Child actors
Illustrations by Sarah Mulligan/@smulligan

A strange plague is threatening to destroy some of our favorite television dramas: Kids. The progeny of TV’s fantastic collection of anti-heroes are close to spoiling our nighttime viewing experiences. Sometimes they’re simply stupid, other times annoying, but all of them incite the same rage that causes spontaneous yelping and long Facebook diatribes. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve rated the six least likable children from TV’s best dramas and suggested a few ways they can go to reform school.

 

Rickon Smart1. Rickon Stark, Game of Thrones

The problem: HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones is consistently one of our favorite shows. It is bloody, sexy, intelligent—and, strangely enough—full of kids. And GOT’s children are some of the show’s best characters, like the delightfully over-the-top psychopath Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) or the young heroine-in-waiting Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). We’re even intrigued by Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and his slow-moving telepathy plotline. But then there’s the youngest Stark, Rickon (Art Parkinson). What, you say? There’s another Stark child? Not only do people forget this character exists, he still serves no purpose on the show. In all of Season Three, he had but a few lines and none of them served the plot. And in a show with 28 main characters, anyone extraneous is a pest.

The solution: There’s an obvious a plan in place for all the characters on Game of Thrones, and we must assume Rickon will eventually play a role. But until then, can’t we give him something to do other than be scared and wet? When the show returns next March, why not fold some of the book’s ephemeral characters into Rickon? If he must be kept around, at least it could be at the expense of an unnecessary “Messenger” or “Townsperson.” Because one less character on this show is a win for everyone.

 

Charlotte Grayson of Revenge on ABC2. Charlotte Grayson, Revenge

The problem: It’s a real gift to be annoying in a show filled with irritating characters, but somehow Charlotte Grayson (Christa B. Allen) manages to pull it off. Sure, Revenge is the kind of over-acted, over-the-top evening soap where it’s OK to be stupid. But Charlotte takes that stupidity to a whole other place. She whines, then she cries, then she pops some pills, and we never care. Just when we’re getting into the steamy central love triangle or a harebrained conspiracy, Charlotte pops up and yells “What about me, Daaa-dy!” and we want to knock her teeth in.

The solution: The pleasure of Revenge is how it plays upon our love/hate relationship with Real Housewives-style archetypes. We love to see rich people act like idiots and get punished while still managing to look hot. But Charlotte lacks the sex appeal present everywhere else in the show (including evil MILF Madeleine Stowe), and she’s still a whiny teenage girl who seems clueless to the plotting all around her. This season Charlotte either needs to grow up, or producers need to deal with her the same way they dealt with the show’s other useless and annoying offspring, Declan Porter (Connor Paolo), in last May’s Season Two finale. (Read: Death.)

 

Sally Draper of Mad Men3. Sally Draper, Mad Men

The problem: Is there really any way to like a mature-beyond-their-years child? In the case of Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), the smart-ass daughter of the show’s iconic philandering ad exec, the answer is a definitive no. While Sally’s role is central to the AMC drama, we can’t help but want to dispatch the pursed-lipped brat to boarding school. And as the show has progressed, Sally’s role on it has increased—as has our irritation with her presence. We didn’t fall in love with Mad Men so we could watch a remake of Paper Moon.

The solution: Nothing good comes from turning an already irritating smart-ass into an angsty teen. Stop making Sally such a foil for her parents. We’ll enjoy her mirroring the mistakes of her father just fine enough, like A.J. on The Sopranos, without her distracting us so much from the show’s bread and butter. Just remember: We came to Mad Men for the adult drama. If we wanted to watch the soap-opera antics of a privileged teen, we’d watch reruns of Gossip Girl. (Not happening.)

 

Norrie Calvert Hill of Under the Dome4. Norrie Calvert-Hill, Under The Dome

The problem: The newest show we love to hate but can’t stop watching is CBS’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel. And while the show is filled with a whole cadre of annoying kids, no one on the show boils our brain quite like Norrie Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz), the “rebellious” daughter of the town’s lesbian moms. Lintz’s take on the character is some weird amalgamation of Thora Birch and Winona Ryder, but only insomuch as they all wear dark eyeliner. The 16-year-old actress’ sarcastic bitchiness has become like nails on a chalkboard. Which might not be that bad if they weren’t all stuck in a motherfucking dome.

The solution: Dramas always seem to struggle with rebellious teens. Instead of being complex, they just seem to be off-pissing. What outsider is really going to take a break from sulking to attend the cool kids’ party and drop a few witty one-liners? What if in Season Two Norrie was more like Jamie from the excellent BBC drama Top of the Lake? The Kiwi outcast manages to be both angsty and mysterious, lashing out against authorities, while still managing to be intriguing and sympathetic. And Jaime does all this without one line of witty repartee.

 

Carl Grimes of The Walking Dead5. Carl Grimes, The Walking Dead

The problem: The lone child survivor left amongst the core group on The Walking Dead (well, not counting the non-audible baby Lori) has never had many fans. But the growing hatred of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) has become a real problem for the breakout drama. Watching a child grow up in the zombie apocalypse could be a great study in character, but without a major time jump we’re left watching a way-too-emo prepubescent boy. Add to that Carl’s growing violent streak—one that seems out of place on the sweet-faced Riggs—and you have an audience that’s losing its patience.

The solution: Despite your prayers, don’t expect new showrunner Scott Gimple to kill off any more Grimeses this season. Instead, this season maybe they’ll stop trying to make Carl compete with his dad for Introvert of the Year. Why not let Carl be a kid again? After all, they’ve managed to maintain a youthfulness in the show’s other innocents, Glenn and Maggie, even after rapes and torture. We’re not saying get Carl a girlfriend, but let him have some hope. Even the kid in The Road was less doom-and-gloom than Carl.

 

Dana Brody Homeland6. Dana Brody, Homeland

The problem: No TV child is more hated than sleeve-tugging, lip-curling, naked-selfie-taking teenager Dana Brody (Morgan Saylor). Instead of providing her is-he-or-isn’t-he terrorist dad Nicholas (Damien Lewis) with some much-needed sympathy, Dana has been a major distraction from the Homeland that we love. And this season’s suicide-attempt subplot runs the risk of outdoing the concept fans had for last season’s hit-and-run subplot. Which is saying a lot.

The solution: Stop trying to make Dana Brody happen. The Brody kids can serve to humanize their dad without their own major plot lines. Take a page from the Homeland-esque The Americans. The Jennings’ also have a daughter who serves the narrative well without needing her own drama. So maybe this season Dana Brody can just sulk in her room listening to Mumford & Sons and we can get back to enjoying Carrie going ape-shit crazy.