Daily Dose of Feelings #15

I had a professor in college who once said of The Great Gatsby, “You can talk about this book for one class or the rest of your life. And since I won’t be teaching you for the rest of your lives, let’s just make this one hell of a class.”

That’s how I feel about the ending of “Sucker Punch,” the midseason stunner from the second season of Castle, the episode which took me from loving the show to full-blown obsession.

There are so many emotional beats in these final five minutes. It begins with the quiet support between Beckett and Castle and with the reminder that this man gave up no small amount of money for her to have a chance to catch the man who killed her mother. “Sucker Punch” was the episode that convinced me in no uncertain terms that Rick Castle was already hopelessly in love with Kate Beckett, even if he didn’t want to admit that to himself yet. Then, the scene escalates into one of the greatest twists Castle has ever pulled off; one of the most tension-filled standoffs in the show’s history; and one of the first moments to really show us just how great Stana Katic could be when she’s allowed to let Beckett’s raw emotions burst through her normally stoic façade.

And through it all, there’s Castle. Nathan Fillion is so good in this episode because he’s so subtly affecting. In many places throughout this episode, like the beats after Beckett shoots Coonan, he’s a supporting figure rather than the emotional center of the episode. But what’s so great about Fillion is how he makes the term “supporting actor” really mean something. When Castle puts his hand on Beckett’s shoulder, it’s such a powerful moment of comfort, and it’s done without him saying any dialogue.

That’s all well and good, but the tears didn’t really start for me when I first watched this episode until the very last scene. There’s something so warm and gentle about Castle and Beckett’s interactions here; you can feel that something has changed between them, shifting their relationship into something deeper, something more.

I can remember the moment I first watched Castle pull out every kind of food imaginable in an effort to make Beckett happy. I was so surprised by the simple intimacy and sweetness of this small but thoughtful act that I started to cry. For all of Castle’s talk about big gestures, it was this very realistic and very unpretentious moment of affection that made me fall in love with this character. Yes, I adore “smartass Castle” and “articulate Castle” and “charming Castle,” but more than anything, I love genuine Castle—and that’s how Fillion played this scene. No bravado, no humor—just a man trying to do what’s right for the woman he’s grown to love, even if it means sacrificing the ability to spend every day following her around.

But Beckett doesn’t want that sacrifice. Instead, she tells Castle what she wants with the most open and honest confession of feelings we’d get from either one of them for a long time. Katic’s soft smile in this scene is a true thing of beauty because it’s something we had never seen on Beckett’s face until this point. And when she tells Castle he makes her job more fun, it still feels like one of the biggest moments in their relationship. There have been plenty of more dramatic speeches, professions of love, and even a marriage proposal, but Beckett saying she’s gotten used to Castle pulling her pigtails and Castle promising to keep her secret safe is still my favorite dialogue they’ve ever exchanged. It’s so meaningful but so simple—it’s not trying too hard to be emotionally resonant, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful.

Daily Dose of Feelings #14

Some of television’s most emotional moments need no explanation. Some moments are more profound because of the background we know about characters and relationships, but some are simply so visceral that all you need to know is what’s in front of you.

Ned Stark’s death on Game of Thrones is one of those visceral moments, but even more than Ned’s death, his wife and son’s grief is so palpable that all you need to see is their one interaction in the woods after his death to feel every ounce of the sadness these characters are carrying with them.

Michelle Fairley is characteristically brilliant in this scene. The moment when she has to lean against the tree, letting her strong façade crumble only for a moment, is so profound. She allows herself that one moment of all-consuming grief, but she knows she has only that moment to fall apart before she has to be strong for her son.

And then there’s Richard Madden. This is my favorite scene of his entire career on the show because it’s so raw and so real. It’s easy to forget that Robb is a boy in so many ways, pushed into a man’s role after his father’s death. But this scene is such a painful reminder of the character’s youth. You can feel his need to hurt something, to break something, to make something else feel the pain he’s drowning in. And when he says, “I’ll kill them all,” he looks and sounds like the boy he really is.

When Robb collapses in his mother’s arms, it’s impossible not to believe the love the Starks have for one another. The way Catelyn strokes Robb’s hair is so maternal and soothing, and it’s a really interesting contrast to the coldness in her voice when she tells Robb that they will “kill them all” after they get Sansa and Arya back. When Robb says he wants to kill them all, I get tears in my eyes because of how grief-stricken and young he sounds. When Catelyn says it, I get chills because she sounds so certain.

A part of so many characters died when Ned did, and this scene shows that more painfully than any other.

Daily Dose of Feelings #13

Parks and Recreation is my favorite show on television. I love that it’s a show about fundamentally good people who do nice things for each other. I love it for its optimism, its warmth, and its belief in wearing its heart firmly on its sleeve. And I love that it consistently manages to make me cry happy tears.

As Leslie Knope is so fond of saying, “No one achieves anything alone.” That’s the theme at the center of Parks and Rec, and it’s been reflected time and again in scenes where all of the characters pitch in to help one of their own. The most affecting of these scenes comes at the end of Season Four’s Christmas episode, “Citizen Knope.”

Because apparently this scene is too perfect for the Internet to handle, I have no video clip of it for you, but here are two sets of GIFs from Tumblr which should give you a taste of why it’s is so beautiful:

Open this set first…

…And then this one.

This is one of those scenes where, as it was unfolding, all I could do was stand with my hand over my mouth, smiling and crying at the same time. As each person offered Leslie their help with such perfectly in-character responses (Andy offering his duties at “javelin…if need be,” Donna offering up her Benz, Tom volunteering as “Swagger Coach,” Jerry having no idea about the plan), I found myself getting more and more emotional—until Ron completely stole my heart with his offer to do any other damn thing Leslie might need.

Parks and Rec is a show about love: the love between a woman and her city and between that same woman and the wonderful people she surrounds herself with every day. This scene captures that perhaps better than any other so far (except, of course, Leslie and Ben’s wedding). Ron’s right, Leslie is always there for her friends, but the beautiful thing about her is she never expects them to do anything in return. That’s what makes it so special when they turn around and give back to her the support and love she gives them every day.

Amy Poehler’s reaction at the end of this scene shows what makes her such a damn good actress and such a perfect Leslie. There’s a beat when her eyes fill with tears and her voice breaks when she says, “I don’t know what to say.” That reaction is so honest. I admire and adore Poehler for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is her fearlessness when it comes to playing a scene not for laughs but for happy tears. It takes a special kind of actor to make you cry for their character because you’re so happy for them, but Poehler does it again and again with Leslie. This scene is so emotional because the gesture feels earned; we truly believe Leslie deserves this act of kindness.

I love when Parks and Rec puts us in Leslie’s shoes, letting us be surprised by the wonderful moments in her life right along with her. That sense of surprise has been the driving force behind some of the show’s most memorably emotional moments, and it’s certainly a big part of why this scene is so affecting. It was the perfect Christmas gift for Leslie, and it was also a great Christmas gift for fans of Parks and Rec—a show that is never afraid to aim for the audience’s heart in the best possible way.

Daily Dose of Feelings #12

There are some moments in television history that transcend the show they’re on and become much more than just a scene from a TV show. They become works of art, moments of high drama. And oftentimes, those moments can move us to tears by their sheer brilliance.

Ask anyone who’s familiar with The West Wing, and they’ll tell you that one of these transcendent moments is President Bartlet’s grief-stricken rant at God in “Two Cathedrals.” I don’t think there will ever be another moment on television quite like this one.

This scene is so powerful it gives me chills even after an incredible number of viewings over the years. Martin Sheen’s controlled fury is so palpable and so believable. President Bartlet is a man who’s reached his breaking point, and it’s so realistic to see him get so angry with God. This scene is like a heartbreaking summary of all the pain we’ve watched this man go through. There’s so much national responsibility on his shoulders, but what breaks my heart the most is the way this scene shows how much this man loves the people who work for him. Yes, his grief over Mrs. Landingham is probably the most memorably emotional part of this scene, but what always gets me most is the way his voice breaks when he calls Josh his son.

The most famous part of this scene is undoubtedly its use of Latin, and I love that we don’t need subtitles to understand what he’s saying. Sheen delivers the whole monologue so perfectly that we can feel every moment of loss and anger—even when we don’t know exactly what he’s saying. If that’s not the very definition of great acting, then I honestly don’t know what is.

Daily Dose of Feelings #11

Torchwood: Children of Earth messed me up for a long time—we’re talking at least a week of emotional trauma. There were so many haunting, disturbing, and heartbreaking moments in such a small number of episodes that the entire viewing process felt like a kind of emotional overload. 

Although Children of Earth had more than its share of painful scenes and Torchwood was known for killing characters off in brutal ways, I wasn’t prepared for what I would feel when Ianto died in Jack’s arms, fearing that he would be forgotten in the thousands of years the immortal Jack would go on to see after leaving him behind. 

This is a scene that is heartbreaking on so many levels. Even if you have no idea who these two characters are or what is specifically happening to them, you can feel everything they’re feeling. Gareth David-Lloyd makes Ianto’s fear of being forgotten so palpable because it’s so relatable. Isn’t that what we all want—to know we’ll be remembered long after we’re gone? And I love how you can feel Jack’s certainty pushing back against Ianto’s doubt. When he promises Ianto that he’ll never forget him, you believe it because he’s never sounded so sincere before. 

That’s the most painful thing about this scene—it’s the most broken and vulnerable we’ve ever seen Jack. This is a character defined by his bravado, but here he’s stripped of his pride, begging the man he loves not to leave him. John Barrowman’s performance in this scene is incredible. He’s so comforting towards Ianto at the start of the scene, but as soon as he can see Ianto fading away, the panic beings to set in. The way his voice breaks when he says, “Stay with me!” is like a sucker punch. This scene is a great example of the power of an actor holding back tears. We know Jack is not a man to show his true emotions easily—with immortality comes a certain sense of detachment. But here he’s so overwhelmed with grief that he can’t keep those feeling down any more, even though he’s trying to do just that. When Ianto dies, Jack sounds so lost, so broken, and so hopeless—it’s such a hard thing to watch when you’re used to him being full of energy and sparkling charisma. 

Ianto was simply a quiet, kind man who just wanted to take care of Jack—that was his job, but it also became his life. Somewhere along the way, he went from being the coffee boy to being someone Jack trusted with his secrets—and ultimately his heart. Ianto was such a genuinely good character that it was a truly upsetting shock to see him die. 

I’ll never be okay with this scene, and that’s the whole point. And I know I’ll never forget Ianto Jones—this scene made sure of that. 

Daily Dose of Feelings #10

There’s one scene in each of my favorite TV shows that takes me from “I like this show” to “I’m all in.” Usually, this is a scene that makes me cry. When I find myself becoming emotionally invested in these characters to the point where I cry because of them, I know there’s no turning back.

In the case of Once Upon a Time, that scene is the moment in the pilot when Snow White and Prince Charming have to send their newborn daughter, Emma, into our world by herself in order to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse.

The depth of emotion in this scene is so rare for a pilot, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from actors as talented as Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin. Goodwin is especially brilliant in this scene because she goes through so many different types of pain—the physical pain of labor, the pain of losing her daughter, the pain of knowing she might never see her husband again—and yet still remains a pillar of strength. This is the scene that made Snow my favorite Once Upon a Time character.

My emotions during this scene progress as the action does. I feel Snow’s pain as she struggles through labor (Goodwin does an incredible job with some very realistic screaming), but the tears don’t start until we get our first (and last) glimpse of that happy family together. I love the way the scene shifts so suddenly when Snow realizes Emma has to go into the wardrobe by herself. She’s so deadly serious in that moment, so desperate for her husband to see that Emma needs to be given her best chance. And when she kisses her daughter goodbye before doing the same to her husband, I find myself in awe of this character and her sense of parental love and sacrifice.

Snow gave up everything to make sure her daughter was saved from the curse. After Charming leaves and she finally lets her grief show, I can’t help but sob right along with her. There’s something so raw, so primal, and so real about Goodwin’s tears in that moment—it’s hard to watch, but the best emotional moments often are. In that moment, this character is no longer the poised Disney princess we all thought we knew; she is a brokenhearted mother who is forced to give up her baby, to make an unthinkable choice and simply hope that she’s doing the right thing.

And the tears don’t stop there. If you don’t find yourself getting a little emotional at the sight of Charming with his sword in one hand and his baby girl in the other, then you must have a heart of stone. Like Snow, this idea of Prince Charming as a father willing to do anything to see his daughter find safety elevates him from the stuff of fairytales to the stuff of real, human drama. When he uses his last bit of strength to make sure Emma got through the wardrobe, I cry because this incredible father is willing to literally give up his life to protect his child.

Once Upon a Time is a show filled with emotional moments, but none has ever hit me like this one did and continues to so long after I first saw it.

Daily Dose of Feelings #9

My favorite TV episodes are often the ones that make me cry the most. A good example of this is “Chuck vs. The Cliffhanger,” the Season Four finale of Chuck. I’ve seen this episode a few times since I first started watching the series on DVD last year, and it still makes me cry in multiple places every time.

One of my favorite things about Chuck is the warm and genuine chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski as Chuck and Sarah. This episode celebrates that chemistry in the most beautiful of ways: with a much-anticipated wedding. But before the actual ceremony can take place, Chuck has to save Sarah from a deadly dose of radiation poisoning she contracted at their rehearsal dinner. Life and love are never simple in the spy business.

Though things may never be simple for Chuck and Sarah, what moves me the most in this scene is how simple and easy their love feels. Sarah’s “practice” vows are such a genuine reflection of who she is and who Chuck has been for her. She was sent to protect him and teach him how to be a spy, but he ended up teaching her how to be someone who is capable of being so much more than just a spy. Chuck brings out the gentle side of Sarah, the side that smiles almost shyly when she’s done telling the man she loves exactly what he means to her.

And then there’s Chuck—sweet, open, big-hearted Chuck Bartowski. If you asked me to draw up my dream man, it would be Chuck, and this scene shows exactly why. You will never see a man on TV as devoted to the woman he loves as Chuck is to Sarah. Levi plays this character with such beguiling earnestness that it’s impossible not to believe in the love story he’s selling. The moment when he whispers “Perfect” with tears in his eyes before saying it louder to Sarah gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. You can feel how much this character loves the woman he’s going to marry, and that believability is both incredibly uplifting in that scene and incredibly heartbreaking as we watch Chuck sitting at Sarah’s bedside, holding her hand and silently begging her not to leave him. As the scene ends, you get the sense that this man is willing to do anything to bring back the woman who so brightly lit up his life in the flashback we just witnessed.

Sarah wants to show Chuck that he is a gift she deserves, and what’s so emotional about this scene is that we can see that Chuck believes Sarah is a gift, too. These two beautiful characters deserve each other and the happiness they clearly have even in a practice wedding. And nothing makes me cry like two worthy characters finding happiness with each other—and fighting to protect that happiness in the face of huge obstacles.

Daily Dose of Feelings #8

As I keep posting these moments, you will notice that many of them will fall into a category I like to call “Actors Who Make Me Cry Whenever They Cry.” At the top of that list is Jennifer Garner. I watched Alias for five years, and whenever that woman let the tears fall, I found myself crying right along with her.

While Garner has some incredibly emotional scenes in the Alias pilot, the first scene to make me an emotional wreck came a few episodes later in “A Broken Heart.” With Sarah McLachlan’s heartbreakingly beautiful “Angel” (before it became overplayed) working its magic in the background, Garner allows us to see deep into the aching soul of Sydney Bristow, a woman pushed to her breaking point from bearing the weight of too many secrets, too many betrayals, too many lies, and too many needless deaths.

This scene proves to me that there’s never been a better crier on television than Garner. She’s not afraid to look vulnerable, to let her nose run and her mascara streak her cheeks and her shaking hands mess up her hair. And in doing so, she allows us to connect with Sydney, to see her as a real woman with vulnerabilities and a heart that’s perhaps too big for the work she’s been called to do. When she says, “He was lied to, and now he’s dead,” with such genuine devastation in her voice, I get choked up every time.

What I love about this scene is the way Garner makes Sydney—one of the strongest female characters to ever grace television screens—seem so small and so normal. She’s not a robot, and that’s what makes her such a beautiful character. Alias would never have worked as a show if Garner couldn’t make you feel the humanity at the heart of this character.

The range of emotions in this scene is so vast. It begins with sadness and anger that Jack would abandon Sydney again (though it’s really so much more complicated than that). Then it becomes a scene about loss—both for Sydney’s friend and for her sense of self. Garner sells her identity crisis so painfully well that I always laugh and cry along with her when she throws her beeper into the ocean—one act of defiance for a woman who feels as if she’s losing her ability to stand on her own two feet.

But when she can’t stand on her feet, this scene introduces the one person she could lean on, her greatest source of strength—Vaughn. I love the total sincerity in Michael Vartan’s delivery of “I’ve seen who you are.” Vaughn never wants Sydney to lose that humanity that makes everyone—including the audience—fall in love with her. And when the darkness threatens to overwhelm her, it’s wonderful to see that she finally has someone who can be her anchor, her guiding light, and her guardian angel, helping her find her best self because he believes in and loves her for exactly who she is—the only honest relationship she has at this point.

When Sydney grabs Vaughn’s hand and neither pulls away (despite the fact that they could be killed just for being seen together), I can’t help but cry because it’s the beginning of such a beautiful relationship. Sydney may carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, but Vaughn is the one person she can go to who will help her carry that weight. She may be incredibly strong—and he may be drawn to that strength—but in Vaughn she’s found the one person she can let her guard down with. Everyone needs a hand to hold when they’re at their lowest, and it’s a very emotional thing to see a character as beautiful as Sydney Bristow discover that she has that in her life for the first time.

Daily Dose of Feelings #7

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

For my generation, there’s no moment in television that gets our collective tear ducts going like the final scene of Boy Meets World. It’s the perfect storm of great writing, incredibly strong (and realistic) acting, and the heightened emotional power that comes with a series finale. This scene gave us a chance to say goodbye to a group of characters that we literally grew up with, to watch their stories come full circle to the classroom where it all began.

Everyone has their moment in this scene that makes them cry the most, but mine will always be Shawn’s goodbye. And if you don’t openly weep when Mr. Feeny turns to the empty classroom and says, “I love you all. Class dismissed,” then I think you need to make sure your heart isn’t actually made of stone.


Daily Dose of Feelings #6

This is a tough one.

When I came up with this list of emotional moments, one of the first scenes I wrote down was the breakup scene between Finn and Rachel from Season Four of Glee. When that episode first aired, I found myself sobbing almost uncontrollably when the couple I’d been rooting for since the pilot ended their relationship for good. I cried because Lea Michele was so raw, real, and absolutely devastating. I cried because this scene perfectly encapsulated the pain of walking away from your first love. I cried because Cory Monteith gave such a subtly heartbroken and lost performance. And I cried because even though this was a breakup scene, it was filled with so much chemistry and so much love that you could practically feel it through the TV screen.

Now, though, I’ll cry even harder every time I watch this scene because of what it means after Monteith’s death. In this scene, he was Michele’s rock, and that’s who he was in all of his scenes on Glee—a rock for his costars and a relatable presence for the audience. Monteith was Glee’s everyman, and the show will never be the same without him. But what really breaks my heart is thinking about how the people who loved him will never be the same without him. It’s clear watching this scene how connected and in love he and Michele were. Throughout the show’s run, he gave her the strength and confidence to go to emotional depths she never reached opposite any other actor. That kind of support and partnership produced her best moments, such as this scene. My heart aches for her when I think of what she lost.

This scene is about the very real heartbreak of the end of a relationship even when love is still clearly there. With time, it will only get more painful to watch as we remember the real-life love story that ended even more painfully than its fictional counterpart.

R.I.P. Cory Monteith.