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10 Best Mike Flanagan TV Characters—And What Makes Them Great

theo being freaked out in The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

You’ve heard it a thousand times by now, but the fact the remains that Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) is a visionary. He’s rarely missed with his horror projects, and that includes both film and television.

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Naturally, we have our own personal favorites as fans, so that contributes to what we consider to be the best of his work, but his horror series have all been good—with some being more enjoyable than others. His characters are similar in that regard, and that’s just the mark of a good writer. Not every character in a series needs to be likable; they just need to contribute something to the story. For example: almost everyone in Midnight Mass. Sorry not sorry.

All of these characters vary in personality and identity. They don’t all fall into the badass category or the soft bean category. Each actor brings their own flair, and that’s what I really appreciate. Also, I’m only including some unlikable characters on this list.

Theo Crain

theo being freaked out in The Haunting of Hill House

Show: The Haunting of Hill House

Actor: Kate Siegel

Theo has middle child syndrome and doesn’t hide her flaws throughout the The Haunting of Hill House. Obviously, she was impacted by what happened at Hill House, but given her stoic and dismissive behavior, she was able to create a life that was loosely separated from the trauma. What makes Theo one of the best characters, aside from being queer (I must mention that scream queen Kate Siegel is bisexual), is how expressive she is. Her ability that involves touch does contribute to that, though she’s very vocal when something excites or bothers her. She’s a standout compared to her older siblings, if I’m being honest.

Nell Crain

nell outside of the red room in The Haunting of Hill House

Show: The Haunting of Hill House

Actor: Victoria Pedretti

The sweet younger sibling may seem like a boring trope, but it’s certainly not in the case of Nell, as one half of the youngest of the Crain siblings. Maybe it’s Victoria Pedretti’s top-notch acting or it’s a combination of her acting and Flanagan’s writing for her. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because she adds so much to the story (even after death). The reason I’m including her on this list is due to her memorable nature. Her scenes, while alive and as a ghost, are out of this world, and she’s one of those characters you’d want as a sibling. Nell has a sweetness and will metaphorically bite if it’s necessary to (such as when it’s about protecting her loved ones).

Honorable mentions for The Haunting of Hill House: Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) and Luke Crain (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

Dani Clayton

dani in The Haunting of Bly Manor

Show: The Haunting of Bly Manor

Actor: Victoria Pedretti

With Dani, it does take a bit of time to find her interesting, at least compared to other characters. She finally comes together once she forms relationships, and then her heart really shows. The kind of tenderness that she exudes is necessary as the series moves on. Victoria Pedretti obviously adds a lot to her character because, duh, it’s Victoria Pedretti. But it is a testament to the writing that her coming out happens so naturally. She just falls for Jamie (Amelia Eve), puts the ghost of her deceased fiancé to rest, and the rest is very soft lesbian history. The reason I’m putting her on the list is because the show sort of falls apart without her. She’s a necessary anchor for most of the characters and is a tragic hero in the end.

Jamie Taylor

jamie in The Haunting of Bly Manor

Show: The Haunting of Bly Manor

Actor: Amelia Eve

It’s hard not to love a character like Jamie. She’s the snarky lesbian gardener who changes Dani’s life forever, and her own in the process. And despite her dysfunctional history, she was able to build a life for herself. Her no-nonsense nature and dislike of bullshit also contributes to why she’s such a notable character. It makes certain she’s not pushed around when she’s forced to deal with unsavory characters (such as Peter Quint, for instance). There’s not a lot to say about her that wouldn’t steer into repetitive territory. She’s just an all-around splendid character and is one of the characters that immediately comes to mind for this series.

Hannah Grose

hannah smiling in The Haunting of Bly Manor

Show: The Haunting of Bly Manor

Actor: T’Nia Miller

There’s a refreshing nature to Hannah’s character. She’s not depicted as some stereotypically sassy Black woman. Unfortunately, she is a victim in this series (which can be perceived as a problem), and it’s a shame, too. Hannah didn’t put up with anyone’s shit, certainly not Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). That’s a huge part of why she’s on this list in the first place. She risks so much being outspoken and stern in what she feels, and yet she continues to do so, never losing anyone in the process.

Owen Sharma

owen in The Haunting of Bly Manor

Show: The Haunting of Bly Manor

Actor: Rahul Kohli

Literally the best man on the damn show. Owen is proof that male characters don’t always have to be complete garbage. They can be written as soft, funny, and caring individuals that aren’t looking to directly harm or abuse others, which is exactly the case for Owen in this series. Even though his food puns can be corny, he’s a really endearing character that’s a light in the dreadful moments, which is why I added him to this list in the first place. It certainly is nice that 2/3 of the characters of color are wonderful in the show.

Riley Flynn

riley flynn in Midnight Mass

Show: Midnight Mass

Actor: Zach Gilford

I’m going to be honest: Midnight Mass is a lot of preaching and a lot of religious people, most of whom aren’t all that likable at the end of the day, though Riley stands out as the recovering alcoholic who no longer considers himself religious. Returning home was seemingly the only choice for him after being in prison for years. All of his imperfections, and complexity by way of those imperfections, make him interesting, and it also helps that Zach Gilford plays him like he’s unimpressed with everything. He also doesn’t buy into the bullshit and sees right through what’s happening on the island—meaning he doesn’t accept it when he’s turned and chooses to die. His death makes for such a turn of events, and his character still manages to linger on from there.

Bev Keane

bev keane in Midnight Mass

Show: Midnight Mass

Actor: Samantha Sloyan

I told you that I’d include unlikable characters, and holy shit, Bev Keane has got to be one of the most unlikable characters in horror TV history. She’s played so brilliantly that not putting her on the list would be silly. Wouldn’t it? While she may not be the best by typical standards, she’s incredibly well written. Her character is even more of an antagonist than the damn vampire, which is brilliant because her being turned doesn’t fully change who she is. The turning just gives her more power and delusions about who she really is. Being so unlikable and realistic contributed to her landing on the list.

Honorable mentions for Midnight Mass: Erin Greene (Kate Siegel), Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli), and Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish).


anya in The Midnight Club

Show: The Midnight Club

Actor: Ruth Codd

To say she’s one of the breakout characters from The Midnight Club would be an understatement. Anya comes across almost heartless, but it’s all fear-based. She’s struggling with her terminal illness and how her young life will be cut short because of it. There’s a lot of layers to her, and they are peeled away as each episode goes on. Then it becomes clear why the characters around Anya love her: She’ll fight for her chosen family and do her best for them.

Ruth Codd’s performance is something special, too, and incredibly impressive as it’s her first acting role. Her character has so much heart as a result, and she’s also a disabled actor playing a disabled character, which is the type of representation that’s sorely needed in TV and film. Horror hasn’t had a lot of authentic representation in that regard.


spencer in The Midnight Club

Show: The Midnight Club

Actor: Chris Sumpter

As someone who hasn’t read the book, I can’t speak on whether or not Spencer is even Black or gay in the book, but if not, then the decision to explore the experience of a Black gay teen with AIDS was a bold choice for the adaptation. The stigma surrounding AIDS is still strong. Though, Spencer’s chosen family, living in the ’90s, being supportive, loving, and not horrible towards him is touching—unlike his estranged religious mother, who doesn’t even come visit him until late in the season. Everything about his character lands him on this list. He’s got confidence and also visible insecurities and worries, with Chris Sumpter hammering all of this home in his performance.

Note: Practically every character in The Midnight Club falls into this list, but listing them all is a lot. So just quietly include the rest of the main cast in here.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.

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