Valentine’s Day Feature: Tortured Television Romance

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take a stab at the obligatory favorite television couples post. As I tried to decide which couples to pick, I realized my selections tended to skew toward the tortured romance – the more star-crossed the twosome, the better. And, voila! A list was born. To keep myself from breaking my blog, I limited myself to television shows that are currently on. Naturally, this post features the shows I am most invested in at present. Ask me again in a month, and this list will be different. Anyhow, without (much) further ado, here it is, from least to most tortured. Happy Valentine’s Day, and beware! Spoilers abound.

1. Matthew and Mary, Downton Abbey

Thrown together by the death of the original Downton heir, these two (distant) cousins go from bickering to pining in no seconds flat. Throw a world war and a sweeping epidemic into the mix, and you’ve got the recipe for hours of tortured romance. Still, my sister informs me this couple is boring, and I can see where her criticism has merit. This season started out so promising with a train station farewell as Matthew heads off to the war front, both characters clearly conflicted over their failed courtship the year before. Then…nothing really changed tonally for the rest of the season. This was despite Matthew’s frequent near-deaths and the actual death of the third wheel. Still, when push comes to shove, the actors are too good, the visuals too sumptuous, and Matthew’s eyes too blue for me not to root for this couple. Plus, I am a sucker for a period piece, no matter how many cliches it throws at me. Michelle Dockery’s nuanced turn as witty-but-wounded Lady Mary Crawley kept this romance grounded despite the roller coaster ride that was Matthew’s moodiness and, come the snowy Christmas proposal, I was pleased that she got her happy ending. I am curious to see where the show takes this relationship in the third season and if I will still be as intrigued once they presumably (?) take the tortured down a notch (insert Moonlighting curse reference here).

2. Jack and Amanda/Emily, Revenge

Okay, so this romance hasn’t really gotten off of the ground yet, but it is still one of the most interesting relationships on the show, which is one of my favorites of the “new” season. Childhood friends, the two are torn apart when Amanda’s dad is framed for a crime and sent to prison. The two meet again when Amanda returns to avenge her father’s death, posing as independently wealthy orphan and philanthropist Emily Thorne. Amanda/Emily – let’s call her Emanda – is too focused on revenge to make Jack a priority, instead setting her sights on Daniel, son to the Graysons, the chief orchestrators of her father’s framing. Still, it is obvious Emanda still cares about Jack, and he may be the only person capable of chipping away at the ice cold fury Emanda has encasing her heart. As for him, well he named his boat after her, so he’s probably in it for the long haul. Currently, Emanda is set to marry Daniel, and Jack is infatuated with the girl he believes to be Amanda (the real Emily Thorne), but I cannot wait for the lies to unravel, and to learn more about the role Jack plays in the engagement party shooting of poor Daniel.

3. Jeremy and Anna, Vampire Diaries

Yes, I know she’s dead, but when has that ever stopped anyone on this show before? If there is one thing I love about Vampire Diaries, it is that the writers never forget the back stories of the characters – even, and especially, when the viewers do. I had given up all hope that these two crazy kids would work it out after Anna was staked in the first season finale, then, she came back and we found out that Jeremy had never truly let go of his bookish vampire girlfriend.

“Ghost World” has been one of my favorite episodes of the third season and series thus far, and the scene in which Jeremy tells Elena that he has always loved Anna and doesn’t want to send back the ghosts because he will never see her again (see scene below) made me teary. The subsquent scene in which Anna admits that she is bad for Jeremy, but that she doesn’t want to be alone anymore may have pulled at my heartstrings a bit, as well. It helps that Jeremy is my favorite character on the show. He is the only character who consistently calls Elena out on her shit, which is understandable because she is usually extremely preachy to him (see scene below). Plus, he has had even worse romantic luck than his sister…which is saying something. Most of the time, I am just hoping he can get a millisecond of happiness (I am not a Bonnie fan). Anna may never make another appearance, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about this show, it’s that the past is never dead and buried.

4. Olivia and Peter, Fringe

Fringe is not an easy show to watch. It requires a certain degree of dedication and patience because it takes chances and tries things that are outside of the television box – but that is why it is so great and why, when it makes a move that works, it is infinitely rewarding. The romance between Peter and Olivia is no exception. If not for the basic laws of prime time television (Article II, Section 3: if the television program has two attractive single leads of or close to marriageable age, then they shall become romantically entangled), this romance would have seemingly materialized out of thin art when, at the end of season two, Olivia proclaims that Peter belongs in our universe because he belongs with her. Frankly, like most things on this show, I just went with it. And I’m glad I did. While most shows spend their time throwing relationship obstacles like old exes and miscommunication into the paths of their couples, Fringe’s woes are a bit more fantastical.

First, Peter accidentally cheats on Oliva with Fauxlivia, an alternate version of our Olivia impersonating her double in our universe in order to gain information on our side. Olivia’s reaction to this discovery is so perfect in its honesty: though she knows her anger with Peter is unfair, she can’t help but be hurt that he didn’t realize Fauxlivia wasn’t her, especially given that she remembered Peter even when she was brainwashed into thinking she was Fauxlivia. Yes, it’s complicated.

More recent troubles include Peter’s erasure from our universe and reappearance in a universe where a version of himself never survived past boyhood. Luckily, he learned from past mistakes and has not shacked up with this universe’s version of Olivia. More potentially problematic still is a dying Observer’s statement that he has seen every version of the universe and, in all of them, Olivia must die. Uh-oh.

* Even though I could not find a version to embed, I chose the scene in which a young Peter and Olivia first meet in “Subject 13” because this episode and moment are so stellar, and add another layer of complexity to their relationship. Follow the link below to watch.

Who are your very television couples – tortured or otherwise? Let me know in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Feature: Tortured Television Romance

  1. I LOVE that your blogging…and I don’t watch any of these shows. 🙂 I was all set to watch Downton Abbey, and then they removed the episodes from the PBS website, so it’ll be a while before I get back to it. My favorite tortured couple is Beckett and Castle on Castle. Such great chemistry!

  2. Downton Abbey is so good! Though, the second season fell a little more into soap opera than I would have liked (I may do a post about this). But, still – so, so good. I’m not sure if you have Netflix, but the first season was available on instant view last time I checked. I still haven’t gotten around to Castle, though I love Nathan Fillion (I am a big Firefly fan). Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  3. If you hadn’t put a disclaimer in your post about only using shows that are currently on, I would have asked:
    How the hell could you forget Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold?!! They were always my favorite!

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