Best of 2015: Relationships

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite individual characters of 2015, it’s time to move on to some of my favorite relationships. Some people watch TV for the plot of a show. I watch for the relationships. Whether that relationship is romantic, platonic, familial or even antagonistic, it’s these relationships that get me invested and keep me coming back for more.

Bellamy and Clarke (The 100) Over the course of two seasons, the relationship between Bellamy and Clarke has grown from enemies to co-leaders to friends. While much of their development happened prior to this year and their time on-screen together was limited, the strength of their bond shone through the distance. We saw the unshakable belief that they would save their people and that the other could do the impossible. We saw the trust they have in each other. We saw Clarke’s concern for Bellamy. We saw that Bellamy would do anything to protect Clarke. We saw them make an awful decision to save their people. We saw them say goodbye. It was basically a year of pain for these two but until the end, they had each other. It has been each of them doing what was best for their people, confident in the knowledge that the other would do the same. Their goodbye may have been sad but in it, you see exactly what these two are to each other. You see the security and the teamwork and the history and the love. That love may not be romantic yet (or ever) but that doesn’t diminish its strength. Bellamy is Clarke’s home and she is his.

Abbi and Ilana (Broad City) I can never get enough of female friendships on TV and while they may not be the most conventional of people, the love they have for each other resonates deeply with me. Thanks in part to Ilana Glazer’s and Abbi Jacobson’s off-screen friendship, the easy dynamic of their on-screen counterparts suggests a long history together. These two accept each other exactly as they are. They have clearly seen each other at their best and worst and at the end of the day, there really isn’t anyone they’d rather spend time with. Ilana is clearly the less inhibited of the two and while that could scare some people away, Abbi appreciates that about her. Sometimes you just need to call your best friend when the guy you’ve been crushing on forever wants you to peg him and sometimes the best response that friend can give is to literally dance in excitement for you. Ilana wants Abbi to experience as much of life as she possibly can and she knows Abbi wants that to but isn’t always brave enough to go for it. She pushes her just far enough outside her comfort zone to try new things all while offering someone supportive to fall back on in case it doesn’t work out. They can be crazy and ridiculous but but they love each other and support each other and that’s what lifelong friends do.

Joe and Barry (The Flash) Of the many wonderful relationships shown on the show, this one continues to be so much of its emotional core. While they aren’t biologically related to each other, these two are father and son. Joe has never tried to diminish Barry’s relationship with his biological father but it’s been clear since episode one that they consider each other family. As his adoptive father, Joe wants what is best for Barry. This was never more clear than their discussion in the season one finale “Fast Enough”. Joe loved Barry enough to give him a chance to grow up with his biological parents, even if it meant losing all the memories and love these two had built. Barry may have missed his parents growing up but all it took was the torn expression on his face to make it clear that this wasn’t an easy decision. It was Joe who got through to Barry as a child to tell him it was OK to grieve and it’s been Joe supporting and loving Barry through his experiences as a superhero. Joe now knows that he does have a biological son but the watch he gave Barry is a reminder that he’s also his son, even if it’s not by blood.

Will and Hannibal (Hannibal) I want to send all of the awards to Bryan Fuller, Mads Mikkelsen, and Hugh Dancy for bringing this beautiful, destructive, and deeply intimate relationship to life. This friendship gave both Hannibal and Will something they had longed for – recognition of who they were. They saw everything about each other and accepted it all. None of the harm they did to each other ultimately mattered because their intersection forever altered their lives. Since their introduction, their worlds have slowly merged as they’ve rotated around each other until there was little space left between them. Where one is, the other is as well. Drawn together by an inescapable force, these two will never be free of the other. They understand each other in a way that no one else in their lives is capable of and while it was not what you would call a healthy relationship, the power they held over each other was strong. It was strong enough for Will to admit that even after everything Hannibal did to him in season two, he would have run off with him. It was strong enough that even after Will betrayed him (in Hannibal’s mind at least) he made it so that Will would come find him. Hannibal was smart enough to live the rest of his life without being caught but then he would have been without Will and he wasn’t able to live with that. Their relationship is intoxicating to them both and absolutely compelling for the viewers.

Jimmy and Gretchen (You’re the Worst) Gretchen may have moved in with Jimmy out of convenience and the transition into a committed couple who lives together may not have been conventional, but by the end the season, this was one of the best love stories on TV. There wasn’t any sweeping romance or grand gestures, just two selfish, flawed people coming together and finding recognition and acceptance in the other. It was them overcoming their selfishness for a moment and thinking about what a life looked like with that person in it. Even though they were together and doing well at the beginning of the season, they were still two separate individuals. They weren’t a team yet, decisions were still made with only themselves in mind. When Gretchen’s depression came back in full force, that divide and lack of teamwork and genuine understanding of the other made it seem like they were miles apart though living under one roof. It is only after they started incorporating the other into their decision-making and thought processes that they were able to get to that final moment on the stairs, quietly admitting their love for each other. It was more of a passing comment than a declaration of true love but the impact it had on them was huge. It is a relationship that is all about the small moments and choosing to cling to each other in the big ones and it felt achingly real.

Joan and Sherlock (Elementary) This partnership and friendship have grown so much in the past year. At the start of the year, they were still physically separated because Joan was looking for a life that was separate from Sherlock’s. Now, you couldn’t separate them, not even professionally, if you tried. They come as a package deal now. This is the partnership that has been building since the show started. Yes, it was painful to see them apart last year, but it was necessary for each of them to grow. Sherlock needed to learn how to be a partner. He needed to learn that they could be a team without being codependent. He needed to learn that it was OK if Joan had a life outside of him and their work. Joan, on the other hand, needed to realize that it was OK for her to want that work more than anything else. She needed to see that she didn’t have to have a “normal” life in order for her to be fulfilled. This partnership was one of the best relationships on TV this year because the show allowed them to grow as individuals before growing as a team. And now that they have, they are stronger than ever.

Jane, Xiomara, and Alba Villanueva (Jane the Virgin) This show deserves some praise for actually creating an understandable love triangle where both guys have their positives and negatives but at the end of the day, I’m not watching for Jane’s romance with Michael or Rafael. I’m watching for the relationship between Jane, Xiomara, and Alba. They are the truly the heart of the show. It is her relationship with her mother and grandmother that has made Jane the person she is and it is them that she will always go to when she needs guidance or support. With Mateo’s birth, she began to understand on a deeper level the maternal love these woman have always given her and what they have taught her that she can pass down to her own son. It has been a busy year for this family, with Mateo’s birth (and kidnapping), his baptism, Xiomara’s renewed relationship with Rogelio and Alba’s decision to apply for a green card and through all of the happiness, fears, doubts, and tears, this women have been unshakable pillars of strength for each other. This multigenerational, matriarchal family is a beautiful tribute to the power of family and the love that is sharing among them. There are few other places to find this level of warmth on TV and I can’t imagine my TV landscape without these three marvelous women.

The Sensates (sense8) Over the course of one season, these eight people have gone from being strangers to being a part of one another. Some of that is baked into the premise of the show, as these eight people have a unique link with each other that blurs the lines between them. The rest of it had nothing to do with their connection and everything to do with who they are as individuals. They have shared their fears and concerns with each other, they’ve opened up about their past and their journey of self-acceptance, they’ve shared each other’s pain, they’ve stepped in to help one another as their skills are needed, and they’ve even shared a cross-continental song. Some of these connections have been romantic, as has been the case with Will and Riley or Wolfgang and Kala, but most have been built around friendship and understanding the other. They have all led very different lives with different sets of experiences but when they bring those differences together and find understanding in each other, it is nothing short of breathtaking. The moments between them are often deeply intimate and emotional in a way that isn’t often depicted on screen, especially as the season progressed and they each started to understand what was happening, and these moments have worked to created one of the most beautiful, complicated relationships to appear on-screen this year.

Firehouse 51 (Chicago Fire) I’m a sucker for chosen families and that’s exactly what this firehouse is. While it’s not expected for people to develop close bonds when they work a dangerous job together, it is clear that the amount of loyalty and devotion this house has to each other, and to its Chief in particular, is something extraordinary in the Chicago Fire Department. They refer to each other as family because that’s exactly what they are. When one of them needs something, whether it be some encouraging words after losing a baby, offering a job to a former gang member being mentored by one of their own, or investing in a dream business, these people are there for each other, no questions asked. They look after each other and try to make sure they don’t make stupid decisions and support each other when their leadership is called into question. They have each other’s backs, in the field and off. It is nothing short of beautiful to watch and the people that make up this firehouse and the love they have for each other is the true secret to the show’s success. It was never about the fires, it was always about the family.

Emma/Maggie/Mark (Playing House) These three people are utterly delightful in any combination. If you like platonic relationships between men and women, it doesn’t get a lot better than Maggie and Mark. If you like exes turned into friends who might turn romantic again in the future, Emma and Mark are the couple for you. If you love deep friendships between women, Emma and Maggie are up there with Leslie and Ann as the best television has to offer. Whether it’s someone to go to a dance with after your divorce and offer fashion advice, someone who will drop everything to help raise your daughter so you can finishing nursing school, or someone who is so grateful for what you have done that she writes a letter to your favorite singer and asks him to dedicate a song to you at an upcoming concert, these people are there for each other unconditionally. Just one of this set of relationships is hard to find done really well. Playing House has all three and none are in competition. Emma can be Maggie’s best friend and Mark’s almost-girlfriend. Maggie loves Emma to death but it doesn’t mean she’s giving up on her friendship with Mark when Mark and Emma aren’t speaking. In one combination or another, these three and their friendship have provided me with some of the biggest smiles and happiest tears of 2015 on television.

Honorable Mentions: Jake and Amy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Vanessa and Ethan (Penny Dreadful), Meredith and Alex (Grey’s Anatomy), Jessica and Trish (Jessica Jones), Liv and Major (iZombie)

9 thoughts on “Best of 2015: Relationships

  1. Once again, looking forward to coming back to this once I’m caught up with The 100 so I can talk about Clarke and Bellamy lol.

    Joe and Barry would be on my list as well! I agree with you so much in that I loved that they never had Joe or Henry try to undermine the other’s relationship with Barry. There was never an implication that Joe wasn’t Barry’s “real dad” because he wasn’t biologically related, in fact they took care to remind each other that the opposite was true and I loved that. Joe giving Barry his watch in the last episode made me cry a lot, which is about par for the course with these two lol. I have trouble picking favorites, but theirs may be my favorite relationship on The Flash from the very beginning.

    I also have so many Joan and Sherlock feels, and I agree with everything you said here. I love that they’ve learned how to have balance in their partnership and that they are unwilling to be separated. The way that Sherlock tried to protect her at the beginning of this season and the way she refused to be distanced from him even if it meant being sure she could go back to work at the precinct gave me so many feelings.

    Someday I will have to get back to Jane the Virgin when I have time. I’m not thrilled by the love triangle, because there are very very few circumstances where I even am okay with a love triangle being in my media these days lol, but I definitely want to see more of Jane, Xiomara, and Alba.

    I am so interested in the sense8 characters and the way that world works, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them interact when I get a chance to watch! And Playing House is somewhere on my to-watch list so hopefully someday I will get to talk to you about that too lol.

    I’m also excited to see a lot of shows I want to watch or am slowly watching on your honorable mentions, yay!

    1. I can’t wait to talk about Bellamy and Clarke with you and I’m sorry in advance for the many, many words you will be reading about them and my feelings.

      This has been an amazing year for Joan and Sherlock and I’m so glad I caught up on the show again. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss all of their friendship and all of Joan’s awesomeness.

      I think at this point your to-watch list excites me nearly as much as my own does because you have such amazing TV ahead of you and I can’t wait for you to experience it all and share your thoughts with me.

      1. Never apologize for that! I am always up for talking about all the emotions from any of our fandoms, and I have a feeling Bellamy and Clarke are going to provide a lot of that for me soon lol. This will be fun!

        Me too! I’m so glad Elementary found itself again after having a little bit of a period of struggle, and that it has come back so strongly. It’s one of my favorite shows to watch these days.

        Hahaha, well to be honest my to-watch list is likely a combination of your favorite shows, plus Katie’s, plus Nikki’s, plus a few shows I found on my own, so it’s not a surprise you would like some of them :p I’m definitely excited by my to-watch list too, even though sometimes I wish I had seen more of them already so I could talk about them with you all!

  2. Yet another one of your lists that I could read over and over again—even without watching some of these shows!

    I don’t want to spill too much about my own picks (I’m hoping to have my list up at NGN on Thursday), but I’ll just say I LOVED your thoughts on the Villanueva women. They make me happier than almost any other dynamic on television right now. And your description of Maggie, Emma, and Mark reminded me how happy I am that you convinced me to watch Playing House this summer. What a perfect show.

    Finally I know I say this all the time, but I really can’t get enough of your writing about You’re The Worst. It brings something special out of you as a writer, and I want to tell you that every chance I get. ❤

    1. I can’t wait to read your list!

      The Villanueva women are really something special. I know I’m guaranteed to love anyone who says that they are the best part of the show because they are so much of what makes it work as well as it does. I love Rogelio and he makes me laugh, but he doesn’t touch me in nearly the same way as these three women.

      Thank you so much for everything you said about my writing and You’re the Worst. I never expected it for it to be the show that made me feel more than any other this year and I’m so happy that my writing reflects how much of an impact it had on me.

  3. You should know that it was your love of You’re the Worst that catapulted it to the top of my viewing list and I couldn’t wait to finish season 2 so I could come here and read what you had to say about it. I agree with so much of what you wrote about these characters and how Gretchen and Jimmy have navigated season 2. The bravery of this show floors me. It has just swung for the fences and chosen to look into the dark corners of our human experience to not merely highlight the flaws, but discover the beauty that exists there too.

    I can not thank you enough for introducing me to this show.

    1. There is really no better way to make me feel understood than by watching a show I am really enthusiastic about. Thank you so much for this comment, my friend.

      I love that you see the same things in this show that I do. I continue to be amazed at the places season 2 was willing to go and the bravery it took to depict Gretchen’s struggles so honestly and without judgement. These people are flawed and occasionally disasters but this show allows us to cut through that and find the vulnerability and beauty that exists behind the flaws.

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