Tuesday, December 29, 2015

11 of the Best Ship Moments in 2015

Relationships are complicated.

At least, that’s what Jeff Winger told Annie Edison years ago on the NBC sitcom, Community. And he’s right. Relationships aren’t easy and sometimes they’re confusing and messy. Television relationships are no exception. 2015 has proven to be a really great year for some television couples as they exchanged “I love you’s” and first kisses, and a not-so-great year for others, amidst break-ups and kept secrets.

For better or for worse, television writers have learned to harness the power of romantic relationships on dramas and comedies. Relationships between characters are foundations on which the shows themselves are built, after all. So it makes sense, then, that “shippers” are so prominent among fandoms. Often given a bad reputation or dismissed by creators and critics, these people — myself included — find themselves invested in romantic relationships in their favorite shows. And, having been around fandom for as long as I have, I’ve discovered that shippers are some of the most creative and inventive people. They’re invested in character arcs and stories more than a casual viewer or a fan. They then make the show their own — someone’s created work becomes the very thing that spurs them on toward creativity, too. Shippers form communities, create fan art and videos, and write fanfiction. It’s mind-boggling to me, in the best way possible, that showrunners have this often unknown impact on the people who watch what they create.

So, as the end of the year approaches, I am here to break down eleven of the best “ship” moments of 2015. Some of these are aww-inducing, some might surprise you, and some are on the list because of how gut-wrenching they are. So sit back, grab some chocolate (and maybe wine) and relish in my favorite shippy moments of this year!

11. The Rafael/Jane time jump (Jane the Virgin)

Okay, all drama with Michael/Jane and Rafael/Jane aside, one of the smartest and best things that Jane the Virgin did this year was present a time jump in a believable way. Television shows that center — either in part or in full — around growing children often encounter problems because... well, kids grow up between the time that it takes to shoot a television show. So this CW comedy chose to take one episode and jump forward in time. This allowed us to see Mateo grow, but also to see Rafael and Jane’s relationship grow, too.

These two have always had a complex relationship (made more complex by the whole baby daddy thing), but “Chapter Twenty-Eight” was amazing and one of my absolute favorite Rafael/Jane moments of 2015. Because in allowing time to pass, we got to see Jane’s heart heal from her relationship with Michael in a believable way (that would have taken weeks or months had the show stuck to its initial real-time format). We saw Rafael date someone else, too, and I think that was important. He dated someone who wasn’t Petra — conniving and brilliantly evil — which is something that was important. And we got the chance to see both characters naturally progress and move back toward one another. So by the time Rafael asks Jane out on a date at the end of the episode, we all believe she’s ready. (And we swoon. Or is that just me?)

I am first and foremost #TeamJane, but if I was forced to choose between snowflakes and flower petals, it would be #TeamFlowerPetals all the way. I love the way that Rafael and Jane naturally clash. Their relationship is full of bumps, but that’s what makes it so believable and so wonderful. They have amazing chemistry together and they’re a family. I can’t quite explain it any other way than that.

10. The “Love is Strange” duet (Galavant)

I absolutely and positively love Galavant. If you haven’t checked out this musical comedy, you really need to. In my review of the pilot I described it this way: “If Monty Python's Spamalot and Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights had an illegitimate child, it would be named Galavant.”

I still stand by that, honestly.

Apart from being excited that the show was miraculously renewed for a second season, looking back on this show’s freshman year has me excited. One of my absolute favorite moments was the “Love is Strange” duet between Galavant and Isabella. The best thing that this series does — among many things — is flip tropes on their heads. Madalena, the seemingly innocent maiden, turns out to be scheming and conniving and delightfully evil. Similarly, Isabella turns out to be the kind of kick-butt and yet emotionally vulnerable heroine and love interest that we all needed. And though Galavant and Isabella sing a love song to one another, this song involves talking about how weird and gross and strange love is. What a wonderfully inverted ballad trope, right?

The realistic picture of love that they paint stands in contrast to the fairytale-esque structure of the show and I absolutely love it. If you don’t swoon while listening to Joshua Sasse sing, then you might just be a robot. Galavant/Isabella forever, you guys.

9. Sheldon and Amy... well, you know. (The Big Bang Theory)

I watch The Big Bang Theory whenever I can. Most weeks, I’ll watch it On Demand after I’ve worked out on a Saturday. Sometimes I forget that new episodes have aired and have to have a mini-binge. The show gets a lot of flak because of the fact that it’s a multi-camera comedy and often its portrayal of nerd culture can be pretty one-dimensional. But what I’ve seen the show do in recent years is something pretty impressive — it’s taken to focusing on developing its main characters and really earning the emotional moments. Some of the most impressive areas of growth have come from the character of Sheldon Cooper, especially in his relationship with Amy.

Recently, one of the most important episodes of the show has aired — the episode in which Sheldon and Amy sleep together for the first time. And though the framing of that was hilarious (the cutaways to Raj, Leonard, Howard, and Wil Wheaton in the theater was so great), the moment that really struck me and earned these two a spot on my list was the subtle way that Jim Parsons softened Sheldon. When Amy emerges in her nightgown, the look on Sheldon’s face is so impossibly sweet. You can see him soften and relax into a loving glance — something we are unaccustomed to seeing. Amy’s nervousness isn’t played for laughs, and neither is Sheldon’s response to her. The two genuinely love one another and their moments in that scene were earnest, tender, and completely lovely.

8. Ben and Leslie’s unwavering support for one another (Parks and Recreation)

I’ll never stop talking about how sad I am that Parks and Recreation has ended. But what I will say is that I was never disappointed in the way they handled Ben and Leslie’s romance. The show always strove to portray the unwavering love and support the two had for each other and their relationship, and when the show jumped forward in its final season — no matter how many years — it maintained that. Ben was always willing to stand aside to let Leslie shine, and she was willing to do the exact same. Both made sacrifices in their relationship and truly, their marriage and love was one of equality.

I always discuss the fact that Ben and Leslie’s romance is “relationship goals”... because that romance IS. It was a complete and true partnership, in every sense of the word. Whether he was letting her talk during “Pie-Mary,” or she was supporting him years down the line — through it all, these two communicated about their feelings and struggled, always put one another first, and made sure to carve out time no matter what to express how much they loved one another. I cannot think of a better example of a television ship than these two.

7. Toby and Happy let each other in and kiss (Scorpion)

Scorpion is one of the best shows on television that you’re not watching. You probably dismissed it as a procedural. Maybe you even presumed it was just CSI-lite. You would be wrong. Though Scorpion’s first season was good, it had a few bumps and bruises. But this second season is the strongest yet of the series and the writing has never been better. Not only are there physical stakes for the things our characters are doing, but emotional ones as well.

Toby and Happy have always had this kind of weird relationship — she throws up every wall and defense she can, and he tries to constantly pursue her. In fact, Toby is pretty relentless in the way that he cares about Happy. But he does care. He doesn’t pursue her because he’s hopeful that he can gain something in return, necessarily — he pursues her because he knows she deserves better than she allows herself to believe or have. She understands him and he knows why she wants to keep him at bay. But during this season of Scorpion, these two crazy kids have – for a few, select moments – put their guards down. One such moment happened in the midseason finale, in which Happy was close to drowning. After the ordeal (and the fact that, not too many episodes prior, Toby technically died for a minute or two) and reminders of Megan, Happy’s outlook on her relationship with Toby shifted slightly. And she told him to kiss her.

Apart from the fact that that was one heck of a kiss, the kiss lands on my favorite ship moments of the year because it signaled an active step for Happy. Usually Toby pursues, but it was Happy who called the shots this time around. And it was beautiful. (Runner-up moment? When Toby and Happy slow-danced during “The Old College Try” because HOW CUTE WAS THAT?)

6. Bellamy will not let Clarke be alone (The 100)

Amidst a show with seemingly thirteen billion different shipping options (Clarke/Lexa, Bellamy/Clarke, Lincoln/Octavia, Kane/Abby, etc. etc.), I found myself drawn to Bellamy/Clarke — or, as the kids call them “Bellarke” — during 2015. There is something so subtle and yet powerful about the fact that these two characters began as adversaries and, by the end of the second season, became partners in every sense of the word. One of the most powerful ship moments for me of this past year was Bellamy’s refusal to let Clarke be alone.

I love Clarke because she’s a complex, damaged character who has been forced to make really difficult decisions in order to save her people. And really, I love that Clarke is a character who HAS a “people.” She was always a natural-born leader, because of her desire to care for others and keep them safe. Her instinct to protect her own often leads her down some dark and difficult roads, especially this past year. And when she has no choice than to kill those living in Mount Weather in an act of mass genocide (this is a show on The CW, you guys, and is darker than some of the stuff on HBO), she prepares to do it alone. She prepares to bear the consequences of the act on her shoulders. Clarke braces to feel the weight of hundreds, thousands of souls crushing down on her.

But then, Bellamy places his hand over hers. And they make this decision together. It’s so important to me that Bellamy does this, because it symbolizes the fact that he never wants Clarke to feel like she is alone. He cares about her. Bellamy did so reluctantly, at first — he didn’t want to like the girl whom he sardonically called “princess.” He wanted to hate her. But he couldn’t.

Bellamy loves Clarke. It’s hard to argue that, given their final exchange at the end of the season. Clarke wants to leave Camp Jaha, because the weight of what she had to do is too much to handle. It’s crushing her. But gently, Bellamy tells her that he placed his hand over hers in Mount Weather for a reason. He did it so she would know he is always there for her – she is not, nor will she ever be, alone. And Bellamy extends forgiveness to her, in a beautiful (and sad) parallel to what Clarke did for him during “Day Trip.” He searches her face and she hugs him tightly, but she leaves all the same.

I know it’s going to be a rough road for my Bellarke-loving heart in season three, but I’m glad that 2015 helped establish their dynamic and I’m hopeful that next year will build upon it.

5. Jeff and Annie kiss goodbye (Community)

Jeff and Annie are probably my biggest love affair over the past few years. Their dynamic is so complex and their relationship so difficult to comprehend in some ways, and yet so impossibly simple in others. The fact of the matter is that Jeff Winger fell in love with a bright, young, idealistic woman and that changed him from the inside out. His heart softened. His priorities shifted. He began to care about things and people he never assumed he would. He didn’t always express it correctly, but he always has had a soft spot for Annie. She’s been his partner and his rock and his best friend in a lot of ways for years.

And when faced with the cold fact that Annie would be leaving him to take an internship across the country, Jeff began to crumble. The man who scoffed at the very notion of settling down and balked at the idea of marriage years ago daydreams in the series finale about a life with Annie – a home with her, really. He daydreams about building a family and having a life. He daydreams about happiness. Throughout their relationship, Jeff was always the more emotionally distanced. Annie gave up, after a few failed attempts, at trying to read Jeff’s mind and his signals. She eventually stopped dwelling too much on how jealous he got of other guys, and focused on her career and her schooling. But she was always enamored by him, and I believe she loved him, too.

So when she enters the study room to check and ensure Jeff is okay, he confesses that he’s not. He wishes he could turn back time and be exactly where Annie is at that moment — ready to head off into the world, with years stretched ahead of him. And Annie wishes for more time — for more wisdom and years that Jeff has and she doesn’t. When it’s time to come face-to-face with those struggles, Jeff becomes more honest than he was in six years of knowing Annie. He tells her that he has tried to let her go, but that his heart still wants her. So Annie... tells him to kiss her goodbye.

It’s probably not a goodbye kiss, because these two crazy kids would be... well, crazy, to not see one another again. It’s a kiss with a promise, though — tender and sweet and so unlike the ones they had years ago. Because now Jeff knows he loves Annie, and it changes how he behaves. Instead of being the selfish jerk who manipulated others in the pilot, in the series finale Jeff Winger became the man who was so selfless that he let the woman he loved most in the world go, knowing that it would hurt him, but create opportunities and happiness for her. In the words of the Internet: “feels.”

4. Oliver's goodbye to Felicity (Arrow)

I would talk about the soufflé faux-engagement or the real engagement, or the suburban rom-com that Oliver and Felicity found themselves in at the beginning of this season. I could even discuss their adorable domestic bliss after they returned to Star(ling) City. I might even be tempted to talk about their first time together in Nanda Parbat.

But I’m actually not going to. Instead, I’m going to talk about something reminiscent of what I will discuss with Captain Swan — I’m going to talk about pain. In spite of the rocky, uneven, and occasional downright horrible writing of the third season of Arrow, there were some bright spots for the show in 2015. A lot of them took place in the current season, but the most important one to me took place during “The Fallen,” in which Oliver bade Felicity goodbye. Apart from being absolutely gut-wrenching acting from Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards, this scene was so important to me and — to be quite honest — much preferred over the sex scene itself.

Because this is the moment in which Oliver and Felicity are at their most honest and vulnerable. She begins to cry at the thought of leaving him, and he confesses to her that the only way he can make it through being in Nanda Parbat is if he knows she is out there, happy. You can almost feel the unspoken words lingering in Felicity’s head – that she cannot be happy without HIM beside her — but she doesn’t utter them. Instead, the music swells and the two kiss, vowing to not say goodbye this time, since it has become their “thing” to do. This moment is so tender and so intimate that it almost makes you want to look away. You feel like you’re invading this quiet, love-wrought moment.

It’s not just the fact that they have to say goodbye that made this scene so sad and ultimately so moving for me. It’s the fact that we have to watch Oliver watch Felicity walking away. Unlike the many times she has walked away from him before, this time was not because she wanted to, or was angry — it was because she had to. This moment is so beautiful, so sad, and the contrast of the hopelessness in the darkness and the hopefulness of the light that frames it is what makes it the best Oliver/Felicity moment of the year for me.

3. Emma has to kill Hook (Once Upon A Time)

Though it might seem odd for me to choose this heartbreaking moment as the best ship moment for Hook and Emma of 2015, I choose it because it was the most powerful acting I’ve seen from Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison. Captain Swan, as they have been dubbed by fans, has gone through a lot the past year. Emma turned into the Dark One, we relished in flashbacks, and then Hook was revealed to have been brought back from the brink of death by Emma, cursing him to also become the Dark One. When it became clear that the only way to save Storybrooke and the people he loved was to die at Emma’s hand, Hook stared death boldly in the face. But, most importantly, he stared into the eyes of his beloved, too.

The complete and utter anguish of that scene is slightly undercut by the complete and utter love that is felt as Emma holds Hook and sobs over his broken body. Hook and Emma have gone through a lot together — they were each so used to constructing walls and forcing people out that when they finally let one another in, it was really important that they did so. We’ve seen the truth, too, that these two will never give up on one another and never stop fighting for one another either.

Hope may seem lost now that Hook has died, but make no mistake about it: Emma doesn’t see that as a roadblock. She will rescue the man she loves. Because, after all: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”


2. Schmidt proposes to Cece (New Girl)

Guys, I did not think that I would become as invested in Schmidt and Cece’s relationship as I was this year. The problem that New Girl had in the third season was that the decision to have Schmidt cheat on Elizabeth and Cece ultimately made him a villain. I’ve always — literally, since the pilot episode — been a shipper of Nick and Jess, and though they had some great moments this season (the one in “Oregon,” and “Clean Break”), it is Schmidt/Cece that stole my heart. The writing of Schmidt this year was so impeccable. He was redeemed from a womanizing character into one who genuinely and truly cared about Cece as a friend, first and foremost. I believed their friendship this year, wholeheartedly, and “The Crawl” and “Oregon” were both great examples of the lengths Schmidt was willing to go to for Cece without anything being in it for him.

And for most of this season, Schmidt was either preoccupied with Fawn or Cece with her studies. But these two never stopped loving one another. That love was always there, bubbling just beneath the surface. But they knew they had to get their lives back in order as individuals before there could ever be hope for them again, romantically. I think that both always knew that if they were to give their relationship a second (third?) chance, it would be permanent. The way that Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone play these characters with such earnestness and endearment toward one another is so lovely to watch unfold. They really went above and beyond this season to unearth subtleties in these characters, which makes me even more excited to watch their engagement and wedding next season.

Schmidt’s proposal to Cece made me cry. It was his truthfulness and devotion, coupled with Cece’s quiet confession of love that was so captivating. The choice for the show to integrate the not-really-flashback-flashback was the absolute perfect decision and I’m so glad that the writers did that. And just like that, the words: “Girl, will you marry me?” made me burst out into tears and cheers. Thank you, New Girl, for making me fall in love with Schmidt/Cece this year. Good job.


1. Harvey tells Donna that he loves her (Suits)

Harvey and Donna’s relationship is so important to me.

They absolutely and truly love one another, that it’s impossible to deny that fact. Every character on this series — no, seriously, every character from major to guest-starring attorneys — has pointed out the fact that Harvey and Donna love one another. And even though I have always been a fan of their flirting, bantering dynamic and their unwavering loyalty to one another, it was this year that really pushed me over the edge into full-fledged Harvey/Donna shipper territory. It might have a little something to do with the “I love you” that Harvey uttered to Donna.

When it seemed like all hope was lost and that Donna might go to jail for something she did, Harvey stepped in and did everything within (and outside of) his power to keep Donna safe. He made sure to tell everyone, too, that this case? It was different. Because it was about her. We saw a side of Harvey Specter that we are unaccustomed to seeing. We saw him unhinged. When he thought that Donna might actually go to jail and believed he had no way to stop that, Donna confronted him about his lack of empathy toward her. His demeanor had been icy and distanced, while Louis was offering support and embraces. It was then that Harvey admitted that the thought of Donna going to prison made him want to drop to his knees. If she was gone? That would cripple him. Later on, Harvey admitted that if other people lose faith in him, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what SHE thinks about him and feels for him. This was completely uncharted territory for Harvey and Donna — both, none more than Harvey, are typically emotionally guarded given their professional relationship and personal history. Harvey let his guard down for the first time in forever with Donna — completely down — and the softness and quietness with which he uttered words of affirmation and care toward Donna was so powerful that it made me catch my breath.

And then, just as Harvey is leaving, Donna asks him “why?” It’s a question that she genuinely asks, without any sort of knowledge of what he might say. So when Harvey says: “You know I love you Donna,” in return, the only thing that registers on her face is shock. She, for the first time in forever, did not expect something like that to happen. But when Donna confronts Harvey about what he said, he — in typical fashion — throws back up his walls and tries to back out of his feelings. Instead of talking through them, he lies and denies. And that’s when Donna hits her breaking point. Because for all of their guarded feelings and hidden emotions, Harvey was always honest with her. Honesty is something Donna Paulsen values above all other things.

When Harvey refused to even talk through his feelings, Donna realized that it was time to start protecting her own for once. She had spent so much time protecting Harvey, so much time excusing his emotional distance, that I think she lost herself and the validity of her own feelings in that denial. And in what has to be one of the most heartbreaking things in 2015, Donna tells Harvey that she loves him... and that she is working for Louis. He pleads with her to stay, and she turns and walks away instead. For as much as she loves him, Donna realized she needed to put her own well-being first for once. And Harvey, as a result, crumbled under anxiety and panic attacks. (Okay, those were due to other things apart from just Donna, but still.)

These two had one of the most important relationships on TV in 2015, and not enough people talk about them. (P.S. Come on, Suits. You cannot use a cover of “The Scientist” over a Harvey/Donna scene. THAT IS WHAT FANVIDEOS ARE FOR AND WHY THEY DESTROY OUR EMOTIONS!)

Did you favorite ships make my cut? What were some of your favorite moments from these and other shows? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts! Until then, happy almost-2016!


  1. Clexa is better because they have actually had a real kiss and Clarke has only kissed Bellamy on the cheek

    1. That's not exactly a solid foundation or reasoning for one ship to be better than another. But thanks for reading! :)

    2. You are totally right. I don't get people who only see phisical aspect of "relationship" (clarke and lexa were never together btw.) instead of feelings between characters

    3. It's only "better" if you're definition of "better" is canon, rushed build-up, and betrayal.

  2. Donna and Harvey!!! You are so very right.

  3. I know a lot of people want to see Harvey and Donna together right now, but I am afraid for that to happen because I think that means the show will be over.
    That said, Episode 10 of season 5 really felt like it could have been the last episode ever, all the pieces seemed to come together yet fall apart in spectacular fashion. These next few episodes are going to be amazing, with or without Darvey.

  4. I loved that you made Darvey number one in your list. I totally agree with you. As for the comment made by Anonymous above, I disagree. I don't think Suits will end if Harvey and Donna will get together. The show is mainly about Harvey and Mike and the fact that he's a fake lawyer. As much as I love Darvey, it's not about them so the show can still work with Harvey and Donna getting together as a sub-plot. There are still many interesting story lines that the writers can think of to make the show work - cases that Mike and Harvey can work on together along with Jessica and Louis. And Darvey would just be a perfect background in all that.

    Just my two cents.

  5. why are they all straight relationships?