Arriving fashionably late to the party is the speciality of these female TV characters. They’re not the Cousin Olivers or the Scrappy Doos of the television world, but the regulars and recurring roles who enter a show once it’s established and help it on its way to greatness. Their respective shows may not have known they needed them right at the start, but they soon proved themselves indispensable and much-loved parts of their TV universes.
From Paige Matthews to Winifred Burkle, Ro Laren and more then, let’s celebrate the women whose appearance in our favourite shows were better late than never…
Kitty Winter – Elementary
When she arrived: season three episode one, “Enough Nemesis To Go Around.”
Now that the initial overcrowding issue has settled down and Elementary has worked out how to move Sherlock, Watson and Kitty’s playing pieces around the board without them colliding, Kitty Winter has grown on us immeasurably. Actor Ophelia Lovibond is the chief reason for that. Her performance as the traumatised yet resourceful young woman is top notch – anyone that can draw focus from the infinitely charismatic Jonny Lee Miller on screen is doing something right. No, Kitty hasn’t yet reached her potential as Sherlock’s protégée, but season three isn’t over yet, and this newcomer has potential in spades.
Erin Hannon – The Office
When she arrived: season five episode twenty-three, “Michael Scott Paper Company.”
Like a lot of those on this list, Ellie Kemper’s perky receptionist Erin was only supposed to appear in a few episodes of The Office, but made such a positive impact that they hung on to her until the end. Naïve and optimistic Erin arrived as Pam’s replacement after Michael Scott’s splinter paper company arc took the pair out of Dunder Mifflin. Sweet and enthusiastic, Kemper’s character was the perfect accompaniment to Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard, and after Steve Carrell left, was one of the show’s highlights.
(Incidentally for Kemper fans, she’s the lead in Tina Fey’s new Netflix sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)
Charlie Bradbury – Supernatural
When she arrived: season seven episode two, “The Girl With The Dungeons & Dragons Tattoo.”
Last seen following the yellow brick road into Oz, Supernatural’s Charlie may only have appeared in a handful of episodes, but actor Felicia Day quickly established her as a fan-favourite. Super-smart, super-political and super-geeky with a tragic backstory, Charlie (not her real name) became the Winchesters’ right-hand-woman for computer hacking and got a taste for the life of a hunter. Rumour has it that techie Charlie will be back from Oz in season ten, and we can’t wait.
Rebecca Howe – Cheers
When she arrived: season six episode one, “Home Is The Sailor.”
Losing a central cast member often sounds the death knell for a TV show, but not Cheers. When Shelley Long’s Diane bid Sam adieu at the end of season five, she was replaced in the season six opener with gold-digging yuppie Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) and the show never looked back. The Diane-to-Rebecca transition was perhaps the smoothest of any cast change in the history of sitcom, perhaps because Rebecca was an entirely different animal to Diane. An ’80s power-dresser who treasured her Mercedes, the newcomer was nothing like Diane’s pretentious, fussy academic dilettante (though like everyone in Cheers, they were both loveable losers).
Olivia Dunham (Red Universe) – Fringe
When she arrived: season two episode twenty-one, “Over There Part I.”
Technically, Olivia Dunham isn’t a late arrival to Fringe, but her alternate universe twin certainly is. Distinguishable from Anna Torv’s original character by her hair colour and habit of shooting people (and shape-shifters) as soon as look at them, Fauxlivia replacing Olivia in season three shone new light on our overachieving loner, especially when the two doppelgangers were forced to unite in season four.
Jody Mills – Supernatural
When she arrived: season five episode fifteen, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”
Kickass Sheriff Mills is another of Supernatural’s welcome female latecomers (Linda Tran being another potential entry on this list). Resourceful, brave and the owner of yet another tragic past, Jody’s appearances on the show are always a pleasure and never a chore.
Faith Lehane – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
When she arrived: season three episode 3 “Faith, Hope & Trick.”
Eliza Dushku’s Faith arrived in season three as the bad yin to Buffy’s good girl yang. The product of a troubled start in life, Faith took a power-crazed, reckless and largely conscience-free approach to her mystical inheritance, getting her kicks and killing whomever got in her way. But deep down, she was really just a girl, standing in front of a giant mayor snake, asking him to love her.
It was that duality that made self-hating Faith a complex enough character to stick around in Buffy returning as a villain for season four’s excellent two-parter “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You?” and – after a redemptive stint on Angel – coming back to fight The First in Buffy’s final run (and teaming up with Giles to deal with bad guys in the season eight comics). The original rogue slayer? We wouldn’t be without her.
Amy Farrah Fowler – The Big Bang Theory
When she arrived: season three episode twenty-three, “The Lunar Excitation.”
Watching pre-Amy and Bernadette episodes of The Big Bang Theory now can be an uncomfortable experience. Penny’s tokenism, objectification and tight tank top-wardrobe is dialled right up, while the boys’ behaviour – especially Howard’s – verges on the plain nasty (using a robot to get upskirt photos of your neighbour? Totally not cool). Since Amy entered though, the show has markedly improved on that count.
Despite starting life as a Lilith Sternin clone/female Sheldon, Mayim Bialik’s Amy has developed into a layered character in her own right. She’s funny, she makes a great double act with Jim Parsons, and she generally makes every episode better.
Ro Laren – Star Trek: The Next Generation
When she arrived: season five episode three, “Ensign Ro.”
Only appearing in a handful of TNG episodes, hot-headed Ro Laren made such an impression on the show that there were once plans for her to play a central role in Deep Space Nine before Michelle Forbes turned down the part. Like a number of others on this list, Laren joined the crew with a chip on her shoulder (well, watching your father be tortured to death by Cardassians and making a mistake that leads to the death of several previous crewmates will do that to a Bajoran) but eventually let her guard down and made friendships on board the Enterprise. Hostilities between her and Riker cooled to the extent that the two bumped uglies, before she blew it by betraying Starfleet and running off with that rebel group. Well, a Bajoran’s got to do what a Bajoran’s got to do.
Theresa Rubel – Grimm
When she arrived: season three episode nineteen, “Nobody Knows The Trubel I’ve Seen.”
A youngster with a difficult past who hasn’t had the smoothest transition into her superpowers, Grimm’s Trubel is cut from the same cloth as Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Faith. She arrived in Portland as a career criminal with a whole trunk-load of emotional baggage after running away after witnessing a Siegbarste murder her foster parents. Finding fellow Grimm Nick helped Trubel to understand her mystical legacy, and meeting Rosalee and Monroe introduced her to the novel idea that not all Wesen want to murder you on sight. Her introduction rejuvenated Grimm and pushed the mythology of the Wesen hunters in a new direction. We’d like this slayer Grimm to stick around.
Lilith Sternin – Cheers
When she arrived: season four episode seventeen, “Second Time Around.”
Bebe Neuwirth’s Cheers Spock-like performance as the original Amy Farrah Fowler – Dr Lilith Sternin – was so popular that the character quickly climbed up the ranks to become a cast regularThe paramour of Dr Frasier Crane, Lilith’s starched appearance and unflappable demeanour was the punchline to countless great gags on Cheers, especially when she momentarily broke free from it (declaring her pregnant self “a moist, nourishing acre of loam from which shall spring the future of the human race” in “The Cranemakers”is a top-ten moment).
We love Lilith and Frasier so much as a couple that the artificial divorce they wrote in for the pair to facilitate Kelsey Grammer’s Seattle-based spin-off Frasier still hurts. At least the character was brought back to Seattle from time to time.
Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
When she arrived: season three episode nine, “The Wish.”
Vengeance demon Anyanka arrived in Sunnydale as a season three monster-of-the-week but just kept on coming back. Eventually, a power-less Anya became one of the Scoobies and almost married Xander Harris before meeting an heroic end in the season seven finale. Emma Caulfield proved herself a great comic performer over her time in Buffy, with Anya’s winning combination of demonic experience and naiveté about the human world. Like Tara and Faith, she may have arrived late to the party, but we couldn’t imagine Buffy without her.
Number Three/D’Anna Biers – Battlestar Galactica
When she arrived: season two episode eight, “Final Cut.”
In her short time on Battlestar Galactica, Number Three achieved a great deal. On a spiritual quest, she killed herself and was resurrected more times than Starbucks was sent to the brig, she discovered the identities of the Final Five, led the rebel Cylons, AND got it on with both Baltar and Caprica Six. That’s a busy schedule by anyone’s standards. Why does she make it so far up this list? She’s played by Lucy Lawless. What other evidence for awesomeness do you need?
Winifred Burkle – Angel
When she arrived: season two episode nineteen, “Belonging.”
From her first mud and blood-stained appearance in that Pylean cave to her heart-breaking “Wesley, why can’t I stay?” exit, Fred brought so much to Angel. Brains, beauty, unexpected resolve, a Texan accent, and later, an ancient Goddess all came in the form of Winifred Burkle, a key part of the Hyperion Hotel and Wolfram & Hart team. As Wesley said, she was cleverer than the rest of them put together, often funnier, and broke our hearts with not one, but two Angel Investigations romances. We’re forever grateful that the handsome man saved her from the monsters.
Paige Matthews– Charmed
When she arrived: season four episode one, “Charmed Again Part I.”
The half-sister nobody knew about turning up out of the blue may seem like a hokey way to introduce a new lead, but Paige’s arrival on Charmed turned out to be a blessing for the show (not least because newcomer Rose McGowan didn’t come with all the baggage of the departing Shannen Doherty). As the last sister to come into her magical legacy, Paige enabled Charmed to rewind to the good old days as she learned about her considerable abilities (with a Whitelighter for a dad, this witch was double bubble). Everybody’s favourite magical social worker, Paige Matthews, we salute you.
Seven Of Nine– Star Trek: Voyager
When she arrived: season four episode one, “Scorpion Part II.”
Jeri Ryan’s arrival on Voyager coincided with a ratings boost that helped to secure the show’s next few seasons. Integrating a former Borg drone to the ship shook up the happy Voyager family by introducing both a foil for Janeaway and the crucial non-human Spock/Data perspective the crew had been lacking. (It also didn’t hurt viewing figures that Ryan’s spray-on cat suit and heels made for an arresting visual addition to the crew, much as we’d like to credit the writing for the uptick in numbers). Over the next three seasons, Seven Of Nine became indissociable from Voyager, winning her the position of our best-loved female TV latecomer.