Best of 2022: Romantic Relationships features spoilers for various shows. Please be advised if there’s something you don’t want to know.
Romance isn’t going anywhere—not now, not ever. Year after year, the romantic relationships within a series always make it more special, intriguing, and utterly compelling. To deny the need for romance in television is a silly thing to do. If we want the fiction we consume to match the likes of the real world, denying love as a necessity no longer works. Most of us need it. Most of us crave it. It’s a part of life, and these relationships are part a large part of the beauty of a show.
For more end-of-the-year coverage, be sure to check out our Best of 2022: Romance Novels, the Best of 2022: Scene-Stealers, the Best of 2022: Performances, the Best of 2022: Characters, the Best of 2022: Found Families, and the Best of 2022: TV Episodes.
1. Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton
Bridgerton Season 2 is chockfull of faults, but as a couple and romantic leads, Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton are the best of the year. Theirs is a relationship that slowly chipped away at the walls built during years spent grieving alone, picking up everyone else’s pieces while theirs remained shattered and unseen. They were surrounded by people, but they were both wildly alone until they met each other, recognizing a kindred spirit despite how easy it was to bicker and push because that was easier than giving in to the idea that maybe, just maybe, this was the person for whom they’d been waiting their entire lives for. Their delicious slow burn and the sizzling chemistry made for some of the most anticipatory scenes during the season, and in the quiet moments of contentment that we got, their adoration was more vibrant than firework explosions.
Still, we can’t talk about Kate and Anthony without singing interminable praises for Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey, who brought layers and range to the couple in a way words could never accomplish. They set the bar for chemistry to new heights while consistently displaying why the two are drawn to each other beyond physical desires. They showcased the recognition of a kindred spirit in the other by allowing their expressions and physicality to speak when everything else left them breathless and bewildered. In coming together, two lost souls found a safe place to fall when the rest of the world demanded too much out of them. Together, there’s a tranquility that permits them to be braver, better, and happier as they cement that there’s someone in the world who’ll love them with all their might, choosing them over and over if need be, no matter the barriers.
2. Naomi Nagata and Jim Holden
You always knew Naomi Nagata and Jim Holden would make it to the end because that’s the case with the novels. Still, The Expanse’s final season carefully showed us how their love would preserve through the bouts of hope their unity sprinkles into whatever galaxy they pass through. They’ve always been one of the few couples who’ve understood the importance of agency, and so much of that has been as an anchor throughout the final three episodes as they navigated through the future that was at stake while Filip was still aboard the Free Navy ship. And it all came down to the fact that they made it this far because they continued to listen to each other while doing their best to take care of one another.
In the final few moments of The Expanse’s “Babylon’s Ashes,” Jim and Naomi showed us that together, there’s nothing they can’t conquer. There’s no need for verbal declarations of love when their expressions and body language exhibit the detail that their best moments are the ones spent together and that their love for one another rises beyond any horizon the naked eye could see. Their hands clasped together in close courters now until forever exhibited that their partnership has always been about the other’s love and safety. “Are you okay?” has always been the kind of declaration showing that they’re a priority for one another; they’re with each other even when miles away, and there’s a plethora to be said about how far that love extends. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for each other, and through a perfectly quiet moment of serenity, the final episode makes it clear that their love is ever-growing.
3. Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper
F I N A L L Y. Since the moment Netflix’s Stranger Things premiered, we’d all been hoping that Hawkins’ unofficial (very official) parents, Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper, realize that they’re better together than they are apart. Sharing each other’s cigarettes and standing firm in the face of every adversity, Joyce and Hopper were always going to be perfect for each other. While they’ve already proven that their loyalty runs deep, it expanded to new heights in the fourth season, with Joyce running headfirst to find him in a Russian prison. In a feature we’d written about why their love is the leading example in Hawkins, we’d said: “Taylor Swift must’ve written “This Love” for them because this love is alive back from the dead; these hands had to let it go free; this love came back to me. But that’s a winding way of saying that establishing a solid partnership in the face of all hell breaking loose and taking on everything as a team makes Joyce and Hopper the beacon of hope everyone in Hawkins could look towards.”
Further, “As two people who consistently prove that there are no bridges they aren’t willing to cross to protect those around them, they’re a light in the darkness. They’re evidence of persistence, bringing to life the notion that remaining steadfast in someone else’s life is the best gift you could give them.” As two people who are used to giving, breaking apart, and having the world view them in a way that tarnishes who they genuinely are, Joyce and Hopper proved that they see one another as they are—brilliant, loving, and worthy of being cherished by someone who’ll always understand the deepest crevices of their hearts.
4. Midge Maisel and Lenny Bruce
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
We’ll always remember 2022 as the year when Midge Maisel and Lenny Bruce went from a “they’re never going to happen” crack ship we thought we were delusional about to show corsets, lingering kisses, and tangled up in sheets together. What felt impossible became the kind of reality song lyrics were written for. In the words of Ms. Swift, “now you know why they lost their minds and fought the wars and why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words.” For Midge and Lenny, longing has always been like a steady ghost light, following them to secluded bar corners, stages, and hotel rooms, begging for attention as it nestled itself into the crooks of their hearts.
Theirs isn’t a relationship that will end with a happily ever after, but it’s the most sensational in-between we’ll ever get with a TV romance. There’s something inexplicable about Midge and Lenny and the chemistry that Luke Kirby and Rachel Brosnahan bring to the stage every time they share a scene. There are conversations happening even when no one’s talking—souls laughing, hearts overflowing, scattering pieces of themselves in a labyrinth from which there’s no exit—a place where those pieces of them will stay long after their bodies part ways.
5. Eliza Scarlet and William Wellington
Miss Scarlet and The Duke
Miss Scarlet and The Duke is leaning deep into the slow-burn ocean and swimming through every crack and crevice that exists within. But no matter, Eliza Scarlet and William Wellington might’ve broken up this season, but they’re still one of the Best of 2022 Romantic Relationships that had us in a never-ending chokehold. The thing about William and Eliza is that they need to be apart to come back stronger together. If we were in Eliza’s shoes, we wouldn’t want people to think we have the job that we do because of our male partner. We’d want to achieve our goals on our own, and it’s why it’s imperative that they both build steady foundations on their own to find an immovable shelter together.
The love between them is strong and unyielding, but they’re both so inherently flawed and stubborn that letting their walls down was never going to be an easy feat. And yet, the flashes we got of them navigating through dinners were enough to show us that they’re two people who are brilliantly fit to be together. The longing in Season 2 was more pronounced than ever, and likely there’s still so much that we might not be able to handle.
6. Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill
Better Call Saul
Deep in the crevices of its courtroom drama and murky lochs of corruption, Better Call Saul is a love story. In the end, behind bars or miles away in the same place, nothing was more apparent than the detail that the love Kim Wexler and Jimmy McGill shared was ever-changing. In all ways where it mattered, the two would be loyal to each other until those final days when bars would stand before them, and prison would mean a pause.
Were they right for each other? God, probably not, especially not for Kim, but none of that mattered because what they shared meant enough to change and move them entirely. It rattled them deep within, breaking, fixing, and managing to cement a variation of love that any sort of replication wouldn’t ever satisfy. This love was their itch to be scratched, their version of a fairytale ending. They were the best parts of each other’s lonely lives through the quiet moments—the one person who got them through everything and who’d sacrifice whatever was necessary to ensure they were free. Though in this sense, Jimmy was the one who needed to do the sacrificing, and he did so rightfully in the end.
7. Lucy Chen and Tim Bradford
For the most part, the romantic aspect of Lucy Chen and Tim Bradford’s relationship has been a slow burn. But the first half of The Rookie’s current fifth season has finally given Chenford fans a reason to celebrate. These two have the complete package of personalities for the perfect love story. Lucy is bright, eager, and loves to push his buttons, while Tim is grumpy and the strong, silent type. Not to mention Lucy is Tim’s subordinate. Oh, and did we mention they went undercover as a couple and kissed? On paper, they’ve got everything in the universe screaming at them that they shouldn’t be together. But much to our delight, these two decide that, ultimately, a romantic relationship is worth the risk.
This season, we’ve watched Lucy and Tim slowly address their feelings for one another after their little stint undercover as a couple. Sure, their chemistry has always shined, and they’ve always had times when they’ve opened up to one another or had each other’s back, but once they shared a kiss, the tension was too hard to ignore. The two finally addressed their feelings head-on while Lucy was going through some relationship troubles with her district attorney boyfriend, Chris. The winter finale ends with Tim asking Lucy out on a date, and unsurprisingly, she accepts. We’ve seen how loyal and supportive these two can be to each other as training officers and rookies — colleagues and friends. It’s just the beginning of the next phase of their relationship, but there’s no doubt their solid foundation of trust and support will remain and grow even stronger when they’re finally a couple. –Alice S.
8. Janine Teagues and Gregory Eddie
Two seasons in, and Abbott Elementary is already giving us one of the most glorious slow burns in the history of workplace romances. Janine Teagues and Gregory Eddie are so perfect for each other that it’s nearly unbearable to watch them interact without wanting to burst into flames. He sees her as she is, appreciates her for it, and at the same time, tells her so. He knows her worth and value, potentially even believing that she might be out of his league, making him tongue-tied at every turn in a way no one else could. The way their bodies moved in stunning unison during the holiday special showcased so much of what they can’t yet articulate. The beauty that Gregory sees in Janine is the most authentic version of her—corny, brilliant, quiet, shy—all of it.
There’s nothing in her that he doesn’t value—nothing in her that he would change. There’s a joy in his eyes that bursts through every time he sees her, and it’s a transcendent exhibition of how fervently he cares about her. How desperate he is to want to talk about her when she isn’t in the room. We have concrete proof of all of this, and on Janine’s end, the feelings are more reserved—she hasn’t given attention to them yet. She doesn’t quite get that the jealousy she feels is tied to admiration and love. And everything that we’ve seen so far is between two people who are tirelessly rooting for the other’s happiness because it’s a tremendous part of their joy too.
9. Violet Mikami and Evan Hawkins
Of all the pairs in our Best of 2022 Romantic Relationships list, none have broken us the way that Violet Mikami and Evan Hawkins‘ short run has. There was no justifiable reason for Chicago Fire to kill off Hawkins, and no matter how much time has passed, agreeing with that decision for the sake of storytelling will never happen here. Violet and Evan were everything—two people completely in awe of one another, rooting for each other, and falling desperately in love as they fought against anyone who stepped in their way. We didn’t think their relationship would ever get this far, and yet, they effortlessly became the kind of couple we wanted to see on our screens for a long, long time.
And then Taylor Swift released “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” and whatever the song’s about—grief is at its forefront. Violet has a lot to live without, and there’s so much about how Hawkins consistently saw the best in her—how he invariably wanted to go out of his way to make her happy, feel cherished, and deeply adored. It’s the type of relationship that rarely comes in procedurals, making their time together much more precious and our sadness more pronounced.
10. Stella Kidd and Kelly Severide
A lot has changed in Chicago Fire this year, but thankfully, Kelly Severide and Stella Kidd are still going strong. When we last left them, they were going through a bit of a challenging path with Stella’s inability to vocalize the burnout she was feeling, but when we reunited with the two, and they crossed the bridges back into each other’s arms, they finally tied the knot, shouting from the rooftops (or in this case, boat decks) that they’re now in this for the long haul. They’re one of the longest-going pairs in our Best of 2022 Romantic Relationships list, and we hope we get to keep them until the end.
By the end of the mid-season finale, it seems that Stella’s future is uncertain, and while that hopefully doesn’t mean anything will happen to her, the two deserve another honeymoon without someone hunting them down. They deserve a better future—they deserve a bit of leeway just to be a couple. Any time an episode ends with the two of them nestled into each other’s arms, Chicago Fire is at its best, proving that fluff can also be a plot device and writers should utilize them more.
11. Rose Hathaway and Dimitri Belikov
Vampire Academy nails everything with Rose Hathaway and Dimitri Belikov (Romitiri) as a couple. With or without book context to secure their endgame, the series’ first season makes it crystal clear that the two have found a soulmate in one another—someone who’ll make them better and stronger. Rose and Dimitri should’ve never fallen in love, but that’s the detail that makes their relationship so incredibly special. When they finally give in to everything that they’re feeling, there are sparks unlike anything else the other has felt with someone else. We know Rose and Dimitri are endgame because of the books, but without that context, everything that we see with them in Season 1 proves that they fell in love against all odds, and they’ll be fighting to the world’s end to ensure the other’s happiness is protected above all things.
In our review of the finale, “Ascension,” I said: “There’s a light to them in Vampire Academy’s “Ascension”—they’re flirty, open, and so enthralled by one another that their goodbye doesn’t feel heartbreaking. Instead, it’s heartwarming, as Dimitri says, “the thought of waking up to you every morning, that face full of sleep.” He’s already begun thinking of the future, wanting it more than anything else.” And we’re for every moment they spend in their perfect oblivion or achingly disastrous days.
12. Nikki Newman and Jason Ross
Nikki Newman and Jason Ross from Apple TV+’s Trying prove that there’s tremendous beauty after the happy ending. People want to see couples who are happily together, navigating through their daily tasks as one, trying to make ends meet while simultaneously making decisions together. People want to see couples fight and make up and then finally get the kids in the future because it’s what they (the couple)want. In the show’s third season, we not only got to see Nikki and Jason get to adopt Princess and Tyler, but through the challenges of learning how to be parents, they became better partners to each other.
They learned more about how the other operates, where they’re strongest, and how they can bring their shared experiences to this new journey together. They finally got married in the most delightfully heartwarming courtroom wedding since One Tree Hill’s Clay Evans and Quinn James. Nikki and Jason are, first and foremost, best friends, and every time we see them face new challenges together, they become that much stronger as a couple. As they continue to have a blast together, they remind viewers that choosing a partner who’s the closest confidant is the greatest treasure.
13. Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring
Netflix’s Heartstopper is appropriately titled because watching Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring connect made our hearts soar to new heights. Gah! The two boys are undoubtedly the sweetest pair on this list because there’s such an innocence to their relationship that’s stemmed from an honest friendship where there’s unyielding trust. It’s hard to count on people in high school, let alone form relationships that may last long after graduation. Still, by opening up to one another, quietly coming to the realization that there are indeed feelings between them, Nike and Charlie make it onto our Best of 2022 romantic relationships list for being so innately warm.
There’s so much tenderness between the two, and much of it is revealed through their embraces as it was through hugs that they continued to remind each other that they’re safe in each other’s arms. No matter what’s happening in the world, together, they’re safe—they’re sincerely cherished by someone who wants to know every single part of their soul because they believe the other person is magic. They’re growing together, which makes for an incomparable love story.
14. Tom Kapoor and Jessie
When the love story between Tom Kapoor and Jessie worked in Season 1, I was nervous that it was a sort of immediate hit that’d fall in the trenches of the celebrity/normal person trope’s usual uncertainties later. It was hard to believe the second season would hold up, considering the wrenches that are thrown in relationships during this stage. But that never happened, and somehow, Starstruck Season 2 was even better than its debut season, allowing Tom and Jessie to become a more established couple.
Tom and Jesse work entirely because of their flaws and because everything we see is an honest depiction of romance despite their careers. We aren’t even thinking about the mechanics of it all; we’re just watching them navigate through one chaotic day after another, showcasing that what we all thought about adulthood was even worse no matter what we do for a living. And when it comes to relationships on top of everything else, they can feel like rocket science—but with these two, it’s something else entirely. It’s wild and all over the place and quiet and sexy and then bold and memorable. So much so that even their friends are in the same boat (Canoe? Paddleboard?). We’re all walking through this with them, and it’s a relationship we could never stop adoring.
15. Sophie Tompkins and Jesse Walker
How I Met Your Father
How I Met Your Father is already on a better track toward establishing more vital love stories than its predecessor, How I Met Your Mother. And considering we’re used to disappointment at this point, we’re treading lightly with the series anyway. However, that doesn’t change the fact the friendship building between Sophie and Jesse, followed by the short time we got with them as a couple, are already setting up something that can be great. He is her perfect shot, after all, and she’s his inspiration. There are emotions here bigger than what any of them thought they’d find in that Uber when they first met, and the best surprise that comes from it is their friendship.
They don’t need to get together this season or next. We could wait. It could take time—this slow burn works because, as friends, they’re assembling something that they won’t be able to find with another partner. The relationships born from close friendships tend to have some of the best developments because they bleed into creating a partnership worth every obstacle. As one of the newer couples on our Best of 2022 Romantic Relationships list, Sophie and Jessie are one of the year’s best surprises.
16. Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard
Our Flag Means Death
In a new outlandish comedy about pirates, a beautiful love story is told amidst the mayhem in Our Flag Means Death. Stede Bonnet and Edward Teach, Captain Blackbeard, have reached a place where they are desperate for change. Their current lives are unfulfilling, so they take control of their destinies and make changes to become the people they truly want to be. Their individual journeys mirror each other’s and bring the two pirates to cross paths. Stede teaches Ed how to be a gentleman, and Ed teaches Stede how to be a better, fearsome pirate. They are each other’s catalyst for the change they’ve longed for.
Throughout the season, we are given brilliant moments of connection between Stede and Ed. From late nights drinking under the stars to vulnerable conversations during moments of panic, the pair open up to one another like never before. They formed a genuine friendship, materializing a solid foundation for the feelings that naturally blossomed. However, it is only the beginning for Stede and Ed, where they end up in the finale is, a cliffhanger rife with angst born from their own demons. I cannot wait to see these two find each other again and face their demons together next season. –Jenna Anne
17. Galadriel and Halbrand
The Rings of Power
Hey Siri, play “Mastermind” by Taylor Swift. Midnights is Galadriel and Halbrand’s album, and no, we will not hear any objections at this time. We didn’t go into The Rings of Power thinking we’d root for this—or any ship, really, but it happened, and now, we’re here, thinking about the alternate universes where maybe, just maybe, they could’ve been something bigger. We’re here knowing that though it’s never going to happen, everything they share in the sixth episode is textbook romance angst and so beautifully rooted in a kindred understanding that it’s agonizing to know that we were all right about Halbrand being Sauron.
Because the truth is, even if he doesn’t have feelings for Galadriel—even if it was all a lie, perfectly meticulous fabrications to win and gain her trust, we’ll stand here shouting from the rooftops that somewhere deep inside, it was all real. It was honest. She changed him. He might have many names and many identities, but there’s a version of him that’s only present with her, and it’s the one we’ll keep rooting for even when all odds are stacked against us.
18. Jack Sheridan and Mel Monroe
Jack Sheridan and Mel Monroe have been solid for a while now on Virgin River, but everything we get in Season 4 clarifies why they’re so well suited to partners in life. The couple was better than ever before, and in sharing their fears along with allowing more room for vulnerability and transparency, they evolved into more layered individuals. For so long, their drama was external, and while that blew up in their faces in the final episode, much of their internal battles are, at the very least, under control now.
Mel’s decision to have a baby and Jack’s battles with his PTSD come centerfold in the fourth season, ultimately allowing them not only to lean on each other but to genuinely understand the importance of having a partner whom you can trust. Through these changes, the season ultimately relies on them to give one another a safe place to land as they choose to understand each other. But after a proposal and the certainty of a life that will move forward with the promise of forever, Mel and Jack are only on their way toward becoming a stronger pair.
19. Chrissy Cunningham and Eddie Munson
If Halloween 2022 was any indication, the love for Hellcheer remains alive and strong! We knew we were ready for the epic return of Stranger Things; what we weren’t prepared for was falling for a couple that never had a chance — Chrissy Cunningham and Eddie Munson, the queen and the freak of Hawkins High, aka Edssy/Hellcheer. These two star-crossed students from opposite ends of the social scene met in the woods as Chrissy looked for a way out of her cursed mind, thanks to Vecna. For a minute, the two made each other genuinely smile and look ahead to something more blossoming — the innate chemistry between Grace Van Dien and Joseph Quinn sealing this moment beautifully.
Unfortunately, their interactions were tinged with wholesome heartbreak and tragedy. Chrissy became Vecna’s first victim in the middle of Eddie’s trailer while he stood there unable to help and ran away out of fear. Throughout the season, Eddie’s courage grows and culminates in standing his ground against the Demobats; he dies to keep the fight against Vecna alive. From their scene in the woods in the Season 4 premiere to dedicating his “Master of Puppets” performance to her, Eddie and Chrissy have ruled our hearts the way they should’ve governed the halls of Hawkins High. Eddie and Chrissy will always be famous to me. –Meredith Loftus
20. Matthew Clairmont and Diane Bishop
A Discovery of Witches
In the final season of A Discovery of Witches, which followed book three, The Book of Life, Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop proved why their story matters and, ultimately, why they’re the best vampire/witch duo to exist. (I said what I said, and I will stand on this ground to fight no matter what.) Where Season 2 was a bit dense, it still expanded beautifully on their relationship, and Season 3 then nailed it shut by bringing to light that their love ultimately united all species. It’s the healing balm that correlated to a better, lovelier future.
Their love story has always been about learning how to put aside old ways to establish something even better, and Matthew’s journey throughout it has been admirable in realizing that through everything, Diana Bishop has not only been his heart but the heart. She is the heart of this story, the one who’s reawakened everything inside of him—the one who’s brought love and light and grace into a dark and empty world. Through every challenge they faced, like Jack’s blood rage, the twins, and the covenant, they took it on together, showcasing that there’s nothing in this world they can’t achieve because of their admiration and love for one another.
Honorable Mentions: Harald Sigurdsson and Freydís Eriksdotter (Vikings: Valhalla), Dana Sue Sullivan and Ronnie Sullivan (Sweet Magnolias), Gabriella Perez and Bode Donovan (Fire Country), Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler (Law and Order: SVU), and Jen Walters and Matt Murdock (She-Hulk).