20 Best TV Characters of 2016

From bat-wielding bad guys to hipster-stoner sidekicks, these were the small-screen heroes and villains that made our year

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Cornell
20
Netflix4/20

Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, 'Luke Cage'

Mahershala Ali is having quite the year. Not only has his turn in the indie drama Moonlight earned him serious awards-season heat, his parallel gig as a street-level supervillain in this Marvel/Netflix series showcased his more cutthroat side (literally). Like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil before him, Luke Cage's Cottonmouth combines winner-take-all crimelord ruthlessness with a taste for high culture (in his case, the art and music of Harlem) and a genuine, if twisted, sense of love and loyalty. For the bulk of the season, this dapper, hip-hop–loving mobster – dig the Biggie portrait! – was not so much Cage's antagonist as his co-leading man. Thanks to Ali, we got a bad guy every bit as complex and engaging as the hero himself. STC

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