Fangirl Thursday: Worth the Wait



I’m a pretty spoiled fangirl when it comes to “ships.” From Sydney and Vaughn to Leslie and Ben, most of my favorite fictional pairs got together after only a couple of seasons of waiting.

However, we all have those fictional couples who taught us patience. Whether it was for Mulder and Scully or Luke and Lorelai, we’ve all known the pain of waiting season after season (after season) for longing looks and banter to turn into something more. We’ve all known the fear that maybe the show would end before we’d know what it’s like to see them as a couple. But we also all know the pure fun of these long-term “Will they or won’t they?” couples—the excitement that came every time they hugged after an intense moment, the hope we felt every time they smiled at each other, and the sense of certainty that each finale would be the finale when the finally got together (only to have that certainty be dashed time and again, until one finale suddenly became the finale).

The first fictional relationship that taught me the value of patience was Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. I came into that fandom as a 13-year-old who had the first four books at her disposal. By the end of the second book, I knew Ron and Hermione were going to end up together. (I mean, come on; they were the Han and Leia of children’s literature.) But the wait for them to get there was torture. I started the series in eighth grade; I finished it the summer before my sophomore year in college. During that time, I had to suffer through books where they spent half the time not talking, different significant others for each of them, and the constant fear that one of them (Ron) was going to die before they got together. But also during that time, I also got to experience the little details that make those fictional relationships—the ones where we feed on every little interaction—so special: fights during the Yule Ball, names called while drifting in and out of consciousness, comforting hugs, and kisses on cheeks.

It’s those little moments that we often have the fondest memories of when we think back on a given “ship.” Because those were the moments that we analyzed for hours and hours with our friends both online and in person, building our case for how we knew they had to end up together. It’s that way with all slow-burn fictional couples. The waiting teaches us to appreciate the value of one line, one touch, and one look. Sometimes that’s enough to sustain us through even the darkest “shipper” seasons.

When it comes to television, as I said before, I’m pretty spoiled. However, I paid my dues with Castle. I spent four full seasons watching Castle and Beckett’s relationship develop from tension to respect to a love they were both finally willing to admit and accept. I knew from the end of the pilot that I was hooked; I was going to “ship” those two characters until the end. And while there was never really any doubt that Castle and Beckett were going to end up together eventually, it still wasn’t always an easy ride.

There was Demming. There was Gina. (The Season Two finale of Castle made me cry embarrassingly hard when I first watched it—because I really thought that was going to be the finale for them.) There were walls and fears and shootings and PTSD.

But there were also the magical moments you only get with couples that make you wait years to see them get together. There were cups of coffee offered every day. There was hand-holding by a hotel pool. There were hugs and smiles and stories shared about the things that made these people who they are. And when I think back to many of my favorite moments between Castle and Beckett, they’re mainly these moments—the little signs that these characters were slowly finding their way to one another, and we were going to get to watch every step on their journey.

Yes, it’s fun to be spoiled. It was great to see Emma and Hook kiss for the first time on Once Upon a Time only a year after he was introduced. It was great to see Mindy and Danny in a relationship only two years after The Mindy Project started. However, there’s something to be said for enjoying a long wait. There’s something to be said for the appreciation slow-burn relationships give us for the little moments, especially the little moments of emotional intimacy. By making fans wait for the big romantic moment, these shows or book series or movie series help readers understand that sometimes the little moments are even better, because they feel so deeply personal for these characters and their specific journey. I’ve seen so many first kisses and professions of love, but I’ve only seen one character explain to another why she loves a cheesy soap opera. And that moment (in Castle’s third season) was worth about a hundred first kisses to me.

And when those relationships we wait for finally happen, it’s usually worth every bit of angst we endured along the way. When Castle and Beckett finally got together, it felt earned. It was a moment of celebration and happiness for a fandom that had waited four full seasons to see our favorite characters get to that place. And it’s a moment I think back on often when I’m wondering about whether or not the “Will they or won’t they?” couples I love now are worth the wait.

When it’s killing me to watch Harvey ignore his feelings for Donna on Suits, I think of Castle and Beckett. When I wonder if I’m crazy for thinking there’s hope for something more between Jaime and Brienne in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I think of Ron and Hermione. And then I remember that sometimes the fictional couples that make you want to scream “JUST KISS ALREADY!” are the ones who will make you jump for joy the highest when they finally do kiss. Patience is a virtue, and I’m forever grateful for the past and present slow-burn couples I’ve loved in my years as a fangirl for teaching me to be patient. There are things in life worth waiting for, and a great “ship” is one of them.

So tell me, fellow fangirls (and fanboys), which slow-burn “ships” taught you patience during your years in fandom? And which ones are currently testing your patience now?

31 thoughts on “Fangirl Thursday: Worth the Wait

  1. Love the article. I can feel the passion you put into the writing as an avid viewer of television.

    Castle and Beckett is on one of the slow-burn ships that taught me patience. There were times they truly tested my own. I’m glad the tension between them was finally paid off though, like you, I thought with the way things were going in Season 2, its finale would be a likely time for the payoff to happen. Imagine my frustration when Castle left with his ex-wife.

    Ron and Hermione are on my list as well. I’m talking about the book version of them and not the movie version which wasn’t bad but I like how the books handled the characters’ developing feelings for each other more than how the movies handled them.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! And I’m with you on liking Ron and Hermione’s relationship development more in the books than in the movies. I’ll always be a little bitter that the movies changed the Malfoy Manor section of Deathly Hallows Part 1 to take the focus off Ron’s desperation to get back to Hermione. It was one of my favorite moments for their relationship in the books, and I missed it a lot in the movie.

  2. Warning: mini-rant ahead.

    I love a well-executed slow burn on a relationship — one where the obstacles or character beats make sense. I love how, in these situations, the smallest actions mean more than usual.
    A look.
    A smile.
    A touch.
    All these carry much more weight. In these situations, the oddest things become romantic because they are steeped in a long-time knowledge of the other person. Not everyone just jumps full-throttle into a relationship. For instance, I love the relationship between Parker and Hardison in “Leverage.” (If you like heist flicks, the Mission Impossible tv series, witty banter, and the bad guys getting their comeuppance, check this series out.) She’s tweaked and just doesn’t operate in the same world as the rest of us. He’s patient and accepts her in all her weirdness — in fact, he loves her weirdness. Hook and Emma — he’s patient and knows when to push and when to pull back.

    What I HATE is writers working off the assumption of the “Moonlighting Curse.” (The idea that once you get characters together, they cease to be interesting.) Working from this assumption the writers put endless and bizarre obstacles in a couple’s way. Writers put the couple together and break them apart endlessly because “Oh no! What do we do when they get together???” This is why a slow burn will sometimes scare me. Are the writers just jerking me around because they don’t know to write a happy couple? Or, do they have a plan? Back to “Leverage”: Parker and Hardison together are amazingly entertaining. They don’t lose dramatic impetus. It’s simply a different dynamic.

    Note to writers: It can be done. Go watch all the “Thin Man” movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy. “Hart to Hart” was just plain fun. Repeat after me: Happy couples can be interesting.

    This may be another reason that we love a good, slow relationship — because well-done ones are sooooo hard to find in the TV landscape. So, help me out, folks, what are the well-done ones that I’m missing?

    • You’ve come to the right place for recommendations on TV couples that prove the “Moonlighting Curse” is a bunch of junk! We’re all big fans of happy couples on TV shows around here. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve said “Happy couples can be interesting” more than once on this blog. 😉

      My first recommendation would be Castle. The obstacles that kept them apart for the first four seasons felt honest and understandable; never cheap. And now they’re a happily-married crime-solving duo very much influenced by the Thin Man movies, actually. I would also recommend Parks and Recreation for about a thousand reasons but especially because no show on television was more dedicated to proving that strong, happy relationships make great television. The show featured not just one but two wonderful examples of marriages that lasted for multiple seasons. It’s also the best TV show ever and everyone should watch it. 😉 (Can you tell I miss it a lot?)

      • Thanks! I should have mentioned that it’s great to have a post celebrating shows that make us patient and make us appreciate the little things.

        I did watch Castle for awhile. Unfortunately, life interfered in a big way at one point, so I’m behind a few seasons. (Stupid life interfering with tv watching.) Like you, I thought the obstacles did make sense.

        For me, Bones pushed it a little. I actually became more invested in Angela and Hodgins. I did think the use of Cam was brilliant. I cringed when she was introduced because the character’s function felt soooo obvious. But wow, they used her in cool ways to advance Booth and Brennan’s relationship.

        Can I still post on the site if I admit that I haven’t watched Parks & Rec yet? Obviously, this is a vital hole in my life that I need to fill.

        • “Can I still post on the site if I admit that I haven’t watched Parks & Rec yet? Obviously, this is a vital hole in my life that I need to fill.” – This put a huge smile on my face. Obviously it’s not a necessary prerequisite, but it’s strongly encouraged. 😉 It’s just such a happy and beautiful little show that I will continue to recommend it to everyone for the rest of my life.

  3. I’ve had so many, where do I even start?

    My first three all happened around the same period of time. Like you, there was Ron and Hermione. I also started reading between the 4th and 5th books and the wait for these two was eternal. I shipped Harry with a lot of people, but early on, it was clear that Ron and Hermione were it for each other. There were a lot of tears when they finally kissed in Deathly Hallows.

    There was also Grissom and Sara, who I’ve already talked about but I will always talk about again. They will forever go down in history as my most frustrating couple because even the moments that we got with them were so small. It was years of vague references to Sara’s beauty, kind of flirty comments from Sara with very little back from Grissom, an apology gift of a houseplant, grumpy jealousy when Sara started dating someone (with a wonderful speech from Sara about how he either needed to admit his feelings or back off because he had no right to try to keep her from happiness), and one moment of Grissom calling Sara “honey” after she was hurt in an explosion. There was an entire episode where Grissom was distracted because the victim looked like Sara and the killer was an older man who had been dating her so the parallels were all over the place and it culminated in the most heartbreaking speech about how much Grissom wanted to be with Sara but was too scared/not bold enough to take the chance. That was shipper heaven because we were finally proven right after 4.5 years even if we got nowhere with them. But it’s hard to top the “I’m not ready to say goodbye” relationship reveal. We didn’t see them get together, they just dropped us in the middle of their relationship like it was always there because it was. Sure, I would have liked to see them finally confess their feelings but this somehow felt right for the couple.

    Finally, there was Luke and Lorelai. I was a Luke fan from the beginning and watching them grow toward each other was wonderful and frustrating and all other emotions rolled into one, like all the best slow-burn couples. Of all my ships, their first kiss may be my favorite. It was so them. Always taken by surprise and unsure but then completely in. And the naked sleeprunning Kirk just added to the “them-ness” of the moment. Then they went the way of Sydney and Vaughn and there was a whole different sort of frustration, but that’s another post 😉

    These are the ships that taught me patience. They are the ones that told me not to expect (relatively) immediate gratification when dealing with TV. They are the ones that made me appreciate all the little moments and build-up. They’ve given me a love of the cups of coffee and metaphorical pigtail pulling and the word “always”. I love the moments after a couple gets together because they are adorable and I want the characters I love to be happy. But I love the build-up and everything that happens before that moment, whether it’s a slow-burn or not. But to the gradual evolution of feelings over the course of seasons is what television can do so well. It’s frustrating and magical and bonds fans together and we sit on the sidelines and cheer for the characters to realize their feelings and take that leap.

    Along the years, there has also been Castle and Beckett, Booth and Brennan (who took about a season too long before getting together in a way that still doesn’t thrill me but is now great), and CJ and Josh.

    The show was canceled before the slow-burn reached it’s conclusion, but the other slow-burn couple that would have been brilliant and beautiful were Cal and Gillian from my beloved Lie to Me. Gillian was married when the show started and so I didn’t think it was going to be a case of the lead characters getting together. Then it turns out her husband is a jerk and Cal was hopelessly in love with her. Gillian got her divorce and both had other relationships off-and-on but they were each other’s constant. The more their backstory unfolded, you saw the trust and the prioritizing of the other and their happiness over everything else. We finally got a declaration of love at the end, but not to the other. I would have loved to see where they could have gone and seen them even stronger after getting together.

    • And now on to my current couples. I guess Mulder and Scully could have gone in the first comment because other people know how they left thing pre-revival even if I don’t. But I’m in s3 now and loving their dynamic and seeing the way these two influence on so many of my other favorite couples who came after them.

      I truly have no idea what will happen with the other two of my current slow-burn couples. I suspect bad things for one, given the nature of the books/show, and I just don’t know about the other. They’d get together by the end of nearly any other show but I don’t know that that will make a difference for this one.

      Jaime and Brienne. I want these two to get a happy ending so badly. I don’t even care if it’s the show or the books or both, I just want it. And I don’t think it can be a happily ever after because when does that happen in Game of Thrones but give them more moments of connection and Brienne breaking her vow to LS to save Jaime and the vow she made to him. I feel like that’s the only way their book story could go which probably means death for them both but they both need to know what they mean to each other. I have no idea what’s going on with the show but Nikolaj and Gwen would do amazing things together if it goes in that direction and I would LOVE to see that. Their little moments have been incredible so far and give me lots of the best kind of emotional pain.

      Then there is Bellamy and Clarke. I’m remarkably zen at the moment about them even though I’m only partially optimistic that these two will ever be together romantically on the show. I’ve been an obsessive mess for these two since May. The “let me run into your arms and hug you while the music swells in the background” was it for me. Everything about that hug was perfect. Everything and nothing was said in Clarke’s relieved smile and clinging to him and in Bellamy’s stunned face and the way he holds her like he never wants to let her go again. Add in his sister playfully commenting on how far they’ve come and there was no going back for me. I may multiship both characters but this relationship is it. This is the one I want to see them build toward and I want the beautiful angst that is coming to be another step in their journey.

      And finally in current slow-burns that aren’t together yet and may never be is Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills. It’s another case of overwhelming chemistry and them canonically prioritizing the other over everyone else. At least on Ichabod’s end. They’d go to hell and back for each other (and kind of have) but after a shaky second season, I’d like them to get back to these two and their bond.

      • You know I share all your hopes/fears for Jaime and Brienne. My only prediction for them is PAIN. But I really do think we’re going to see them come to some understanding of their feelings before one or both of them dies. (I have a horribly depressing headcanon that Jaime is going to die in her arms to mimic the scene where he faints in them after the bath. And yes, I did feel the need to share it because I need you to cry along with me when you think about it.) Nothing good can ever stay in that series, but I do hope the two of them know that they’re loved and valued by the other before tragedy strikes.

        • WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THAT. That’s actually a really good prediction and now everything hurts in advance. Can you make GRRM write faster because I need the next book now please.

    • I could seriously read your description of your fandom history forever. You write about all of it with such love—especially CSI and Lie to Me.

      I also have to say I adored your comparison between Luke/Lorelai and Sydney/Vaughn. The wrong turn both relationships took was so disheartening. There were bumps in the road for both couples that could have been written well, but we got the opposite of that as fans of both shows. At least we got a happy ending for both of those pairs when all was said and done. (And now you’ve given me an idea for another post: TV couples ruined by their writers.)

      • It’s probably a good thing that I have you to listen to me ramble about my fandom history forever because you keep trying to kill me with too many feelings about them all.

        I will look forward to that post because I have a lot of feelings about those two couples.

    • Yes, to Luke and Lorelai. Loved it when they finally got together . . . only to be pulled apart gain. (Seriously??? *sigh*) It was fun watching them navigate their relationship. Lorelai’s hiring of TJ to make Liz happy to make Luke happy is one of my favorite expressions of love.

      Lie to Me — sooooo happy to see another fan. Tim Roth and Kelli Williams were great together. (Jennifer Beals as the ex was pretty fantastic as well.) Love your characterization that they were each other’s constant (thank you Lost!).

  4. Like I’ve said so many times in here Jack and Kate from Lost are my OTP for life and they taught me so much, even that the most beautiful things in life are worth the wait.
    Pacey and Joey kept me on my toes till the last episode, I hated season 5 and 6 of Dawson’s creek but between Dawson and Pacey I really wanted for Joey to choose Pacey and I was happy with that.
    In Season 1 and 2 of New Girl Nick and Jess tested my patience every episodes, I was like.”just kiss already!” It was so nice so watch them realize they had feelings for each other, I’m so sorry that the writers ruined that tv show.
    Tessa and Will from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, their love story is epically beautiful, but by the end of the saga I was emotionally drained.
    This year Oliver and Felicity from Arrow have tested my patience a couple of times, but I didn’t get frustrated too much because even in dark and angsty time, it was clear that they loved each other very much and they were and are meant to be.
    Bellamy and Clarke from The 100 are also testing my patience, I’m ok with their slow burn but I’m afraid that the writers and ex.producer Jason Rothenberg and their crazy double standards about love stories will ruin everything that they have build at the end.

    • Hello fellow Bellamy and Clarke fan! I share your concerns about the writers/Jason. I’m preparing myself to love the version of them that exists in fanfiction/my head more than whatever happens in canon. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to do that. But I’m still holding out hope that it’ll happen on the show too. Bob and Eliza have such wonderful chemistry together and I’d like to see that utilized.

      • Hi! I was talking with a friend of mine just the other day and I was saying to her that I’m ok for them to stay close friends and co leaders at the end if their story is going to be written so beautifully. The important thing for me is that writers/jason won’t ruin what they have built in order to shove it down our throat the “out of the blue” clexa ship.

  5. Oh the question of if/when two leads are going to get together!

    I was all about Mulder/Scully back in the day. That relationship was pretty much always a slow burn. We were always shown very little. Is it assumed that eventually they started sleeping together? Yes. Do we have irrefutable visual evidence? Not really. Just cryptic shots of one leaving the others apartment/sharing a bed. Hell, not even the baby they had together is proof considering there was artificial insemination involved. Not even kidding. But at the same time, I don’t feel cheated. I kinda like the abstract nature of it. Everything else exists in fanfiction and our own headcannons. That doesnt mean I didnt devour every little hint that there could be something more. And the show didnt leave us with nothing. We got the “we have to go undercover as a married couple” trope (one of my favs). We got the “they are making a movie about us and our characters are definitely together” scenario. We got “Mulder coming on to Scully but its not really Mulder because he swapped bodies!” scenario. Not to mention pretty much everyone they ever interacted with assumed they were romantically involved. The writers loved toying with us, but I kinda loved it. The most epic romantic moment we got was probably in the movie, and that was interrupted by a damn bee carrying an alien virus. Sometimes these things happen, lol. There is still a pretty heated debate over when they actually started sleeping together. I am in the camp that thinks it started a little bit earlier than most. Kelly will back me up here. There was a lot of causal touching involved.

    I think its easy to say this looking back. I wish I could go back and ask teenage me what I thought about it, haha. I think she would be a lot less chill then I currently am. I still cant believe that in 5 months there is going to be a new chapter in the MSR. Currently people are freaking out that they might start this series not being a couple. I actually don’t mind either way. They will always love each other. But I never really saw it as an epic romantic love. Its a love based in trust, friendship, and respect. Anything beyond that was just icing on the cake to me.

    If you want a truly slow and frustrating shipping experience, be a comic-book fan. It takes about a year to get enough of a story that would equal maybe one episode of a TV show, and then about 5 years in, they will just scrap what they are working on and reboot and everything changes. “Oh you really like Lois and Clark together? How about we stop that, restart, and take 10 years until you get it back? Sound good?” No.

    Ive also had two shows that took so long to get their main characters together I gave up before it happened: Booth and Brennan from Bones, and Mac and Harm from JAG, both of which were kind of lighter Mulder/Scully AUs, haha. Now I kinda want to go back and finish JAG…

    • JAG is one of those shows that, for me, became ridiculous in the ways they sought to keep Mac and Harm apart. Plus, I always thought they made more sense as friends. Each was in a relationship at one point that actually made more sense than the two of them together.

      • I went back and watched some Mac/Harm clips from the later seasons and all I could think was “what the heck is happening right now?!” It all felt wrong. Maybe just because it was so out of context, but I dont really feel sorry for leaving that one behind, haha.

  6. I kind of envy that you were reading Harry Potter during those very important teenage years. That would be very intense and quite different from my experience of discovering them sometime around the 4th book coming out (maybe?) when I was in my late 20s and in a steady relationship that would lead to marriage. Not that you can’t ship stuff in your 20s, but it’s not the same as reading kind of thing in your teens.
    Procedural dramas like Bones drive me nuts because the personal relationship stuff gets woven in so slowly, in such tiny doses. I always liked them together and at the end of every episode when they would have their drink or meal and talk, I would be certain that they would end up together. But it took soooo long. And then when it came, it was kind of sudden and odd, probably because of the way they decided to write ED’s real pregnancy into the story. But I did like them getting together in the end.
    More frustrating and a much more desired ship (perhaps because it wasn’t so certain, and also because she was kick-ass-awesome) was Ziva and Tony on NCIS. Gah! I respect the actress’s decision to leave the show, but I wish they’d wrapped their love story up in a better way. I felt like I waited a very long time for very minimal payoff.
    I have to admit that I am sometimes a little disappointed when a slow burn couple finally gets together because the delicious tension goes away. Most recently, I’m worried that we’re never going to see Deacon and Rayna work their chemistry again on Nashville. I love their happy contentment and obviously Deacon’s illness got in the way, but I want them to still have that tension, without the relationship being pulled apart again, obviously. As much as a happy marriage is lovely to see on TV, I also want some playfulness and desire and eye sex. Is that really too much to ask for? ; )

    • I feel like show runners have this bad habit of dragging things on way longer than is feasible, then the couple finally gets together, people stop watching, and then the excuse is “See! We told you it was going to kill the show!”. But really, what killed the show is that people got tired of waiting and you missed your chance to give us something that felt right and could have been amazing.

      Honestly I would much prefer that any couple with any kind of great tension or chemistry just goes for it right away (assuming they are both single). One night stand whatever. Then they can spend the rest of the show being angsty about dating other people or fighting their feelings (a la Suits). I love the tension that comes from knowing what they could have and still being stubborn and fighting it.

      Hell, look at Hook and Emma, they gave us what most of us didnt even know we wanted pretty early on, and then have managed to drag out their development quite successfully to a point where we still get excited anytime they look at each other almost 2 seasons later.

      Moral of the story: Just let your leads make out.

    • There’s always a fine line to walk with tension on TV shows. If you wait too long, it all goes away, and if you have the characters get together too soon, you run the risk of losing the spark that only comes from good sexual tension too. I think the key is to find a way to write characters that are interesting and relationships that are compelling for more reasons than just “They have so much chemistry!” That way, when the characters don’t have the tension to fall back on anymore, there are a whole new set of reasons to want them to share scenes.

      I’ll say it again because I love recommending shows to you, but I think Castle did a really good job of weaving romance into a procedural. The creators always said it was a love story first and a crime story second, and that’s probably why I’ve always adored it when I don’t normally like procedurals.

  7. Pingback: The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/11 – 9/18) | Nerdy Girl Notes

  8. Thank you thank you THANK YOU for saying Donna & Harvey from Suits. I don’t know many other people who actually watch that show. And yes, I spend more time than I really should really at Harvey to “freaking kiss her already!” but yes, there is something to be said for the writers killing us by making us wait. The season 6 mid-season finale was, just so much! At a moment when you can literally see Harvey Specter’s heart breaking, who walks in but Donna & the look on his face when she asks “do you want to be alone?” & the response we all knew was coming, because who else does he want right then? He wants the one person who has NEVER lost faith in him, who will be there to help him pick the pieces back up after this upheaval again.
    My other ship that made me wait to the point of driving me absolutely crazy was Josh/Donna from West Wing….when they actually, finally kissed in season 7 in that hotel room when they got the polling numbers it was as if the world had finally settled into place for me.
    Castle/Beckett are #3 on my list
    Emma/Hook my favorite ship EVER & while I’m extraordinarily glad they didn’t torture us by making us wait forever (there have just been SO MANY amazing moments since that first kiss) I think if they would’ve made us wait longer there might have been a kidnapping of Adam & Eddy.
    Anyways, sorry for my rambling & I love your blog

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