Photo by Camila Quintero Franco on Unsplash
Women on TV often are often cast as the damsel-in-distress or brushed aside as a background character that advances the male protagonist's storyline. However, there are a few mad women who rule the screen and make just as big of a splash as their male counterparts. These have been the best written mad women on the small screen since the pandemic took over in 2020:
Love Quinn from “You”
*Spoilers for “You” Seasons 1-3
Love matches Joe’s crazy like no one else in Netflix’s “You.” She kills for love and she does not see anything wrong with her actions — murderous endeavors that mimic her husband Joe’s. She will kill anyone that attracts Joe’s wandering eyes.
As a murderer, mother and small-business owner, Love’s passion shines. She unabashedly owns her part in the death of over four people, her responsibility as a member of a family and is still able to make cupcakes to fill her store front’s pastry case.
Her personality mirror’s her husband’s. She drags the darker parts of him into the light and forces American viewers to come to terms with their romanticization of male serial killers. At every turn in the story, Joe discovers more ways that Love is a “monster” and rejects her the second she breaks out of the idealized expectations he’s created for her. Love is Joe’s equal and counterpart, that’s what makes him crazy and that’s what finally pits the two killers against each other.
Wanda Maximoff from “WandaVision”
*Spoilers for “WandaVision”
Another one of Earth’s mightiest heroes becomes a morally-gray star on the small screen in “WandaVision.” Living out her fantasy with her dead husband Vision, Wanda blocks out every cry for help and every sign that showcases the gravity of what she's done — which was trap an entire town of innocent people.
Wanda works relentlessly to live in her own ignorance. Suburban Vision helps Wanda cope. He represents a world where he survived Thanos and the events in “Avengers: Endgame,” or even a world where they never had to risk their lives at all. The show takes viewers through Wanda’s denial, grief and reluctant acceptance of reality.
“WandaVision” shows Wanda and all of her rage, sadness and vulnerability up-close and personal. As a mother, hero and human being, Wanda is reeling from Vision’s death, and the show gives their female lead the space to work through what that means. “WandaVision” allows Wanda to be a real person with real feelings without simultaneously objectifying her — this is Marvel’s first TV show where Wanda’s costume does not expose parts of her breasts or unnecessarily accentuate more sexual parts of her body. It’s the right step in the direction for the franchise and for Wanda’s character and turns things that would normally be seen as weaknesses into strengths.
Viola Willoughby from “The Haunting of Bly Manor”
*Spoilers for “The Haunting of Bly Manor”
Viola Willoughby will not lose control of what’s hers; she doesn't trust men and she won’t have one take over her estate. To prevent the inevitable, Viola marries her distant cousin after she decides he’ll be easy to manipulate behind closed doors. One problem — after her marriage, she falls ill. Tuberculosis. She dies before she can birth an heir so the estate falls to her husband and their sole daughter. At least that’s what she lets people think.
Even in death Viola has a vice-like grip on her property. She haunts the grounds and anyone who dares lay claim to what she owns. She petrified her sister, runs out family after family and she walks the grounds each night looking to kill anyone who wronged her after her death.
Based on the protagonist of Henry James’ “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” Viola stands for the horrific reality women have to face. Bloodlines are continued by men and no matter how much Viola does — she can never own her own land, she can never pass down her own money to her daughter and she can never work without facing critique.
Fallon Carrington from “Dynasty”
*Spoilers for “Dynasty” Seasons 1-4
Spoiled, brash and gaudy Fallon Carrington has never known a day without her millionaire status. She’s heiress to a billion-dollar company and she will not let anyone forget it. Viewers have a love-hate relationship with the fiery Fallon. Her ambitions clash with her father’s and she never backs down –– whether it’s over a fight in the papers or a good old-fashioned catfight.
Fallon has what most women in media don’t: money and power. And she uses them both to her advantage while making the same cutthroat decisions that are usually left to the men.
Fallon’s femininity plays a major role in the series. She barters with the promise of marriage and children. She undercuts her male family members with charm and flirtation. She also loves a good publicity stunt in the form of a fake relationship or sham marriage for the extra clout.
Netflix's “Dynasty” goes completely off-script from its 1980s forebear. The dimension they add to Fallon’s character and devious behavior earns her a spot as one of the best mad women on the small screen today.
Fiona Gallagher from “Shameless”
*Spoilers for “Shameless” Seasons 1-9
Fiona Gallagher is the glue that holds her family together. Shockingly. She’s a mentally ill, alcoholic, criminal that manages to still be the most responsible out of all of her siblings and both of her parents.
Fiona steals and cheats. She’s not a good person and she never claims to be one. She and her family live below the poverty line in northern Chicago and each of them has their own set of problems that seem insurmountable. But that doesn’t stop Fiona from doing what she thinks is best for her family.
She pushes her siblings to go to school, she helps raise her sister’s baby after a scary teen pregnancy and she even helps her little brother tackle bipolar disorder and navigate his sexuality. Meanwhile, she’s coping with the fallout of a sexual assault, being rejected by job after job and being the sole breadwinner for their household.
Fiona’s story is not a happy one. And it doesn’t end happily. But it’s real and it shows how even in the worst of times people can support one another.