There was a time when we wanted our heroes clean-cut, wholesome and representing a solid moral code. Then the likes of Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper came along and threw that out the window. We realised we liked a little shade in our TV show leads and so the male anti-hero took over our screens.
Yes, it made for great TV and the birth of so many iconic characters. But this well-worn path is growing old and now we find there is a much more intriguing lead taking over the television landscape - the female anti-hero.
We may be long past the days of a woman's place being in the kitchen but that still doesn't mean they were allowed to be fully fleshed out, flawed characters allowed into our homes every day on TV. Times they have changed however, and instead of female characters being the supporting prop to a man's story, they are leading the way with interesting, complex tales of their own.
There was a time a Sky Original like 'Riviera' wouldn't even attempt to have a season one cliffhanger as they did back in 2017. When Georgina Clios (Julia Stiles) proved she was more than capable of murder and didn't even seem all that remorseful about it. Yet it's been Sky’s most successful original production to date. Here was a woman who was thrown into a murky world of crime and double-dealing after the death of her billionaire husband, but instead of floundering, she flourished. Just as the glamour and beauty of the French Riviera contains a dark side, so does Georgina. She proved she is a force to be reckoned with and it didn't really matter if you didn't like her while she was doing it.
For a long time, any kind of breaking of morals for a woman had to be accompanied by feelings of shame and she was ultimately punished for her actions. Dread to think that a woman may actually be just as amoral as a man could be. That she could be just as ruthless and ambitious and not even have the nerve to feel bad about it.
She could even go as far as murder and not be reduced to a blubbering mess, as we see with the likes of Angela Worth in 'Tin Star' and Villanelle in 'Killing Eve'. Or that she could have an extramarital relationship and still be a redeemable character like Madeleine in 'Big Little Lies' or worse, be the other woman you could still root for like Alison in 'The Affair'.
What the makers of television are thankfully now learning is that there are a vast amount of stories yet to be told about women. We can see a woman gripped with depression and trauma but not defined by it as with Camille in 'Sharp Objects', be a ruthless undercover KGB agent like Elizabeth in 'The Americans' or simply just not have their lives together at all as in 'Broad City' or 'Girls'.
This has been coming for a while, and we are not suggesting there have never been female anti-heroes on screen before now. Helen Mirren held her own as the complex Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison on 'Prime Suspect' for many a year. While Mary-Louise Parker was your neighbourly drug dealer in 'Weeds' in the noughties. What's happening now is that these female-led shows featuring all sorts of women of all sorts of ages are becoming the norm. Just one look at the upcoming shows from broadcasters and streaming services alike will tell you that. Renée Zellweger is taking the lead in new series 'What/If', while the enormous talent of Suranne Jones will be heading up 'Gentleman Jack'.
Meanwhile all ten episodes of 'Riveria' season 2 arrives on Sky Atlantic on May 23rd (find out more here) where we will see Georgina go further down a darker path as she must cover up her murder and contend with a new family that may just have more secrets than her own. No better woman though.
The female anti-hero is here to stay and long may she reign.