Welcome 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, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at email@example.com.
This week’s question is inspired by Love Week:
Who do you ’ship?
I am still ’shipping Rory and Jess from Gilmore Girls. And with these new episodes reportedly coming to Netflix, my one hope is that Rory is finally stable enough to be in a relationship with an equal. Yes, I’m placing the onus on Rory, because no amount of impressive career ambitions can mask the fact that she’s a mess when it comes to relationships. Sure, Jess did some stupid things, as a teenager, but he’s since grown into a mature book-store-owning adult. (Rory loves books!) Furthermore, he’s fully supported Rory from day one, as evidenced in season two’s “Teach Me Tonight,” in which he assures her through some playful joking that she will become a foreign correspondent and that he’s prepared to help in any way he can. (This also sets up the peak of the pair’s sexual tension, when Rory relinquishes a little control, allowing Jess to drive the two around in an aimless fashion, which is squeal-worthy television at its best.) And let us not forget that it’s Jess who returns in season six’s “Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out,” to remind Rory—now a college dropout—that she’s lost sight of herself. Rory needs tough love like that occasionally, instead of a boyfriend she can steamroll over (Dean) or one that emotionally abuses her (Logan). Seriously, Jess is the right porridge for Rory, so to speak.
It’s an answer so obvious, J.K. Rowling herself conceded to the truth of it. Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter had a far more interesting thing going on than Hermione and Ron ever did. While the books don’t provide as much fodder for this pairing, it was impossible to watch the movies and not notice a sweet, subtle relationship between the two unfold as Rupert Grint hangs in the background, making the same bug-eyed noodle face for eight films. The otherwise superfluous existence of the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is justified for a single reason, and that’s to provide sufficient room to display the chemistry between Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe. A scene partway through the movie shows the heroes on the run, hiding out and miserable. Harry attempts to create a small moment of happiness by inviting Hermione to dance with him. The scene is beautiful: quiet and affectionate. It is to the credit of both the actors that they can convey something so intimate and still have it read as friendship while wistfully hinting at the possibility of what could be if things were just a bit different.
Downton Abbey doesn’t stir my emotions like it used to, and the final season’s relationships are boring for their sheer inevitability; neither the writers nor the characters are the sort to leave any frays in the meticulous Downton Abbey. So even though I know it’s not going to happen, I’m ’shipping Lady Mary Crawley and Tom Branson, the chauffeur-turned-Crawley-turned-widower. Although Mary’s current love interest, played with cool composure by Matthew Goode, is way too good looking to go by the wayside, Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Tom (Allen Leech) are a perfect team. They’re already playing mom and pop as the managing agents of the estate, taking field trips around the grounds, learning about pigs and farming, and leading Downton Abbey into modern times. These natural leaders are both firebrands, once at loggerheads but now united in their passion for their home. It would be an appropriate ending for Mary, who once couldn’t bear the idea that her sister Sybil married the hired help; now she sees Tom as an equal. Likewise, Tom once abhorred the ruling class, but now his politics are tempered by his love for the family he married into. It’d be the perfect union of Downton Abbey interests and a neat way to pair these characters.
Laura M. Browning
I watched both seasons of The Fall in two sittings last year, so many of the scenes blend together in my mind as one (outstanding) narrative. Except for the kiss scene—if you’ve seen the series, you already know where this is going, because no other kiss in the series could be qualified as “the kiss scene.” When Dr. Reed Smith (Archie Panjabi) waits for Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) in a hotel bar, Gibson sees a man talking to Smith, and greets Smith with a kiss that at first appears to be nothing more than a way to chase the would-be suitor off. But Gibson goes in for a second, longer kiss, insults the guy and makes him disappear in a poof of feminist badassery, and inches in closer to Smith. Their relationship was cut short in that episode because of Smith’s cold feet, but I’ll be pretty disappointed if the show doesn’t explore a relationship between Reed Smith and Detective Stella Gibson in season three, making viewers of every orientation slide a little further up the Kinsey scale.
Like any good Arrow viewer who still believes in love, I’ve been pulling for Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak for years. In the beginning, he was the mayor of mopey mountain, constantly putting arrows in criminals and acting as much like Batman as he could without getting The CW in trouble, while she was the one character who really seemed to be enjoying the fact that she was on a superhero show. The comic book version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is usually romantically linked to Dinah Laurel Lance/Black Canary, and while Arrow tried to establish that as a possibility early on, the fact that Laurel was consistently terrible quickly squashed that idea. Thankfully, every scene featuring Oliver and Felicity—even before she joined Team Arrow—was simply delightful, and it was hard not to love the way her awkward enthusiasm always worked its way through the cracks in his angsty armor. Felicity and Oliver finally got together at the end of season three, and Ollie even proposed to her before a supervillain attack almost got her killed in season four’s winter finale. It looks like the next few episodes are going to be pretty grim, but I’ll be happy as long as they don’t break up Olicity.
Even years later, I’m still reeling from the greatest sitcom kiss of all time (Laura, I will defer to you on The Fall for other genres), so I will never stop ’shipping New Girl’s Nick and Jess. That kiss happened several episodes into the show’s second season, leading the two to become a legitimate item by season’s end. But as fun as that couple was, showrunner Liz Meriwether ripped them apart by the middle of season three, tweeting, “Turns out I’m much more comfortable writing about single people.” I still don’t get the breakup: Nick is a pragmatic, lovable fuckup; Jess is a flighty, lovable fixer. He would talk her off various ledges; she would make sure his bills got paid on time. It was perfect. A hint at the end of season four (something about a “sex mug” signaling an imminent hookup) indicated that there might still be some hope for my favorite departed couple. But the newly kicked-off season five so far is focused on dealing with Zooey Deschanel’s maternity leave, so I look forward to seeing what happens upon her return. And in the meantime, we can all watch “Cooler” yet again.
With apologies to the wee baby A.J., I’m going to have to stump for my one true pairing in the world of profanity-laden sitcom espionage: Sterling Archer and Pam Poovey. It’s not just that Pam—as played to perfection by veteran improviser Amber Nash—is the greatest character in animation history, and deserves the regular semi-amazing sex a reigniting of their past affair would bring. It’s that, of all the drones and agents that make up the roster of the former ISIS, Pam’s the only one who seems to like Archer as he actually is. Sure, Lana Kane loves the H. Jon Benjamin-voiced superspy, but she can only really handle him when he’s on his painfully rare best behavior. Pam, meanwhile, enjoys Sterling’s company even on its default setting—self-involved asshole—with most of the pair’s interactions seeing them trade banter and legitimately make each other laugh. Would their coupling eventually result in a hedonism-fueled flameout that would likely kill both them and everyone else in Archer’s tight-knit little world? Probably, but it’d be fun as hell along the way.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel are rife with star-crossed love and doomed romance, tragedies befitting a TV universe where so many of the characters are dead things that never truly die. Among those couplings, the one that really sinks its stake into my heart is the one between Buffy Summers and Spike. And not just because Buffy’s other undead soulmate, Angel, is such a boring sod before he gets his own show—it’s more about the Hepburn-Tracy spark between Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters, the uneasy alliance between the slayer of the vampires and the slayer of slayers. (Though, when I put it in those words, Spike/Andrew is a pretty good ’ship, too.) Their banter puts Buffy’s storied dialogue to some of its best use, and the fact that they’re always five seconds away from killing one another takes the friction that powers most television ’ships—“Are they going to fight or fuck?”—to its furthest possible extremes. It demonstrates Buffy’s knack for reinvigorating storytelling conventions by running them through a genre filter, but it’s also a Dave-and-Maddie-esque cautionary tale about giving in to fan-service temptation. When Buffy and Spike act on their feelings, it coincides with a downturn in what’s otherwise one of the best seasons of the show. The whole thing ends in a mess of cheating, shame, sexual assault, and a mysterious vacation to Africa—all consequences commensurate with their impulsive actions, but a whole lot for the subsequent episodes and season to untangle. It’s a unique beast, the ’ship that’s best left unconsummated—but learning that some desires go ungratified in life (and death) is a quintessentially Buffy The Vampire Slayer lesson.
I know it goes against all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intentions and dreams, but I genuinely want to see Sherlock and Joan Watson get together on Elementary. She’s one of the few people that can tolerate him, and with all their pent-up weirdness and chemistry, you know whatever they’d get into would be hot, heavy, and maybe a little kink-driven. I’ve got a whole bunch of other more “romantic” reasons for the pairing and I know they’ll probably never get together, but still, a puzzle-loving girl can dream.
House and Wilson, House and Wilson, House and Wilson. From the very first moments in which House M.D. introduced the combative relationship between Drs. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), I was on board. I had no real interest in the show when it first began, but somewhere around the third season, I was idly flipping through channels one afternoon when I happened upon another of the duo’s regularly scheduled tête-à-têtes. The chemistry between the two actors was so apparent, and so appealing, I immediately thought, “Oh, I could watch this show,” and promptly stuck around for every subsequent installment. Wilson’s role as the one guy House not only tolerates, but genuinely loves—something that becomes crystal clear in the affecting final moments—makes the soul-saving nature of his interventions into House’s life that much sweeter. Plus, I never thought I’d see a couple who managed to make pranks, one of mankind’s worst inventions, actually seem fun. The show wasn’t always firing on all cylinders, but damn, that relationship sure was.
In keeping with my rapidly escalating obsession with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I’m currently ’shipping Rachel Bunch and Josh Chan the hardest. That probably seems like an obvious answer, considering Rachel’s deranged pursuit of Josh is the whole point of the show, but I haven’t always been onboard with their relationship. In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of the show’s 17 viewers were slow to root for Rachel given the premise of the show, which is neatly summarized by its theme. Rachel’s behavior is unsettling even by rom-com logic, which holds that there’s nothing more adorable than watching someone gradually capitulate to their stalker. But Crazy Ex has done a stellar job of making a case for why Rachel and Josh should be together, and not just because Josh’s girlfriend is an aggressively terrible yoga instructor. They seem genuinely well-suited to each other, so I want them to make it, even though their meet-cute is more like a meet-creepy.
As much as I truly love it when male and female characters are allowed to stay friends, rather than being smushed into a traditional romantic pairing, I maintain a weakness for certain romances that no rational person would expect to work out. Specifically, I ’ship Ray and Marnie on Girls. I know Marnie is the consensus choice for the “worst” of the four core girls (even though it’s clearly Jessa), and I know plenty of viewers process their discomfort with the show’s complex and sometimes unlikable female characters by insisting that Ray is the only person on the show worth a damn, or something. I also know that even if you don’t hate Marnie or love Ray, the mostly secret sexual dalliance between a radioactively passive-aggressive snob who secretly has no control over her life and a sometimes-ranting misanthrope with a heart of maybe-gold (Ray is kind of horrible in the first season, guys) doesn’t make a lot of long-term sense. But I don’t care: I want Marnie and Ray to get married. Just as I find Marnie’s failings compelling and sometimes even touching in a Betty Draper sort of way, I swooned when these two sniped at each other in between takeout pizza and sex. His straight talk is good for her fussiness; her uptight neuroses are a good reminder for him about how a lot of the world actually works. Look, he’s better for her than Desi is, right? The new season starts in a few weeks and I’m pretty sure it’s not Ray who Marnie is getting ready to marry in the first ads, but I ’ship on: There’s still time for Marnie to screw this up and for Ray to ride in and save the day.
I’m enough of an NCIS aficionado that I continue to harbor a hope that someday Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Abigail Borin will end up as a couple. Gibbs’ weakness for redheads is a well-established aspect of his back story, as is the fact that his tendency toward obsessing over his work has repeatedly led to short-lived marriages, which is why Borin, a fiery redhead who approaches her work with the Coast Guard Investigative Services with an equal level of passion, was clearly designed to seem like perfect partner for Gibbs. I can’t imagine that they’d ever allow Gibbs to have a long-term relationship during the show’s run, but whenever Mark Harmon decides that he’s had enough of the series, I hope the writers return to a remark that Borin made to Gibbs a few seasons ago that indicated that she’d like to apply to NCIS at some point. It’d be a perfect way to start Harmon’s farewell season, but it could also lead to a conclusion where Gibbs and Borin live happily ever after. Of course, based on some of her remarks in past episodes, it’s also possible that working for the CGIS isn’t the only instance of Borin being on a different team than Gibbs, but I stand by my answer.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
I recently spent 48 hours watching all of The CW’s The 100. I can’t believe it took me two years to jump into this show. It’s a sci-fi-adventure-apocalypse series about queer teens! It was basically made for me. Now, I’m very quick to ’ship. If two female characters on a television show so much as hold meaningful eye contact, I immediately hope that they’re in full lesbian love with each other. The 100 fandom has notoriously bloody ’shipping wars, and that doesn’t surprise me, because it’s very easy to make strong cases for so many pairings on this show. Emotions run high and the stakes are always life-or-death in this warring world, and several of the characters use sex as a means of escape. Plus, everyone is hot. I had barely finished the first season before I was searching for Princess Mechanic and Doctor Mechanic on Tumblr (this fandom has the best ’ship names), but the second the show introduced Lexa in season two, I knew I had found my favorite ’ship: Clarke and Lexa. Lexa, the ruthless and cunning commander of the Grounders, starts out as Clarke’s enemy, but as they bond over leadership and sacrifice, their connection becomes much more complex. Clexa has all the ingredients of a juicy ’ship: They’re star-crossed! They’ve seen the worst parts of each other! Every single one of their interactions drips in sexual tension! In the 48 hours following my The 100 binge, I probably watched their kiss 17 times. Given Lexa’s betrayal at the end of season two, it’s hard for me to imagine these gal-pal warriors patching things up, but I hope we haven’t seen the last of Clexa. May we meet again.
The easier question would probably be who don’t I ’ship? I’ve spent my entire life ’shipping television characters, long before I even really understood what that meant (shout-out to Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper!), and if two people are onscreen together and show even a hint of chemistry I’m probably hoping they make out. My biggest ’ships are on shows that are no longer on the air—particularly from anything that aired on the late, great WB—but right now I have a very special affection for Patrick and Richie on Looking. Patrick is generally a mess, but there’s something about the very specific way he’s a mess when he’s around Richie that makes their connection work for me. It helps that two of the best episodes of the entire show are almost solely about exploring their relationship, watching it develop into something deeper in season one’s incredible “Looking For The Future,” and then exploring why it all fell apart in season two’s “Looking For Truth.” Patrick very much wants to figure out who he is and what his place is in the world, and Richie’s ability to subtly challenge all of Patrick’s assumptions about what he assumed his life would be makes their pairing about more than just pure chemistry. It’s about the way who you choose to love can make you the person you were always meant to be. Looking is getting a movie to wrap its story up, and while I won’t be shattered if Patrick and Richie don’t end up together, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’d be a little bit disappointed.
It’s hard to believe we’ve gotten this far and not mentioned the ’ship the whole internet is pulling for: Poe Dameron and Finn from The Force Awakens. A big part of those hopes have to do with representation—when a famously white-male-centric series finally puts a female lead front-and-center, with black and Latino actors as her costars, the galaxy far, far, away suddenly seems like a far more welcoming place it did an episode ago, and a gay character or two in one of the highest-profile films of all time seems not just attainable, but perfectly natural. But even aside from the social progress it would represent, Poe and Finn just have such easy chemistry together. As so many things in Episode VII parallel Episode IV, their meet-cute echoes that of Han and Leia, with the rescued quickly becoming the rescuer, as they flirt and banter while running for their lives. But while the original leads were prickly, sparring right up until that last “I know” in Empire, Finn and Poe have nothing but giddy enthusiasm for each other. And unlike many ’ships, this one isn’t only in the head of the fans. Oscar Isaac (Poe) told Ellen DeGeneres that, “I think it’s a very subtle romance that’s happening… at least I was playing romance.” It may have been too subtle for John Boyega (Finn), who saying that side of the relationship only exists “in Oscar’s head.” But he could still come around! Can’t you see how good you are together? Search your feelings! You know it to be true!
The Good Wife hasn’t been the same since Josh Charles’ Will Gardner shuffled off this mortal coil. While he was alive, I ’shipped Will and Alicia like crazy. That’s, of course, when I wasn’t ’shipping Alicia and Kalinda, but that got considerably more difficult when they stopped being in the same room together. But let’s go with something more current: Now that Julianna Margulies and Robert and Michelle King have essentially put the nail in the coffin of The Good Wife, I’m gonna need Alicia and Jason Crouse (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to consummate their attraction, like, yesterday. They have so much sexual tension, Jason had to be exiled to California. Alicia and Peter have stayed together pretty much as an excuse to keep Chris Noth in the cast, but if the show is ending, please for the love of God, give Alicia Florrick some sexual satisfaction with the salt and pepper man meat that is Jason Crouse.
While it would be against the entire misanthropic spirit of the show, I’d love to see an It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia season devoted to Charlie and The Waitress’ ill-fated ’ship. Granted, they did share a hazy, magical night on the syringe-laden Jersey Shore beach (precipitated by The Waitress’ recurrent fall off the wagon), but their relationship has been doomed from the start. Charlie and his object of affection don’t share a Sam and Diane relationship so much as a Mark David Chapman/Jodie Foster obsession. His heart on a dirty sleeve, the fearless Cyrano fails with his boldest move The Nightman Cometh, resorting to constant stalking and private investigation to keep tabs on his love’s every move. Fueled only with delusional, blind hope, Charlie will forever be waiting in anticipation for the one day The Waitress gets run over by the wagon hard enough to send her back into his outstretched arms.
Even though the Barney-Robin pairing was only the second most appalling romantic relationship on How I Met Your Mother (seriously, screw you, Ted Mosby), I was still disappointed—if not surprised—that the season-eight romance between Neil Patrick Harris’ horndog Barney and Robin’s bubbly coworker Patrice turned out to be just another ploy (by Barney and the show) to get Barney and Robin together. I always loved Ellen D. Williams’ performance as the sweet Patrice, whose incessant attempts to befriend Cobie Smulders’ Robin invariably end with Robin screaming a variation on “Nobody asked you Patrice!” (One of Smulders’ funniest recurring bits.) And she and Harris actually made the season-long gambit seem plausible, despite the fact that, of course, the show would never let an outsider—especially a woman with a normal human body shape—become a regular. Still, the ever-forbearing and adorable Patrice drew the at-that-point sort of grating Robin and Barney out of their stale character tracks and made them likable—as long as they were talking to Patrice and not each other.
Like Carrie, I’ve got a long list of beloved fictional couples—from the canonical (Hermione and Ron forever!) to the doomed (Katniss and Gale) to the imagined (can’t wait for Captain America: Civil War to explore the Bucky/Cap/Falcon love triangle). But I’m going to single out a duo that is single-handedly elevating the show around them: Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Two nerdy scientists so compatible they’re often just referred to as “FitzSimmons,” their relationship started as Fitz’s one-sided crush and grew into something more heartbreaking and complex over the next two seasons. Though many people are understandably annoyed by how frequently male/female friendships become romantic on TV, it’s honestly a trope I can’t get enough of, particularly when it’s acted by standouts like Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge. Their mixture of comfort with and commitment to one another is incredibly appealing to me and those British accents don’t hurt either. At this point FitzSimmons accounts for a good 80 percent of my investment in S.H.I.E.L.D., and if Marvel ever wants to spin them off into their own big screen rom-com I am totally there.
Star Trek has never been great at love stories, although it has its moments, like whenever you can tell Q put on lipstick before his date with Picard. But the franchise nevertheless gave us one of the great TV couples in the long-simmering love affair between Dr. Bashir and Garak. Well, let’s not give Star Trek: Deep Space Nine too much credit here. Fans and the actors gave us that relationship. The producers tried to swerve away after Andrew Robinson played Garak as both bi and into Bashir at first. But there’s no stopping true love. The fresh-faced Starfleet man on his first assignment and the flamboyant Cardassian tailor who’s seen it all made an electric duo right through to the end. Google Image “Bashir O’Brien,” and you get a wall of screencaps memorializing their friendship. Google Image “Bashir Garak,” and it’s a slobbering fan art monument to the hottest couple Star Trek never gave us.
First of all, a moment of silence for The WB providing us all with a huge list to choose from in the first place on this Q&A. But as a huge Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel fan, there are obviously a lot of ’ships for me to choose from (and I’m just going to ignore Erik’s answer to avoid typical Buffy/Angel fan debate). So of course I would choose Willow/Kennedy. Just kidding! Instead, it’s Angel’s Angel and Cordelia. Yes, the couple is a will they/won’t they that doesn’t quite “will,” but it’s also a pairing that is almost impossible not to discuss when talking about the character growth of both Angel and Cordelia, as their friendship and feelings for each other throughout the series had a lot to do with said growth. As epic as Angel and Buffy’s love was for a time, theirs was never a mature relationship, and each crossover where the two interacted (and ones where they wouldn’t, like “The Girl In Question”) only highlighted that more and more, having them devolve as characters. On the other hand, as Cordelia became the heart and soul of Angel the series and Angel the character, it became clear that Angel wasn’t just driven by his need to repent: He was driven by his need to live up to the standard Cordelia held him to. They risked their lives for each other; they were best friends and confidantes, and if not for forces beyond their control, they could have possibly been “soulmates.” Also, they were a gorgeous pair that had some damn hot chemistry—never forget “Waiting In The Wings.” Angel being the adult show that it was in comparison to Buffy, Angel/Cordelia was built as an appropriately adult relationship, despite them never even going on a single date.
I cosign many of the fabulous ’ships already mentioned (though Hermione and Ron are clearly a much better match than Hermione and Harry, Nick), but the ’ship I’ve been most invested in on TV over the past several years is without a doubt Peggy Olson and Stan Rizzo on Mad Men. From their memorable hotel work session in “Waldorf Stories,” Stan’s first episode, throughout the rest of the series’ run, the two shared crackerjack chemistry, and as Peggy kept making terrible relationship choices—Abe? You’re moving in with Abe?—it was impossible not to notice the deepening friendship and overall rightness of her connection with Stan. Fortunately, Matthew Weiner saw it too, and with the series finale, delivered the show’s most swoon-worthy and squeeable moment, the two finally coming together over the phone, and then in person. It was romantic, yes, but what made the moment so satisfying was the fantastic groundwork put in by the writers and actors over several seasons, solidifying Peggy and Stan’s strong bond and mutual respect. Their phone call in “Person To Person” was criticized by some as being too big and too much of a traditionally rom-com moment, but it made my ’shipper heart go pitter-pat and put a beautiful bow on a romantic relationship years in the making, sending two characters I love off into the sunset together, the culmination of a beautiful friendship.
A few years ago I lamely tried entertaining my wife during a road trip by singing stupid parody lyrics over whatever song came on the radio (a holdover from my Weird Al-listening youth, I suppose). Anyway, U2’s “Beautiful Day” came on the radio somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, and I started singing “He’s a beautiful Edge” during the chorus, after which I ad-libbed the rest of the song so that it was a love letter from Bono to The Edge. Not only did this finally get a laugh out my wife, it made me realize how awesome it would be if Bono and The Edge, the most visible members of U2, become a couple after all these years—and if all of Bono’s love songs were secretly about his longtime guitarist, especially in the eyes of a disillusioned former fan such as myself. It would, after all, be the most interesting thing the two have done in 30 years. And just think of the possibilities: “With Or Without Edge,” “Sweetest Edge,” “Mysterious Edge,” “The Unforgettable Edge”… (I’ll stop now.)