Nancy Reagan once said a woman is like a tea bag — that you can never tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
When it comes to ladies on this list, we say bring it on.
Premiering Aug. 28 on Investigation Discovery, “Surviving Evil” tells the real-life stories of victims who fought back against their attackers and survived against all odds. Hosted by Charisma Carpenter (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), herself the victim of a brutal attack, “Surviving Evil” features inspiring stories told by the survivors in their own words.
And because we can never have enough female empowerment on television — fictional or otherwise — we’re taking a look at some of the most complex, well-written, and formidable femmes on the tube.
Without further ado, here are — in no particular order — our favorite women warriors kicking ass on television.
Did your contender make our cut? Sound off on your own favorites in the comments below, and be sure to tune into “Surviving Evil” Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.
Daenerys Targaryen, ‘Game of Thrones’
<em>"I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyeria. I am the dragon's daughter, and I swear to you that those who would harm you will die screaming." </em>
Carrie Mathison, ‘Homeland’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: To prepare for her role, Claire Danes met with CIA officers, watched videos made by bipolar disorder patients and consulted with renowned author Julie Fast, who also suffers from the disorder. Furthermore, her character’s condition was not specified during the series’ initial episodes, but Danes (who considered a psychology major at Yale) had decided that Carrie was Bipolar 1.
Michonne, ‘The Walking Dead’
Armed with a katana and two jawless pet zombies, the silent-but-deadly Michonne began as a comic fan-favorite and has since become a pop culture staple since making her grand debut slicing up walkers on the second season finale of AMC’s hit series. She’s also been named No. 86 on IGN’s “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes.”
Sydney Bristow, ‘Alias’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Creator J.J. Abrams claims to have come up with the idea for the show from a half-joking story for his series <em>Felicity</em>, considering an episode where Felicity spends her summer as a government agent only to return to school the next fall as if nothing ever happened.
River Tam, ‘Firefly’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Actress Summer Glau was a classically trained ballerina before channeling her grace into her character’s own elegant fight choreography as the unassumingly deadly River Tam.
<em><strong>Gary</strong>: “Nikita, baby, that was 10 years ago.” <strong>Nikita</strong>: “It was 11; I'm 27 now. And if you call me baby again, I'll break something else.”</em>
Brenda Leigh Johnson, ‘The Closer’
<em>“I`d like to start with you, Ms. Powell. I`d like to say how sorry I am that I was unable to ignore your general level of incompetence in the wrongly obtained conviction in the case of Bill Croelick. And I`m sorry if you felt hurt and defensive about putting a man on death row for the wrong crime and I certainly hope that that will never ever happen again. Agent Jackson, I, I deeply regret that the FBI handed over two million dollars to a man on a terrorist watch list without the capacity to trace it, or managed to follow him for months without knowing his wife was having an affair with the doctor. And I hope you do much better in the future. Captain Taylor, I suppose I should apologize to you for not having been born in Los Angeles, but, having seen your work up close now for several months, I can honestly say that, try as I might, I can`t think of *any* fair and reasonable system on Earth where I wouldn`t outrank you. There, I hope that clears everything up. Well, excuse me, I mean, uh, I have to go. Thank you very much, Thank you.” </em>
Lt. Starbuck, ‘Battlestar Gallactica’
A radical (gender) change from the original 1978 character, actress Katee Sackhoff channeled her predecessor with the same hot-headed and cocky demeanor that made the insubordinate, cigar-smoking, card-playing rebel a fan-favorite. This wasn’t the case at first, as she was booed at the reboot’s 2004 San Diego Comic Con presentation. That backlash was short-lived, however, once viewers saw the newly envisioned and complex Starbuck in action, ultimately setting a new standard for feminist TV icons.
Captain Kathryn Janeway, ‘Star Trek: Voyager’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Played by Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway is one of many female captains throughout the franchise’s expanded universe, but the only one to serve as the central hero of a <em>Star Trek</em> TV series.
Veronica Mars, ‘Veronica Mars’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Amanda Seyfried initially auditioned for the role of Veronica Mars.
Abby Sciuto, ‘NCIS’
As the resident forensic specialist on the hit primetime series, fan-favorite Abby is no empty lab coat. Dressed in her signature gothic style and armed with an enthusiastic (yet endearing) interest in death, it’s no surprise she’s been described by her peers as “a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron smothered in contradictions” and “the happiest goth you'll ever meet.”
Emily Thorne, ‘Revenge’
<em>“For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places: absolute forgiveness, or mortal vindication. This is not a story about forgiveness.”</em>
Buffy Summers, ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’
Before Fangbangers and Twihards came out of the woodwork, there was Buffy. Add a guy known for writing strong female characters in Joss Whedon with the spunk of Sarah Michelle Gellar and you’ve got the makings of one of pop culture’s greatest TV obsessions. Spawning a line of comic books, novels, and video games, the mega-hit also picked up three Emmys throughout its seven-season run.
Max Guevara, ‘Dark Angel’
It lasted only two seasons, but James Cameron’s dystopian tale of a genetically enhanced super-soldier on the run from the government in a post-apocalyptic Seattle packed quite a punch in its limited lifespan. How Jessica Alba was able to kick so much butt in tight-fitting leather, meanwhile, has yet to be determined.
Leslie Knope, ‘Parks and Recreation’
<em>“There are very few things I have asked for in this world. To build a new park from scratch, to eventually become president and to one day solve a murder on a train.”</em>
Diana Prince, ‘Wonder Woman’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Actress Lynda Carter had $25 left in her bank account when she got the call that landed her the part of Wonder Woman. She had beaten out 2,000 other actresses for the role.
Jackie Peyton, ‘Nurse Jackie’
As the smart, strong-willed and damaged nurse known for trading sex with pharmacists for prescription drugs and little regard for the Code of Ethics, Jackie (played by Emmy winner Edie Falco) has been hailed as a breakthrough character, not just for her stirringly sympathetic and accurate portrayal of addiction, but for her complex characterization in a sea of female types and tropes.
Olivia Pope, ‘Scandal’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: As a former White House Communications Director turned rock star “fixer,” the Kerry Washington-starring drama was the first network TV drama to feature a black female lead since <em>Get Christie Love!</em>, and the first network TV drama to feature a black female lead to be renewed for a second season since <em>Julia</em>.
Dana Scully, ‘The X-Files’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: While playing the skeptical scientist half of the iconic paranormal-hunting pair, actress Gillian Anderson's contractual obligations to <em>The X-Files</em> barred her from playing an F.B.I. agent in any other production. As such, Anderson lost out the chance to portray Clarice Starling in <em>Hannibal</em>, a role that went to Julianne Moore.
Patty Hewes, ‘Damages’
<em><strong>Martin Cutler</strong>: “If you were a man, I'd kick the living dogs**t out of you.” <strong>Patty Hewes</strong>: “If you were a man I'd be worried.”</em>
Kima Greggs, ‘The Wire’
HBO’s <em>The Wire</em> broke down a number of barriers for TV drama and is often cited as among the greatest shows ever produced. In the wake of its powerhouse legacy was its cast of equally groundbreaking characters — one of which was Det. Shakima Greggs. As a black, lesbian cop in a system as crooked as the streets she is fighting to save, the street-smart detective stands out as a complex character who, much like her peers, transcends black and white morality.
Peggy Olson, ‘Mad Men’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: The role of Don Draper’s protégé-turned-professional of creative almost went to January Jones, who auditioned twice for the role. Series creator Matt Weiner would eventually cast Jones as Betty Draper, opting for Elisabeth Moss as the ambitious ad (wo)man who arguably knows her boss better than anyone.
Sarah Walker, ‘Chuck’
If looks could kill, she wouldn’t need to resort to any of the 200 ways she’s been trained to do so. A master pilot handy with weapons, the stoic super-spy played more than just sexy sidekick to the titular hero, bringing a dangerous and dynamic element to the cheeky action comedy.
Alicia Florrick, ‘The Good Wife’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: The series premise of the humiliated wife whose prominent husband’s sex scandal goes public is partly inspired by the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, and draws from the transgressions of Bill Clinton and John Edwards — cases in which their wives, too, were lawyers.
Charlie’s Angels, ‘Charlie’s Angels’
<strong>Did You Know</strong>: Among contenders auditioning for the Angels were: Priscilla Presley, Shari Belafonte, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kim Basinger, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Xena, ‘Xena Warrior Princess’
<em><strong>Xena</strong>: "What's the matter with your men? They look like they've seen a ghost." <strong>Wiglaf</strong>: "No, not a ghost: a legend. All these men can talk of is a chance to see you in action."</em>
Jessica Fletcher ‘Murder, She Wrote’
Crime culprits, beware. Angela Lansbury’s iconic role as the mystery writer moonlighting as an armchair detective earned the former Broadway star 10 Golden Globe nominations and 12 Emmy awards — the most Golden Globe nods for Best Actress in a TV drama and the most Emmy nods for Outstanding Lead Actress in a drama.