The industry has no shortage of male characters, and no best of 2022 list would be complete without some sort of collection of men who kicked ass. With that being said, being a kick-ass sort of guy doesn’t always have to mean the literal, violent sense. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to take a deeper look. The characters on this list made it not because they were taking action with their fists, or doing any other stereotypical “tough” stuff, but because they did something that fit more with the “ok but that’s cool” meaning of the phrase.
They’ve overcome incredible obstacles, or they’ve done the right thing at a great personal cost. They’re the type to do big things, even when those things are unfathomably difficult. In short, anyone who made this end of year list has done something remarkable and/or something that makes them worth looking up to, in one way or another. Either that, or they’re occasionally the anti-heroes we deserve. In a lot of cases, since the best characters are always the most complex, it’s some delightful combination of the above. So, here we go. In no particular order…some of 2022’s most kickass men.
1. Louis de Pointe du Lac, Interview with the Vampire
Honestly, every single leading male character on Interview with the Vampire deserves honors here. Lestat, for being everyone’s favorite Brat Prince. Daniel, for taking no shit and asking all the tough questions — even when he was but a mortal man, interviewing someone who could set him on fire with a look. Then, there’s Armand…which, don’t get me started on that “I told you so” all over again.
But Interview is Louis’ story, just as much as the rest of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles belong to Lestat, which means if we have to pick just one
vampire man who kicked ass in this series in 2022, it’s him. Without him, there is no story. Without Louis’ agonizing quest for meaning in an immortal life for which there is none, nobody gets to meet any of these characters. He is, after all, the one who started it all. (Sorry not sorry to Lestat.)
There’s always been something special about Louis, but this series’ and Jacob Anderson’s take on the character gave him new (after)life. And yeah, while Louis’ inner conflict has always been the main draw to this character for us, we’re still eternally impressed by the way he ripped Mr. Fenwick’s racist ass apart and hung him from that fence with the “COLOREDS ONLY” sign. For one thing, if you’re going to do horror, you’d better do it — this series did! — and for another, it’s such a brilliant moment, characterization-wise. Such violence is simultaneously so out of character for our Louis and exactly what you’d expect from all that built-up rage from always having to follow society’s meaningless rules.
2. Lieutenant Colonel Lee Jung-Gil, For All Mankind
While NASA and Helios were busy battling it out to be the first on Mars, with a little competition from their Russian frenemies, they had no idea they’d already lost. Viewers didn’t know until For All Mankind season 3’s penultimate episode dropped the big “what…the…hell” in our laps either. As it turned out, the Lieutenant had crash landed on Mars months prior to Danielle Poole’s “first ass kicking on Mars” moment and was the sole survivor of that crash. He spent months, stranded in the complete wasteland of space, living off canned goods and a hope to see the woman he loved again. If that doesn’t qualify someone to be on everyone’s list of men who kicked ass in 2022, we don’t know what would.
3. Detective Elliot Stabler, Law & Order: Organized Crime
Do we sometimes want to strangle this man? Yes. Absolutely. But is he still easily one of the men who kicked ass in 2022? Again…yes. Absolutely. We are not, however, including Organized Crime‘s biggest troublemaker in this list because of all his action-hero antics. Are they fun to watch? Sure. Do we care? Eh, not really.
This year saw Detective Stabler going undercover with the Brotherhood and rooting out corruption in the NYPD. That’s part of what puts him on this list, considering he did it at great cost to his own (somewhat misguided, in this case) personal code of loyalty. Even so, it’s El’s battles with his memories of his father, and all the personal demons surrounding those memories, that really showed a personal strength well beyond anything his fists could ever display. Now, here’s hoping he kicks ass in 2023 for another reason entirely. Say, perhaps, overcoming his headassery with respect to his relationship with a certain Captain?
4. Gomez Addams, Wednesday
Gomez Addams is everything we could ever want in a human being, period. He loves his kids and fosters their interests, however weird they may be, and he is just refreshingly open with his emotions. Sure, if you’re Wednesday or Pugsley, you’re probably a little bit embarrassed by how much your dad is just…out there with the feelings, especially as it relates to his pretty much constant outpouring of affection for Morticia. But let’s be real here: In a broken society that forces men to bottle up their emotions and “tough it out,” we could all use about a billion times more of Gomez’s energy. There’s also the not-insignificant issue of Gomez willingly taking the fall for a murder he very much didn’t commit in order to protect the woman he loved. (Who, incidentally…also didn’t commit murder.)
5. Father David Acosta, Evil
Admittedly, we weren’t entirely fair to Father David Acosta when Evil‘s third season initially kicked off. Quite often, his work with the Entity seemed like it was nothing more than a way to keep him running around in circles, doing meaningless tasks, and hiding things from Ben and Kristen. Well, we were wrong. In hindsight, David was simply a man acting on unwavering faith — which often doesn’t make sense to outsiders — but it all paid off, as he always believed it would. Most notably, it’s very likely that David’s acts of faith saved Grace Ling’s life.
But wait! There’s more! For a while there, David might have given into temptation with his Kristen lookalike mosquito demon…thing. He is, after all, only human. By the end of the season, though, he summoned some sort of superhuman resolve — again, almost surely provided by his unwavering faith. That’s kind of the theme here with this character — and found a way to resist her. It is, of course, a credit to pretty much every element of the series that our farewell to the demon really just…hurt. This end of year list isn’t about that specifically, though. David turning down Demon!Kristen’s advances is the result, not the proof, of the inner strength that makes him one of our men who kicked ass this year.
6. Dimitri Belikov, Vampire Academy
In the Vampire Academy books, Dimitri Belikov is, quite often, described as a god among the Guardians. Season 1 of the Peacock series delivered on all the action you’d expect from that description — and then some. So, we could actually just go with that god-like strength and poetry in motion whenever Dimitri was met with a physical threat, say, “yeah, that’s why he’s on this particular end of year list,” and be done with it. That would, however, over-simplify the point.
In reality, Dimitri kicked ass in a lot of internal struggles this year, too. Even just in a quick first-season introduction to the character, it was both easy and obvious to see his undying devotion to both his duty as a Guardian and to the woman he loved, quite against society’s rules and expectations. Often, those two “sides” battled against one another, which led to some truly compelling (and, quite frankly, angsty) onscreen developments. So, yeah. Between all of that, the actual ass-kicking, and just…he’s pretty, ok? Dimitri belongs on the list. Easily.
7. Uncle Bertie, A League of Their Own
Some of what makes Uncle Bertie kick ass…shouldn’t even be a thing. It should not be remarkable to be who you are, to unapologetically just exist in the world. But as a trans, Black man in America — in the 1940s, at that — it took an incredible amount of strength and courage to just be. To ignore that would be to ignore not only this character’s lived experience but also the reality of even today’s world, which is still a hateful, dangerous disaster of a place for far too many people. Uncle Bertie’s is the type of strength that, even if you are privileged enough to never have to find it, one must still be able to say, “I see you.” We saw Bertie.
Even when recognizing the realities of this world, A League of Their Own took an overall hopeful approach with its characters. We would like to do the same here. Therefore, yes, Bertie’s mere existence kicks ass. We’ve acknowledged that; now, it’s time to talk about the positive impact he had on Max and how much that made him one of this year’s men who kicked ass. Bertie was there for Max when she was trying to figure out her own identity, and he supported her dream of playing baseball when her own mother just didn’t get it. Without Bertie’s “house party…filled with defiant Black queer joy in a challenging and dangerous era for LGBTQ folks,” Max may never have met Esther, may never have gotten her big shot at that dream, and quite possibly might have failed to find her place.
Loving, comforting, and fostering that next generation is, perhaps, the most badass thing possible. Uncle Bertie did that.
8. Ben Kenobi, Obi-Wan Kenobi
Speaking of taking care of the next generation: Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the process of rescuing a kidnapped Leia Organa, he found some missing pieces of himself along the way, too. There aren’t a lot of words left to be said about how beautiful this journey was, between all that’s already been written by our Lizzie and by our friend Gissane at Marvelous Geeks. Suffice it to say, though, that for all Obi-Wan’s absolutely stunning action sequences, this guy kicked the most ass when he was just showing us his very human heart. (Though, it’s not exactly like those sick Jedi moves didn’t rank.)
9. Arondir, Rings of Power
Arondir from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an elf of action who found a family in Bronwyn and Theo. Because of that, he fought tooth and nail to get back to them, protect them, and fight side by side with them. He knows his capabilities, trusts in himself, and knows when to hold back when things are too dangerous. That control of himself and acknowledgment of who he is, speaks volumes to the deep understanding of the self. That makes him a badass already. Tie in his archery skills, war planning skills, and sword fighting skills, and he’s an unstoppable force.
10. David Rossi, Criminal Minds: Evolution
With Criminal Minds: Evolution having returned so close to the end of the year, the various elements of the series might not have made it onto nearly as many best of 2022 lists as deserved. We’re not going to make the mistake of leaving our former (ish?) BAU Chief out, though. For all the monsters Rossi has fought and defeated, it’s his battle against his own grief that has been his toughest of all. The man we saw in the season premiere was barely a shell of the one we’d known and loved for so long, but even in that state, he was able to comfort a victim and prevent her from making a terrible choice.
Throughout the just five episodes aired so far, Rossi has come an incredibly long way. With his team by his side and a completely different brand of UnSub to hunt down right now, he’s slowly but surely made some incredible progress. 2022, for him, has been all about fighting that urge to just stay in a hotel bed all day, to stay far from a home that doesn’t feel like home anymore, and battling that urge to just give up. So far, he’s managed to gain the upper hand in that internal war. Here’s hoping Rossi continues to kick his grief’s ass in 2023. (And, uh…considering where the series left us, let’s just all pray to the TV gods that he doesn’t have to add any new layers of grief on top of it. Yikes.)
11. Marty Deeks, NCIS: Los Angeles
Martin “Marty” Deeks has always been more than he appears to be. In fact, NCIS: Los Angeles has taken this character from a goofy loner who uses humor as a deflection technique to …loyal friend, father and husband who uses humor as a way to help others cope with difficult circumstances. It’s a subtle, but important change and one that makes him one of those characters that works with anyone in the ensemble cast.
But the best thing about Deeks is that he has never remained static. He has continued to grow, professionally and personally. And as he embarks on what might be his hardest battle yet — parenting a teenage girl, he won’t be alone. He’ll have his wife Kensi, and a team that is now basically his family. And he’ll make mistakes, for sure. But it won’t be because he’s not trying, if anything, it’ll be because he’s trying too hard. And afterward, he’ll pick himself up, learn a lesson and do better. That’s who Deeks is.
12. Kelly Severide, Chicago Fire
We could write odes to how far Kelly Severide has come on Chicago Fire. If you look up character growth in the dictionary, there might be a picture of Kelly Severide in there. But we’re not just celebrating him from who he used to be, but for the man he has consistently become this year. A husband, a partner, someone who communicates, and who looks out for the people in Firehouse 51, yes, but also who never forgets who his priority is: his wife Stella.
He’s shed his tough guy image, too. Kelly Severide is not interested in seeming as anything other than a man who loves his wife to distraction. There’s no posturing or keeping his distance so people don’t think less of him. No, Kelly Severide understands love isn’t a weakness, but a strength, and he is absolutely in for showing that.