Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jenn's Pick: My Top 10 Ships of 2014

I'm a sucker for romance. That's really not a surprise if you know me. I make fun of my mom a lot during the holidays because she watches copious amounts of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Every time I visit, she'll turn to that channel and ask if I've seen that particular movie. (The answer is always: "No, mom. I haven't. Because I don't watch these cheesy movies.") But I think I understand where I get my rom-com-loving gene from. And I like to pretend that I'm somehow above watching cheesy, romantic Hallmark Channel Christmas movies... but then I pay $10 to go see things like 27 Dresses in theatres and I realize that I'm really NOT.

I watch television for a lot of reasons. I'm a writer so I'm constantly enamored by themes and symbolism and plot. But I would be lying if I didn't say that at least part of the reason why I watch television shows are because of ships. I love shipping. I love getting the chance to watch the chemistry between actors and characters sizzle on screen. I love meaningful moments between these characters. I love romance, when it's well-written and treated respectfully. And in 2014, we had the opportunity to see some romance develop between slow-burn couples and new romance form between those on freshmen series.

So below, I've ranked ten of my favorite ships of 2014. Did your favorites make the cut? And most importantly... who was #1?

Honorable Mention: Rafael/Jane - Jane the Virgin

Shippiest moment: I honestly loved the kiss but I think that my favorite moment between them is the night they spent just talking, joking, and cuddling.

Why I ship 'em: Apart from the fact that Rafael is the only person who ever refers to Jane as a writer, what I love most about this opposites-attract trope is just that. They ARE opposites and yet they're two people who had an instant connection years ago despite their differences. Though Jane the Virgin fixates occasionally on how differently Rafael and Jane see the world, it is delightful that the show explores what they have in common. They really care about each other. And not just that, they really care about the world around them and making it a better place, too. Their means may be different (Rafael turns to money to patch a problem while Jane is more prone to communication and fixing by traditional means), but the end goal is the same. Rafael and Jane have more than just a connection: they have an ease with which they communicate; they understand each other and are learning to fall in love as they grow to know each other. They're sweet and believably flawed and though I couldn't include them in the list, they're an honorable mention here!

10. Shawn/Juliet - Psych

Shippiest moment: In the final season of Psych, my favorite moment between them was probably this proposal (even though a very close second is them cuddling right before she left for San Francisco).

Why I ship 'em: Man, I cannot tell you how much I loved watching Shawn and Juliet's relationship evolve throughout the course of Psych's tenure. Shawn Spencer was such a fantastic, flawed, hilarious, wonderful character and Juliet was a fantastic depiction of a strong female character. She was a cop, but feminine and had her own set of quirks. Together, these two had fantastic chemistry (also aided by the fact that James Roday and Maggie Lawson are together in real life and have been for years). What I always enjoyed about Psych was that it set out to prove that the way you see the world isn't the way that others see it -- it's not the only picture there is. Shawn and Juliet's relationship was evidence of that. Shawn grew and changed, but not because Juliet forced him to. He grew because when he was around her, he couldn't help it. He became better. He became smarter. He became more compassionate and emotionally open. And Juliet changed for the better, too. She learned how to open herself up, to be more free and fun and impulsive. Shawn/Juliet was such a delightful relationship to watch unfold and I'm so glad it ended with the best proposal ever.

9. Harvey/Donna - Suits


Shippiest moment: This moment, right here. Harvey knows how important acting is to Donna and even though he probably hates Shakespeare, he's a DONNA fan which is why he's attending. Also, this moment was a parrot of a line Donna said earlier this season to Mike where she noted that she wasn't a boxing fan; she was a Harvey fan.

Why I ship 'em: Harvey and Donna know each other better than anyone else. Donna knows not just that Harvey is thinking or feeling something, but WHY he is. I would say that they're best friends, but that sounds too shallow. They really do -- as cheesy as it is -- complete each other. Donna constantly makes Harvey grounded and more human. Harvey forces Donna to be bolder and braver. They care deeply for each other and are so connected that when one of them is suffering, so is the other, by default. And I love their relationship because it constantly forces them to grow by occasionally clashing. It's pretty clear that Harvey and Donna love each other and would do anything to protect the other, so I will continue watching Suits in hopes that we will continue to see this aspect of their relationship manifested.

8. Ichabod/Abbie - Sleepy Hollow

Shippiest moment: A literal running-to-embrace-Abbie hug by Ichabod (and them desperately clinging to one another) marks the top shipper moment for these two this year on Sleepy Hollow.

Why I ship 'em: Look, it's pretty clear that Ichabod cares deeply about Abbie. Is it a bit weird that his wife is standing there watching him dramatically and overtly care about another woman? Yes, probably. But ever since the pilot, it's clear that there was this instant connection between Ichabod and Abbie (aided by the fact that they are, of course, the two Witnesses). They were curious of each other, more than anything, in the beginning. And that curiosity turned to mutual respect, which evolved into admiration and protectiveness. And now? Yes, I do believe that they love each other. How can you go through what these two have endured and not become completely and totally emotionally dependent on each other? The thing about Ichabod and Abbie is that they'll never stop fighting for each other. Ichabod knows how strong Abbie is, but he can also see the parts of her that she doesn't allow anyone else to see. She's managed to let him past her defenses (and we all know that Abbie has some major trust issues) and into her life. Abbie always hesitates to let people in because in her experience, they eventually leave... harshly. Jenny was ripped away. Her mom, too. And then Corbin and Irving. Abbie has learned to be alone because it's safer that way. And Ichabod has been allowed into Abbie's life and into her heart. How stunning is that? But Abbie isn't the only one with issues. Ichabod has his own set of baggage, too. His optimism is crippling. He's stubborn to a fault. And Abbie has still accepted and challenged him. They've become partners in every sense of the word on Sleepy Hollow -- they rely on each other. They protect and defend each other. I enjoy watching their relationship evolve. I love when they clash and disagree because it reminds us that even when you love someone, you don't always agree with them.

7. Jeff/Annie - Community

Shippiest moment: Apparently Jeff's love for Annie opened the door? For me though, the shippiest moment of 2014 between these two was that really long hug and basically the entirety of "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics."

Why I ship 'em: 2014 was kind of a rough year if you were a Jeff/Annie fan. We had episodes where the two bonded and then near the end of the season, Jeff suddenly decided that he was so terrified of life without Greendale that marrying Britta was the only way for him to come full circle and make sense of his world. And though I struggled (... yeah that's a really loose way to put it) to accept the show's decisions to regress their characters, I have to admit that a part of me -- however small -- still does ship Jeff and Annie. BUT I really want Jeff to get his crap together in season six. I need him to earn Annie, because the latter has become such a strong, independent young woman and she deserves to be with someone who knows exactly what he wants out of life. Joel McHale and Alison Brie have fantastic chemistry together, and though the logical part of my brain tells me that Dan Harmon doesn't want me reading too much into the whole "Jeff thought about Annie and it opened the door," another part of me wants to believe that the show will not drop the ball on their storyline in 2015.

(I'm jaded and cynical though, so I'm not expecting the show to acknowledge, much less expand upon, the relationship between Jeff and Annie and what happened in the finale. Nevertheless, I still love these two idiots. They're milady and milord, after all.)

6. Henry/Eliza - Selfie

Shippiest moment: While Henry literally riding in on a horse is super romantic and wonderful, I think my favorite moment between them was Henry standing over a trash can with Eliza, sharing their meal together. That was the moment you knew he was really on her team, always.

Why I ship 'em: Apart from the beautiful chemistry that John Cho and Karen Gillan have together, I loved that in 2014, Selfie was unafraid to take a well-known and previously told story and make it compelling and fresh. And they did just that. Though the series was short-lived (thanks, Hulu, for airing the episodes that ABC didn't!), it did a beautiful job this year already depicting character growth and development in so few episodes. I think what I loved most about the Henry/Eliza relationship was that it was less about changing each other and more about understanding each other. Oh, sure, in the pilot, it seemed like Henry was recruited to help change Eliza -- change the way she dressed and acted and talked. But over the course of the season, Eliza's wardrobe didn't change much. She still tweeted and occasionally talked like a valley girl. The difference in Eliza between the pilot and the most recent episode that aired is that Eliza Dooley now UNDERSTANDS people. She's allowed herself time to pause and contemplate the actions of others as they relate to her and her actions as they relate to others. Henry, too, has learned not to change who he is fundamentally as a person, but to become BETTER by realizing the things about him that are faulty and the ways he can adjust his actions and his thoughts in order to be the best version of himself for others. And that's the thing about Henry and Eliza (a fact stated in an episode): they work best when they're together. Because this whole notion of understanding and "changing" is rather futile if there isn't someone around constantly challenging and encouraging you. And that's what Henry and Eliza do for each other -- they have grown from seeing each other as projects, things to be worked on and fixed, to seeing each other as PEOPLE: people to care about and care for. And ultimately, as Selfie progressed, Henry and Eliza saw all those things about themselves that they liked and didn't like and all those things about each other that they liked and didn't like and chose to love each other anyway. Because too often we forget that love is a CHOICE to be made. We choose how we treat our partners and we choose how we love them and that is what Selfie showed us this year.

5. Ben/Leslie - Parks and Recreation

Shippiest moment: The moment Ben told Leslie that he wanted to start a family with her. Also, essentially any moment in which these two were rooting for each other.

Why I ship 'em: Every couple should strive to have a relationship like Ben and Leslie's, honestly. These two are quirky but driven. They love their town and will do anything for their friends. They're intelligent and endearing and generous. And they love each other. So so much. The thing that I've always admired about Ben and Leslie is that they have professional lives and professional goals that they deal with, but when it comes to their relationship, they always tackle everything together. They are truly a team. They work together as such when they make decisions and when they plan for their future. They trust and rely on each other for support and they always come through (they're not without mistakes and faults, of course, but they let those mistakes and faults draw them closer together rather than divide them). There's never any bitterness between these two and whenever there is competition, it's friendly (and hilarious). I think that Mike Schur was interviewed once and noted that there was no question in his mind that once Ben and Leslie finally got together, they would STAY together. I appreciate that, quite frankly, because Parks and Recreation is an optimistic show. Where other series would drag out a will-they-won't-they for years on end. Parks decidedly placed its female lead in a relationship and marriage and has striven to depict that marriage as a real and genuinely loving partnership between two individuals. I was so happy to watch Ben and Leslie's relationship grow and mature in 2014, and I know that 2015 will bring us more of their marriage (and foray into parenthood). Whatever happens, it's delightful to know that these two will continue to face it together.

4. Hook/Emma - Once Upon A Time

Shippiest moment: The entire episode of "There's No Place Like Home" (especially that dance and him wiping tears from her eyes... plus, you know, the kiss and him revealing that he sold The Jolly Roger for her). I really loved everything that Hook and Emma have been through in season four, but that finale set the precedent for their relationship.

Why I ship 'em: I'm a big fan of the "opposites attract" trope, in case you haven't noticed. I love when characters challenge each other because of their differences. But what I've come to realize about "opposites attract" is that... well, opposites are generally not REALLY that opposite. At first glance, Hook and Emma would appear to be quite opposite, but when we really get to know them as characters, we realize how similar they are. They're both jaded and guarded. They're both loners because they've lost the people they love most. They're both stubborn and extremely resourceful. What I've loved so much about their relationship as it's unfolded in Once Upon A Time is that the show has allowed us a glimpse at how two hardened, cynical, broken individuals can help make each other whole again -- how they can make each other HAPPY again. If Once Upon A Time is a series about finding your happy ending and fighting for it, then 2014 was the year of "Captain Swan" in that regards. We saw Emma fight for her heart and Hook fight for Emma. We watched the woman begin to open herself up again to love, to let down her guard and realize that being "safe" isn't the same thing as being happy. And we watched as Hook grew and matured and opened his heart -- literally after hundreds of years -- to love. We saw them fight to protect and defend each other as they grew closer. We saw them flirt and banter and fall in love. And we saw how genuinely they supported and cared about each other throughout the course of the year. I love that this relationship has such a great conduit of character development for them both and that we've been able to see tangible evidence of growth in both Emma and Hook. (Plus, all those kissing scenes don't hurt either!)

3. Danny/Mindy - The Mindy Project

Shippiest moment: That kiss on the plane in "The Desert." Much like the "Cooler" kiss, I'm not sure any moment between them will be able to top the awe and frenzy of that moment. I love the simple Danny/Mindy moments though, too, so a very close runner up is Danny reading Bridget Jones' Diary to Mindy in the hospital bed.

Why I ship 'em: Danny and Mindy have always had great chemistry in that they're constantly challenging each other. I love it when my OTPs do that (clearly I have a type). I love that Mindy is the brightly colored optimist and ball of energy to Danny's more curmudgeonly, laid-back persona. When these two are at their best, they're learning from each other and about each other. Having worked together for years, it's clear that Danny and Mindy share a bit of common ground -- namely, their passion for medicine and helping others -- but the comparisons really end there. Apart from their degrees, these two share little in common. They don't have the same taste in music. They don't have the same religion. They don't solve problems the same way, either. And it's a wonder that I ship them, then, right? If these two are so vastly different, what makes them work? I think a lot of it has to do with the easy chemistry between Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling -- that banter and teasing and comedic timing. But I think a lot more has to do with the fact that yes, Danny and Mindy share very little in common, but they WANT to share more in common. They constantly want to try and step outside of their comfort zones because they're in love with each other. And being in love means constantly growing and evolving and occasionally making mistakes and then fixing them. The Mindy Project hasn't always been stellar, but it is always at its best when it focuses on the growth and development of Danny and Mindy both as individuals and as a pairing. I can't wait to see more of their relationship unfold as the series continues.

2. Nick/Jess - New Girl

Shippiest moment: I honestly think that everything in "Exes" was extremely shippy for Nick and Jess (especially when he said that he fell in love with her the moment she walked through the door). But alas, my favorite shipper moment from 2014 between these two was the video in "Birthday." I know Ann hates it, but I can't help but love it and cry about it forever and ever.

Why I ship 'em: Oh, man, I could write a narrative about Nick and Jess. No... wait, already did that. To spare you another diatribe, let me just explain to you what is so magical about these two whenever they're together: they're REAL. They make mistakes and are dumb and say stupid things and hurt each other, sometimes, but they're real and they're complex and they're human. I love New Girl because it's a show filled with people who are still trying to figure out life in their 30s. It reminds us that it's okay to still be struggling at that age, to not know who you are. So many television shows depict successful adults in high-powered careers with swanky apartments. But New Girl is a show that fixates on the other side of adulthood. And Nick and Jess don't have their lives figured out. But they really and truly love each other. And they've grown and continue to grow. Even though, at this point in the series, they're not together, 2014 was a great year for them as a couple. They said "I love you" to each other for the first time. They learned more about one another and grew because of that. And they maturely decided to break up because they didn't want to coast in a relationship that was at a dead end. Nick and Jess have always had a really great and intimate connection with each other, spawned largely in part from Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel's genuine chemistry as actors. But what I loved most about New Girl this year (in spite of some of its pitfalls) was that it wasn't afraid to tell a love story. Sometimes love stories end happily; sometimes they just end. And the realistic portrayal of these two was so great. I'll always ship Nick and Jess (even now, when they're not together, it's clear that the two still really love and support each other deeply) and eventually I hope that New Girl is brave enough to tell the next chapter of their love story. Until then, I'm content to watch their friendship and shenanigans unfold on my screen each week.

1. Oliver/Felicity - Arrow

Shippiest moment: Although the kiss in "The Calm" was amazing (as was the "Don't ask me to say that I don't love you"), the "I love you" (no more dangling maybes!) from Oliver to Felicity in "The Climb" and that lingering forehead kiss is probably some of the best and most subtle of moments we've ever seen between these two.

Why I ship 'em: Oh, boy, and now we've come to the Oliver/Felicity portion of this post. First of all: congratulations to this pairing for totally and completely ruining my life in 2014. (As an aside: the Arrow fandom has been so welcoming to me with my reviews, so I'd just like to take a moment to pause and thank you all for that.) Why do these two rank as my top ship from this entire year? Well, with the levels of growth and love that have been displayed throughout 2014 in regards to them, the better question is... how could they NOT? I've said a lot about Oliver and Felicity as a pairing before so I'll try my best not to repeat myself and instead explain why this pairing has been such a beautiful display of character growth and development. When we first meet Oliver and Felicity in Arrow, they are fairly different individuals than those we see in season three. Oliver was brash and guarded and angry -- so angry -- when he returned from the island. Felicity was nervous and brilliant (that part hasn't changed), but also guarded. In "The Calm," the two, while out to dinner, discuss their relationship and Oliver tells Felicity -- fondly, lovingly, tenderly -- that there was just something about her that he was drawn to. And what I think is just so telling and so beautiful is that Oliver didn't know yet what it was about Felicity, but he knew it was life-changing. Literally, his entire world changed the day that he met Felicity Smoak. Is there any way to begin an epic love story than with that?

I think that, much like Nick Miller in New Girl told Jess that he fell in love with her the moment she walked through the front door, Oliver began to fall for Felicity the moment he met her. He didn't know that it was love back then, but when he looks back on their relationship at dinner in "The Calm," he recognizes that the moment his life began to change for the better was the very moment he walked into her office and saw her -- chewing her red pen -- as a person. Not a target. Not a mission. Not an enemy. A person -- a blonde with quirks and feelings and an attitude that made him smile.

Over the course of a few years, Oliver and Felicity's relationship has grown. At the beginning, there was hesitancy there and walls constructed -- Felicity, remember, was only aboard the team in order to determine where Walter was. Oliver's heart began to soften though, but not in a mushy and cliche way. His heart began to soften because Felicity's presence constantly reminded him of his goodness, of his potential, and of his humanity. There is a reason Felicity's name literally means "light" and she is the one who guides everyone in Arrow home. She has always been there for Oliver -- he's needed her more than he's admitted and loved her longer than he (or she) ever believed. And the thing about it is, Oliver's grown attached to Felicity slowly. He initially saw her as an asset -- a person who he could trust to help him when needed, nothing more. But slowly he was reminded that she was different: that he saw her initially as a person and needed to treat her as such. (For the record, Felicity never let him forget that she was a person. She constantly challenged him and stood up to him and told him when he was wrong. Felicity is not a passive love interest, by any means.) By season two, Felicity was Oliver's partner. His equal.

And then, there came a moment where Oliver saw so clearly how much Felicity loved him and supported him -- he saw who he was and could be through her, the one person who clung to him tighter when other people let him walk away. Oliver has had a lot of relationships on this show already, but I don't think he's ever found someone like Felicity, someone who draws out every bit of goodness, every shred of light within him and reflects it right back to him like a mirror. In season three, Oliver is aware of his feelings for Felicity. He's aware that he is in love with her -- that she is someone he doesn't just want in his life but that he NEEDS. And I love that these two continue to challenge, support, and care for each other even when they don't agree. And now that Oliver is "dead" (... well, we all really know he isn't anyway), it appears that their love story is over.

But as Westley said in The Princess Bride: "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while."

So I anxiously await the January return of Arrow so that I can see Oliver and Felicity's relationship continue to evolve. For now, I'm content to name them the top ship of 2014, though.

Friends, there you have it: my top 10 ships of this year! Did I miss any of your favorite ships or rank them differently than you would have? Hit up the comments below and let me know what you think. Until then, have a fantastic week. :)

1 comment:

  1. OH JEN! Thank you! So many lovely couples. I love character analysis. And yes, Oliver and Felicity are right there on the top as they should be. They are an iconic pair in my opinion. Hook and Emma - LOVE how you saw that they were similar. Your posts really are having an eye-opening effect on me apart from the giddiness of finding a fellow shipper. I'm a hopeless romantic too. I live to ship couples, real or reel. I think love makes this world a better place.And you showing your love for shipping and these couples just makes me happy to be in this wonderful world. I love Danny and Mindy too, a classic example of how total opposites can fall in love and stay together as evidenced by this season. Also, Jane and Rafael, finally someone agrees with me, that someone being you of course! They are trying to make it work. Their connection was instant and I cheered so much at that cuddling scene. You did a great job, Jen. I love reading your posts. You have so much talent to see the things that others don't easily pick up on. Thank you for writing this.