When it comes to “shipping” in television, I’m of two conflicting mindsets. Part of me is really a fan of shows that manage to portray a guy and a girl who are close but not romantically entangled. The other part of me, though, just wants to see literally everyone hook up. Just 24/7, Cory-and-Topanga lovefests all the time. And I prefer people to really know each other when they hook up.
Gone are the days of the old Superman or Spider-Man where the attraction lay in keeping a secret from your sweetie. No one wants to see a couple hook up when they’re keeping secrets or lying to each other. What we want now are best friends, partners-in-crime, hero-and-sidekick kind of action. Rose and the Doctor, Sherlock and Watson, Harry and Sally.
So here are some shows that displayed great potential for two equal, interesting partners to get con-sensual with each other, but chose not to. And they must be punished for their transgressions.
6. Fred and Wesley, Angel
“But Brenna!” you say, because somehow you know my first name. “Fred and Wesley did get together! In the real world too, not just some crappy fanfic!” Yes. Yes, they did. For like, five seconds.
I waited seasons for that relationship, and it lasted exactly as long as a red-shirt vampire. Both of these people are sweet, kind of awkward nerds who are also beautiful. What more could you ask for than to see them actually explore the possibility of a loving partnership spent slaying demons? Dammit, I wanted more!
Although this entry is not the worst offender on the list, in some ways it’s even more frustrating. Showing a couple hook up but not be together is kind of Joss Whedon’s sick, serial killer MO at this point, but he took all his relationship advice from Moonlighting, a rom-com that aired thirty years ago starring Bruce Willis, so how could that possibly go wrong?
Speaking of couples that nearly were…
5. Storm and Wolverine, X-Men TAS
Wolverine and Storm are very similar. He’s a stumpy, badass Canadian who eviscerates everything in his way, like a 24/7 commercial for those knives that can cut through shoes and cans and shit. The only time he is ridiculous is when he’s pining after Jean Grey, a character so boring that she had to come back and kill everyone just to be interesting.
Storm is a cataract-y sky god who controls the weather and the only time she is ridiculous is when literally anything comes out of her mouth.
Okay, so I lied: Storm and Wolverine have nothing in common. Which is why I didn’t even consider them as a couple until the episode “One Man’s Worth,” a cyberpunk alternate reality where Storm and Wolverine are married, and also, by the way, fucking awesome.
This is a phenomenal couple. Storm has always been regal, composed and selfless, but cold and aloof in a lot of ways. Wolverine has always been temperamental, vicious and loyal, but also kind of whiny and angsty. As a married couple they retained the things I liked about them, but were sort of open and emotional with each other in a way I never thought I’d see in kids’ TV. They spoke honestly about their feelings, protected each other in battle, and displayed obvious tenderness towards the other.
They were a counter-intuitive match that may not have worked as a slow-grow romance, but sure as hell worked as a fully-established marriage from the get-go. And of course they were ultimately ripped apart from each other.
Omigod, I just realized who they were.
4. D’Argo and Zhaan, Farscape
I’m a little late to the whole Muppets-in-space insanity that was Farscape, but I can tell you right now that it has quite a bit more sex than people covered in lead-based paint have any right to have.
Over the course of the series Zhaan never bones anyone despite her professed desire to do just the opposite of that, Chiana does D’Argo and his freaking son (NOT at the same time) and Aeryn manages to do like, three different versions of Crichton, which is, somehow, even weirder than it sounds.
But there was one couple that never got the screen time it deserved: Zhaan and D’argo.
Ka D’Argo is an uber-sensitive alien beserker who hides his softer side behind violence and his weird penis chin. Zhaan is super-aware of her emotions but hides a violent side behind her patient religiosity. Like Storm and Wolverine, I find this balance of restraint and fury to be complementary in a tidal way.
I wasn’t a huge fan of D’Argo hooking up with Chiana, because frankly it felt like he was violating a minor half his age. And I wasn’t a huge fan of Zhaan’s relationship with Stark, because Stark was a weirdo wearing half a melted frying pan on his face. But there were hints, however brief, that D’Argo and Zhaan would make the beast with multi-colored backs, and that would be something to see.
3. Korra and Bolin, Legend of Korra
Yeah, I got a thing for animated characters. Sue me.
The above picture is one that I made the moment I saw Mako in Season 1 of Legend of Korra. He was beautiful. And talented. And orphaned, pobrecito.
…And a huge dick.
Seriously, I’ve talked about this before, but Mako is nothing but dismissive of Korra until he finds out she’s the Avatar. Then he waffles back and forth (twice!) between her and the Sato girl and everyone ends up miserable. Seriously, Korra is the angstiest person throughout the entire run of this show. Want to know the only time she’s happy?
I know that friendship ≠ romance necessarily, but these are two compatible people who have a lot of fun together and who don’t demean, insult or belittle each other. Imagine them bending and playing pro sports and saving the world (she with great purpose, he sort of accidentally.) He would bring down her intensity a bit, and she would keep him on the straight and narrow path.
I think it’s organic that Korra would be sidetracked by her own hormonal infatuation, but dragging it out for two seasons when Bolin is right there being awesome was a little sad panda for me.
2. Merlin and Arthur, Merlin
Arthur and Gwen actually had a pretty good romance, but let’s face it: The only two people really in love on this show were Merlin and Arthur. They didn’t even pretend to make Merlin interested in anyone else, and instead dedicated 5 seasons of a show to his slavish devotion to the man he loved.
Instead of letting it progress naturally, though, the show decided that it would be way better to just let Arthur abuse and berate Merlin 90% of the time while “learning” about his value at the end of every other episode.
Merlin and Arthur were the unfortunate product of queerbaiting, which is where there’s obvious sexual or romantic tension that is then dismissed through jokes and insults at the cost of sweet, sweet makeouts. Apart from that, though, they also missed the whole point of a serialized television show, which is to allow the characters to grow in their relationships.
This could have been a beautiful romance. Instead of Merlin hiding his secret for five years and submitting to Arthur’s twisted idea of affection, it could have been amazing. Imagine instead that Merlin and Arthur grew close in Season 1. By Season 2, Arthur is demanding to know the secret that Merlin is obviously keeping. At the end of the season, Merlin reveals himself as a “wizard” and comes out of the closet. Arthur, in a heteronormative display of masculine fear, betrays Merlin’s “identity” to his father, Vladimir Putin.
In Season 3,
Giles Uther wages war against Merlin and his “kind.” Arthur, seeing the stupidity of such violence, then defects from his father’s army and joins Merlin, but is still hurt by being kept in the dark about Merlin’s true self. In Season 4, Merlin and Arthur go on the offensive and fight Camelot in the streets. Arthur is forced to slay his own father. He ascends the throne and realizes that Merlin will always lead him down the true path.
In Season 5 they just bone all the time or something.
That’s a good, compelling arc, right? Well, instead of that, we got five seasons of Merlin pretending to be a simple servant, leading up to his confession, followed by a death scene that looked like this:
1. Dean and Castiel, Supernatural
We can have the same discussion as above about queerbaiting and Sherlocking and all that other good stuff with this show, but at some point a kind reader will probably realize that I haven’t watched enough of Supernatural to know what I’m talking about here.
So I will forego words this time and make this my most eloquent desire for two characters to just mash faces already: