As much as I love individual characters, it’s the relationships those characters form that are the most interesting to me. Whether they are familial, platonic, romantic, or antagonistic, I need interesting characters interacting in interesting ways to truly be invested in a show. This year, I was all about the found families and groups of people taking on the world together. In a year where it seemed more important than ever to find your people to stand with you against whatever life and world may throw at you, it seems like no surprise that it was a dynamic I craved in my fiction.
1. Sensates + Allies (sense8) Yes, this is basically everyone on the show. I could have just picked the sensates on their own but excluding Amanita, Hernando, and Dani would have been disappointing, let alone everyone else like Bug and Detective Mun who I also adored. In any combination, this show does relationships well whether they are romantic, platonic, or somewhere in the middle. They would never have known each other without this bond between them, but now that they do, they couldn’t get away even if they wanted to. They are each other’s family and have each other’s backs no matter what. The core of the show will always be the connections these characters have with each other and it is better whenever it embraces that. It’s Amanita cancelling date night the second she hears Sun needs help, Wolfgang popping up to help Lito fight Joaquin, everyone showing up to support Capheus during his campaign speech, and everyone immediately dropping everything to save Wolfgang. Their love for each other is unbreakable and they are all better for it, as are we for having the chance to see them.
2. Emma and Maggie (Playing House) Look at what can happen when you let real life best friends write and star in a show where they get to play best friends. You get this beautiful friendship with all of its supportiveness and weirdness. These two are the kind of lifelong friends who can and have dropped everything in an instant when they other has needed them. The show started with Emma moving home for Maggie and ended with Maggie supporting Emma through breast cancer and recovery. They are sisters in all but blood and you can feel the love and history between them. It feels honest and real and there really is little else like it.
3. Ruth and Debbie (GLOW) To contrast the sweetness of Emma and Maggie, we have the infinitely more complicated friendship between Ruth and Debbie. Once again, there is a lot of history there. They were each other’s best friends but then Debbie got an acting job and husband and baby and Ruth had nothing. She got jealous and insecure and slept with Debbie’s husband. Naturally, Debbie found out and their resulting fight got them both a job where they would be forced to work together and be a team. Zoya and Liberty Belle are easy antagonists and it just makes it all the more apparent how much messier this actual relationship is. Despite the hurt, Debbie misses Ruth. It would be easier if she could just hate her and walk away but life doesn’t always work like that. Ruth is still the person who understands her the most and still the one she wants to talk to, which just makes her angrier that she can’t anymore. While they find a way to work together in the ring, repairing their personal relationship will take time and it’s the arc of the show I am most excited to return to next season.
4. Jake and Amy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) I really wish more shows would take some lessons from Mike Schur and Dan Goor when it comes to writing stable couples. They spent the year happy and in love and it was far from boring. This isn’t a generic love story, the emphasis has always been on the little things that make these people who they are and the other loving them the most in those small moments. It’s Jake reading Harry Potter because knows Amy loves it and Amy trying really hard to love Die Hard and mostly failing but recognizing what it means to Jake. They are different people but those differences make them love each other more. Jake’s proposal this year was everything a proposal should be and so rooted in this specific relationship and their history together. To do it during the Halloween heist was perfect timing and the words were perfect in all their imperfect messiness. They are one of the best couples on television right now and a steady source of joy this year.
5. Kat, Jane, and Sutton (The Bold Type) This ride-or-die trio of friends was exactly what I needed to see this year. Each of these young women are terrific on their own; they are smart and driven and full of passion. They are also aggressively supportive of each other and each other’s biggest cheerleaders and champions. They supported each other through job changes, money concerns, orgasm troubles, confusion over their sexuality, and BRCA testing. They all had other love interests over the course of the season, with varying degrees of commitment, but their first loves are each other. Together, they can and will take on the world and I’ve enjoyed watching every minute of their journey so far.
6. Team Cockroach (The Good Place) They were put together to torture each other and instead they helped each other grow and become better people. No matter how many times their afterlife is reset, they find their way back to each other and help each other through. No matter what combination you put them in, they bring out something good in each other. Seeing Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani work through all the things that should have made them incompatible and forming genuine friendships instead has been one of the highlights of the show. They aren’t the people they were when they died and that’s due to the influences they’ve had on each other. It’s a beautiful core for a TV show and it’s only gotten better in season two with the addition of Michael and Janet to the team. By design, neither of them should have been able to form attachments to this group but they did anyway. Janet fell in love with Jason and Michael began to care about the humans for more than their value to him. They are all messes in their own way but they’re each other’s messes now and will only continue to help each other grow and be better.
7. Team Earp (Wynonna Earp) When the series started, Wynonna was alone in a self-imposed exile. Now she has a family surrounding her that may not be conventional but it’s hers and that’s all that matters. With Jeremy’s introduction at the beginning of the season and Alice’s birth at the end, the family grew this year and new dynamics were formed. While Alice won’t be a part of Wynonna and Doc’s life at the moment, her existence gives the whole team even more reason to fight. Wynonna and Doc may be her biological parents but she is a part of all of them and they aren’t going to let the Earp curse touch her life if they can at all avoid it. It’s a family that fights for each other, supports each other, and gives each other the space to be themselves. There is nothing they wouldn’t do to save each other, no matter the consequences, and I loved watching it time and time again over the course of the season.
8. Bellamy and Clarke (The 100) These two make up one of my Top 5 OTPs and they had a terrific season so it’s not too surprising that they ended up on this list. Whether you read them as romantic or platonic, it is very clear that these two are each other’s person. They support each other, steady each other, and give each other hope when they can’t find any. Their partnership was back on solid ground after a season of emotional distance and it was a beautiful thing to see. They are no longer interested in an existence without the other, which naturally means they were separated in the finale for six years. But even without his physical presence, Clarke found a way to keep the memory of Bellamy and what he represents strong by talking on their radio every day, not knowing if he could hear her. She was still breathing and she had hope that he was too. It was a perfect callback to their choice to live for each other early on in the season and a fantastic setup to what will hopefully be some Clarke pining in season 5.
9. Hollywood and Vi (Queen Sugar) As Nova said in the finale, these two are goals. Though they started the season apart, it didn’t take long before Violet realized that no matter his past, Hollywood is the person she wants in her future. He’s the one she goes to when she is scared and the one who can steady her again. And Hollywood realizes that he would give up everything to be with Violet. He continues to make that commitment to her over the season as he throws his unwavering support behind her new pie-making business and as he promises to stand by her side as she’s diagnosed with lupus. She doesn’t ever want to be a burden and tries to push him away but he refuses to budge. They make each other happy and have good sex and choose each other. I didn’t need them to get married, as they were happy as they were, but it didn’t stop me from tearing up when Hollywood proposed and Violet accepted. They may have more money now, but Hollywood got it right when he said they’d always been rich in love and that was the more important thing. They are solid and inspirational, not just to the people in their lives but the audiences watching at home as well.
10. Casey, Dawson, and Severide (Chicago Fire) I have loved these three together from the beginning in a lowkey way and this year I decided to fully embrace the OT3. The writers have finally found a good dynamic for all the various pairings and the trio as a whole and I am into it. In the two seasons since Shay’s death, we’ve finally gotten the Dawson and Severide friendship that I have been wanting since the beginning. Casey and Severide are in a solid, good place with each other (even if they do still have the occasional disagreement because these boys are very stubborn). Casey and Gabby started the year married and continue to be adorable and solid in all the ways I want from my TV couples. It never feels like Severide is a third wheel when all of them are hanging out together, he’s just part of the family. Any one of the three would and have risked everything to save each other and the affection between them all is apparent. They take care of each other when one is hurting, offer reassurances and second opinions when they doubt, and have been everything I have wanted for them since the pilot. I’m glad the show realized that these three are the backbone of the show and can’t wait to see that continue next year.
Honorable Mentions: Jonah and Amy (Superstore), Nonnatus House (Call the Midwife), Madeline, Jane and Celeste (Big Little Lies), the Alvarez family (One Day at a Time), Will and Natalie (Chicago Med), Jules, Ophelia, and Kennedy (Sweet/Vicious)