1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time)
Every so often a fictional couple comes along that captures our imagination, touching our hearts in immeasurable ways. For the past four years the brave and fiercely loving Savior and Pirate have grown and evolved tremendously both individually and as a couple and in 2016 they only further demonstrated how their story is one of the most beautiful depictions of true love ever. And it’s true love in its most exquisite form – the epitome of an unbreakable, unshakable, and powerful bond showing that true love in its truest form is the sum of many things that when can combined can be truly remarkable. For what is true love? It’s emotion and an entity. True Love is the most powerful thing in the world. It is never easy but must always be fought for. It’s overcoming impossible odds and finding joy in the simple quiet moments. When you find your one true love they are the person who makes your heart pound and breath catch, while also feeling safe, serene and comforted. They are the person you want to kiss with passion or tenderness, laugh with, cry with, and hold tightly in your arms and never let go. They’re the person who always knows the right thing to say, can sense when something is wrong, and can tell you so much without a single word. They are the person who inspires you to be the best version of yourself, encourages you and never lets you doubt your self-worth. They’re the one you can truly be vulnerable with, who brings down the walls that guard your heart, for they are the person you would give your whole heart to. You will walk through Hell for them, do anything to protect and sacrifice everything for to ensure their happiness or well-being no matter the cost to yourself. Your True Love is the person you choose to walk hand-in-hand with through life because when you do it feels like home. Is there not a more perfect way to describe what Emma and Killian have grown to become to each other?
From the moment Emma marched into the Underworld to save Killian, declaring the steadfast motto “I will always find you” it was clear that both emotionally and narratively that this was undeniably true love. The Savior who always helps others find their happy endings was fighting for her own. But both Emma and Killian have become a pristine example of a quote from Lao Tzu, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” What they felt in their hearts was officially confirmed for the Gods themselves not by a kiss but by a choice – and one that was about sparing the other from great pain. And when it seemed as if this was goodbye forever they solidified that love with tearful and selfless promises and literally feeling and sensing each other across not just realms but also death. And when Killian miraculously returned to where Zeus himself deemed “where he belongs ” it was back into Emma’s loving arms. After going through such insurmountable odds in an truly epic part of their story, they also showcased true love in their more joyful moments as Emma happily expressed her love in a moment of normalcy, let go of her fears of an uncertain future asking him to move in with her, and overcame secrets with understanding and compassion as they’re based out of protection and the desire for the happiness of each other. And importantly they reminded each other just how remarkable they are not only to each other but as people, as Emma reminded Killian that he is a hero, worthy of being saved and needs to forgive himself on his own, while Killian reminded her that she is the product of true love but also a person who is just as wonderful and strong as her parents who can truly overcome anything in a deeply romantic moment where Killian reads Emma the story of her and her parents, able to steady her trembling hand, kissing it with reverence. Just like the love that Emma and Killian embody that is the sum of many attributes, so too is the nature of their story, beautiful not just because of one single thing but because of everything which holds an integral piece to their relationship – the writing, the narrative, and the performances by Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue who this past year were deeply profound in both grand moments and ones of lovely subtlety and remarkably gorgeous in their authenticity. In each scene you can feel every heartbeat from the hearts they are willing to share, sacrifice that are indelibly entwined in the deepest way possible. There’s sure to be so many more milestones, moments of epicness and battles, and ones of tender intimacy in 2017, with a relationship that is truly special. It is a beautiful blend of fairy tale familiarity and modern-day sensibilities. Emma and Killian enchant our hearts, move our souls, and create a tale that is one of the most glorious to ever grace our lives in a story book that will remain exquisitely beautiful and profound long after we’ve reached the final page.
2. Lucy Preston, Wyatt Logan and Rufus Carlin (Timeless)
The time team as they’ve come to be known could not be more different. Lucy is a historian and professor, Wyatt is a soldier, while Rufus is a scientist and pilot to the time travel machine. Lucy is kind and fiercely intelligent, used to a world of academia, Wyatt is stoic, determined and often single-minded, while Rufus is likewise vastly intelligent and ingenious. Despite their differences they also share some significant commonalities. In truth they are all intelligent and resourceful,each offering something important to the team. And all our brave, heroic and loyal. Within the group there are some wonderful dynamics – Lucy and Wyatt’s burgeoning romance, Lucy and Rufus’ is growing friendship and Wyatt and Rufus’ strong understanding of each other. But it’s the three of them together that are truly a joy to watch, often funny and heartfelt as they go from time to time encountering history with awe and reverence and learning to work together for a common goal even when they disagree. It’s touching to see how quickly they’ve all grown to deeply care for one another, and relate to each other with compassion which is a testament to the narrative, and the wonderful performances by Abigail Spencer, Malcom Barrett, and Matt Lanter. The embraces, the laughter, the willingness to face death for each other and the ways they hold hands while the future they are returning to might be vastly different demonstrates that theme that people from all walks of life can come together and form even the most unlikeliest of friendships and come out the other side stronger and better from having known each other. I eagerly anticipate many more adventures from this fantastic trio as they continue on a journey of themes that are truly timeless.
3. Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas (Stranger Things)
Growing up one of my favorite films was The Goonies. I love the adventures and relationships between the group of best friends. One of the things I love about Stranger Things is the similarities between this group of kids to that of The Goonies: Both taking on truly scary and bad people and relying on each other above all else, while are all smart and quick thinking, all deeply caring (but show it in different ways) and often have penchant for recklessness and profanity. But make no mistake my love of the similarities doesn’t mean these kids are mere carbon copies. On the contrary each has their own personality and strength, while the way the boys help and embrace Eleven is something unique, poignant and touching. They make me laugh with the way they relate to each other, cheer at their courage against frightening government agents and a terrifying monster, and cry with their demonstrations of true devotion and friendship that always is believable and moving. Sometimes I cry and laugh at the same time – something only the best of stories can evoke. And the moment when bullies are beaten, Mike is saved by Eleven and Dustin yells “She’s our friend and she’s crazy” is a perfect example of this. In the end, what this group shows is that children should never be underestimated, ignored, or used. They can sometimes be the bravest, smartest and most loving people imaginable. 2017 will surely bring more dangers and I look forward to more humor and heart from the kids who have learned to play a real life strange and dangerous game of Dungeons & Dragons.
4. Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life)
In terms of true love and romance Lorelai and Luke were always the cornerstone couple of the Gilmore Girls. From best friends to lovers, two committed partners, these two had many ups and downs but came back together in series finale. But the divisive the final season only left so much time to arrive at said reconciliation so there were many things that fans never got to see. Despite its imperfections, when it comes to the Luke and Lorelai relationship in A Year in the Life it was beautiful, emotionally satisfying, consistent in the characterizations, and everything we could’ve hoped for. What makes this couple so wonderful is their humor and heart, and the way they hilariously banter back and forth like a couple from classic cinema, understand and support each other, work through arguments, and most importantly demonstrate that love and relationships can be difficult but in the end are worth it. Feelings of complacency and identity were what their story entailed in 2016 and it was believable, sweet and touching because in the end we see a couple truly devoted to loving each other and making each other happy. Wonderful moments abound, the two that will surely remain in our hearts forever are the whimsical wedding montage, a dream of a scene complete with the tear inducing inclusion of the song “Reflecting Light “which was played when Luke and Lorelai shared their first dance, and Luke’s speech about his commitment and willingness to do whatever it takes to save the relationship not knowing it needed no saving. Lorelai wanted to get married. These two prove that struggles can be overcome, that day-to-day life whether it’s grand or simple can be fulfilling, and that the strongest relationships are about devotion, trust, honesty and a great sense of humor.
5. The Pearson Family (This Is Us)
It seems so rare nowadays to see families portrayed as genuinely close, caring, protective, and good, where family dinners and get-togethers are important, wanted and looked forward to, with just their day-to-day lives which include phone calls, lunches and support, are natural and unforced. The Pearson family may not be perfect – they fight and argue and disagree sometimes on big issues- but at the end of the day we see that in both the past and the present, there is nothing more important than family. From parent/child relationships, to the close-knit sibling bond of the affectionately titled “Big Three,” the Pearsons bring us the kind of warmth, poignancy, affectionate dynamics that many audiences have been yearning for, breathing beautiful life into the stories that bring us to tears on a weekly basis, and warm our hearts in ways that are deeply affecting.
6. Killian Jones and Henry Mills (Once Upon a Time)
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Once Upon a Time is the way family dynamics are varied and purposefully are breaking the mold of traditional family dynamics of fairy tales with Henry’s ever-growing family. Like the traditional fairy tales, in the show we have seen deceased biological parents and evil stepparents. But what Once Upon a Time does so well is that it takes these traditional premises and expands and alters them in great ways. Natural parents are alive, the evil stepparent changes and does good, and we see adoption and friends included showing that families need not be defined merely by blood. The relationship between Killian and Henry has been a growing favorite of mine the past three years with fun and heartwarming moments between Emma’s two true love’s – from sailing trips and nautical lessons, rogue and daring rescue missions, to the special Operation Light Swan, a house and promise for a happy future for Emma. But 2016 delved into a new territory that was not only significant and poignant but natural and realistic. Yes there were moments like we’ve seen before – special Operations to help find happy endings, help save others, help save Emma, and there were moments of heartache where leaving Killian behind in The Underworld caused a look of heartbreak on Henry’s face. But what was lovely and meaningful way that this year also truly developed the future step father and stepson bond, with an entire episode revolving around the conflict and resolution that faces many blended families today. Henry had always gotten along well with Killian, but it’s very different when your mother is now living with her romantic partner. It’s a big change and they handled this in a way that felt authentic to what a boy Henry’s age would feel – uncertain, wanting to lash out, even saying hurtful things they don’t mean. But in the end Henry realizes how much Killian loves his mother and how he cares more for Henry’s well-being and safety than his own. Henry will always miss his father and no one can replace him, and while he already has a large extended family with mothers and grandparents, it was lovely to see that family tree grow a branch in the young boy’s eyes to include a man whose heart is filled with such genuine affection for his true love and her son, as well as an evolving and positive depiction of a future step parent and child relationship, something television definitely needs to see more of and Once Upon a Time shows so beautifully.
7. Lucifer Morningstar and Chloe Decker (Lucifer)
This pair has so many classic characteristics from the get-go: witty and sharp banter, often flirty or filled with tension, humor or exasperation with each other that masks deeper underlying feelings, two people who are guarded learning to become vulnerable because of each other, and a kind of instinctual, deep connection. In many ways they remind me of our number 1 Pick, Emma and Killian, and that should be considered the highest praise. But Chloe and Lucifer are also very unique most of all because, well, he’s the Devil. How many shows have a Devil who’s in the body of a dashingly handsome man, helping solve crimes with a courageous and caring detective who was the one person he cannot read like he does others, and consequently the one person who changes his entire world. No one else would have him promise to return to Hell just to keep her safe. With a palpable chemistry between Tom Ellis and Lauren German, their relationship is still growing and it could go down some dark paths, but the fantastic combination of a classic, romantic couple who solve crimes with a fantastical element and touch of destiny and love of Biblical proportions is absolutely fantastic.
7. Peggy Carter and Daniel Sousa (Agent Carter)
In the first season of this period adventure series, there was definitely a connection between these two agents, but Peggy was still grieving over Steve, wanting to protect what was left of him, that love was not something she was ready for. But in 2016 in the show’s second and final season, romance was certainly in the air. And while their affections were torn between each other and scientist JasonWilkes and nurse Violet, it was clear that Daniel was always the one who was Peggy’s true match. The relationship is built on mutual respect, trust, and a real chemistry and spark with charming and magnetic performances by Atwell and Gjokaj. Seeing these two crazy kids realize just how much they care for each other was equally sweet and touching – the kind of great relationship tension where you were just yelling at your TV screen to “just kiss already!”And after Peggy and Daniel showed that they would risk their lives for each other, the audience got their wish when they finally came together with a passionate kiss. This was pure happiness and while we don’t know for sure, in my mind Daniel is the man Peggy married and continued to inspire others and help combat evil, fighting alongside him and forming the SHIELD agency. These two are as perfect a duo as there ever was.
8. Snow White and Prince Charming (Once Upon a Time)
In 2016, the original true love couple, and still one of the main reasons the show remain so magical and a pillar of a beautiful sense of hope and fairy tale sweetness, were able to demonstrate once again what true love really means in ways like we’ve always seen for the couple as well as new and poignant twist on their story. While on a journey to the Underworld it was touching not only to see that steadfast devotion to each other and belief of “always find each other” but to also see them provide their daughter with a sense of hope. They also gave Killian a great gift in their willingness to find and save him, accepting him into their family. Their love gives their daughter hope and inspiration and now their epic fairy tale intertwines with the product of their true love. The reading of their story was such a touching reminder of how special the Snow White and Prince Charming fairy tale is in a time when they once again proved the strength of their bond in new and meaningful ways. With the sharing of hearts came the sharing of a sleeping curse which is yet to be broken. And while their faith may be wavering their love for each other remains as strong as ever – taking care of their son, leaving each other notes, keeping watch over their beloved as they sleep. I believe they will soon break this curse. True love will never falter in the end. Because any couple who discovers they had a connection long before they realized, in a moment based on respect, belief in each other, and feeling as if they were not alone in the world, that can create a first spark of true love, and a sapling, is as magical as it gets.
(Tie) 10. “DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy “The She-Wolf Pack” (Fuller House)
Positive friendships and sibling relationships are special and when I see them in film and TV I am happy. What makes the relationship between DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy (2 sisters and 1 best friend) but in truth all one part of a larger family and affectionately self dubbed “She-Wolf pack,” so wonderful is that it’s about three women who all genuinely love, support and respect each other. Much like the original series where Jesse and Joey moved in to help Danny with his kids, Stephanie and Kimmy are doing the same for DJ. But she reciprocates that support to her sister and best friend, and the three together are not only a joy to watch but represent something rare in TV these days – a heartwarming, funny, touching relationship between women who always have each other’s backs and will do so with compassion, honesty, and a great sense of humor. I know I personally relate to this relationship more so than other harsher and snarkier friendships we see. This family is undeniably wholesome but no less realistic and relatable.
(Tie) 10. Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis (Agent Carter)
Such a wonderful friendship indeed, just like the first season, when these two are together there is fun to be seen, sometimes tears to be shed, and smiles to be shown. No two represent the witty and nostalgia Agent Carter embodies more so than Peggy and Jarvis. But once again this year showed the beauty of the platonic love that can exist between a man and a woman. There was never a sense of romance between them, but their chemistry was amazing because it represents something different but no less special and important. They will hold each other’s hand in comfort when they need it, encourage each other, and fight alongside each other, always with a wittiness and realness that will be deeply missed each week.
11. Liv Moore, Clive Babineaux , Ravi Chakrabarti, Major Lilywhite, Peyton Charles (iZombie)
Admittedly I adore every relationship within this dark and funny drama, but when all of the characters work together and interact with each other something really amazing happens. They may all be quite different but they truly show that these differences mean nothing in the grand scheme of things especially when a zombie attack may be on the horizon and two of their own are zombies themselves. As we saw in the Season 2 finale, when everyone finally knew the truth and they all work together, we see that they are stronger together than apart. If a zombie apocalypse was here this are the team I would want on the job.
12. The Crawley Family (Downton Abbey)
In 2016 we bid a reluctant farewell to the residents of Downton Abbey both upstairs and downstairs. While they may be a differences in stations, when it comes to the Crawley clan, especially in this last season, everyone feels like one big family filled with everything you expect – love, support, disagreements and resolutions. From the health scare of Lord Crawley, to the weddings of Lady Edith, Lady Mary and Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, to the return of Tom, to Anna and Bates finally having a baby, to Thomas finding place, and Lady Grantham’s ever wit and wisdom, I came to think of every character as a member of the Crawley family and found it hard to say goodbye. But perhaps it is merely “till we meet again” because their lives will go on and we’re lucky to have witnessed so much. Tears and smiles were abundant in 2016 and hopefully there’s more to come in the future for this wonderful family.