Zuko as the Fire Lord in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
(Image credit: Nickelodeon)

I don’t know about you, but I love a good character arc. Whether it’s someone bad turning good, someone good turning bad, or just a character growing up and maturing over time, a good character arc makes a TV show a million times better. 

Don’t forget that a good character arc also makes fans favorites, and these characters certainly became major fan favorites after their well-deserved character arcs on their television shows. 

Alexis breaking up with Ted in Schitt's Creek

(Image credit: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Alexis (Schitt’s Creek)

The Schitt’s Creek cast is incredibly talented in many ways, but everyone had a better character arc than Alexis. Starting as a pretty, spoiled girl who didn’t have a clear direction in life, she seriously matures toward the end of the series and begins to figure out what she wants – through hilarious moments. However, it’s still a great character arc. 

Zuko facing off against Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

(Image credit: Nickelodeon)

Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

It’s well-known that Zuko has one of the most significant character arcs of all time, especially in television, but most definitely in Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

Starting as a banished prince, Zuko had to undergo serious self-reflection, punishment, and much more to realize his true destiny. In the end, he was willing to sacrifice his life for the Avatar and his friends rather than try and earn the honor of his father over and over again. 

Tom Hiddleston on Loki

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Loki (Loki)

Loki is a curious character because he had character arcs in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Loki television show, but we’ll talk specifically about the series. 

Throughout its two seasons, Loki changes immensely, from the villain he was at the end of the first Avengers film to someone who would lock himself away forever to ensure his friends survive in timelines and keep the universe intact. I mean, talk about a change. 

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Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad Episode 1

(Image credit: AMC)

Walter White (Breaking Bad)

We could say that Walter White had one of the best character arcs ever on television. Breaking Bad was an incredible show for many reasons, but I think the Breaking Bad cast was one of the main things that made it fantastic, including that of Bryan Cranston as White. 

In the beginning, we can almost see White as a savior, desperate to do anything to help his family after his inevitable death from cancer. Still, over time, we see how he changes into this power-hungry fool, ostracizing himself from his life and the people he loves. 

John Silver in Black Sails.

(Image credit: Starz)

John Silver (Black Sails)

Black Sails is one of the best pirate shows, and John Silver was one of the best characters. I mean, think about it – he started off with nothing, just working as a cook due to being captured and taking out another cook. Silver had a brilliant mind, and through the show, we see him turn into a great strategist behind Captain Flint. He was always able to find a way out of any issue, making him more interesting. 

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones

(Image credit: HBO)

Jamie Lannister (Game Of Thrones)

For years, I have considered Jaime Lannister one of the best character arcs on television. As part of the Game of Thrones cast, Jaime Lannister was as selfish as a Lannister could be when the series started and then began to change throughout the following seasons, fighting for what was right, denying his sister, and so much more. Let’s ignore what happened in Season 8 of the show. He was still a great character – just not his sad death. 

Octavia in The 100.

(Image credit: The CW)

Octavia (The 100)

Good god, I remember when I first watched Octavia, a character a part of The 100 cast, I could not stand her. She was bratty, selfish, and straight-up annoying. 

But it wasn’t long before she began to mature, and sooner or later, she learned how to fight, lead, and kill, which is needed in this world. What makes her even better is that she’s a flawed character at best—she has moments of morally grey instances that really make you either root for her or hate her—which is why she’s a fan-favorite. 

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman

(Image credit: AMC)

Jimmy McGill (Better Call Saul)

Oh, Jimmy McGill. Better Call Saul was a spinoff of Breaking Bad and told the story of Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman. He started as someone genuinely trying to make it as a lawyer, but as the seasons go on, we see him sink more into criminal activity to get ahead since no one would give him a chance, thanks to his past. It’s a slow, depressing character arc, but it’s still fantastic either way.

Brett Goldstein on Ted Lasso

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Roy Kent (Ted Lasso)

He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-well, you know the chant. 

Roy Kent of Ted Lasso began the series as a crude, mean, and old (in the eyes of sports) man, bitter about his past and despising Lasso coming in as their coach. But through the help of his close friends, significant others, and more, we see how much of a heart he has. He starts to show his true colors, and sooner or later, we see him even making friends with Jamie Tartt.  

daryl in black shirt in The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead)

Out of everyone on The Walking Dead, I think Daryl Dixon’s character arc is among the most intriguing and fun to witness. When we first meet Daryl, he’s super selfish and only cares about himself and his brother, but by the end of the series, he has a family, a life, and so much more that he’s willing to die for. He was so beloved that there was a phrase called, “If Daryl Dies, We Riot.” I would know, I had a shirt that said it.

Alison Brie voices Diane in BoJack Horseman.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Diane Nguyen (BoJack Horseman)

BoJack Horseman focuses on so many traumatized characters, but one of the best they really did a good character on is Diane Nguyen. She starts off as BoJack’s ghost-writer, and while she’s a bit passive at first, we start to see her grow into herself as time passes, confronting her past and future and even dealing with her own mental issues. 

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington in Stranger Things Season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Steve Harrington (Stranger Things)

I’m pretty sure everyone during the first season of Stranger Things was not the biggest fan of Steve, played by the excellent Joe Keery. But of course, we all ended up loving Steve Harrington because he learned to care for others and also became the best babysitter ever for the kids we loved. 

Schmidt, Nick, and Winston on New Girl

(Image credit: Fox)

Nick (New Girl)

I could do any of the boys from the apartment, but Nick began New Girl as the type of guy I don’t think any girl would want. He was immature and didn’t have any direction in life. But towards the end of the series, even if he was still silly, he committed to fixing his life, growing stronger bonds with others, and opening up about his feelings instead of keeping it all closed inside. You have to love him. 

Carol in The Walking Dead.

(Image credit: AMC)

Carol (The Walking Dead)

Carol’s timeline on The Walking Dead is something special. Her character arc makes me smile every time I think about it. Carol began the show as an abused wife of a beating husband, but once he’s gone, she begins to get stronger every season, becoming a kick-butt zombie slayer and doing anything to protect the ones she loves. 

Erin Moriarty as Starlight in a press image of The Boys Season 3.

(Image credit: Prime Video)

Starlight (The Boys)

Starlight from The Boys is the epitome of the phrase “never meet your heroes,” literally in the sense of this show. She joins The Seven with bright ideas and discovers that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Over the course of three seasons so far, she’s truly stood out and tried to make change—even going as far as breaking the law to do so. 

Phil Dunster as Jamie Tartt smiling and looking to the left.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Jamie Tartt (Ted Lasso)

Jamie Tartt from Ted Lasso was so immature and selfish when we first met him, but he gets his time to shine in Seasons 2 and 3, where we start to see him change. He begins to grow and understand his role as a leader, making amends with old rivals and past relationships and building new bonds. 

Clarke and Lexa on The 100 looking up.

(Image credit: The CW)

Lexa (The 100)

While Lexa wasn’t in the series for nearly as long as she should have been, she was an impactful character in The 100. Lexa’s character arc, from being Clarke’s enemy to doing a full 180 and becoming her lover before her tragic demise, will haunt every The 100 fan. This reminds us of all the great ‘enemies to lovers’ movies. 

Negan outdoors in the Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

Negan (The Walking Dead)

Negan was one of the best characters on TV when he appeared on The Walking Dead. His character arc not only made him stand out but also made him an easy fan favorite. Clearly one of the franchise’s antagonists from the very beginning, Negan ended up finding his morally grey middle line and helping his once-enemies while also learning to find people to truly love and care about. 

Rosario Dawson as Ashoka Tano

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Ahsoka (The Star Wars Franchise)

Ahsoka was one of the most hated characters in the Star Wars franchise when she first debuted because many thought her immature. Years later, through the Clone Wars and the Disney+ Star Wars shows, she matured into a Jedi master, was calm and collected, and was one of the most versatile warriors out there.

Kevin, Kate and Randall on This Is Us.

(Image credit: NBC)

The Big Three (This Is Us)

As someone who loves the This is Us cast, the Big Three certainly had some of the best character arcs. These three go through so many heartbreaking hardships and moments throughout the franchise that it’s a miracle they turn out fine by the end. 

But they didn’t just end up surviving – they faced some of their worst moments, from drug addiction to racism to body issues to so much more, and came out on top. That’s a character to root for – well, three characters in this case. 

Lydia in Teen Wolf.

(Image credit: MTV)

Lydia (Teen Wolf)

There are plenty of great supernatural teen dramas with superb casts, but Lydia from Teen Wolf certainly has the best character arc. She starts as a popular girl who only cares about herself embraces her powers, and helps her friends down the line with whatever they need, even risking her life on multiple occasions. 

Arabelle in I May Destroy You.

(Image credit: HBO)

Arabelle (I May Destroy You)

I May Destroy You is a miniseries, but Arabelle’s character arc is top-tier. Through nine episodes, we see Arabelle face one of her darkest and loneliest moments as she tries to figure out who sexually assaulted her one night, and she must face her grief, trauma, and so much more to find inner peace towards the end. 

Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan

(Image credit: Crunchyroll)

Eren Yeager (Attack On Titan)

There are plenty of character arcs in anime, but the one I have to do is Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan. He started off this anime as a brat who only wanted to kill Titans and would do anything to achieve it, but towards the end, he wound up becoming one of the most complex anime characters out there, with deep, hidden intentions and feelings that we could barely comprehend. 

Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop in The Good Place

(Image credit: NBC)

Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place)

Out of the many characters in The Good Place, I have to give the character arc award to Eleanor. Her whole journey in the afterlife literally begins with a lie and being super selfish, but towards the end, she is filled with wisdom and selflessness and is willing to fight for what is right. It’s a beautiful story. 

Bubbles in The Wire.

(Image credit: HBO)

Bubbles (The Wire)

Surprisingly, The Wire is a show that has never won Best Drama at the Emmys, but it should have these character arcs, and I have to give it to Bubbles. One of the show’s many characters, Bubbles’ road to recovery, made you want to root for him from the very beginning and support him no matter what. 

Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender

(Image credit: Nickelodeon Animation Studio)

Sokka (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Sokka was probably one of the most misogynistic characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. At first, he believed that women could not fight, but towards the end of the series, he becomes a valuable leader, leading both men and women and becoming the man he was always meant to be. 

Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones

(Image credit: HBO)

Sansa Stark (Game Of Thrones)

I know for a fact that many people did not like Sansa in the first few seasons of Game of Thrones, but she had some serious character growth that turned her into a fan favorite. From spoiled brat to Queen of the North, Sansa’s maturity shines through. 

James Marsters in Buffy

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox Television)

Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Starting as a villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike was initially super unlikable. Over time, as he realized there was more than watching everything that went against him fall, he eventually worked with Buffy and became a trustful person.

A screenshot of Hannah Waddingham looking wide-eyed in Ted Lasso.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Rebecca (Ted Lasso)

Rebecca’s entire journey began with her as a villain in Ted Lasso, where she specifically hired Ted for the team to do poorly so it would shut down for revenge towards her ex-husband. But she is changed through Ted’s kindness; towards the end, we miss her as much as we miss Ted. 

Elisabeth Moss on Mad Men

(Image credit: AMC)

Peggy Olsen (Mad Men)

Peggy Olsen was a boss, and she wanted you to know. Mad Men was an AMC show that followed advertising executives in NYC, and Peggy was a character who worked her way up in power, beginning as a secretary unaware of the world she was entering and becoming an absolute leader despite her being a woman in the workplace in the 1960s. 

Alfie Allen in Game of Thrones

(Image credit: HBO)

Theon Greyjoy (Game Of Thrones)

While Game of Thrones’ last season had issues, Theon Greyjoy’s character was not one of them. Starting off as selfish and a betrayer who would do anything for power, Theon devotes his life to the Starks’ cause in fighting against the Night King and dies in Season 8 defending Bran—but he dies a hero. 

Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation.

(Image credit: NBC)

April (Parks And Recreation)

April from the Parks and Recreation cast really started off as a slacker, but over the course of the series, through the help of her friends, relationships, and more, we start to become a heck of a lot more trusting—and still keeping that same deadpan humor that fans love. 

Which one of these classic fan-favorite character arcs is your favorite? This makes me want to rewatch all these shows again, just for fun. 

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don’t debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter. 


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