The television landscape in 2015 was filled with incredibly compelling relationships. Whether you’re a fan of fairytale romances, supportive friendships, complex marriages, or loving families—there was something on television this year for you to be captivated by.
For today’s entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, let’s take a look at the relationships that made us swoon, cry, and cheer this year. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and your own lists of dynamic duos (or groups!) in the comments! And if you’re in the mood for more “Best of 2015” lists, be sure to check out TVExamined and MGcircles for some NGN-approved fangirl fun!
1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time)
I’m a sucker for a good fairytale, and there’s no better one right now than the epic romance between Emma and Killian on Once Upon a Time. This year, Emma and Killian faced beautiful highs (declarations of love, planning a future together in a new home…) and painful lows (a double dose of Dark One danger, a couple of almost-deaths before one that was all too real…). But if their story in 2015 proved anything, it’s that love is stronger than darkness. Whether they were reigniting a spark of connection in an alternate universe or kissing among the flowers of Camelot, they were a beautiful example of the power love has to help us be our best and strongest self. No couple on TV made me smile bigger or cry harder in 2015, and no couple had a more powerful ending to the year—with Emma ready to literally go to hell and back for the man she loves.
2. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans)
I always describe The Americans as a show that on the surface is about spies but is actually a fascinating study of a marriage and a family. In order for that premise to work, the marriage at the center of the show needs to be even more compelling than the espionage plots around it. Thankfully, this show has found a pair of actors in Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell who set the screen on fire when they’re together and are probably the best scene partners in the business right now. I find myself not wanting to blink when they’re together because I’m afraid to miss even the smallest look between them—because one look or one touch conveys so much emotional depth and honesty. In the middle of a life that asks these characters to constantly lie, it’s beautiful to see them develop a sense of truth and intimacy with each other, even when it’s imperfect and messy—because that’s what a real marriage is all about.
3. Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser (Outlander)
Watching Claire and Jamie grow from a pair forced into marriage to a pair truly living out what it means to love someone “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” was one of my favorite things I did as a television viewer in 2015. I don’t use the word “swoon” lightly, but these two made me do that on more than one occasion this year. There is no duo on television with better chemistry than Caitriona Balfe and Sam Hueghan, and this show wisely uses that chemistry to its fullest potential, creating the best love scenes on television this year (many of which I will admit to watching more than once…purely for research purposes, of course).
4. Jane, Xiomara, and Alba Villanueva (Jane the Virgin)
There is no relationship on television that warms my heart quite like the one between all three Villanueva women. The depth of their love for each other and their devotion to their family unit is one of the purest and more beautiful things on television right now. Watching Xiomara and Alba help Jane through her pregnancy and the transition into motherhood has been incredible, and it’s also been so powerful to watch Jane and Xiomara be there for Alba as she decided to apply for her green card. Whether it was celebrating the arrival of that green card, speaking the same words to their children at their baptism, or simply sitting on a bed together with the baby boy who stole all their hearts—these women have made me laugh, made me sob, and made me feel proud to be from a family of strong, warm, and wonderful women.
5. Barry Allen and Joe West (The Flash)
While Jane, Xiomara, and Alba are a perfect example of the familial bonds formed by birth, Barry and Joe are the perfect example of the familial bonds formed by nothing more than love. The sincerity with which Joe and Barry love each other floors me more often than I should probably admit, leaving me a weeping mess on my couch (or sometimes at my desk at work when I watch The Flash on my lunch break). There’s something so powerful about the idea of choosing to love someone as your own family, and that’s what Barry and Joe have both done for each other. The way they both eschew traditional “masculine” stereotypes to be open and honest with each other about how much they care is something truly special, and I can’t wait to see how many more times these two make me cry in 2016.
6. Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation)
This was the year we said goodbye to Parks and Rec, which meant saying goodbye to Leslie and Ben and their incredible marriage. But, like the show they were at the center of, these two went out on top. In 2015, we got to see this power couple become even more powerful, taking Washington by storm (maybe even all the way to the White House?), speaking out against sexism in politics, and helping each other live their dreams. There will never be another TV relationship that will inspire me the way these two have. I’ll love them and like them forever, and I already miss them.
7. Leslie Knope and April Ludgate (Parks and Recreation)
If you thought I would only choose one relationship from Parks and Rec the last time I could write about them in one of these lists, you don’t know me very well. To represent the way this show has always made female friendship a priority, I chose the relationship that best showcased the ability women have to change one another for the better: the relationship between Leslie and April. This year, we saw April chase her career dreams and choose to have a baby with Andy, and I loved that we saw her lean on Leslie when dealing with both of those major life changes. In April and Leslie’s interactions this year, we saw the fullest extent of Leslie’s ability to help people find their passion, live their best life, and achieve great things; it was everything this show was about wrapped up in the relationship between two wonderfully written female characters.
8. Rosa Diaz and Raymond Holt (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
When Rosa started dating Captain Holt’s nephew last season, it allowed two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s most hilariously stoic characters to share more scenes together—especially more scenes involving expressing emotions and talking about personal subjects. And we all reaped the benefits of that dynamic getting more screen time. Stephanie Beatriz and Andre Braugher are so good together, and they’re never better than when they’re making each other uncomfortable with emotional conversation topics—from pregnancy scares to breakups.
9. Maggie Caruso and Emma Crawford (Playing House)
I discovered Playing House this summer, and ever since, I have been completely captivated by Maggie and Emma and their wonderfully realistic friendship. You can’t fake their kind of love and also their natural comedic chemistry. It’s rare and special, and I hope more people watch this show in 2016 so they can discover this gem like I did. Female friendship is a powerful thing, and Playing House perfectly captures the idea that women will do incredible things for their friends—whether it’s dropping everything to move back home to help their friend take care of her baby, or getting Kenny Loggins to dedicate a song at his concert to thank their friend for all she’s done.
10. Rayna Jaymes and Deacon Claybourne (Nashville)
Rayna and Deacon have become the eye in the middle of the storm of soapy plot twists, hookups, and breakups on Nashville. Even when they were faced with a cancer diagnosis story line, Connie Britton and Charles Esten never let their performances cross into melodrama, instead giving this story line the gravitas, depth, and sincerity it needed to produce some of the show’s most moving moments in 2015. What I love most about Deacon and Rayna is the easy intimacy they’ve fallen into. All it takes is the smallest gesture—a little kiss, a causal “babe” in conversation, a moment of silence in each other’s arms on the couch—to make their relationship feel real and believable. And on a show that seems to get more depressing all the time, their believably stable romance has been a bright spot.