This was a great year to be a fan of smart, complex, and emotionally-engaging relationships on television. In terms of romantic relationships, there were plenty of engagements, weddings, and first kisses to keep even the most rabid “shippers” happy. And there were plenty of other meaningful relationships that blossomed on our TV screens this year, too—between parents and children, friends, coworkers, and traveling companions.
Today at NGN, it’s time to take a look at the 10 best relationships that graced our TV screens this year. From lovers to family members to mentors, here are my favorite TV relationships of 2013.
1. Leslie and Ben (Parks and Recreation)
In a year that featured the development of many strong romantic relationships, there was still no other duo who could come close to the hold these two have over my heart. Through successes and failures, good days and bad, these two are each other’s ultimate teammate—always having each other’s back and helping them be their best self. Their perfect wedding was my favorite TV moment of the year. Not only are they the best couple on television; they’re the most inspiring for all us Leslies (and Bens) out there looking for someone to love and to like.
2. Nick and Jess (New Girl)
The best television surprise in 2013 for me was how this relationship was handled at the end of New Girl’s second season. With a deft mixture of silliness and sincerity, Nick and Jess moved from roommates to roomfriends to romance in what was quite possibly the most satisfying string of episodes of any show to air this year. Has the progression of their relationship faltered a bit in Season Three? Yes. But that doesn’t take away from what this relationship is at its best—a surprisingly honest (and surprisingly hot) look at what happens when two messy, imperfect people fall in love. And let’s not forget about the kissing. (But really, how could anyone forget about the kissing?)
3. Jaime and Brienne (Game of Thrones)
On a show filled with backstabbing, power plays, and relationships built on deceit, Season Three of Game of Thrones gave us the dynamic duo of Jaime and Brienne, whose relationship is built instead on a slowly developing sense of mutual understanding and trust. Theirs is a story of learning to look beyond first impressions and reputations to see the real person. All Jaime wants is someone to see him as Jaime instead of the Kingslayer, and Brienne finally gave him that gift when she called him “Ser Jaime.” In a world where relationships between men and women are either outlets for lust or political power (or both), Jaime and Brienne represent something very rare: genuine respect.
4. Charming and Emma (Once Upon a Time)
Once Upon a Time began with the ultimate act of paternal love—a father willing to give up his own life to save his daughter. But for over two seasons after that brilliant moment, it felt like Charming and Emma’s relationship would never come close to that level of importance on the show again. Thankfully, Season Three has featured a growing number of moments between father and daughter, and it’s been enough for audiences to see just how special this relationship is. Charming’s concern for Emma’s happiness never feels forced or tied up with any emotions other than deep, unconditional love. From lame dad jokes to sweet forehead kisses, their relationship always feels genuine and uncomplicated, which is the kind of love Emma needs from her parents. Josh Dallas radiates a kind of warm, paternal energy, and he is often at his best when sharing a scene with Jennifer Morrison, including even the smallest background moments.
5. Castle and Beckett (Castle)
Confidence is a beautiful thing, and that’s been the key to Castle and Beckett’s relationship ever since Castle proposed at the end of Season Five. By moving the characters into this next stage of their relationship, the writers seem to have freed themselves of any unnecessary angst and are instead weaving this warm, supportive, and sexy relationship into the fabric of the show rather than leaving it in its own box. From a first “I love you” to wedding planning and talk of future babies, this couple has taken huge strides in the last year, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings for them and for us as fans.
6. Emma and Hook (Once Upon a Time)
There’s something really beautiful about the idea of someone finding a second chance at love after they thought such a chance was never theirs to have. Emma and Hook both represent that second chance for each other—a chance to find love that’s healing instead of destructive; love that brings hope instead of darkness. As an audience, we’ve watched Emma struggle for three seasons with the lingering pain of feeling abandoned and unwanted, and, with Hook, she’s finally found a man who wants her enough to fight for her and beside her and a man who makes her happiness his only priority. This relationship has given Emma a sense of agency and choice where she has so often been denied it. And it’s given us the hottest kiss this show has ever seen.
7. Leslie and April (Parks and Recreation)
I know that Leslie and Ann are the great friendship of Parks and Recreation, but this year saw huge strides in another important relationship in Leslie’s life—her friendship/mentorship with April. Leslie’s passion has had a huge impact on April’s sense of responsibility within the parks department, but their relationship now extends far beyond merely professional boundaries. April has become a huge source of support for Andy, and her enthusiasm for her husband chasing his dreams is very Leslie-esque. Also, her letter describing Leslie’s many values (which ended this season’s premiere) was one of the most heartwarming displays of friendship I’ve seen this year on a show built around heartwarming displays of friendship.
8. Snow and Charming (Once Upon a Time)
If you asked me to describe what “happily ever after” looks like, I would show you a clip of these two. From taking on Medusa to struggling through Neverland and dealing with the hope and heartbreak of their unusual little family, Snow and Charming have stood as Once Upon a Time’s ultimate symbol of true love. The great thing about this relationship, though, is that I believe it. I believe that they truly love each other because they believe so strongly in one another; I’m shown more than I’m told that they have a healthy, strong marriage, and that goes a long way towards making a relationship that could come across as too-good-to-be-true feel real. And it helps that Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin have their own real-life love story playing out alongside their fairytale one. No couple on TV have the kind of joyful, beautiful chemistry that they have.
9. Mindy and Danny (The Mindy Project)
Boy and girl work together. Boy and girl fight. Boy and girl soften to each other. Boy and girl become unlikely friends. Boy and girl slowly awaken to the fact that somewhere along the way they fell in love. It’s a classic romantic comedy plot, and it’s one The Mindy Project is selling so well right now. Thanks to Chris Messina’s range and gift for subtlety, Danny Castellano has become one of the most romantic men on television, and when the writers embraced this, it instantly became a better show. In a television landscape filled with couples making the leap from “Will they or won’t they?” to “They will” more quickly than ever, Danny and Mindy are there every Tuesday night to fulfill your need to scream “Just kiss already!” at the television every time they share a scene.
10. Louis and Rachel (Suits)
In a season of Suits where characters betrayed each other more often than not, Louis and Rachel were an example of a healthy relationship that made both parties better people. Rachel gave Louis a real friend, but she also gave him someone who was unafraid to call him out when he was being a jerk. And Louis gave Rachel the kind of support and belief she craved as she waited to hear from the law schools she applied to. Louis telling Rachel she got into Columbia was one of the happiest Suits moments of 2013.
What were your favorite TV relationships this year? Be sure to check out Heather’s list for her top TV relationships, too!