccipolitical satire Veep.

Selina was the most elusive type of monster: too incompetent to be taken seriously at first and too erratic to stop once she was freed. Selina is a product of Iannucci’s extraordinarily sharp mind and Louis-Dreyfus’ unique talent for comedy. The result is an extraordinary creation, an ode to the ego that is almost too absurd to believe. However, Selina was always charming, a character that will forever live in the history of television infamy.

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