We’ve written before about shipping but it’s been on my mind again as we watch some really great new TV shows. Most recently we finished up both seasons of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire about the tech industry in Texas in the 1980s, and Manhattan, which follows the scientists at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project during WWII. Both shows have kicked my shipper’s heart into high gear, and as always, the writer in me asks, “Why?” So here’s a quick look at my 5 favorite ships on TV, why I like them, and what I can take away as a writer.
1) Manhattan: Charlie and Helen
Why I Ship Them: You know what’s even hotter than two beautiful people wanting each other? Two geniuses wanting in the other’s pants. Now, this ship poses a bit of a problem for me, in that I prefer not to ship adultery (Charlie is married), and yet I can’t help cheering on this nerdiest of nerd love. They are so obviously meant for each other.
What I’ve Learned from #Harlie: Nothing is as sexy as a meeting of the minds. The fact Charlie realizes he wants to rip Helen’s clothes off when she’s being her most brilliant is something I just love. As a writer, I don’t need to worry about describing just how tall and leggy my heroine is if I can show how much my hero loves a woman who can recite detailed plans from ancient battles.
2) Halt and Catch Fire: Joe McMillan and Cameron Howe
Why I Ship Them: There’s an immediate spark between Joe and Cameron, and yet they can never quite seem to sustain the fire. They eventually manage to have a relationship in Season 1, but it’s in Season 2 when they have broken up and spend little screen time together that the relationship becomes its most interesting. It’s their constant inability to make it work in Season 2 that gives them an epic quality, that sense they will never be quite rid of each other.
What I’ve Learned from #McHowe: If you use the time your characters spend together wisely, bringing them together just to rip them apart can be the best way to make the viewer/reader attached to your couple. It’s exactly what Margaret Mitchell figured out all those years ago in Gone with the Wind. Give your audience just enough to set their imagination going.
3) The Musketeers: Athos and Milady de Winter
Why I Ship Them: I feel like I might be going out on a limb here a little, since no ship works unless the actors involved have great chemistry, but Tom Burke and Maimie McCoy may have the best chemistry on the list. For those familiar with Dumas and other adaptations but not this one, the most unique choice the BBC has made is to keep Milady alive and haunting her very estranged husband. But any time these two are together, fireworks! Even though they are the only married couple on the list, they have by far the most dysfunctional relationship, and are worse for each other than any two people could possibly be. And yet, as Milady says to Athos, “I am bound to you.” There is no life for them together or apart. Their every scene is painful and sexy in equal measure.
What I’ve Learn from #Milathos: Take two dysfunctional people, put them together long enough to make them dependent on each other, and then rip them apart. The angst and the fire is unbeatable.
Why I Ship Them: One of the best things about The Vampire Diaries is Candice Accola’s ability to have chemistry with everyone she’s on screen with. So why do I so specifically ship her with Joseph Morgan’s Klaus? Because when they were both together on TVD before Klaus spun off to head up The Originals, this pairing was the perfect execution of the old trope Good Girl tries to reform Bad Boy. Caroline in a lesser actress’s hands would be painfully good, and Klaus is the original vampire who could easily be an irredeemable villain if played by another actor. But these two pull it off. Heck, they’ve been on different shows for two seasons (save a very special appearance by Joseph Morgan on TVD), and they remain one of the most popular ships on TV.
What I’ve Learned from #Klaroline: You can rip a couple apart and have new plans for them, but that doesn’t mean your audience will care. Cammy has been a sad replacement for Caroline on The Originals, and as much as I’ve always enjoyed Caroline and Stefan together and separately, it’s no replacement for what the sweetest vampire girl in the world has with the psychopath vampire/werewolf hybrid bad boy.
5) The 100: Clarke and Finn (SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen Season 2)
Why I Ship Them: Girl meets Boy. Girl hates Boy. Girl falls in love with Boy. Standard set up, but at the end of the day, execution is everything. Also, immediately following falls in love and having sex, they broke up and remained apart until Clarke literally had to kill Finn. I kept rooting for them to work out their problems right up until the moment Clarke stabbed Finn in the heart, and I suppose they did work their problems out in those final moments. I honestly believe under other circumstances, they could have been happy together, but other circumstances wouldn’t make terribly interesting TV.
What I Learned from #Flarke: Of the couples I’ve named, Flarke is possibly the least popular. Both characters had other romantic options, which a lot of fans preferred. And yet, love them together or not, they had a solid foundation on which to play out a final goodbye that moves any viewer who does not have a potato where his heart should be. And that’s great TV.