We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to the representation of women both in movies and TV. But there’s definitely progress being made, and it seems like we’re seeing more and more female characters who are strong (and not just physically) and have a lot of depth.
With that in mind, here are the 15 Most Empowering Moments for Women in TV from the Last Year.
15 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Jemma Simmons survives on a distant planet
Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) has gone through a transformation over the course of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s three seasons. She started out as a very girlish, bookish scientist and has grown into a tough, confident agent. In the season three episode, “4,722 Hours,” Jemma is teleported to desolate planet where she has to survive on her own for much of the episode, with practically no resources at her disposal.
Despite the dire situation, she refuses to let fear get the best of her, and continues fighting for her life. Jemma’s ingenuity and determination are inspirational – especially since she has seen less field time than most of the other agents.
14 Jane the Virgin - Referencing the Bechdel Test
In the episode “Chapter Thirty-Seven,” Jane’s (Gina Rodriguez) new advisor wants to make sure that her story passes the Bechdel Test. And Jane, never having heard of the test, promptly goes about making sure she passes with flying colors. And at one point, the narrator begins examining the show itself to see if it passes the test. At some points the show does well, and at others, it doesn’t exactly pass.
It’s a pretty meta moment, and another reason why the show is a great one in terms of representation of women. This is on top of the show’s multiple awesome and fiercely independent female characters.
13 The Night Watchman - Angela Burr stands up to corrupt government officials
As a general rule, we tend to recommend watching anything that stars Tom Hiddleston. But his character, Jonathan Pine, isn’t the only standout character in the BBC miniseries The Night Watchman. Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) plays a British intelligence agent trying to bust Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) for weapons dealing, and she recruits Pine to do it.
She’s an awesome character throughout the series, but her tenacity really shines in episode five. She’s on the brink of bringing Roper down, but finds herself up against the Permanent Secretary’s department, battling corrupt officials in her own government, and she doesn’t back down. She’s smart and determined, and through it all, she’s pregnant!
12 The X-Files - Scully and Einstein create a vaccine
For longtime fans of The X-Files, this year’s six-episode tenth season was like seeing old friends again. And, as always, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) had quite a few fantastic moments. One of the best comes in the season’s final episode, “My Struggle II.” She and the young Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) use Scully’s DNA, which we’ve found out includes alien DNA, to create a vaccine that will hopefully prevent a massive government takeover of the populous. This moment is great for a number of reasons.
First, it’s always awesome to see Scully using her intelligence and her scientific knowledge to solve a problem. It’s a large part of what made her invaluable to The X-Files to begin with, and what makes her such an admirable character. And it’s great that Einstein is involved. She’s like a season one version of Scully – smart, logical, and skeptical of the paranormal. But Scully’s experience, paired with her scientific approach to the situation, help encourage Einstein to open her mind to possibilities she would never have previously considered – it’s a strong moment for both women.
11 Outlander - Claire Beauchamp saves her husband
If you’re not watching Outlander, you really should be. While on a trip, the main protagonist, Claire Beauchamp (Caitriona Balfe), is transported from her life in post-WWII England to 18th Century Scotland. Claire is just awesome, and uses her quick wits repeatedly to get out of some tricky situations.
This particular storyline actually extends over a couple of episodes. Claire’s Scotish husband Jamie (Sam Heughan) is unjustly arrested by British officers and sentenced to death. But it’s not the men who go to save him – it’s Claire and Jamie’s sister, Jenny (Laura Donnelly), who has just given birth. Along the way, Claire’s determination and strong sense of morality convince others to join her cause, and together they finally spring Jamie from jail.
10 Game of Thrones - Arya reaches Braavos
This isn’t the only empowering moment for women in season five of Game of Thrones – remember Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) taking flight on the back of one of her dragons? And it’s worth mentioning that there were some not so great moments for women in this season, too – namely, Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) rape scene. But Arya (Maisie Williams) finally reaching Braavos is definitely a triumphant moment.
Arya’s independence is a large part of what has kept her alive this long. She’s not afraid to strike out on her own, though she runs into her fair share of obstacles along the way. Yes, it would have been awesome to see Arya go along with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), who could have been a strong role model for her. But Arya’s decision not to do that, and to ultimately strike out for Braavos shows her courage and self-sufficiency.
9 Arrow - Felicity leaves Team Arrow
So it looks like "Olicity" is going to happen for real at some point, and we’re not necessarily against that. But Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) decision to walk away from Oliver (Stephen Amell) and, in the episode “Broken Hearts,” to leave Team Arrow altogether (at least for now) shows her strength and sense of self-worth.
Felicity has been crushing on Oliver since season one. And she genuinely loves him. But she doesn’t allow herself to get lost in the relationship. She’s hurt by Oliver’s decision to hide the truth about his son, and she knows she deserves better. Her desire to be true to herself shows a lot of wisdom and confidence. It's worth mentioning that the death of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) seemed to come out of nowhere and wasn't a particularly empowering moment. But overall, the show has been a pretty great one for strong female characters.
8 The Walking Dead - Carol and Maggie escape the Saviors
In season six, episode 13, “The Same Boat,” Carol and Maggie find themselves being held hostage by the Saviors, but by the end of the episode, they manage to fight their way out. It’s not empowering just as a demonstration of their fighting ability. What’s really impressive about their escape is that it requires them to dig deep and muster all of their mental fortitude. And Carol in particular is facing down a lot of demons. She doesn’t want to have to kill anymore – she’s done with violence – but she manages to find the strength to fight the good fight one more time.
By the end of the episode, both Carol and Maggie are pretty scarred emotionally as a result of having to kill the Saviors to get out, but that’s just further evidence of the difficulty of the task they were facing.
7 Daredevil - Karen Page decides to work with Mitchell Ellison
Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) is fantastic in practically every episode, but “Seven Minutes in Heaven” is a standout. After Matt (Charlie Cox) allows everything that’s going on with Elektra (Elodie Yung) and The Hand to distract him from the Frank Castle (John Bernthal) case, he and Foggy (Elden Henson) are on the outs. Nelson and Merdock appears to be on its last legs. But Karen has a lead about what really happened with Castle and his family. When she tells Foggy, he’s dismissive, not really seeming to care since the case is over. And Matt is basically just absent. But she doesn’t let that stop her, and she takes things into her own hands.
She knows what’s right, and she follows her lead, heading over to the New York Bulletin to do some journalistic sleuthing with Mitchell Ellison (Geoffrey Cantor). Her decision to become even more actively involved in the case despite the fact that Matt and Foggy are a little MIA at this point shows her strong moral compass and her dauntlessness.
6 The Flash - Kendra Saunders becomes Hawkgirl
Kendra (Ciara Renée), who’s now a regular character on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, made her first appearance on The Flash as a barista at the team’s favorite coffee shop, CC Jitters. She quickly finds out that she’s a reincarnated warrior priestess, and the idea kind of freaks her out at first. She’s told she has the ability to sprout wings and fly, but she just can’t seem to make it happen. Her reincarnated boyfriend essentially tells her to draw on her anger, but it doesn’t work.
Finally, during the to-part The Flash/Arrow crossover event, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) suggests that she focus on the “priestess” part of “warrior priestess” instead. So she gives it a shot, and it works! Kendra literally takes flight. This is a great moment because it’s her decision to believe in who she truly is – and not to try to be someone else – that allows her to realize the highest expression of her authentic self.
5 Supergirl - Kara/Supergirl opens up to Barry Allen
It has been a pretty awesome year for crossovers. In the much anticipated Supergirl/The Flash crossover, Kara (Melissa Benoist) and Barry (Grant Gustin) bond over donuts and, you know, being superheroes. At one point, Kara is talking to Barry and she opens up about how important it is to her to win back the trust of the public, after her exposure to red kryptonite caused her to flip out and turn into a pretty dark version of herself.
We love this moment because it would have been very easy for Kara to become cynical at this point. After all that she has done up until now to protect her city, for the public not to give her the benefit of the doubt could have been very frustrating, and could have led her to wash her hands of everything. But she remains optimistic, and ultimately does win back their trust by standing up to Livewire (Brit Morgan) and Silver Banshee (Italia Ricci).
4 The Vampire Diaries - Bonnie tells Damon he hurt her
Why is it that the angst of The Vampire Diaries never seems to get old? And Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham) is one of our favorite characters. She always shows up for the people she cares about – she’s like everyone else’s touchstone or anchor. But she’s not afraid to stand up for her own needs, as well. In season seven, episode 15, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) is about to lock himself in a casket and wait for Elena to come back. But just as he’s getting ready to do it, Bonnie, who has become his BFF over the last couple of seasons, finds him and says, “I’m not okay with you choosing yourself. I’m not okay with never seeing you, my best friend, ever again. This hurts me. That’s what I want you to remember. That you hurt me.” And Damon’s reaction is authentic and heartfelt, even if he doesn’t say much.
The friendship between Bonnie and Damon has grown into something beyond their mutual love for Elena, and when Damon violates that friendship by deciding to take an action that means he’ll never see Bonnie again, Bonnie will have none of it, and she tells Damon exactly how she feels.
3 Daredevil - Claire Temple quits her job
One of the reasons we love Daredevil is the multiple awesome female characters. In season two, episode 11, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) proves again how great she is.
Matt brings victims of The Hand to the hospital, and Claire tries to treat them under the radar. Later that night, the hospital is attached. Claire’s superiors try to sweep everything under the rug, afraid of spooking their financial donors. But Claire decides she won’t be a part of a corrupt institution, and she won’t just sit by while the corruption continues. She tells her superiors what she thinks in no uncertain terms, then quits her job. And this is why we love Claire – she’s not afraid to take a risk or make a sacrifice in order to do the right thing.
2 Agent Carter - Peggy infiltrates the Arena Club
Basically all of Agent Carter is super empowering. Peggy Carter is a confident, talented, intelligent woman who repeatedly saves the day, despite the doubts and insults that come from her 1940s male coworkers. In one particularly fun moment, which comes in the season two episode "Better Angels," Peggy (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) infiltrate the Arena Club to uncover some much needed information.
It's an old-school boys club, filled with stuffy society types. Howard brings in a group of women, pretending he wants to shake things up at the Club, and among the women is Peggy, who promptly makes use of gender stereotypes to sneak around and get the info she's after. She pretends to be just a ditzy girl who got lost in the building. It's great to see Peggy throw these stereotypes in faces of the guys at the Club and use them to get what she wants.
1 Jessica Jones - Jessica stays to go after Kilgrave
In the first episode of Jessica Jones, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) finds out that Kilgrave (David Tennant) is back in the picture. He’s the man who took control of her mind, forced her to do things against her will, and essentially raped her repeatedly. Jessica’s first response is to get out of town, and as far away from Kilgrave as possible. But near the episode, Jessica’s client Hope (Erin Moriarty), whose mind is being controlled by Kilgrave, murders her parents.
Jessica decides that she has to stay and stop him. This is an incredibly powerful moment. She has the opportunity to escape to safety, but she decides instead to stay and face her biggest fear.
Can you think of any other empowering moments that should make this list? Let us know in the comments!