Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Claire & Jamie, Outlander
The freshman series Outlander was toted as Starz’s challenge to Game of Thrones: swords, scenery, and magic. While it more than provides in those categories, this show, adopted from the novel series by Diana Gabaldon, brought us something Westeros could never: an intensely romantic and sexual love story as the driving force. When WWII nurse Claire fell back in time to land in the Scottish Highlands of 1743, she bought her safety from the Mackenzie clan by tending the dislocated shoulder of a young warrior: Jamie.
From their first encounter, and every episode in the fall half-season, the tension between them burned. The actors have phenomenal screen chemistry, and the show wisely draws on the best elements of the book series. While Claire loves her husband of the 20th century, we see her internal conflict as she grapples with the fear that she might never return to her own time, and yet finds comfort, joy, and excitement in the company of a man unlike any she has ever met. Jamie’s promises of safety, loyalty, and honor are real currency in a world that dangerous. That the entire show is from Claire’s point of view is a stunning feat for television. Not only is Claire portrayed as a woman who controls her own sexuality and who takes pleasure in it, but she is rarely objectified merely for the exploitative entertainment of the viewer. Jamie is possibly one of the most fantastically romantic literary figures I’ve ever read, and the television adaptation does a fair job of bringing him to screen. Who wouldn’t be tempted?
The first half of season 1 left audiences with the politically motivated but emotionally charged marriage between Jamie and Claire. He still knows nothing of her origin, and audiences must wait till spring to see if she’ll continue attempting to get back home… now that husband number two has offered her a thrilling new future. [Sara]
Bash & Kenna, Reign
On a show whose romantic pairings have been as numerous and varied as Reign, no couple has surprised more than Bash (Torrance Coombs) and Kenna (Caitlin Stasey). They went from being forced into marriage at swordpoint in season one’s “Monsters” (if you need a reminder, here’s a photo of Kenna dry sobbing through her vows and Bash looking like he wants to make a break for it out the nearest castle window) to a mutual understanding, which then blossomed into a real, and really adorable, relationship.
Never mind the fact that this is one of my favorite guilty pleasure tropes; these two worked past their initial uncertainties together and became unendingly loyal and supportive of one another. They have excellent chemistry (which is more than I can say for the shakiness of Mary and Bash’s chemistry, or Kenna and Henry’s squick-worthy relationship), there’s as much laughter and affection as there is drama, and also they have really steamy sex scenes. Like damn. There’s danger on the horizon for these two in the form of Bash’s half-sister Claude, who recently arrived at court, but I’ve no doubt they’ll work past whatever she tries to throw at them. Besides, if they need any help, there’s always Francis, who announced himself President of the Kenna/Bash fanclub in “The Prince of the Blood“. [Christine]
Jane, Rafael, and Michael, Jane The Virgin
Love triangles are boring. We know this. But with Jane The Virgin, there are two men we’re genuinely torn between: Michael (Brett Dier), Jane’s Detective boyfriend-turned-fiance of two years, and Rafael (Justin Baldoni), the reformed playboy that owns the hotel Jane (Gina Rodriguez) works for and the father of the baby that she was accidentally inseminated with. Michael is loyal and sweet and gets on with her family, while Rafael is… Hot. Very, very hot.
He and Jane have a chemistry that fuels the kind of telenova that Jane The Virgin has been derived from. But he’s not without his baggage: his alcoholic sister was the one that inseminated Jane, his soon to be ex-wife is manipulative and terrifying and he’s got a bad history with the law. He’s a reformed bad boy that wants to leave that life behind for Jane and their baby, but is he the right choice? There are arguments to be made for both sides of this fast paced show, but because of the huge, beating heart that Jane The Virgin has at its core, either way, whichever of her suitors Jane chooses, it’s a delightful triangle to watch. [Laura]
Amy & Jake, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Jake (Andy Samberg) are the slow burning couple on this list. They’re partners and friends, and it wasn’t until late into the first season of the show that Jake realized he might have feelings for Amy. In the season finale, he admitted to her that he wished something “romantic stylez” could happen between the two of them, before going on an undercover mission for the duration of the summer hiatus. He’s an overconfident loudmouth, and while Amy is the sort of character that would traditionally be the wrongful, highly-strung nag, neither Jake nor the show take her there.
Jake listens and respects Amy, and while he teases her about everything — her lack of overt sexuality included, something that’s a strategic move away from the stereotypical perception of Latina women as always being feisty and sensual — it’s all well-intentioned. The two are both incredibly driven to the point of extreme competitiveness, and while the pair are fundamentally different in the ways that they achieve their goals, they’ve got some pretty key similarities, too. Both seek approval from their boss, Captain Holt, as well as gain great satisfaction from their jobs. They’re good friends with great potential, something that’s lying under the surface of their partnership. At least for now, anyway. [Laura]
Eliza & Henry, Selfie
Selfie may have been cancelled, but in just eight episodes (with the final five coming to Hulu this month) John Cho and Karen Gillan created an incredibly charming and heartfelt relationship between two isolated colleagues. Selfie tried to pretend in its pilot that it was a show about fixing Eliza’s (and by extension the millennial generation’s) social media use. Here was Henry, playing the familiar My Fair Lady role of the educated and more knowledgeable professional, ready to fix up and educate his new, lower class project. But then, Selfie cast John Cho. Originally looking for an older, whiter, more British male lead, Selfie found Cho instead. And with that, Eliza and Henry became what Sonia Saraiya at Salon called “the most promising interracial couple on TV”.
What Selfie is really about is not the dangers of social media, but instead two dysfunctional people finding in each other a best friend, and maybe even a soul mate. Eliza and Henry were both broken, lonely and stubborn before they found one other, but together, they’re changing each other for the better. Whatever love they share on the show — romantic or platonic (although it definitely feels romantic in those charged scenes between them at their boss’ mansion) — it’s a powerful kind. Here, in Selfie, is the kind of romantic leading role that John Cho has deserved for years now. I just hope that we get to see his and Gillan’s characters go out with a bang. Maybe even a literal one. (Imagine the emojis.) [Laura]
Mindy & Danny, The Mindy Project
Now, I know I’m not the only one who was sort of worrying about how The Mindy Project was going to top Danny (Chris Messina) and Mindy’s (Mindy Kaling) glorious and very romantic getting together at the end of season 2. This new season could’ve gone one of two ways. I have full faith in Mindy Kaling and her creative prowess, but even some of the best couples get boring once they get together. Their immediate relationship could’ve fizzled out or they could’ve ridden the high from the season finale and continued to be the perfect, but not flawless couple that we know they could be.
Luckily, because of their natural chemistry and real love between these two characters, their relationship turned out to be the latter and it just seems to be getting better. Their relationship has escalated fairly quickly with Danny confiding in and strip dancing for Mindy (Oh, Nelly) to them pretty much living at each other’s respective apartments. The topic of marriage has even come up — that is, in Mindy’s diary. Because of his divorce, Danny’s still hesitant to move on to that big step, but I have a feeling he’ll be popping the question fairly soon. What has contributed to them working is that although they’re very different people and have flaws, they work through them together. Their love is very genuine. A relationship is challenging, but they’re in it for the long-run. [Isabella]
Octavia & Lincoln, The 100
The last we saw of the badass couple Linctavia, Lincoln (Ricky Whittle) carrying an injured Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) away from the battle between the Grounders and the 100. Their chances of getting to safety seemed very realistic, but because this show likes to rip your heart out and stomp on it, Lincoln and Octavia are separated and have been separated throughout most of this season. First off, Lincoln gets taken by his own people because rather than helping them when they needed him, he chose to save Octavia’s life. In an attempt to get him back, she switches Lincoln for Nyko, their only healer. As the swap is being made though, and before we even get a beautiful reunion hug and kiss as we’re expecting, Reapers come in and attack. Oh, and to make matters worse, they take Lincoln.
Octavia attempts to go looking for him and when she finds some of the other people that were taken along with him, Lincoln isn’t among them, implying that he’s most likely dead. While Octavia is absolutely devastated, she never loses hope that he’s still out there. As for Lincoln, he is alive, but it might have been better if he were dead. He’s been taken by Mount Weather and turned into a Reaper. He loses his identity and when Octavia finds him, she is unrecognizable to him. It draws some parallels with that of another couple, Peeta and Katniss from Mockingjay, but it’s too early to tell whether Lincoln will ever be back to normal again after his brainwashing. The hopeless romantic in me wants to say Octavia will lovingly nurse him back to normality, but I can never tell with this show. These characters have been through so much already, with Lincoln pretty much dying twice and then being brought back. Can’t these two character just be happy together? Please? If it’s any hope, the way Lincoln looked at Octavia when he was revived made my poor little heart flutter. [Isabella]
Algernon & Cornelia, The Knick
Algernon and Cornelia’s story on The Knick this past year was beautiful, subtle, and heartbreaking. Algernon is an educated black doctor who comes to New York after studying medicine in Europe to work at the famous Knickerbocker Hospital. Immediately, he’s faced with discrimination and overt racism from patients and even his fellow doctors. Cornelia is the only person in the hospital who treats him with respect, but even that relationship is complicated by Algernon’s parents working for Cornelia’s parents as the hired help. Despite her parent’s seemingly liberal attitude, we know that Algernon would never be fully accepted into their family, just as his parents would never be greeted to the same dining table as Cornelia’s white family. Nevertheless, Cornelia and Algernon embark on a short-lived love affair that you can’t help but root for. [Hera]