We were on a break! 8 devastating break-ups from TV

We were on a break! 8 devastating break-ups from TV

Illustration for article titled We were on a break! 8 devastating break-ups from TV
Graphic: Natalie Peeples, Screenshot: YouTube
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

We’re wrapping up Love Week at The A.V. Club with this AVQ&A:

What’s your pick for the most devastating break-up on TV?

Advertisement

2 / 10

Mindy Lahiri and Danny Castellano—The Mindy Project, “Be Cool”

Mindy Lahiri and Danny Castellano—The Mindy Project, “Be Cool”

It took me literal weeks to somewhat get over the all-too-soon (and first) break-up between The Mindy Project’s Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). Their budding relationship gave new meaning to the term “slow burn”: It didn’t just take them a while to get together, it took some time for them to build an actual friendship beyond, well, contentious burns as the office rivals they once were. Despite everything, their chemistry was palpable throughout their shared journey and once they finally managed to get together, fans assumed (HA!) that they’d have at least a season to watch these two knuckleheads figure out their new dynamic. Instead, Mindy and Danny dated in secret for a small handful of episodes and fell apart with little provocation. Watching two of the biggest sentimental actors in television end something so new was so hard to watch, even if the writing was on the wall. What’s more, Messina has this unfairly convincing knack for portraying torturous longing, and the subtle tremble in his voice when he said, “I need to have you in my life, I have to have you” might have actually haunted my dreams. Pair that with Kaling’s relatable balking at the well-worn “we were better as friends” excuse and you have a break-up that still manages to sting years later. [Shannon Miller]

Advertisement

3 / 10

Chidi Anagonye and Eleanor Shellstrop—The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready”

Chidi Anagonye and Eleanor Shellstrop—The Good Place, “Whenever You’re Ready”

Is there a more permanent form of breaking things off than deciding to choose non-existence over spending one more minute with your “soulmate”? Such is the (rare!) decision made by Chidi Anagonye re: Eleanor Shellstrop in the final episode of The Good Place, in which Mike Schur and his team posit that even paradise with the woman you love gets old after a sufficiently massive span of time. I was never a huge fan of the Chidi-Eleanor relationship in the first place, which often rang false, forced, and moribund in a series that was otherwise so often well-observed and fleet. Still, though: The sheer coldness of Chidi admitting he’s grown so existentially bored with his literally perfect life with Eleanor that he’d rather, ya know, die, is the sort of thing that sits with you well after the credits roll. [William Hughes]

Advertisement

4 / 10

Ross and Rachel—Friends, “The One With The Morning After”

Ross and Rachel—Friends, “The One With The Morning After”

Yes, “We were on a break” was the most annoying catchphrase ever and yes, the Ross and Rachel relationship rollercoaster went on way too long. But the couple’s first breakup in Friends season three was a gut punch, especially for a sitcom. As most everyone knows by now, after Ross and Rachel had a fight, she suggested a break, he went out and slept with someone else. Once Rachel finds out, the last half of “The One With The Morning After” offers a fairly realistic depiction of the dissolving of a couple in love, the heaviness lightened by the comic relief of Monica, Joey, Chandler, and Phoebe trapped in Monica’s room, listening in. Jennifer Aniston does amazing work as Rachel realizes that the relationship really is over (for now, anyway), as she can no longer look at Ross in the same way. Both actors are in tears at the end (as was I, the first time I saw it), with this devastating exchange right before the credits: “This can’t be it.” “Then how come it is?” [Gwen Ihnat]

Advertisement

5 / 10

Taylor Townsend and Ryan Atwood—The O.C., “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here”

Taylor Townsend and Ryan Atwood—The O.C., “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here”

Right off the bat, The O.C. wanted us to believe that Marissa and Ryan are soulmates, but Ryan’s true love actually came after Marissa’s tragic death. Taylor was a completely unexpected love interest for Ryan, as a neurotic overachiever who strives for perfectionism—but their dynamic somehow worked perfectly. Before Taylor, Ryan was always in “knight in shining armor” mode, ready to protect his loved ones from harm. Taylor was the first to take care of him and become his protector. She did everything in her power to get Ryan to put his life back on track as he grieved Marissa, helping him to become the best version of himself. The couple broke up at the end of the final season despite still having feelings for each other, in a move that made very little sense. But at least The O.C.’s final scene hints at a reconciliation, with Taylor and Ryan exchanging loving glances at Seth and Summer’s wedding. [Tatiana Tenreyro]

Advertisement

6 / 10

Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls—Veronica Mars, “Spit & Eggs”

Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls—Veronica Mars, “Spit & Eggs”

I won’t argue that Veronica and Logan were ever a “good” couple on Veronica Mars, but when the unstoppable force of his desperate need to be needed met the immovable object of her commitment to self-reliance and Logan realized how toxic they are to each other in the show’s (underrated!) third season, it still got me pretty good. Maybe it’s because I could relate to Logan’s attempts to connect to people through pop culture (he asks various girlfriends to watch basic-ass dude movies like Easy Rider, a thing I… yeah). Or maybe it’s because his approach to wallowing in misery involved playing Mario Kart. Either way, I felt it. [Sam Barsanti]

Advertisement

7 / 10

Buffy Summers and Angel—Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “The Prom”

Buffy Summers and Angel—Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “The Prom”

Boy, did THIS turn out to be the wrong week for my response to this question. Still, I’m not sure anything will ever gut-punch me quite like the implosion of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Buffy and Angel. Not only did I have to deal with the trauma of Angel losing his soul after they slept together, which was painful enough (especially when that season-two finale does what it does—you know what I’m talking about, people). But after they got back together and it seemed like the couple was stronger than ever in season three, Angel had to go and bail on the whole situation. I don’t care if he had a good reason for decamping—though Buffy might struggle to wrap her head around the behind-the-scenes real reason of “the character is getting a spinoff”—watching everyone’s favorite vampire slayer take that news like a body blow never fails to chill me to my core. “Is this really happening?” she says, when her beau delivers the world-shaking news (in a sewer, no less), and as literally anyone who ever faced the breakup of their first real love as a teenager can attest, that shit hurts. (And as upset as I am about the subsequent accusations toward the series’ creator, I refuse to let someone’s shitty behavior negate my positive experiences with a show, especially given how many other people’s contributions besides Whedon helped make this great. To quote a smarter person than I: “Buffy was never about Joss.”) [Alex McLevy]

Advertisement

8 / 10

Alexis Rose and Ted Mullens—Schitt’s Creek, “The Presidential Suite”

Alexis Rose and Ted Mullens—Schitt’s Creek, “The Presidential Suite”

Alexis and Ted’s split in season six of Schitt’s Creek was less of an earth-shattering shock and more of a mature decision made by two adults who both knew that this was coming for a while. Not only that, but it wasn’t even the first time they had broken up. But I’m still allowed to be sad, okay? First of all, she really loved him—like, enough to only meet a couple of guys on Bumpkin when they initially broke up. That’s a lot to ask of a girl who once dated all three Hanson brothers in the same summer! Second, I love Alexis—she might actually be my favorite character—and I want to see her happy after all the personal growth she went through on the show. But, let’s be honest, moving to the Galapagos was never really an option for her. So while their final dinner date at the cafe did make me cry (this show is really good at making you cry), I must wipe the tears from my eyes and say go, Alexis, and take the PR world by storm! You’ll run into Zac Efron at the Grammys again before you know it! [Katie Rife]

Advertisement

9 / 10

The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble—Doctor Who, “Journey’s End”

The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble—Doctor Who, “Journey’s End”

The end of Donna Noble and the Doctor’s time together in the TARDIS sits atop the list of the most heartbreaking companion exits in Doctor Who’s history, and borders on being just straight-up cruel. When we first meet Donna, she is depressed, living a boring life, and in desperate search of adventure. When the Doctor comes along, everything changes for her, and she literally becomes “the most important woman in the universe.” But after a “human-Time Lord meta-crisis,” in which Donna is imbued with the infinite knowledge of the Doctor, her brain is in danger of shutting down. Thus, the Doctor wipes Donna’s mind—while she begs him not to—and sends her back to her unfulfilled existence with no recollection of the life she made. It’s an absolutely gutting scene anchored by Catherine Tate’s fantastic performance, and a miserable end for such a beloved character. [Baraka Kaseko]

Advertisement

10 / 10