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Not Your Average Heroines: TV’s Top 9 Warrior Women

Not Your Average Heroines: TV’s Top 9 Warrior Women

With The Hunger Games a box office hit and the highly anticipated second season of Game of Thrones only a week away, it’s a good time to be a fan of powerful female characters. There are plenty of strong women on television (though, it feels important to add, still far fewer than strong men), and a list of female badasses on television would be surprisingly long. But who are the true women warriors of television, the survivors and soldiers? Who can you imagine hefting a sword or shouldering a crossbow, going into battle, and coming out the other side? For your consideration:

**Author’s note: I wanted this to be a top 10, but couldn’t come up with a 10th that I felt equated to the others. Get on this, TV writers!

Runners Up: Sydney Bristow (Alias), Susan Ivanova (B5), Victoria Barkley (The Big Valley), Echo (Dollhouse), Turanga Leela (Futurama), Pepper Anderson (Police Woman). These tough, badass women didn’t quite fit the category, being either too removed from combat or not exemplifying the warrior personality/mindset. Also, women from Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Nikita, Sons of Anarchy, and Wonder Woman may belong on this list, but they weren’t eligible, as the author hasn’t caught up with these series yet.

9. Danaerys Targaryen: Game of Thrones is filled with powerful, deadly women, but none match the determination and will of Danaerys. Transformed from a powerless pawn in her brother’s power play to a bold Dothraki Khaleesi (Queen), she embraces the customs of her adopted people and rebuilds herself over and over again, becoming stronger each time. She does little fighting herself (keep an eye out for Brienne of Tarth in season two for a more traditional warrior), but when she enters the fray, her foes rarely live to regret it.

Preferred weapon: Dragons

8. Aeryn Sun: Bred into service as a Peacekeeper officer (Farscape’s SpaceMilitary), Aeryn was trained from childhood to be a strong, capable soldier and pilot. After being branded as irreversibly contaminated, she was forced to become a fugitive. Though her time aboard Moya softens her from the sharp instrument she began as, it also makes her stronger, more flexible, more creative, and more determined. The autonomy and purpose she found in her post-Peacekeeper existence changed Aeryn from a mindless killer to a fierce warrior.

Preferred weapon: Pulse pistol or rifle

7. Buffy Summers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer had more than its fair share of warrior women. We met at least six Slayers over the course of the series, each of whom was incredibly fierce, not to mention a certain Dark Phoenix/White Goddess who’s worth a mention. Buffy may start out a bit quippier than, say, Kendra, but by season 7 she’s a hardened warrior leading troops into battle, armed only with her wits, strength, and badass scythe.

Preferred weapon: Stake and hand-to-hand combat

6. Kira Nerys: Star Trek may be known for its groundbreaking representation of racial equality, but it’s not until Deep Space Nine that we get a main female character in a leadership role. Major Kira is a badass- a freedom fighter (or terrorist, depending who you ask) from the age of 12, she spent her life fighting against the Cardassian occupation of her homeworld until they withdrew not long before the start of the series. She’s an officer in the Bajoran Militia, Sisko’s number two on the station, highly intelligent and competent, and unceasingly loyal.

Preferred weapon: Phaser

5. Zoë Washburne: Firefly’s clan of brigands have more than their fair share of fighters, but the most deadly, the toughest, and the most unflinching of the lot is Zoë. A hardened veteran, she is a survivor, able to push on when those around her crumble; she doesn’t question her mission or pause to consider moral implications, once she’s committed to a course of action. Zoe acts decisively whenever those she loves are in danger and, perhaps more than anything, she persists, moving forward with unflinching nerve in the face of unwinnable odds.

Preferred weapon: Mare’s Leg (custom Winchester 1892 rifle)

4. Ziva David: Not all of TV’s warrior women are on genre series. Introduced on NCIS as an agent of Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency) and a veteran of the Israeli army, Ziva is currently an agent for NCIS. Highly trained and skilled in both hand-to-hand combat and firearms, Ziva is a deadly opponent (who claims to have killed a man with a credit card). She remains cold, calm, and methodical when in combat and is utterly committed to her friends and her job, going so far as to kill her half-brother Ari when he tried to kill series lead Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Preferred weapon: Sig Sauer M11(P228) (standard issue NCIS handgun)

3. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace: One of the most controversial moves the Battlestar Galactica remake made was making fan-favorite character Starbuck a woman. In doing so, they created one of the strongest, most flawed, and most interesting women in television history. More than the cocky fighter jock the character originated as, this Starbuck is a tough survivor of an apocalypse and an occupation, has taken on and defeated Cylons in hand-to-hand combat, and won countless battles as a pilot, soldier, and strategist.

Preferred weapon: Viper. During the occupation, flatware.

2. Leela: Doctor Who has had plenty of interesting, fun female leads, but none have managed to top the ferocity of Leela of the Sevateem (though both Amy Pond and River Song have come close). Unlike some of her more screamy successors, she wore animal skins, carried a knife, and responded to threats with swift, often brutal action. Her initial response to conflict was to try to kill it, no matter what “it” was. Tagging along with the Doctor may have tempered her a bit, and we won’t even discuss her unfortunate exit, but throughout her run, Leela remained one of the strongest and most capable Companions to travel in the TARDIS.

Preferred weapon: Knife, Janis thorns.

1. Xena and Gabrielle: It’s right there in the title- Xena: Warrior Princess. Campy, at times silly, at times dramatic, and a lot of fun, Xena broke ground in TV, offering up strong, intelligent, self-reliant protagonists who got into trouble and fought (and occasionally talked) their way out of it. Yes, Xena’s a badass, a warrior trained by the Gods, but Gabrielle’s journey from meek tagalong to empowered fighter (and Xena’s equal) is just as interesting, if not more so.

Preferred weapon: Sword, chakram (Xena), Staff, later sword and daggers (Gabrielle)

Who’s your favorite TV warrior woman? Who did I forget? Who do you think would come out on top of a TV heroine Hunger Games? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick