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Best of 2021: Found Families

Best of 2021: Found Families features spoilers for various shows. Please be advised if there’s something you don’t want to know.

Platonic relationships are always an underrated gem throughout every series, making it that much more special. The found families—the relationships that make characters better and amplify scenes with the best kind of balance between angst and love. No human is meant to be alone, and the platonic relationships prove this by often being a light in the darkness.

For more end-of-the-year coverage, be sure to check out our Best of 2021: Ted Lasso Season 2 Special, as the shining example of what excellent TV looks like in its entirety. There’s also the Best of 2021: Scene-Stealers who made this year a joy ride through and through. The Best of 2021: Performances and the Best of 2021: Characters.

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The 99th Precinct
Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best of 2021 Found Families BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "The Last Day, Part 2" Episode 810 -- Pictured: (l-r) Andre Braugher as Ray Holt, Chelsea Peretti as Gina, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, Melissa Fumero as Amy Santiago, Joel McKinnon Miller as Scully, Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz, Joe Lo Truglio as Charles Boyle --
(Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

The 99th Precinct being on our Best of 2021 Found Families list for the last time is hitting hard. For nine years, we watched each of these characters grow as individuals, and we watched them grow as a team. We watched them become better, stronger, and wiser even while they were still trying to destroy each other once a year during the Halloween Heists.

We watched them become better versions of themselves as a result of the love they consistently showed each other, and we watched them fight through hell to keep the friendship the same even while things began to change. Through one final heist, in the kind of finale that serves as the best love letter to found families, the 99th Precinct proved that the bonds they’ve fortified are forever, and the love they hold for each other will only ever grow from this moment on. Whether it was Gina’s return or Holt telling Jake he’d be proud to have a son like him, nothing could top the heart the show brought to our screens this year.

The Crows
Shadow and Bone

Best of 2021 Found Families SHADOW & BONE (L to R) FREDDY CARTER as KAZ BREKKER, KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY and AMITA SUMAN as INEJ GHAFA in of SHADOW & BONE
Cr. David Appleby/Netflix © 2021

Shadow and Bone wouldn’t be the series that it is without The Crows. In every way, while they’re incredible characters, together they’re the best kind of found family and book readers will know that’s a detail that will continue to expand as the series evolves. Kaz Brekker, Jesper Fahey, and Inej Ghafa, who’ll later be joined by others (Nina, Matthias, Wylan), are the kind of people who’ve all lost something but gained each other’s friendship, love, and loyalty in return.

“No mourners, no funerals” is so much more than a saying—it’s a promise. It’s a promise cementing the fact that through whatever battle they face, whatever heist they’re on, saving each other will always be a priority. They’re in this together, and whatever the cost, they’re each willing to pay it.

Geralt of Rivia and Ciri
The Witcher

Geralt and Ciri in Best of 2021 Found Families
©Netflix

There’s absolutely nothing that could have prepared any of us for Geralt of Rivia as a dad. Truly—nothing. As a man with plenty of compassion behind the stoicism and the reputation, Geralt’s heart has always been bare for us to see through. And that only increases in tenfold as he starts to help Ciri train—as he starts to become the world to her. But more than that, Geralt is the kind of dad every kid would be lucky to have—the one who understands the very weight of the word enough and who vocalizes it when necessary. 

In more ways than the one, the two save each other where it matters most, through the physical fights, sure, but in the contentment that comes from loving someone so deeply, you’d give your all for them. The emptiness in Geralt’s life isn’t so harrowing now that he’s got two women he’d give anything for. The most prosperous kind of love is that which never asks for anything in return, and yet, it’s there because everything they have given has made them each that much stronger. And essentially, what this tells us is that we’re even less prepared for Season 3 when Yennefer becomes the mom. You know, the one she basically already is.

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Roci Crew
The Expanse

Best of 201 Found Families Roci Crew
©Prime Video

The best part of The Expanse will always be the found family in the Rocinante—the band of misfits who started as unlikely allies and instead became the kind of family who’d always be on the same page while being the very people who’d call each other out when need be. Though separated for the majority of Season 5 and on edge in the first two episodes of Season 6, their friendship is the kind we know will last long after the series is over. 

The way they’ve each impacted one another and the lengths they’ll go through to save one of their own is precisely what “Nemesis Game” represents as an episode. It’s including Clarissa in the group even though she once tried to kill Holden because “everyone on this ship has something they regret,” and that means that they’re each willing to forgive one another. And more importantly, they’re each willing to trust when one of their own looks outside of the family. In losing Alex then, it became easier to understand the weight of this job and the details that they are now willing to hold on to the little moments because time on this planet can be a fleeting thing. 

The Baby-Sitters Club
The Baby-Sitters Club

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB (L to R) SOPHIE GRACE as KRISTY THOMAS, VIVIAN WATSON as MALLORY PIKE, KYNDRA SANCHEZ as DAWN SCHAFER, MALIA BAKER as MARY ANNE SPIER, ANAIS LEE as JESSI RAMSEY, MOMONA TAMADA as CLAUDIA KISHI, and SHAY RUDOLPH as STACEY MCGILL in episode 203 of THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB
Cr. LIANE HENTSCHER/NETFLIX © 2021

We know some of us cry easily, but there’s something to be said about how The Baby-Sitters Club straight up makes us sob at every turn because of how fervently these girls care for each other. Where the first season was great, the second is exceptionally brilliant. Full of phenomenal growth and such admirable maturity—the show continues to stand as a glimmer of hope in a world where toxic friendships are written more frequently than healthy displays of loyalty and love at a young age. 

There is no gross form of bullying with this team. Instead, there is only adding to the group and making sure that even when they don’t understand what someone’s going through, they’ll do everything that they can to make sure they can be a shoulder to cry on. Whether it was the way they showed up at Stacey’s gala, how they each tried to comfort Claudia when Mimi passed or the way they fought to make sure Kristy understands that even though her father continues to pass up the opportunities spend time with her, they’ll always be the family she can count on.

Firehouse 51
Chicago Fire

Best of 2021 Found Families Chicago Fire
©NBC

Chicago Fire continues to be the heart of the One Chicago franchise solely because of the tremendous compassion all the characters carry, but more importantly, their love for each other. And every year, they continue to showcase that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for their team. 

Because even when they lose one of their own, there is no forgetting the colossal impact they had on—the legacy they’ll all carry. For instance, Cruz naming his son after Otis, Mouch helping Sylvie with the Paramedicine program, the team rallying to remind Casey he’ll be missed, the beer squad, and all their shenanigans. And, of course, the beacon of light, a chief like Boden, stands as, reminding viewers of the fact that a squad led by a man like him will always be better than anything else. Firehouse 51 stands as a glow to be reminiscent of the fact that so much starts from the top and grows from the bottom, making them the Best of 2021 found families, without question.

Zoey Clarke and Mo
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Best of 2021 found families Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist
©NBC

If there is one thing in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist season two that’s been a healing constant, it’s been the ever-developing friendship between Mo and Zoey Clarke. Where nothing in the show felt like it was going where we thought it was, where there were hesitations and confusions mid-way through, you knew that Mo and Zoey would be steady in the end. 

They’d be in each other’s life through everything, and they’d try to do the best they could to help the other find exactly what it is they’re looking for. From day one, Mo has ceaselessly been the kind of friend Zoey has needed, and while there have been hiccups on her end, Zoey’s tried to be the same source of light in return. Their friendship has only ever grown with the opening of MaxiMo’s, the first Christmas without her father, the heartaches, the breakups, and the makeups. When we first meet the two in the Pilot, they are both lost souls, but when we leave them in Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmasthey have found a home in the friendship that’s effortlessly expanded both their worlds, thus defining what makes the best of 2021 found families so special.

Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Best of 2021 found families
©Disney/Marvel Studios

The most disappointing part of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier remains to be the detail that we didn’t get nearly enough of the banter between Bucky and Sam. Or, we’re just greedy, and it’ll likely never be enough. But the ridiculous bickering aside, Sam and Bucky have proven this year that this friendship is one of the strongest components in the MCU’s. As two significantly better characters because of the other, they’d inevitably be in our best of 2021 found families. 

When Cap passed the shield onto Sam in Avengers Endgamethere was never animosity or jealousy—Bucky knew Sam deserved it, and Bucky did everything in his power to ensure that Sam knew he was worthy of it. However, Bucky also needed to understand what Sam felt as a Black man in this world and how the heartaches affected his decision-making. Though they’ll never move their seat up for the other person, they’ll fight for them no matter what arises by listening to each other, choosing to be vulnerable with one another, and fighting steadfastly to every battle.

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop
Hawkeye

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop in Best of 2021 Found Families
©Disney/Marvel Studios

While we’ve got one more episode of Hawkeye left by the time this is published, what we’ve yet to figure out is how the series continues to be so extraordinary when it was the one MCU show we frankly weren’t even looking forward to watching. And a significant reason for this greatness is due to Kate Bishop, Yelena Belova, and the serendipitous mentor/mentee relationship with Clint and Kate. 

Clint Barton is a complicated man who’s done questionable things, but to say that he’s uncaring would be a disservice to the character and the kind of father he is. The type of father figure who’s now looking out for Kate just as closely as he does his own children. Whether he survives next week’s episode or not, the fact remains that his impact on Kate and the short time she’s known him will change both their lives for the better, making each of them more capable and a little more open because of this time spent together. 

Bradley Jackson and Alex Levy
The Morning Show

The Morning Show Best of 2021 Found Families on Apple TV+
©Apple TV+

As one of the more dysfunctional friendships on TV, The Morning Show’s Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) and Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) take their bond to a complicated but riveting new road in season two while the they spend some necessary time apart. No, Bradley and Alex aren’t best friends, and the fact that it’s unclear if they’ll ever get to such closeness makes it that much more fascinating. Still, Bradley and Alex are two women who care about one another and are trying to do the best they can to be some sort of a positive figure in the other’s life. 

Alex Levy has made plenty of mistakes, but in the season finale, “Fever,” Alex’s adoration for Bradley evident—she sees what the woman’s done to defend her. It means a lot to her, and she is making it clear that whatever Bradley needs, she is in her corner. Bradley’s been trying for a while now, and this year, Alex Levy eventually meets her halfway, showcasing that she is capable of change, but more than that, knowing how much she’s cared about Mitch Kessler, we know that once she cares, she never truly gives up. And here’s to hoping that the show continues to develop this friendship in a way that’s fitting for both characters. 

Who are some of your Best of 2021 Found Families? Let us know in the comments below.

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