The age of streaming sure has been good to television junkies, treating us to more international TV options than ever before. Shows that we could once only follow sporadically through short-lived YouTube uploads or other unreliable, um, ~non-sanctioned~ means are suddenly available to watch whenever the mood strikes. In fact, the biggest issue now is where to even start, because a new watercooler-worthy series seems to drop every day. Plus, most of them feature beautiful leads with intriguing backstories who are just begging to be ’shipped, so that doesn’t exactly help narrow down the options.
Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary, and what appeals to one shipper won’t necessarily appeal to another. So why not kick off your next binge-watch with a relationship dynamic you’re guaranteed to enjoy? Like any medium, television is built on tropes that viewers will return to over and over again, and what do you know? International TV is no exception. Whether you’re a sucker for police procedurals where the bad guys always get caught or for post-apocalyptic adventures where the heroes regularly question their humanity, there’s a show for you. Similarly, if you’re unable to resist a good Beauty and the Beast retelling or a classic Unrequited Love Switcharoo, trust that the TV gods will provide.
What you need, then, is for one of your current obsessions to point you toward your next addiction. A gateway ship, if you will. Because once you expand make room in your queue for foreign-language shows and movies, the shipping possibilities are truly endless. With that in mind, here are 7 international TV ’ships I recommend based on their American counterparts…
Veronica Mars’ Logan/Veronica Shippers Will Love…Elite’s Guzman/Nadia
There’s something incredibly gratifying about watching a teen bad boy get savaged by the fierce girl he’s secretly crushing on and then modify his behavior just enough to become more worthy of her time. When you first meet Logan Echolls in Veronica Mars, he is entitled, capricious, and angry at the world. He has channeled the trauma of an abusive childhood and his girlfriend Lilly’s murder into a brittle, sneering façade. Only one person can seem to see through it, and that’s his former friend turned bitter enemy, Veronica Mars.
His match in every way, Veronica can cut him down to size with a look and a biting retort, but deep down she also understands his need to make someone pay. After all, she lives by that same code. Even after working through past hurts and confessing to epic feelings, Logan and Veronica (LoVe) are a mercurial pair. And yet, they wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would we. Veronica deserves someone who loves and respects her for exactly who she is, period. And despite all his flaws, that’s unquestionably Logan. They’ll always come back to each other, and we’ll always be there to watch LoVe conquer all. (Speaking of which, how exciting is this trailer for Veronica Mars season 4, coming to Hulu this summer?!)
Now, at first you may not believe me when I tell you that Elite’s Guzmán Nunier Osuna and Nadia Shanaa remind me of the great ’ship LoVe. If you stick with this Spanish series for a few episodes, though, I swear you’ll come to see what I mean.
Guzmán is downright hostile and cruel when he meets his new classmate Nadia, who’s not only one of the few scholarship students at school but also happens to be Muslim. He mocks her for wearing a hijab, and clearly feels threatened by her intelligence, confidence, and ambition. Not a good look. Rather than let him get to her, though, Nadia coolly disses him in class. Not only that, but when Guzmán treats her friend Samuel badly, she informs him that she’s not as forgiving as her friend and promises retribution if he doesn’t shape up. Nadia’s a total badass, is what I’m saying.
Naturally, the boy is soon totally smitten and, much like Logan, starts down the road of reformation in the name of love. His apology tour alone is enough to make you soften toward him, it’s so cute. And Nadia must agree, since she can’t seem to give up on him even after learning about some of his worst behavior. Mark my words, by the end of season 1, Guzmán and Nadia will have you on the ropes, desperate for more of their star-crossed relationship. Good thing season 2 is in the works!
(Bonus ship rec: Nadia’s brother, Omar, has a forbidden love of his own: Ander, Guzman’s best friend since childhood. You’re gonna be crazy in love with them too.)
Where to Watch Elite: Netflix
The 100’s Bellamy/Clarke Shippers Will Love…The Rain’s Simone/Martin
Who says you can’t find your soulmate at the end of the world? Since evolving from straight-up antagonists to reluctant allies to best friends, Clarke and Bellamy (Bellarke) have supported each other through more than one apocalypse–yes, really–with lingering hugs and longing looks. They’ve also been known to issue threats of violence against anyone wishing to do the other harm, as one does.
The pair are the undisputed leaders of their people and depend on each other for understanding, comfort, and backup. Betrayals, separations, other romantic relationships…none of it can sever the unbreakable bond they’ve developed. While they’re not (yet?) canon, the UST between them could power a spaceship, and hope springs eternal that one day, maybe, they’ll finally resolve that sexual tension but good.
In the meantime, if you enjoy dystopian sci-fi stories with this dynamic but want a guaranteed payoff (and honestly, it’s what you deserve), then the Danish series The Rain and its Simone/Martin ’ship is for you.
In a post-apocalyptic world where a drop of rain is toxic enough to kill you within hours, Simone Andersen has spent the last 6 years raising her little brother alone in an underground bunker. They might’ve stayed there forever, hoping their father would eventually return like he’d once promised, if not for the fact that they’re running out of food and supplies. Facing starvation without resources from the outside world, Simone and her brother start making some desperate moves. Eventually, they fall in with band of survivors who are traveling from bunker to bunker in search of a safe place to settle down safely.
The group’s de facto leader, Martin, is a bit of a hard-ass and understandably wary of strangers. That’s fine, since Simone’s equally distrustful of him and his motives at first. They change their minds about each other over the course of a few character-revealing crossroads that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. As the respect and trust between them grows, Simone starts to see Martin in a new light altogether…and he’s right there with her. The slow-burn buildup between them is worth the price of admission, as is watching them realize what sacrifices they will (and won’t) make for each other. And that’s only season 1! Goodness only knows how they’ll torture us in the newly released second season… I can’t wait to find out.
Where to Watch The Rain: Netflix
Prison Break’s Michael/Sara Shippers Will Love…Money Heist’s Profesor/Raquel
Michael Scofield wants one thing, and one thing only: to protect his family. In Prison Break season 1, that translates to helping his brother, Lincoln, escape from Death Row before he can be executed for a murder he didn’t commit. Thanks to his career as a structural engineer, Michael’s one of the only people in the world who’d be able to pull off this elaborate jailbreak, which he does, though not without some collateral damage. Because he may walk into Fox Penitentiary with only his brother in mind, but he leaves with someone new in his heart…
Sara Tancredi, the prison’s gorgeous and empathetic doctor, could easily foil Michael’s plans at a crucial moment. She doesn’t, and in fact soon discovers her own reasons for going on the run with him. For Michael/Sara (a.k.a. MiSa) fans, the coded messages they exchange throughout the series are as romantic, if not moreso, than their passionate kisses between regular near-death experiences. In other words, shipping them is never boring. Indeed, over the seasons, Michael and Sara overcome unbelievable (and I do mean unbelievable) odds to be together, but you never stop rooting for them to find safe harbor and get their HEA.
In the Spanish series Money Heist, Sergio (a.k.a El Profesor) has spent literally half his life plotting a Robin Hood-esque heist at the Royal Mint of Spain, and he’s got every last detail of the multi-day robbery obsessively mapped out. He even spends 5 months training his ragtag team of thieves, con artists, and hackers to handle any eventuality, making them swear to do their jobs without shedding blood. Getting close to the case’s hostage negotiator, Inspector Raquel Murillo, is simply part of Sergio’s master plan. Falling in love with her, for real? Absolutely not. Oops! Remind you of anyone?
Yep, Sergio and Prison Break’s antihero Michael Scofield have a lot in common, from their scary-brilliant intellect to their good hearts to their weakness for ladies with the power to unravel their best-laid plans. Luckily for Sergio, Raquel–like Sara–is more than capable of coming to her own conclusions about his true motives and intentions toward her. She might even be willing to forgive him…eventually. Trust me, if you miss Prison Break and Michael and Sara’s improbable-but-thrilling romance, you’ll find Money Heist and Sergio/Raquel a worthy successor.
Where to Watch Money Heist: Netflix
The Killing’s Linden/Holder Shippers Will Love…Deadwind’s Karppi/Nurmi
“Seasoned detective get saddled with by-the-book rookie” is an enduring trope for a reason: It’s some gooood shit. Homicide detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder just reinforce the appeal in the American remake of The Killing. Partnered up to solve the murder of teenager Rose Larsen, Linden and Holder are sure their time together will be brief, which is fine by them. They’re both prickly and carry more than their fair share of baggage, so their early days together are anything but smooth.
As the case demands more and more from them, however, they grow closer. Indeed, they find balance and acceptance with each other even as their other relationships start to crumble around them. Not quite lovers, yet not simply colleagues either, they become practically codependent. The lines between their professional and personal lives become irrevocably blurred. Naturally, it behooves a serial shipper to wonder why they wouldn’t take their beautiful partnership to the next level—and how hot the sex would be. (What?! It’s TRUE. Don’t deny it.)
The same can be said for Sofia Karppi and Sakari Nurmi in Scandinavian import Deadwind (originally known as Karppi). After Detective Karppi’s husband dies in a tragic accident while they’re living abroad in Germany, she decides to move back to Finland with their kids to resume her career with the Helsinki police force, only to land a doozy of a murder investigation. Enter her handsome, charming, young new partner.
Sakari Nurmi, fresh off a transfer from the white-collar crime division, frustrates and challenges Karppi. He also proves himself to be smart, clever, honorable–and tenacious. And if he looks at her some kind of way? Well, she may not be completely immune to his charms… Now, as with most cop dramas, personal feelings often take a back seat to solving crimes here. For this reason, I cannot promise you this ship will sail; I have no idea myself. Still, if subtext is where you live (where you at, my fellow long-suffering Mulder/Scully shippers?), you’ll be right at home with Karppi/Nurmi and Deadwind.
Where to Watch Deadwind: Netflix
Timeless’ Flynn/Lucy Shippers Will Love…Luther’s Luther/Alice
We aren’t supposed to root for Garcia Flynn in Timeless. At least…not at the beginning. Not only is he a murderous thug wreaking havoc on history to try to change the future, but he takes shots at the Time Team whenever possible (rude). He’s the villain, and our heroine, historian Lucy Preston, has no time for his nonsense. She confronts him at every turn, giving him every opportunity to make the right call and be the good guy. He declines. Until he doesn’t…
Sure enough, as the series goes on, Flynn evolves into an anti-hero, then maybe even a hero-hero worthy of the feelings Lucy seems to be developing for him. Or perhaps he always was those things, but we were missing vital pieces of the puzzle that only Lucy could pry out of him. It’s confusing, tbh. Because while he has certainly committed terrible acts, we come to understand his motives: He’s been trying to save his wife and daughter. All of the edits he’s tried to make to history have been in service to them. Still wrong of him, but valiant too. And at the end of the day, let’s be honest, that dangerous frisson between Flynn/Lucy made us willing to forgive him pretty much anything if they would JUST KISS ALREADY.
I’ll grant that Alice Morgan’s intentions are not nearly so pure in the British police procedural Luther. To say that Alice makes Flynn look like a saint would be an understatement, actually. So I’m just gonna put it out there: Alice is a self-described malignant narcissist who murdered her own parents in cold blood. Yes, you read that right. And her only emotional attachment is to the homicide investigator trying to prove her guilt: Detective Chief Inspector John Luther.
In spite of all this, something tells me that if you could see the potential in Flynn/Lucy, you might also appreciate Luther/Alice. Like how he can never seem to resist being drawn back into her orbit. Or how she uses her evil genius to help and protect him when he gets himself in trouble on a case. Not to mention what a dynamite team they make, when they feel so inclined. See, it’ll become increasingly obvious that they’re two sides of the same coin. Luther (a chaotic good) will do absolutely anything to secure justice for victims of violent crimes. And Alice (a chaotic neutral) will do absolutely anything to get what she wants, which happens to be Luther. Put them together and they’ll still commit a lot of morally gray acts, but with surprisingly good intentions. Is theirs a healthy relationship? No. Will you regret shipping it? Also no!
Where to Watch Luther: Netflix, BBC America
Sleepy Hollow’s Ichabod/Abbie Shippers Will Love…The Protector’s Hakan/Zeynep
“‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ but make it modern-day…with time travel” was always going to be a zany concept, but the early seasons of Sleepy Hollow pulled it off. Wait, scratch that. Let’s try this again: Sleepy Hollow’s dynamic duo of Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills pulled it off. No matter how off-the-wall the story got, the dashing Revolutionary War hero and his fellow Witness, Sleepy Hollow P.D.’s indomitable lieutenant, kept us hooked.
Our faves have to endure seven tribulations to save the world from the End of Days foretold in the Bible? Sure, whatever, as long as we get more fist bumps and inside jokes! Supernatural creatures nearly take them out every week? Nerve-wracking, but look at how far they’ll go to save each other! Ichabod’s wife is back from the dead? Annoying, but what primo angst to propel a certain work couple into facing their true feelings! Wherever Ichabod and Abbie (a.k.a. Ichabbie) went, we happily followed. Whatever they were selling, we were BUYING. Every playful quip, every over-long ~platonic~ hug, every daring rescue…these moments were pure magic and made shipping Ichabbie worth all the whiplash-inducing plot twists. It’s a shame the series ended with 3×17, but hey, that’s why we have fanon.
Hakan, the hero of Turkish-language fantasy series The Protector, doesn’t travel through time like the 18th-century captain you know and love. He does, however, find himself dropped into a whole new world once he (accidentally, but fatefully) takes up the ancient mantle of The Protector. And like Ichabod, he makes for a charming fish out of water with a lot to learn about his new role and mission.
Both men are lucky in their guides–Ichabod with Abbie, and Hakan with his personal protection squad of “Loyal Ones,” a group that happens to include the lovely Zeynep Erman. I won’t promise Hakan/Zeynep can replicate Abbie and Ichabod’s electric chemistry or scene-stealing banter, because who can? They were truly one of a kind. But you may see echoes of their dynamic in the way trained fighter Zeynep puts Hakan in his place before coming to see him as a true partner in their noble quest to save
the world Istanbul. It’s hot.
Where to Watch The Protector: Netflix
Younger’s Liza/Charles Shippers Will Love…Romance Is a Bonus Book’s Eun-ho/Dan-yi
In Younger, newly divorced single mom Liza Miller gets a nasty shock when she realizes that ageism and a years-long gap in her resume could prevent her from resuming her publishing career. Out of sheer desperation, she reinvents herself as a fresh-out-of-college twenty-something looking for an entry level position. Sure enough, she quickly lands a job as an assistant at Empirical Press, where she’s immediately drawn to her boss’s boss, the company’s handsome CEO and a single parent himself, Charles Brooks.
Much to his surprise and chagrin, Charles reciprocates the feeling, and their every interaction is loaded with exquisite sexual tension. Unfortunately, since he thinks he has a highly inappropriate thing for a much younger subordinate and she cannot reveal her true age without risking the career she loves, they’re in quite the pickle. The mutual pining is almost too intimate to watch, it’s so good, and you can’t help but hang on every tiny moment that brings them closer to a real, honest relationship–in other words, the sweet pain every shipper secretly craves.
Now that we’ve established we’re all gluttons for punishment here, I’m confident you’ll also like the will-they-won’t-they couple in Romance Is a Bonus Book. Not least since it was actually modeled on Younger. Also set in the world of book publishing, the Korean drama (K-drama) centers on Kang Dan-yi, a former hot-shot copywriter and recently divorced single mother who’s finding it impossible to find a full-time job after years away from the workforce, and Cha Eun-ho, a famous author, literature professor, and editor-in-chief. Eun-ho has crushed on the older Dan-yi since they were in school, but has never been able to tell her–not even when she got cold feet on her wedding day and hid out in his car.
Years later, they’ve remained in touch, but he has no idea she’s homeless after her husband left her penniless and barely able to keep their daughter in school. When secretly living in Eun-ho’s house as his secret housekeeper doesn’t work out for Dan-yi, she omits her college education ffrom her resume and applies for an entry-level position at his publishing house. Eun-ho is shocked to see her at the interview, but doesn’t protest her hiring. All of a sudden, they’re colleagues and roommates, but no one at work can know. As you can imagine, they only grow closer from there. You’ll treasure every word and every touch…even if the anticipation of a satisfying ending nearly does you in.
Where to Watch Romance Is a Bonus Book: Netflix