The will-they/won’t-they trope is popular in the world of television, and has been frustrating fans for a long time. But with that frustration inevitably comes viewers desperately wanting to see the relationships they've grown to love blossom into something more.
It’s those held gazes, shy smiles, and almost-kisses that keep fans engaged. The execution of this trope can be excellent, but it is a difficult method to pull off. Especially in cases where two characters have been dancing around each other for an extensive amount of time. Ending such a dance that has accumulated decent ratings for a number of seasons, is definitely a tricky task.
Let’s take a look at five of the best will-they/won’t-they relationships on TV, and five of the worst.
10 BEST: Jim Halpert & Pam Beesly (The Office)
This duo is undoubtedly a fan-favorite among The Office's broad audience, and an excellent example of what this trope looks like when it is done right.
From their humble beginnings as office pals and pranking partners, to their relationship unfolding into a happy marriage... Their bond is still regarded as one of the most iconic instances of the will-they/won't-they trope, even after The Office concluded its nine-season run back in 2013.
Jenna Fischer (Pam) and John Krasinski’s (Jim) eye-catching chemistry made Jim and Pam that much more perfect for each other. It is undeniable that The Office simply wouldn’t have been the successful show it was without this couple.
9 WORST: Carol Peletier & Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead)
They have the chemistry, the longing gazes, and the fact that they understand each other like no one else. The only thing that stood in the way of this relationship was the fact that The Walking Dead writers were unwilling to do anything with it.
The Carol and Daryl relationship was, and still is, beloved by millions. Even with The Walking Dead's dwindling audience and the fact that Carol is now married to King Ezekiel. People still want "Caryl". This pairing certainly brings in the ratings, but for nearly ten years, the nature of Carol and Daryl's bond has remained ambiguous.
8 BEST: Charlotte "Chuck" Charles & Ned (Pushing Daisies)
Pushing Daisies was a unique black comedy that premiered back in 2007. The short-lived series - following the life of Ned, an awkward pie-maker with the power to wake the dead - had a lot of valuable lessons to teach about life. One example of this is Ned and Chuck, the show's main couple. They demonstrate that the physical is not nearly as important as emotional closeness in a relationship.
Ned and Chuck love each other. They have their struggles, obviously, and the fact that so much as a touch from him would kill her in an instant is definitely a prominent one. But what makes them so special is that this hurdle does not inhibit their relationship.
7 WORST: Ted Mosby & Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother)
Perhaps the worst thing about this relationship wasn’t even the fact that the HIMYM writers deliberately went against what the majority of the fanbase wanted, but the fact that these two just don't make sense together.
The bad far outweighs the good when it comes to Ted and Robin. From him making her re-home her dogs because they were gifts from her exes, to her not wanting kids while all he wanted was a family... not much about this relationship makes sense.
This pair was simply incompatible. No blue horn and romantic gesture in the last five minutes of the series could change that.
6 BEST: Connor Walsh & Oliver Hampton (How To Get Away With Murder)
This relationship was full of ups and downs from the very beginning, and maybe that's why the pairing of Connor and Oliver always had an allure to it.
Their relationship has been wrought with turbulence and pitfalls, such as Oliver testing positive for HIV in the season one finale, and Connor's reluctance to settle down. Not to mention the continuous drama and stress that comes with working for Annalise.
Connor and Oliver have been on an emotional rollercoaster for years, so when they finally tied the knot in How To Get Away With Murder's season five winter finale, the payoff could not have been sweeter. They exchanged vows, with Connor delivering the beautiful line "I want to love you until the day I die". It was wonderful to see these two finally catch a break from their chaotic lives in this moment of respite.
5 WORST: Violet Harmon & Tate Langdon (American Horror Story)
At its heart, this bond was merely another twist on the stale Romeo-and-Juliet cliche that has been done to death.
Violet and Tate bond over their dysfunctional families and depression. He tells her that she is the only light he's ever known, and sure, that's beautiful. But this relationship was nothing but destructive, as these two were constantly taking turns at pulling each other down.
This could have been a representation of two mentally ill people in a relationship, but instead, the end result was packed with too much depressive prose to be even the least bit believable. Not only did the Violet and Tate relationship romanticize depression, self-harm, and suicide - it also delivered a very inaccurate portrayal of mental illness in the process.
4 BEST: Callie Torres & Arizona Robbins (Grey's Anatomy)
The Grey’s Anatomy fanbase loved watching this relationship grow. Callie and Arizona were the first main LGBTQ couple on the series, and an iconic one at that. From their first kiss in the bathroom of Joe’s, to a controversial musical episode following Arizona asking Callie to marry her, and even through their ultimate separation.
Despite the fact that both Callie and Arizona are no longer on the show now, this pair was captivating. Long-time fans are still holding out that shred of hope that these characters will get the happy ending with each other that they deserve.
3 WORST: Dexter & Debra Morgan (Dexter)
The only thing creepier than watching Dexter chop up human corpses and toss them in the ocean was the moment his sister, Debra, suddenly decided she had feelings for him. This was a genuinely bizarre storyline that began in season six, and long outstayed its welcome.
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The fact that Dexter and Deb were adoptive siblings did nothing to ease the wrongness of the potential romantic relationship. These two worked together as detectives, and had the occasional sibling rivalry. And until over halfway through the series, they had shared a relatively ordinary familial bond.
2 BEST: Jake Peralta & Amy Santiago (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Simply put: Jake and Amy are pure. It is rare to find a good example of a healthy romantic relationship on TV, but this Brooklyn Nine-Nine power couple is definitely in that category.
What began as a competitive friendship, slowly unfurled into something more. Now married, Jake and Amy are still best friends and partners in (solving) crime. Their romantic relationship did not take away from their friendship, which is possibly one of the most charming things about the couple.
With mutual respect, understanding, and unconditional love, you’d be hard-pressed to find a couple more perfect for each other.
1 WORST: Ross Gellar & Rachel Green (Friends)
The chemistry that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Anniston shared too often distracted from the glaring problems that mottled this relationship. Ross and Rachel did coin some of the most iconic moments on Friends, such as “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”. However, the relationship itself was far from iconic.
Ross demonstrated passive-aggressive behavior toward Rachel concerning her career, her friendships, and well, pretty much anything he didn’t approve of. This is a problematic attitude, which creates a problematic relationship.
In the end, the pairing had just sustained too many fractures for their endgame to be a satisfying pay-off from ten seasons worth of build-up.