We celebrate the gifts that are our families and friends far too infrequently. There’s a specific day set in calendars for couples, and Leslie Knope coined the perfection that is Galentine’s Day (February 13), but even still, while it’s progressive and amazing, it’s just not enough. If a TV show or film doesn’t have a solid, incredible friendship or some sort of platonic relationship, I can’t get into it. As someone who’s so inspired by the people in her life, it’s the one thing I look for in the media I consume. It’s the one thing that keeps me engaged and invested. It’s the one thing that results in excellent character development. And this year especially, I’m happy to report there were too many gorgeous relationships to choose from. I’d rather have too much than not enough to even fill this category, which is always a bummer. We are not created to be alone as human beings, it’s the relationships we form throughout our lives that effortlessly shape us into the people we become and when we’re surrounded by people who believe in us, there’s nothing we can’t do.
1. The Rose Family
When I first started Schitt’s Creek, I could have never imagined how much I’d adore this family and how far they’d come. The Roses are exceptional because they’re absolute weirdos in the most normal way in this ridiculous town, but they stand out because of the love that’s come into their hearts throughout their stay in Schitt’s Creek. This doesn’t just include the immediate Rose family, but Stevie, Ted, and Patrick, too. The family that once only wanted towels and a car out of this town have extended their hearts to the people around them, welcoming them with open arms and a promise to never abandon them. It’s Moira’s belief in Stevie as an unofficial second daughter. It’s the family’s undying love for Patrick and Ted. And it’s Alexis realizing just how much she’s grown to love spending time with them. The series wouldn’t be as brilliant if it weren’t for the family growing to appreciate one another without ever changing their outlandish dynamic and calling one another out on their craps.
2. Team McCord
Team McCord took things to a whole new level this year when the Secretary of State’s staff became the Presidential staff and challenges greater than before arised. While the staff might’ve lost some familiar faces this season like Matt, Jay, Kat, and a little later Daisy, they still pulled through as the strongest set of friends, colleagues on TV.
I especially need to pay the overdo tribute to the partnership between Elizabeth and Blake, which asides from the McCord family dynamic has been the glue that’s held the White House and my sanity together. There’s a moment in the final season where Elizabeth tells Blake that he’s been with her from the very beginning and he’ll be there to the very end, and that may or may not have been the moment to resort me into a blubbering mess because this partnership is the greatest treat the show’s given us. No one could be a better assistant to Elizabeth than Blake because no one understands or resonates with her being more than he does. (Who else would feel comfortable stealing her pastries?) It’s been a beautiful ride because from the very beginning, Elizabeth has accepted, understood, and trusted Blake the way she’d trust any of her family members. (He could’ve been her son-in-law after “Better Angels”, but I won’t get into the heartbreak that caused me.) The way they’ve both believed in and rooted for one another has been unmatched.
Elizabeth McCord’s campaign run and presidency could’ve been a lot more challenging if the team on her side wasn’t as steadfast in their belief towards her. And that belief comes from the faith she’s put into them all the years prior, believing and caring for her staff not as people who work for her, but as a family. There’s nothing Elizabeth wouldn’t have done if they’d confided in her for something. There’s nothing she would’ve held back, no day off she wouldn’t have given, no support she wouldn’t extend. The team, including Stevie, Russell Jackson, and even former President Conrad Dalton, all believed in Elizabeth because she believed in them first, and that ceaseless support even in the midst of resignations is what’s made these bonds so special. They’d once promised to have each other’s back and until the very end, they did.
3. House Stark
Game of Thrones
There’s a lot of rightful and valid criticism regarding the final season of Game of Thrones, but to say anything about House Stark and their loyalties to one another would be an injustice and simply put, wrong. There are a number of questionable things that occurred throughout the final season, a lot of character choices that felt bizarre, but the pack stayed together through everything. In the midst of dark battles and chaotic debates, House Stark extended and opened their doors to all those in need. Through it all, the Stark siblings including Jon, Brienne, and Theon honored the promise once made to Ned and Catelyn that they’d stick to their roots without ever losing loyalty to one another. The North would remain independent despite Bran ruling the Seven Kingdoms because that’s what they’ve always represented, a goodness amongst corruption and cruelty. They’ve tried time and time again to be better rulers than what they’ve seen, they’ve avenged, and they’ve forgiven despite the bloodshed their house has endured. It’s why they’ve survived the darkest nights and lived to tell the tale that though they won’t always reside in Winterfell together, knowing where they come from and who’s waiting for them will make them that much stronger as individuals.
4. Erin, Michelle, James, Orla, and Clare
I don’t know how we’ve all gone so long without this show because goodness, it’s such a delightful little gem. And perhaps, in all honesty, my favorite thing about this friendship is how closely it reminds to what I’ll call my classroom of crazy creatures. We’re all so ridiculously different from one another, hard-headed, skilled in our own somewhat useful unique ways, and often in some sort of a ridiculous argument like, “50 degrees is cold!” “No it isn’t!” But that’s what makes this show so much fun to watch because despite how different each of the girls and James are from one another, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for each other, no one they wouldn’t call out, and no one they wouldn’t throw a punch at. It’s a state of mind. A choice to love each other as they do and a choice to continue being each other’s strengths in weakness. (James going to pick up Erin for the dance? Be still my heart.) It’s five completely different human beings sharing a friendship that’s grounded in compassion, curiosity, and a whole lot of ridiculous banter.
5. Renata, Celeste, Madeline, Bonnie, and Jane
Big Little Lies
The second season of Big Little Lies unfortunately paled in comparison to the first, but I’d never say no to watching the women of Monterey continue to blossom the serendipitous friendship they’d come to find on the dark steps that eventful night. You could give me a comedy focusing entirely on their day to day activities, and I’d take it in a heartbeat because such a group of complex, remarkable women deserve to be cherished. No soul could ever understand them as profoundly as the others do because that’s the thing about the promise they’d made that night, it was theirs, and they’ll do anything to protect it. They’ll defend one another, root for one another, and occasionally even yell at each other, but at best, the common adoration they all share for their kids and the greater good binds them in a kind of unlikely friendship that’s somehow effortless and challenging all at once. They’ve somehow achieved the perfect kind of balance in their circle of chaos.
6. The Soul Squad
The Good Place
There’s no show on air right now that’s made me cry harder than The Good Place and it’s entirely due to the Soul Squad. Eleanor, Michael, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, and Janet have faced the most exquisite character growths throughout the year and I’m so happy the series isn’t over yet because it means I’ll get to write about them again next year, too. “The Funeral to End All Funerals” alone is the very reason this friendship is so unbelievably special — the farcical, unconventionally beautiful lengths they’ll go through to show one another they’re loved is everything. It’s the way they know each other so well that they could instantly tell something was wrong with Janet when bad Janet had taken over. It’s the way they’ll encourage Eleanor as the Architect. It’s the fact that they feel safe enough to be their truest selves even when that means they aren’t feeling particularly great about what’s happening or they need to vent about how hard it’s all getting. It’s the way they’ll fight for each other and want to ensure that their desires are all granted because the genuine belief in one another goes beyond the patronizing and loveless lives they had on earth. They are each other’s strengths and greatest confidants — they are the family they’ve always dreamed of and they are the pinnacle of hope in their darkest hours.
7. Scoop Troop
The Scoop Troop is without question, the best part of Stranger Things season three. Steve, Robin, Dustin, Erica and the rest of the kids trying to save Star Court mall from another ludicrous attack is everything we didn’t know we needed and more for a number of reasons. First things first, Steve and Robin’s dynamic might just be the best thing after Steve and Dustin’s ridiculous father/son relationship. I’ll be frank, I wanted them together from the second I saw Robin, but her reveal in the end made their friendship that much more magical because it meant genuine acceptance and adoration. In Steve and Robin, there’s a friendship in its most authentic form because the show hasn’t given the teenagers the opportunity to be this open in the past. Allowing both of them to talk about their heartbreaks and showcasing Steve’s acceptance of Robin’s sexuality in the 80s not only shows tremendous character on his part, but it fortifies their bond through acute transparency and a palpable, unyielding love for one another. They’re stuck together in the best way because while she could mock and torment him, the two of them could be there for one another in ways no one else could. The Scoop Troop is entertainment and devotion, the strangest band of little outlaws and the most loyal. (“You die, I die.” I mean, okay Dustin, sure that’s one way to put it.)
8. Claire and Fleabag
We all love the relationship between Fleabag and Hot Priest, but the show’s greatest strength, the absolute best written relationship is without a doubt the story of sisters. Fleabag and Claire’s relationship is the deepest-rooted bond on the show, and a painfully accurate depiction of siblings. The reality is that families are messy, they’re chaotic, often times dark, but almost always beautiful. Siblings are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, weaving together the two opposites so delicately and in such indescribable manner that there are often very little words to describe the whirlwind of what means to be a sibling, and in this case, a sister. Claire and Fleabag are polar opposites, but my God, the love they share for one another floored me. “You’re the only person I’d run through the airport for” will forever be one of the most powerful lines written because what it means is a colossal amount of love without the necessity of uttering the three words. It doesn’t matter that the sisters could annoy the living daylights out of one another, it doesn’t matter that they don’t always understand or trust each other, it doesn’t matter that there will be more fights until their dying days, what matters is that there’s absolutely nothing they wouldn’t do for each other, and the very things they’d do for one another are reserved solely for them.
9. Midge Maisel and Susie Meyerson
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Midge and Susie this season is a big ol’ pile of yikes followed by a perfect mic drop to strengthen their partnership even further. It all began with Susie choosing to also manage Sophie Lennon only for that to turn into a vocal throw down outside of a Broadway theatre where Susie got to reiterate just how much she believes that Midge is a legend. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this unusual partnership has now flourished into a friendship where genuine adoration runs through the veins of both women. Susie losing all of Midge’s money but only caring about that part is proof of her getting better and stronger. The reason this all works is because Midge and Susie are so drastically different from one another, which forces them to work on compromise and finding balance. It works because their personas challenge the other and alongside the desire to make the partnership and business work, they grow for the better as people. Now with both their mistakes taking great tolls on their future, it’ll be riveting to see how they bounce back from all this in season four.
10. Jane Villanueva and Petra Solano
Jane the Virgin
In every way, this friendship is without a doubt the most surprising favorite on my list. If you’d told me at the start of the series that Petra and Jane would end up here, I would have believed you, but I wouldn’t expect to care about it as much as I do. Character development is a wonderful, beautiful thing and so much of the growth both women experienced was due to the challenges they faced in their equally overdramatic lives. The detail of meeting once a week after the events of season three to check in on one another was a lovely idea, but the choice to continue it even after Rafael had come home and life was beginning to move forward is what spoke volumes. And what I personally adore is that Petra and Jane never really changed their banter in the midst of their blossoming friendship, that all remained, which appropriately led to fighting about whether Petra will be Rafael’s Best Man or Jane’s Maid of Honor. It led to the two of them looking out for another, caring about each other, and understanding that they never want to live in a world where the other isn’t there.
Honorable Mentions: Midge Maisel and Lenny Bruce (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Alvarez Family (One Day at a Time), The 99th Precinct (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Jen Harding and Judy Hale (Dead to Me), Charlotte Heywood and Lady Susan (Sanditon), Mando and “Baby Yoda” (The Mandalorian), The Baudelaire Children (A Series of Unfortunate Events), Fred and Archie Andrews (Riverdale), Cumberlands Choir (Perfect Harmony)
This time of year is my favorite for a number of reasons, but sharing these categories with remarkable writers like Heather over at TV Examined and Katie over at Nerdy Girl Notes is on top of the list. Be sure to check out their Best of the Year reviews, too!
Which friendships or familial relationships were your favorite of the year?