We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.
Some say love is dead. Clearly, those people don't watch television.
Sure, television will always have a fair amount of breakups (R.I.P. Olicity) and unforeseeable tragedies (like Elena's endless slumber on The Vampire Diaries), but this year also gave us a lot of swoon-worthy couples to celebrate. From Barry Allen and Iris West finally making things official on The Flash to Luke and Lorelai's huge relationship milestone on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and Alex Danvers's hugely important coming-out storyline on Supergirl, these are the couples that gave us hope of finding our own happily ever afters in 2016.
Spoilers for many, many television shows past this point.
Jack and Rebecca, This Is UsRon Batzdorff/NBC
Jack and Rebecca's (ill-fated) love story on NBC's enjoyably schmaltzy new series, This Is Us, is the emotional crux of the hit family drama. But what makes Jack and Rebecca's relationship so relatable is that it's messy. They started the show as the quintessential couple in love, welcoming The Big Three into their lives with open, adoring arms — but parenting is hard and life gets messy. And marriage? Well, that's a lot of work too, and despite their romantic spark, Jack and Rebecca never stop working to make themselves better. Better parents. Better partners. Better people.
Audrey and Rory, American Horror Story: RoanokeFX
Call it fan service, but Ryan Murphy knows how to give the people what they want. After six seasons of ghosts, witches, and vampires, American Horror Story finally gave us the Sarah Paulson–Evan Peters wedding we deserved. Narcissistic Audrey and dim-witted Rory's amazing romance was short-lived, but at least we got a few memorable GIFs out of it.
Barry and Iris, The FlashKatie Yu/The CW
Throughout the first two seasons of The Flash, the show didn't know what to do with Iris West. At first, she was the typical superhero love interest left in the dark, and when Iris was finally clued in to Barry's secret identity, it took a while for the show to realize how to use Iris in Team Flash. That all changed in the second season's standout episode, “The Runaway Dinosaur,” in which Iris not only got to be funny, but also hit her narrative stride as Barry's emotional anchor.
Then, in the Season 2 finale of The Flash, Barry Allen and Iris West finally took a step to becoming the iconic couple they're meant to be — until Barry ruined everything by running back in time and creating Flashpoint. Ugh, Barry!!! For now, the couple seems to be back on track, but this is The Flash, and you never know how Barry is going to screw things up next.
Alec and Magnus, ShadowhuntersFreeform
The chemistry between Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood is as subtle as a freight train. It's incendiary and all-consuming: It's palpable. Shadowhunters took its time exploring Magnus and Alec's mutual attraction, but in the penultimate episode of the show's first season, things finally started to click. Magnus detailed what falling in love felt like: loss of breath when that person enters a room, a rapidly beating heart, and tingling skin. It was a speech that not only marked the dawn of “Malec,” but also echoed what viewers were feeling as they watched two people so perfect for one another fall in love.
Stiles and Lydia, Teen WolfMTV
Stiles and Lydia are a roller coaster. Will they or won't they? Honestly, they're the Rachel-Ross of the Teen Wolf universe. But this season — the last season — the dawn of the Era of Stydia is officially upon us. When Stiles was on the verge of being erased from his friends' memories, it's Lydia he went to for help. “You're going to forget me,” Stiles tells Lydia. “Find some way to remember me.” And then he drops the BOMB: “Remember I love you.” So... Stydia is endgame, right?
Luke Cage and Claire Temple, Marvel's Luke CageNetflix
Sure, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones may be one of the most beloved couples in the Marvel universe (for good reason — they have incredible chemistry), but in Marvel's Luke Cage, there was an undeniable spark between Luke and everyone's favorite badass nurse, Claire Temple. Rosario Dawson clearly has chemistry with everyone, but she and Mike Colter set fire to our computer screens. That being said, in another place, at another time, Claire and Luke could have worked as a couple, but Claire doesn't need a man right now, and Luke clearly has enough to deal with at the moment. However, that doesn't mean she isn't available for coffee sometime, Luke.
Brienne and Tormund, Game of ThronesHBO
OK, so maybe Brienne and Tormund aren't officially a couple, but the bearded Wildling's crush on Brienne of Tarth is 100 percent canonical. He was practically having eye sex with Brienne at Castle Black!
Stefan and Caroline, The Vampire DiariesBob Mahoney/The CW
Has any couple been through more shit than Stefan and Caroline on The Vampire Diaries? Stefan and Caroline toed the line between friendship and something more for well over a season before they finally made things official in Season 6. Since that moment, they've been through nothing but turmoil. Everyone from ancient vampire hunters to sirens and even the literal devil have stood in their way, but somehow, Steroline always survived. Even though their June wedding is currently postponed, we wouldn't be surprised if Stefan and Caroline find a way to make it work — a promise is a promise, Stefan.
Poussey and Soso, Orange Is the New BlackNetflix
It's hard for me to write about Poussey and Soso's prison romance without bursting into tears. Poussey's death at the end of Season 4 was devastating, but watching her relationship with Soso evolve from a Litchfield fling to something deeper was touching. Last season, Poussey and Soso were lost — Soso, with her increasing alienation and depression, and Poussey, with her feelings of resentment toward her friends — but this season, they found each other. When I think about Season 4, I think of the quieter moments, when Soso and Poussey sneak into Lolly's makeshift time machine and dream about their future together. In retrospect, that's the most heartbreaking scene of them all.
Matt Murdock and Elektra, Marvel's DaredevilNetflix
Matt Murdock and Karen Page may have shared a sweet kiss in the rain at the start of Daredevil's second season, but it was Elektra who doused Matt and Karen's spark with one flip of her hair. Their love was deep and all-consuming. Elektra was the physical representation of temptation for Daredevil to abandon all of his responsibilities, sexual inhibitions, and most importantly, his overwhelming guilt. When Matt was working with Elektra, he was actually kind of fun. That's a Matt Murdock we don't get to see a lot of in Hell's Kitchen.
Emily and Alison, Pretty Little LiarsFreeform/Byron Cohen
It's safe to say that Emily and Alison, or Emison, were each other's first real loves. Alison may have been a selfish teen witch to the Liars in the beginning, but she always cared for Emily the most. After years of flirtation and stolen kisses between “friends,” the fan-favorite couple finally made things official in the Season 7 midseason finale this year. When Alison confided in Emily about her pregnancy, the couple ended up making out on the couch and rekindling their teen romance.
Jamie and Claire, OutlanderStarz Entertainment
Sing a song of a lass that is gone I most certainly will. The end of the second season of Outlander found Claire back in her own time — without her beloved Jamie but with their fully-grown daughter Brianna. (Did I mention that this show can be kinda hard to follow?) I have no doubt that Jamie and Claire will find each other again. After all, they've been through too much together to not endure this latest temporal setback. Jamie and Claire's passion comes from genuine, mature love — a rarity these days.
Earn and Van, AtlantaQuantrell Colbert/FX
Is there a realer couple on television than Earn and Van? They have a natural chemistry. He makes Van laugh, and she makes him laugh. Their relationship is constantly in flux and most of that falls on Earn. His selfishness has lingered over his and Van's relationship all season, and yet, there's no two people I'd rather see work things out. They get each other in a way that no one else does, and while they may not be together together, there's a lot of love there.
Luke and Lorelai, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the LifeNetflix
Luke may have taken a backseat in A Year in the Life, but that didn't stop me from smiling like an idiot throughout Luke and Lorelai's whimsical Stars Hollow wedding in the finale. What makes their relationship so perfect (and wildly fanciful) is that Luke understands that Lorelai is an incredibly selfish person with major character faults, and he loves her for them anyway. We'd all be lucky to find a Luke.
Randall and Beth, This Is UsPaul Drinkwater/NBC
Jack and Rebecca may be the emotional center of This Is Us, but Randall and Beth are actual goals. When Beth discovered that Rebecca had kept Randall's birth father, William, from him his entire life, she immediately went to Rebecca and gave her an ultimatum: Either tell Randall the truth, or I will. A marriage is a partnership, and Randall and Beth work so well together because they treat each other like equals. Not to mention, they always — always! — have each other's backs. There are zero secrets in this marriage. Sadly, the same can't be said for Jack and Rebecca. Oh, and did I mention that Beth's the kind of wife who gets high with your ailing birth father? She keeps it 100.
Jane and Michael, Jane The VirginMichael Desmond/The CW
Whether you're Team Michael or Team Rafael, you can probably agree that the newly married Jane and Michael are pretty damn adorable together. Listen, when Rafael first appeared in Jane's life and swept her off her feet in a flourish of romance, I was happily on board — but Michael is Jane's rock. Her stability. He makes her feel save and loved, and that love is good and pure. (Sorry, Rafael.) To be honest, it's refreshing to see the Nice Guy finally get the girl of his dreams.
Alex and Maggie, SupergirlDiyah Pera/The CW
Alex and Maggie's relationship is only just getting started on Supergirl, but it already packs an emotional wallop. Maggie is the reason Alex stopped suppressing her feelings towards women; she gave Alex the confidence to come out to Kara. Alex's coming-out story this season has taken the show's message of love and acceptance to glorious new heights, and it's undoubtedly blazing the trail for more LGBTQ representation on television. But most importantly, it's giving young girls and boys who are struggling with similar feelings a hero, and a relationship, they can champion.
Check out more from the year in music, culture, politics, and style in Signal & Noise 2016.