TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.14

LANA PARRILLA

Source: spoilertv.com

Title Page 23

Two-Sentence Summary Regina faces off against the Evil Queen as flashbacks reveal the moment Regina realized the extent of her own self-hatred. Meanwhile, Killian battles his own past demons as they rise up to threaten his relationship with Emma.

Favorite Line “You are a part of me, and I’m a part of you—whether you like it or not. And now I love myself, which means so should you.” (Regina, to the Evil Queen)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time is—at its very core—a love story. And what has always made it stand out is that it’s a love story that acknowledges that romantic love is just one kind of love; it’s not the only kind of love. In fact, Once Upon a Time has often shown that the most important kind of love—the kind that can change villains into heroes and lost girls into saviors—is the love we have for ourselves. True growth, happiness, and hope are only found when we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and love the person looking back—the whole, messy, flawed person. Until that happens, a true happy ending can never be possible, because how can you be truly happy if you’re not happy with yourself?

There are no better characters to bring this theme to life than Regina and Killian, so I was thrilled to see their stories so thematically intertwined in “Page 23.” At the very beginning of Season Three, those two characters had a conversation about whether or not happiness could ever be possible for people like them—people who did terrible things but are working every day to be better than their pasts—and ever since then, I have enjoyed watching their parallel stories of redemption, hope, and self-forgiveness unfold. Those stories haven’t always been easy to watch, but they have provided much of the narrative depth in these later seasons of Once Upon a Time. And they served as the emotional core of “Page 23,” which seems fitting since the titular page was meant to be a symbol of the possibility of a happy ending for a former villain.

This was an episode that probably didn’t need a flashback (How many times do we have to revisit this period in the past?), but at least it tied in beautifully with the theme of self-hatred standing in the way of happiness. I think we could all see it coming that the person Regina hated the most wasn’t Snow White but herself, yet it was still a powerful moment to see her staring at her reflection in the broken glass. Lana Parrilla did commendable work in this episode playing three different versions of the same role, and that moment—with Regina gazing upon her broken self in the broken glass—was among the most emotional of the hour. Regina hated herself so deeply that she cut herself off from anything that could have made her truly happy—namely, a second chance at love with Robin Hood. She self-sabotaged because she felt unworthy of happiness, choosing instead to continue down a dark path because she felt that was the path she deserved to be on.

That same sense of self-loathing was a defining part of Killian’s story for so long, too. He spent centuries hating himself and falling deeper and deeper into darkness because of that self-hatred. In fact, it has been even harder for Killian to let go of that self-loathing than it has been for Regina, which almost surely comes from the fact that he spent many more years doing many more things that made him hate himself. And like Regina in the flashbacks, Killian’s self-hatred caused him to sabotage his own happiness because he felt unworthy of it.

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TV Time: The Americans 5.03

the-americans-season-5-episode-3

Source: tvline.com

Title: The Midges

Episode M.V.P.: Matthew Rhys
The Americans is famously economical with its dialogue, so when an actor gets multiple great line readings in one episode, it’s worthy of being singled out. When most people think of Matthew Rhys’s dialogue in “Midges,” they probably think of the episode’s last line: his sardonic “Should we tell Paige about this?” after loading a body into the trunk of a car. And there’s a reason for that—The Americans doesn’t often allow its characters to have a sense of humor, so when it does, it’s memorable. But when I think of Philip’s great lines and Rhys’s great delivery in this episode, two more emotional moments come to mind.

The first was when Paige asked Philip and Elizabeth if it was hard pretending to be other people and Philip replied, “Yeah, sometimes it’s really hard.” The honesty Rhys gave that line put tears in my eyes because it made me think about the fact that Philip was the perfect parent to answer that question that way. He still carries the weight of what happened with Martha (which was a nice reminder of that storyline before that surprise later in the episode), and Rhys allowed that weight—not crippling anymore but still present—to seep into that single line brilliantly. And then, of course, there was Philip’s devastating question about why Russia can’t grow its own grain. Rhys’s ability to make Philip’s inner conflict almost suffocating in its intensity came through in every beat of his layered speech about home—his longing for the open fields of Russia, his subconscious acknowledgement that the United States isn’t so different from home, his anger that people are still starving so many years after he was a starving child, and his skepticism about the better nation being the one that can’t feed its own people.

Rhys got to deliver some great lines in this episode, but that doesn’t mean his quieter moments should go unnoticed. Whether he was looking into the bathroom mirror, looking at the road while Tuan ranted from the backseat, or looking at his wife as she danced with him, Philip’s eyes were worth following throughout this episode because Rhys said so much with them. He’s always been a master of reacting with realism and saying just enough with his expressions to suggest that Philip’s head and heart are so full of conflicting thoughts and emotions that he could fall apart under the strain at any moment. As Philip’s doubts continue to rise to the surface, I can only imagine that Rhys is going to continue to break my heart.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.13

Once Upon a Time - Episode 6.13 - Ill-Boding Patterns

Source: spoilertv.com

Title Ill-Boding Patterns

Two-Sentence Summary As Gideon tries to fix the sword that he plans to use to kill Emma, Rumplestiltskin is reminded of a time in his past when he watched another son struggle with the siren song of darkness. Meanwhile, Killian is torn between his desire to be honest with Emma and his fears that his past will stand in the way of their happy future.

Favorite Line “How did I ever think removing my evil half would change anything? I thought I was rid of you for good, Queenie. But I guess I’ll always be paying the price for what you did…What I did.” (Regina)

My Thoughts Can I have some of the memory-erasing tea that was being passed around in this episode?

Some episodes of Once Upon a Time get better the more you think about them and analyze them, but some episodes simply don’t hold up to much—if any—deep thinking. “Ill-Boding Patterns” was sadly an example of the latter. What started out as a promising exploration of the pull of darkness and the strength it takes to resist it turned into an exploration of people doing bad things for what they believe are the right reasons or when they believe they’re backed into a corner. And while that’s an interesting topic to explore, it made for quite a depressing episode that seemed to rewrite some basic traits in beloved characters for the sake of fitting this theme.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Killian and Emma’s proposal was one of the moments that was tainted in this episode for the sake of fitting the narrative about making the wrong choice for what you convince yourself is the right reason. Should he have come clean before proposing? Of course. But he did not want to hurt Emma by telling her he killed her grandfather when she thought he was asking her to marry him, so he made the choice to do the less honorable thing to protect the heart of someone he loves, which was completely aligned with the theme of this episode, even if it was not very fun to watch.

Killian proposed to Emma under no small amount of duress. Of course he wanted to ask her to marry him; he bought the ring, talked to Charming, worked out some of his issues with Archie. But this wasn’t how Killian wanted it to happen, and, I’ll be honest; it’s not how I wanted it to happen. I don’t ask for much when it comes to proposals for my favorite television couples (or at least I like to think I’m pretty easy to please on that front); I just want it to be a moment—as it should be in real life—of genuine happiness for both parties. And no matter how much Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue sold their characters’ love and excitement at the idea of getting married, this couldn’t be a genuinely happy moment. The fact that it seemingly was one for Emma actually made it worse; she came to him with her walls down and totally open to the idea of getting married, showing how far she’s come as a character in such a beautiful way, but that openness was met with a major piece of information being withheld from her once again by someone she opened her heart to. The culmination of this part of Emma’s character arc deserved better; it was such a huge moment for her to be the one to take that first step toward lifelong commitment by telling him she would say yes, but it was tainted by this contrived drama and angst.

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TV Time: The Americans 5.02

the americans 502

Source: ew.com

Title: Pests

Episode M.V.P.: Noah Emmerich
Emmerich almost earned last week’s M.V.P. award on the strength of his endearingly realistic awkwardness when talking about the woman he had his eye on at the gym (who we now know as Renee), but this episode was truly his chance to shine. This season’s first two episodes have really put the spotlight on Stan’s sincerity, and Emmerich is so good at reminding us that—even though we have more of an emotional connection to Philip and Elizabeth at this point—Stan isn’t someone to root against; he’s a flawed but good man just trying to do the right thing for his country and for the people he cares about.

“Pests” allowed us to see just how deeply Stan cares, and I love when Emmerich gets to show the upstanding, big-hearted side of this character. When Stan was talking to Philip about Paige, part of me was obviously worried, but part of me was deeply moved by how much Stan sincerely cares about her. Emmerich did a great job of playing the layers of that scene, too, because underneath his genuine concern was a war between wanting to believe his friend and trusting his instincts as a trained FBI agent. Stan knows something isn’t right, and I like those moments when he gets to be a competent agent. It gives Philip and Elizabeth a worthy adversary and credible threat, and it also asks us to closely examine who we’re rooting for, because Philip and Elizabeth may be the characters we care about the most, but it’s hard not to root for Stan, too. And that’s not because he represents America; it’s all because of the humanity Emmerich gives him. (In fact, one of the best thing Stan did in this episode was show that he was willing to put his integrity before his country’s orders.)

That humanity was evident in all the scenes that featured Stan worrying about Oleg in this episode. Their relationship has always been one of my favorites on the show, and Emmerich has made it heartbreakingly clear that Stan has come to truly care about Oleg. The deep sense of responsibility and guilt Stan carries when it comes to Oleg is clearly connected to what happened to Nina, but it’s more than that, too. People matter to Stan; they’re not disposable or easily forgotten.

Whenever I think of Stan, I think of him as the opposite of the “The Bureau does not feel” message that was delivered last season. The Bureau may not feel, but its agents sometimes do. And Stan feels more than most. It takes a great actor to make that depth of feeling and caring—that steadfast sense of responsibility to those who trusted him—truly resonate on a show with this much moral ambiguity. Stan is the very definition of this show’s idea that caring about people makes life a lot more dangerous but also makes it worth living, and I can’t wait to see what Emmerich continues to do as Stan’s story progresses this season.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.12

JOSH DALLAS, COLIN O'DONOGHUE

Source: nerdspan.com

Title Murder Most Foul

Two-Sentence Summary When Charming enlists Killian’s help in discovering the truth about who killed his father, Killian sees an opportunity to earn Charming’s respect before asking for Emma’s hand in marriage—until a terrible truth is revealed. Meanwhile, Regina struggles with the complications of bringing Wish-Realm Robin to Storybrooke.

Favorite Line “Someday, may we all be reunited with our sons.” (Rumplestiltskin)

My Thoughts What does it mean to be enough, to have enough, to do enough? When you spend your whole life chasing the idea of being “enough” (respected enough, powerful enough, good enough), what happens when you discover that sometimes “enough” isn’t enough? Bad things can still happen even when you try your best to be good enough. You can still lose those you love even when you try to be powerful enough. Your past can still come back to haunt you even when you try to be respected enough.

A discovery like that can break you, or it can open your eyes to the idea that you don’t have to chase anything; you’re enough exactly as you are.

With its central theme avoiding the temptation to give in to darkness, it made sense for “Murder Most Foul” to deal heavily with Killian and Regina. However, I loved that it actually focused most closely on Charming. He’s a character we don’t get to explore with great depth that often, but when we do, we are shown a picture of a man who is often tempted to give in to darkness when he feels he isn’t doing enough to protect his family. And in this case, he felt he wasn’t doing enough to avenge the one member of his family we knew the least about until this episode: his father.

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TV Time: The Americans 5.01

Welcome back to our weekly discussion of the best show on television, comrades! I can’t wait to spend this season talking about mothers, grain supplies, my deep love for Paige Jennings, and wigs with all of you!

americans-season-5-premiere

Source: Uproxx.com

Title: Amber Waves

Episode M.V.P.: The hole
You didn’t think I was going to discuss this episode without singling out the hole, did you? Everything about that scene was made for digging into deep analysis (pun intended), and it set up the season in such a revelatory way that I’ve found myself unable to think of much else when I look back on this episode. “Amber Waves” didn’t spend a lot of time with one character or actor, which made it difficult for me to pick an actor for M.V.P., but it did spend a lot of time with the hole—so much time, in fact, that I could see why it might have bothered other people. Devoting the final 10 or so minutes of your penultimate season’s premiere to a mostly wordless scene involving digging in the darkness is something no other show on television today would even attempt. The scene called for a mixture of storytelling patience, actors who can convey huge amounts of thoughts and emotions without words, and an audience comfortable with long periods of silence—and The Americans has proven that it has all three of those things in spades.

The scene also called for an incredible amount of confidence from the writers and director—confidence in both the moment they were creating and confidence in their audience to appreciate it. The entire scene was a ballsy move, especially in a season premiere, and the risk paid off. It showed the relative monotony of realistic spy work while still leaving viewers on edge, and then it reminded us brutally that no one is safe in this world and that we can never let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security by the show’s moments of silence and methodical spycraft.

Yes, the scene was gutsy in its monotony and shocking in its conclusion, but that’s not why I think it was the most valuable part of the episode. It was the way it set up what appears to be some of this season’s major themes that made me believe it’s going to be one of the most valuable scenes of the entire season when all is said and done. Philip and Elizabeth keep digging themselves in deeper; that’s a metaphor that was hard to miss. They’ve been digging a hole for years that could very well be their grave. But it was Hans’s fate in the hole they dug that struck me the most in terms of what it means for the future of this show. Philip and Elizabeth made it out of the hole they dug, but Hans didn’t—sweet, idealistic, young Hans who trusted them (especially Elizabeth) almost as parental figures; this was especially evident in the way Elizabeth reassured him in a motherly tone that things were going to be okay before she shot him. Literally one misstep was all it took for Hans to fall into the hole they dug and become exposed to something deadly and dangerous. And once he was exposed to it, there was no way out; there was only one way for his story to end. Elizabeth being the one to shoot Hans was the perfect choice; for her, practicality has always come before emotional ties. But the look she and Philip shared afterward showed that these kinds of choices and sacrifices aren’t easy for either of them.

Philip and Elizabeth were aware of the risks they faced in that hole, but Hans was supposed to be relatively safe from his place above it. It reminded both of them—and us as viewers—that even simply being around the hole Philip and Elizabeth have dug and the deadly possibility at the center of it is dangerous.

If you just read all of that and somehow managed to not be terrified for Paige and Henry (especially Paige), you must have nerves of steel. This season seems to be about children (both real and stand-in) and their parents, and ending the premiere with the image of Elizabeth and Philip’s wide eyes after she shot the agent who was like a spy son to her seems to point to dark and dangerous moments and difficult choices ahead for Philip, Elizabeth, and their children.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.11

145288_0706 [www.imagesplitter.net]

Source: spoilertv.com

Title Tougher Than the Rest

Two-Sentence Summary As Emma and Regina try to find a way back to Storybrooke from the Wish Realm, they encounter various alternate-reality versions of familiar faces. Meanwhile, Charming and Killian team up back in Storybrooke to hunt down Gideon, as his parents try to work together to find a better fate for their son after he reveals his master plan.

Favorite Line “If you believe in something strongly enough, we all have the power to change our fate.” (August)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always been about finding the power to write your own story, to believe that you can change your life for the better by taking the first step and believing good things are possible for you. That entire ethos was summed up all the way back in Season One by Emma Swan’s famous words:

People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You want people to look at you differently? Make them. You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself…

Part of my problem with this season so far has been that it’s felt like Emma has forgotten her own words at times, buying into the idea of being fated to die protecting her family instead of believing that she has the ability to punch back and change things—change her fate. So imagine my delight when this episode focused on the idea of choosing your own fate and creating your own story right from the very start. As such, it felt like a true return to form for Once Upon a Time.

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Hold on to Happiness

There are times it feels like you really have to reach to find happiness. There are times it feels like everything around you is angry, dark, and heavy. There are times when it seems like the entire media landscape—from the news to the fiction you turn to when you need to escape the news—is conspiring against your valiant attempt to find reasons to smile and laugh every day.

This seems like one of those times, doesn’t it?

Looking back on posts from previous years, it seems that around this time every year, television decides to get really dark, and this year is certainly no exception. From Jane the Virgin and Nashville to This Is Us, there’s been no shortage of tears shed over fictional characters lately. And even in the world of cinema, this has been a rough patch if you’re looking for some escapist fun and unabashed joy; Oscar season isn’t known for its happy films, but this was a particularly heavy year, where even the film being praised most ardently for its joyful spirit (La La Land) ended on a bittersweet note.

What are we to do when things look dark? We celebrate the light. We appreciate moments of pure good where we find them. And we hold on to happiness like the precious treasure it is.

I watched a lot of Fuller House in the days around the presidential inauguration this year. It’s a show that exists for no other reason than to make people happy, and it does its job well. It’s not Breaking Bad or Orange Is the New Black, and not every show needs to be or should be. Sometimes you just want to watch a silly, simple show where storylines are wrapped up in 30 minutes with a group hug. It’s a throwback to a more innocent, less cynical time, and if you’re looking for some warm, fluffy feelings in your media-consuming life, I highly recommend it.

Another show that has become my antidote to all the death and cynicism on television in recent weeks is Timeless. It’s certainly not on the same level of fluffiness as Fuller House, but it’s about three fundamentally good people working together and becoming a family through trust, respect, and empathy, which is even better than fluff. Plus, it’s a time-traveling adventure with great costumes, impeccable guest stars (Fellow Once Upon a Time fans should check it out if only for Sean Maguire’s almost inhumanly charming turn as James Bond creator Ian Fleming.), and characters you feel good about rooting for—characters who have grown more in one season than some shows allow their characters to grow during an entire run, characters who fight for each other, characters who have big hearts and are big nerds. It also has my favorite developing romance on television right now between Wyatt Logan and Lucy Preston, and there is no happier feeling than watching a fictional relationship progress from initial skepticism to respect to fake engagements to real hugs to “I cannot lose you again!” to opening hearts and taking chances—all in the course of one season.

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NGN’s Best of 2016: TV Moments, Episodes, and Shows

I hope all of you have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and may 2017 bring you an abundance of laughter, love, peace, good health, and everything that makes you happiest.

I apologize for the delay in posting my Best of 2016 lists; I needed to take some time instead to write something in honor of Carrie Fisher, a personal hero of mine. But the delay just means you get three lists in one on this last day of 2016!

For as difficult as parts of this year have been, I think we can all agree that it was a great year for television. In a world where it felt like sexism was given a frighteningly public platform, we were given shows, episodes, and moments that brought fierce, complex female characters to the forefront. In a stressful year, we were given plenty of things to laugh about, but there were also plenty of cathartic moments to cry over, too.

As the television landscape continued to broaden and deepen, it became more difficult than ever to narrow down these lists, which is a problem I am more than happy to have. These are my choices for the best TV had to offer this year (in addition to my picks for Best Performances and Best Relationships, which I shared earlier), but I want to know yours, too! Don’t forget to add your picks in the comments and to check out the lists made by TVexamined and MGcircles for more end-of-2016 fun!

Best Moments

gmw

Source: Disney Channel

1. Secret Santa exchange (Girl Meets World: “Girl Meets a Christmas Maya”)
Sometimes you just want to feel good when you watch television, and no moment this year made me feel better than this gift exchange between the core group of friends on Girl Meets World. Each gift represented the kind of deep, sincere understanding and appreciation that makes the relationships on this show so special. From Smackle’s gift of the broken clock and reminder to Maya that her friends know how hard she’s working to fix herself to Zay’s gift of the re-written etiquette book that made Smackle feel loved for exactly who she is, this was one of those moments that made you feel hopeful for the future. In a year that made many of us confront the reality that the world can be an unkind place, this was a reminder of the importance of kindness and friendship just when we needed it most.

2. Claire and Jamie say goodbye (Outlander: “Dragonfly in Amber”)
Claire and Jamie’s love story has always been epic, but this scene took it to an entirely new level of emotional power. The chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Hueghan was sparking during this scene with a ferocity I’ll never forget, an intensity and total believability (even in the face of the fantastical element of time travel) that set this scene apart from any other love scene that aired in 2016.  I dare you to watch Hueghan deliver his line, “Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God, I loved her well” without swooning and crying at the same time. (I’ve tried; it’s physically impossible.)

3. “Hallelujah” (Saturday Night Live: “Dave Chappelle, A Tribe Called Quest”)
Kate McKinnon is a gift that none of us are worthy of, and if you need proof of that, watch this moment again. It was the perfect blending of character and actor; you could feel her singing as both Hillary and Kate, which made it even more cathartic to watch. For those of us left shocked and saddened by the results of this year’s presidential election (and the loss of the genius Leonard Cohen), this was the cathartic moment we so desperately needed. “Hallelujah” is one of my favorite songs ever written, and this only made me love it more. I still can’t watch it without crying through McKinnon’s stunning vocals on the last verse (“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah…”) and her impassioned, emotional plea to do as both she and Hillary would want and never give up fighting for what we believe in. When I need to feel both emotional and empowered, this is still the moment I turn to.

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NGN’s Best of 2016: TV Relationships

the americans 408

Source: spoilertv.com

Television in 2016 was filled with a variety of complex and compelling relationships—from family and friends to fairytale True Loves and teammates. These dynamic duos weathered professional and personal storms together, fought and made up in epic fashion, and provided plenty of reasons for us to cheer, cry, and swoon this year.

Today’s entry in NGN’s Best of 2016 series is focused on the best partnerships, parent/child pairs, and friendships on television this year. Don’t forget to share your choices in the comments to check out TVexamined and MGcircles for even more year-end fun!

1. Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (The Americans)
The center around which the high-stakes world of The Americans orbits has always been this marriage and the family it created, and that center was shaken more forcefully than ever this season—from the strain of having a daughter who knows too much about their true identities as spies to jealousy over fake relationships that have more truth behind them than either wants to admit and, of course, the constant anxiety of living double lives across the street from an FBI agent (and throw in one major near-death experience via potential bioweapon for good measure). Just one of these things could have destroyed their partnership, but what was so beautiful about this season of The Americans was the way it allowed them to grow closer together, ending the season as a more united front than perhaps ever before. Each new challenge was met with a deepening sense of honesty, openness, and intimacy, which sometimes resulted in horrible fights but, more often, resulted in quiet moments of connection that reminded everyone watching that, as Philip said this season, “The Center made a good match.” The same could be said of the casting team, who found lightning in a bottle with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Their chemistry continues to shine through the smallest details, creating a marriage that feels believable and a partnership that you can’t help but root for—even when you feel like you should be rooting against them.

2. Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden (The People vs. O.J. Simpson)
It’s not easy playing real people, and it’s especially challenging to play two real people whose relationship has been a source of speculation and conjecture for 20 years but who have never given a definitive answer to what the nature of their relationship was. Somehow, though, Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown—along with some wonderfully ambiguous writing—managed to turn what could have felt uncomfortable into a twist on the “Will they or won’t they?” (or maybe “Did they or didn’t they?”) dynamic that was at turns sexy, sweet, and sad. Paulson and Brown had the kind of chemistry directors and writers pray for—conveying so much in a look across a bar, a charged moment outside a hotel room, or a late-night dance. The show managed to walk the line between professional respect, deep friendship, and the continued undercurrent of romantic possibility so well, and it did this by focusing less on the question of what actually happened between them and more on the support system they created with each other, which—like many aspects of this show—took something that was often sensationalized and made us care about it on a deeply emotional level.

3. Ginny Baker and Mike Lawson (Pitch)
Sometimes the best TV relationships sneak up on you, and you find yourself caring about them more than you ever expected to. That was certainly the case with these two teammates. Part mentor-mentee relationship, part professional partnership, part reluctant friendship, and part slow-burn romance—Mike and Ginny’s relationship is a delicate balancing act between sharp banter, serious scenes, and sizzling chemistry. The writers did an admirable job of building this relationship with a solid foundation of respect—showing Mike take every opportunity to sing Ginny’s praises to anyone who would listen, including Ginny herself—so that when the “almost kiss” happened at the end of the season, it felt earned and believable instead of cliché and cheap. Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar became two of 2016’s most potent screen partners, creating an electrifying dynamic that felt completely effortless and natural. A freshman show (especially one with only 10 episodes) creating such a strong arc for its central relationship is something that should be commended. And beyond any serious analysis, this relationship made me smile more than any other on television this year, and if you need a reminder, just watch their phone call after the All-Star Game if you need a little year-end pick-me-up.

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