Disappointed hopes are as much a part of shipping as the heart-bursting love that fuels our hyperfixations. Sometimes stories end before their time; in other instances, they simply don’t go the way we’d hoped. Accepting these risks at the outset doesn’t mean we aren’t devastated each and every time our beloved characters are denied a happy ending together…or even the chance to mash their faces together, just once, with us there to witness it. Let’s be clear: That part fucking sucks.
If there’s one bright side, it’s that this collective pain can end up being a creative boon to the fandom, inspiring fanworks spectacular enough to clear your skin and water your crops. So here are 8 TV couples whose canonical endings still grind my gears, accompanied by recs for fic that reminds me why—despite loving and losing these beloved OTPs—I would do it all over again.
Spoiler warning: If you don’t want to know the details of where these shows went wrong, turn back now!
Selfie lasted a mere 13 episodes on ABC back in 2014, but the half-hour comedy, a modern-day reimagining of My Fair Lady, made a lasting impression on me. Not because it was an especially brilliant show—it wasn’t, though after a shaky start, it was really starting to come into its own when it was canceled. No, the biggest reason I’m still bitter that it didn’t get more of a chance is because Karen Gillian and John Cho were absolute FIRE together as Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgs, two colleagues who had a lot to learn from each other.
This ship may be one of the ones that got away, but we can always celebrate the good times with this fun vid to “Boom Clap,” where their potential is on full display…
Then it’s incumbent upon us to report to Archive of Our Own (AO3) for refreshingly feel-good fic like:
- “doubt the stars” by ShanaStoryteller
- “The Perfectionist” by innie
Clarke/Bellamy, The 100
Admittedly, this is a bit of a cheat. The CW’s post-apocalyptic fantasy series The 100 has one more season to go, meaning there’s technically a chance my Battlestar babies will get a satisfying ending after all. (Suits certainly turned things around for Harvey/Donna in the final season, which is the only reason they’re not on this list.) You’ll forgive me if, after years spent watching the writers squander opportunity after opportunity to let Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake’s chemistry take its natural course, I have my doubts. Given showrunner Jason Rothenberg’s insistence the show is a tragedy, let’s just say I’m more comfortable preparing for the worst.
From enemies to co-leaders of their people to ride-or-die best friends with a penchant for overlong hugs and blatant eyefucking, Bellamy and Clarke have survived multiple apocalypses on two different planets without baring their hearts. It’s a crying shame.
You know what, though? Nothing makes me feel more at peace with the fate of this ship than when I’m reading fic. The show may not do right by them, but the fans already have. Come what may, Bellarke will thrive, as evidenced by these desert-island-keeper fics that use canon as a jumping-off point more than anything:
- “in the silence between worlds (that’s where i’ll find you)” by viansian
- “I’ve Got You Here” by ms_scarlet
- “what goes around comes around (just like a flip turn)” by emullz
- “Meet Me in the Middle” by monroeslittle
- “Write a Loving Letter, Boy” by Chash
- “And Then We Were Chasing Coments” by prosciutto
- “I’ll always wear the crown that you gave me” by bellamysgriffinprincess
- “Tear in My Heart” by monroeslittle
- “The Next Shore” by heyschasm
Kara/Lee, Battlestar Galactica (2003)
The final season of SciFi’s Battlestar Galactica is an old wound, but one that still smarts. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Lee “Apollo” Adama were my OTP to end all OTPs for a long time, and I’ll never truly be over how close they were to a future on Earth together before the rug was pulled out from under them and the fans. Battered yet resilient souls with the world on their shoulders, the two fighter pilots were sometimes all that stood between what remained of the human race and extinction. That responsibility brought them together and tore them apart in dark and delicious ways that kept us pining for more.
While BSG‘s series finale ripped my heart open in 2009, it left me in the capable hands of the Kara/Lee (a.k.a. pilots) fandom, which functioned as a sort of grief support group for a lot of us for a long time. We banded together, though, and channeled all that emotion into healing fix-it fics and stunningly imaginative AUs, not to mention bittersweet vids.
When I’m mourning Kara and Lee’s shockingly cruel fates in canon, I refer instead to some of my favorite alternate theories about how life played out for them:
- “Periapsis” by glamafonic
- “Contrecoup” by Fahye
- “Academy Pilots” by callmeonetrack
- “Stupid Thing Last Night: The Inadvertent Series” by clairza & elzed
- “Detour” by bynnmck
- “How Apollo Took on Dionysus, and Lost (or the futility of denying the obvious”) by elzed
- “Rapunzel” by Innibis
A rookie major league baseball player (the first female pitcher, at that) and her older, crankier team captain, the catcher? Of course, I was going to ship that–and tell all my friends to ship that! A move that backfired spectacularly, by the way, when FOX retired their female-skewing sports drama after only 13 episodes. My friends still won’t let me live down my endorsement, but you know what? I don’t regret telling them (or anyone!) to watch.
Ginny Baker and Mike Lawson’s evolution from reluctant colleagues to enthusiastic teammates to almost-lovers was *chef’s kiss* good. (In fact, it still is, and I hope Hulu adds it back to the catalog someday; until then, you can always buy the season digitally or on DVD from Amazon, like I did.)
Whenever I feel myself getting extra salty about the loss of this show, I console myself with the fact that we got Ginny and Mike peeping on each other during their Body Issue photo shoot, Mike learning that Ginny had his rookie poster on her wall as a kid, and a smokin’ hot almost-kiss with intent to bang. It’s more than some ships get, well, ever. Then I go revisit some of the excellent fic out there, starting with:
- “there’s something happening somewhere” by maybetwice
- “Hard Act to Follow” by darlininmyway
- “A better man might” by lowriseflare and threeguesses
- “kill each other (like civilized people)” by elegantstupidity
Bonus rec: Mariana Zapata’s novel Kulti isn’t Pitch fanfic, but it’s a sports romance with an exceptionally well-done slow burn between a grumpy soccer-star-turned-coach and his talented, mouthy player. Did I mention there’s an HEA?
Karen/Frank, The Punisher
There are a few reasons I refuse to subscribe to Disney+, but the biggest is that I just know it’s the reason Marvel and Netflix couldn’t agree to a deal to renew The Punisher or Daredevil, which left Karen Page and Frank Castle hanging out in an emotional purgatory.
When a vengeance-obsessed Frank first showed up in Daredevil in pursuit of his family’s killers, I never in a million years would have predicted I’d become so invested in his relationship with legal secretary-turned-reporter Karen. Not only because she was clearly introduced as Matt Murdock’s star-crossed love interest, but because Frank was unable to surface from a well of grief. Karen didn’t pull him out of it completely, but she made him want to try. Between hostage situations and hospital break-outs, they grew closer and closer to admitting their mutual desire for a future together before Netflix pulled the plug on the whole MCU TV universe.
Whenever I’m visited by the ghosts of Kastle’s unfinished story, I self-medicate with fics that come backed by a warm-and-cozy-ending guarantee:
- “last chance” by soixantecroissants
- “is love alive” by 152glassslippers
- “I’m in the Ruins Too, I Know the Wreckage So Well” by theshipsfirstmate
- “who you are is not what you’ve been” by HeartonFire
Mulder/Scully, The X-Files
Now, you may be shocked to see paranormal investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on this list, considering the sheer amount of time they’ve had together in FOX’s iconic series The X-Files: 11 seasons and 2 movies across 25 years, to be exact. In that span, there were a few kisses, yes. Shared beds and allusions to love scenes, it’s true. An unremarkable house and two babies, even! And yet, Mulder and Scully were never allowed to simply be in love, or even acknowledge they were a couple ~in the traditional sense of the word~. Not on screen, at least.
Resolved sexual tension is boring, apparently, so the agents have been stranded atop Mount UST since before iPods existed, yearning for each other in ever more ludicrous situations. And since creator Chris Carter ended Season 11 on a predictably stupid cliffhanger despite star Gillian Anderson saying she was really done this time, there’s little to no chance MSR shippers will see them get a worthy send-off there.
Whatever. This legendary fandom’s writers have nearly three decades of experience throwing out canon whenever it suits them, if only to grant Mulder and Scully some goddamn R&R:
- “The Rusted Wheel of Things” by EllieL
- “Dream On” by denynothing1
- “Unfinished Business” by all_these_ghosts
- “Dryad” by Aloysia_Virgata
- “Machines of Freedom” by amalnahurriyeh
- “Four ways William Scully got picked up from daycare” by Naraht
Logan/Veronica, Veronica Mars
Should’ve quit while we were ahead, huh? Veronica Mars was always the little show that could—fans were campaigning for more of the YA mystery/soap (wouldn’t RT hate that description?!) while it was still on the air. When it was canceled by the fledgling network CW after just three seasons (two of which were on UPN), VM faithful petitioned for years to bring the show back in any form. Sassy teenage sleuth Veronica had more mysteries to solve, one of which was why on earth she hadn’t yet patched things up with her on-again, off-again enemy-turned-soulmate, Logan Echolls. (Even their portmanteau, LoVe, suggests they’re MFEO.)
LoVe shippers’ fondest wish came true when creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 to fund an indie VM movie that, while not perfect, breathed new life into the franchise, bringing the gang back to Neptune for future stories. It took several more years and yet more noise to bring it back from the dead once more, this time as a limited series on Hulu.
All signs indicated the 8 episodes would be another treat for fans (a.k.a. Marshmallows); unfortunately, it was anything but. You see, it’s hard to watch Veronica–who’s either unable or unwilling to work through the trauma of her teenage years–treat her family and closest friends terribly over the course of a season. It’s unbearable to watch her become a wife and then a widow in the space of a few minutes. So, I don’t know about you, but I prefer to forget I did.
On the days I’d pay to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on that one memory, I imagine replacing it with “A Strange New Story Every Time” by gyzm. It’s the grown-up Veronica and Logan arc we deserved.
Bonus rec: Outraged at her creator’s claim that Veronica can’t solve cool cases unless she’s single? Miss Phryne Fisher and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson exist to show us how it’s done in Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.
Abbie/Ichabod, Sleepy Hollow
To tell the truth, Sleepy Hollow as a show never managed to hook me; the breakneck speed of the serialized plot and convoluted mythology were hard for me (and my short attention span) to follow. In fact, I’ve never watched the whole series all the way through. What made me want to try, though, was the delightful frisson between time-traveling Revolutionary war soldier Ichabod Crane and his badass modern-day partner, Sleepy Hollow P.D.’s Lt. Abbie Mills. To call their bond unique would be a massive understatement—it was prophesied in the Bible. That’s what happens when the soulmate AU trend goes mainstream, kids.
The precious minutes they had alone together in each episode were all I truly ever tuned in to see. Abbie and Ichabod (Ichabbie) had this whole Mulder/Scully, Booth/Bones vibe that could have run for years and years. The way he called her “leftenant,” the way she schooled him on just about everything, the way they worked together seamlessly as a unit… In another instance of fans not getting to have nice things, though, the creative team made the baffling decision to sideline and then kill Abbie off in season 3.
While Sleepy Hollow aired for another season, it was never the same, or so I hear. In my headcanon, however, they’re still out there racing to save the world from an impending apocalypse between relationship milestones. These fics offer a taste of that domestic bliss:
- “Such a Thing of Wonder in the Crowd” by The_Unnatural_Disaster
- “Everything Old Is New Again” by samyazaz
- “a more perfect Union” by scifisis
Which fictional couples are you happily living in denial about and what’s your prescription for keeping it copacetic?
P.S. If you enjoyed this list, you may also enjoy: 7 International TV Couples to Ship Based on Your Favorite American Pairings