In recent years there’s been a very cool trend on TV where we see more lesbian, bisexual, and queer TV characters who are single — which is to say that the only indicator of their gayness is not being in a relationship. Or! Where a queer character actually dates multiple people on the show, and not just the side-character whose sole personality trait is “girlfriend of main gay character.” But of course there are also lots of queer couples to love and root for, and we all needed a little bit of extra love in our life in 2020. As always, creating a list of Best Queer TV Couples of 2020 is pretty impossible because of, you know, subjectivity, but our TV Team did get together to pick out our favorites.
While you’re here, you might also enjoy our lists of:
Honeybear and Ash, Betty
This was tough for me, because so many of the couples I enjoyed most this year weren’t exactly what I would call couple goals. I enjoyed watching these relationships explicitly because they were doomed in a way that felt painful and relatable. But one couple that tapped into the shred of romanticism left in my cold 2020 soul was Honeybear and Ash on Betty. Oh you’re surprised I love the skater girl couple who bond over their desire to make and score movies? Of course, you aren’t. I just love how real they feel! The awkwardness of their first encounters, the way Ash has to gently push Honeybear to take the risk of owning her identity. It’s challenging in a way I love and cute in a way I adore. The apology/love confession video Honeybear makes was just too perfect. The cinema verité quality of the show and the short amount of episodes in season one didn’t give us a ton of time with these two, but I can’t wait to watch their love develop when they return. — Drew
Sophie and Finley, The L Word: Generation Q
I have more than once thought to myself, “were we ever so young” when thinking back to January and the borderline adolescent joy we experienced collectively over the possibility of this fictional partnership. How innocent we were, then. Sadly, we have not been able to see that relationship develop in 2020 due to 2020, but here’s holding out hope for 2021. Sophie’s at her happiest when she’s with Finley, and has the patience and maturity to help Finley through her myriad emotional issues/baggage while maintaining boundaries to protect her own sanity and time. They have a sweet, honest friendship and are both good at saying no to each other when it’s what they need. Sophie’s ambition and ability to get Finley to open up and be vulnerable is unrivaled. Their intimacy is organic, their chemistry is palpable. Can’t wait to see part two of that airport scene! — Riese
Lily and Ola, Sex Education
The development of Lily and Ola’s friendship and eventual relationship is very well done in season two of Sex Education and included a lot of sweet and surprising moments. Also it’s an absolute upgrade for both of their romantic lives! — Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
Waverly Earp and Nicole Haught, Wynonna Earp
After a too-long hiatus, it’s so nice to be able to include Wynonna Earp in my roundup lists again. Waverly and Nicole have really been through it, but the first half of the fourth season had them fighting to get back to each other and trying to find new ways to fit back into each other’s lives, even though much has changed for both of them. And they still have a lot to face ahead of them, Nicole’s trauma of taking care of herself and a teenager alone for months, Waverly coming to terms with her angeltude, rejecting her calling in the Garden and using her powers to…stop Margo Clanton and save her girlfriend. IT’s all so lovely and gay; the second episode gave us an epic gay sex scene and the mid-season finale gave us a little light in the darkness in the form of a big queer proposal. — Valerie Anne
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn
I’ve been drawn to Harley Quinn as a character since Suicide Squad — I love a chaotic woman who isn’t afraid to dart back and forth over the line between what is considered by society to be traditionally feminine and what isn’t. From a distance it seems like she’s a ditzy blonde with boy problems but as you get closer you realize she’s actually a highly intelligent woman with trauma and wit to spare and who could kick your ass if she wants to (and let’s be honest, she wants to.) The cartoon version of Harley channels all her chaos and heart and also helps her break out of the Joker narrative she’s often stuck in, giving her a band of misfits and a best-friend-turned-girlfriend to help her through it. Harley and Ivy are my favorite kind of couple, not only because the friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favorites. They are the Slytherin/Hufflepuff type of combination. The chaotic and the neutral, the untethered and the grounded, the optimist and the realist. They fit together like puzzle pieces, it just took them a while to realize it. — Valerie Anne
Sterling and April, Teenage Bounty Hunters
I’m still mad that this show was cancelled but that means this is my last chance to shout about how much I loved Sterling and April and how much I wish we got to see more of them because of how they ended up. I think they were on a really interesting journey, and it was such an interesting dynamic to see two girls in Catholic school, one realizing she’s bisexual and being excited about, one knowing she’s gay and being okay with it but not being ready to come out yet. They were cute and fun and funny and it’s really a shame that their happy ever afters (whether together or not) will have to exist only in fanfiction. — Valerie Anne
Ava Sharpe and Sara Lance, Legends of Tomorrow
I know Caity Lotz has spent quarantine getting herself soft-cancelled, but the fact still stands that Ava and Sara are one of the best couples the CW DC Universe has ever seen. Co-captains, partners, they love each other and they work together to save the timeline and take care of their chaos children on the Waverider while keeping everyone from getting dead. It’s nice to have a relationship portrayed where their story isn’t always ABOUT their relationship, but they still have sweet moments like conversations about being leaders, dramatic hope-we-don’t-die kisses, and just cute long-time girlfriend moments. — Valerie Anne
Maya Bishop and Carina Deluca, Station 19
A year ago, including Maya Bishop on any list of mine would’ve been unthinkable. Her decision to snag the captain’s chair from her best friend — after having committed the grievous sin of dating her best friend’s ex before that — soured me on the character and I was unconvinced that Maya deserved good things. Even when she first meets Carina Deluca, I found myself thinking, “Maya doesn’t deserve her!” The thing is, I’m not sure Maya believed she deserved Carina either. Not really.
“I don’t need a girlfriend,” she tells Carina. They were a hook-up, nothing more. But beneath Maya’s bravado are the scars of her father’s abuse…abuse that’s conditioned her to put coming in first — in racing, in the firehouse — above all things, including friendship and love.
“I’m not in the habit of fixing broken people,” Carina answers, but that’s exactly what she does. By loving Maya when she can’t fully return it, by not leaving even when Maya pushes her away, by (gently) pushing and supporting Maya as she comes to grips with her father’s abuse, Carina fixes what’s broken in Maya. By season’s end, Maya’s able to make some groundbreaking admissions: most notably, that she really loves someone for the first time in her life. She pledges to spend the everyday working to regain Carina’s trust. It’s a beautiful evolution…for Maya, for them as a couple and, inevitably, for my feelings about them both.
But even beyond the storyline, what draws you into loving them as a couple is the undeniable chemistry between their portrayers, Danielle Savre and Stefania Spampinato. It’s palpable. As good as the writing for the pair has been, what radiates between them is something that can’t be written…something so natural and compelling that you invest in them despite yourself. Even their Station 19 castmates were stunned silent by the immediate chemistry between the pair at their first table read. Admittedly, it is entirely possible that Stefania Spampinato would have chemistry with a houseplant but this feels different…more electric.
If you can watch and resist being drawn to them, you’re a stronger person than me. — Natalie
I love a Shondaland gay couple, I just do. There’s probably not another (presumably straight) production company that I trust more with our stories. From the minute Arizona Robbins’ ex Dr. Carina Deluca walked into Joe’s Bar (site of so many famous Shondaland hookups over the years) and shook hands with Captain Maya Bishop of Station 19, I was a goner almost immediately. They are my candy of the week, my good place. Their chemistry is off the charts and well documented across fandom online (even the powers that be behind Station 19 picked up on it, and have made Stefania Spampinato and Danielle Savre a central focus of their social media presence). But the thing that will always get me about them is not just the fire in their eyes, it’s the fact that no matter how dark Maya gets, no matter how she pushes away or lets her depression or her anxiety get in the ways of her own dreams — Carina is there. She’s steady, and strong, a port in the storm when Maya needs it most. I JUST LOVE THEM, OKAY!?!? — Carmen
Gemma, Kieran and Ray, Trigonometry
In the fourth episode of Trigonometry, Gemma’s sitting alone outside when Kieran comes to sit down next to her. Without turning in his direction, she says, “you love [Ray],” and then she pauses, turns toward him and adds, “don’t you?” With tears threatening to spill over his eyes, he admits that he does. It’s less important in that moment what Kieran says — Gemma already knew the answer and, besides, she loves Ray too — but that they’ve chosen that moment to stop hiding it from each other, for fear of undermining their relationship. Just hours removed from getting married, Gemma and Kieran realize that their love for Ray doesn’t diminish their love, it amplifies it. Gemma and Kieran spend their first night as man and wife, welcoming Ray into their relationship.
Throuples are having a moment right now but, for me at least, none of the popular depictions of polyamory have been demystifying until Trigonometry. Every throuple I’ve seen feels less like a committed relationship and more like a monogamous couple carrying along this third wheel (see also: You Me Her and Gen Q). More often that not, I find myself rooting for one side of the triangle over the other. But, with Trigonometry, there’s a synchronicity to Gemma, Kieran and Ray that makes their relationship feel authentic…and it leaves you wanting to see this throuple succeed. — Natalie
Dre and Nina, The Chi
The Chi’s third season was a constant struggle for me, but also this summer it became one of the only things I could talk about. Almost 90% of that was because of Dre and Nina. In The Chi’ first two seasons, Kevin’s lesbians moms were small side characters. So much so that in order to pull off their increased role in the new season, Dre was renamed and recast entirely (now portrayed by Miriam Hyman). This should have been a recipe for disaster! Instead, in its third season The Chi managed to pull off the most grounded, revelatory, grown up Black gay love story that I’ve ever seen, and I haven’t stop thinking about it even as summer turned to fall or right now, as I write these words and snow falls out of my window.
I think it’s because their wedding was gorgeous and filled with so many community moments — doing the Electric Slide on the dance floor, teens sneaking wine and getting tipsy when the adults weren’t looking, aunties who are unsure how this whole lesbian thing works and “does the femme-y one take the butch-y one’s last name?”, and buying pizza for everyone when it turns out your caterer was lackluster. No, it was probably because of their incredibly hot wedding night sex. But actually it’s much later, when after a family tragedy involving their daughter brings up a lot of Nina’s own PTSD, Dre kisses her cheek and tells her all she wants to do is mend her in her broken places. It was the single most romantic thing I saw all last year.
The splitting a spliff and slow dancing in their living room didn’t hurt either. — Carmen
Charlie and Alex, The First Time
I had to get permission from Drew to include this, because technically speaking The First Time is a short film, and not television. However, hear me out! These 15 minutes are the greatest queer romantic comedy I saw this year, and also the year before that, and probably also the year before that as well. I deeply loved it. My favorite queer rom-com is Jen Richards and Laura Zak’s Her Story (which if you somehow missed in 2016, you need to fix that immediately! It’s a short binge and also perfect. So there!) And there’s this moment about 7 minutes into The First Time when Drew holds her head a certain way and smiles and first of all — I have been friends with Drew Gregory for two years and she’s never once told me she’s this good of an actor! But also second of all — she reminded me so much of Jen Richards in Her Story and I swooned. I talk a good game that “Love is a Lie” but also wow I love love. It’s a secret, don’t tell anyone.
What I loved most about Charlie and Alex was that over the course of a short arc, you get to watch them move from strangers to friends and also finally to something like lovers. But it never comes across as rushed or with false notes. Despite its short run time, it feels luxurious and slow, the same way that time stops when you meet someone and wonder “could they be my person?” The First Time captures that small moment of wonder, of magic. I have easily watched these 15 minutes more than anything else on television (err, film) in 2020 and regret none of it.— Carmen
Angie and Jordi, The L Word: Generation Q
In episode five of Generation Q, “Labels,” Bette is bickering with her daughter during morning drop off at school. Bette is making plans to get to Angie’s school play extra early with Aunt Alice and Uncle Shane, just to make sure they get a good seat (we don’t know yet that Angie’s only working crew on this production, which honestly only makes this whole deal even more perfect). Angie’s begging her not to come, afraid that she will die of embarrassment — and that’s probably because she knows that they are going to scream and cheer and take photographs as she moves set pieces during the between scenes blackout, which of course they will because that’s what this kind of family does.
During this back-and-forth, Jordi is sitting in the backseat silent. Bette asks Jordi what time her parents will get there, and Jordi has to explain that her parents aren’t coming. But don’t worry, she promises that it’s not a big deal (her eyes very much scream the exact opposite). Angie and Jordi grab their backpacks and get out of the car. Afterwards Bette gets a text from her daughter. Angie tells her that she can come, but only for Jordi. Over the course of this year we’ve talked a lot about the sweetness and unexpected emotional intelligence that Jordan Hull brought to Angelica Kenard-Porter. But in that moment, with that quiet protective energy, I knew she had everything in her to be a romantic lead.
In the next episode, she kisses Jordi as Uncle Shane looks on from the car, and she absolutely proves me right. I maybe never got the girl in high school, I maybe never had the bravery to wear rainbow chucks with my school uniform or even to look the girl I loved in the eye — let alone to tell her. But Angie does, and its sweet yes, but also surprisingly emotional and healing. I wish her and Jordi the world. — Carmen
Elena and Syd, One Day at a Time
I am going to miss these two nerds so much! It’s funny that I’ve seen a hundred queer couples on TV at this point, and it was finally these two teenage dorks who really reflected my own reality back to me for maybe the first time. They’re sweet and they’re silly and they communicate and work to balance their own needs with each other’s needs and each have their own hopes and goals for the future, and personalities, but they make such a match together too. They make each other better and they make each other happier and they make each other feel safer and those are some of the greatest things anyone in your life can ever do for you. — Heather
Mareceline and Princess Bubblegum, Adventure Time: Distant Lands
Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Obsidian was fan service at its absolute best. It showed us a glimpse of Marceline and Princess Bubblegum’s post-finale domestic bliss, sent them on a fresh adventure to showcase their new dynamic in action, and filled in basically ALL of the subtext blanks fans had to fill in for themselves over the course of the show’s ten-season run. Only in the comic books have Marci and PB ever been like this: goofy and domestic and fiery and affectionate and together-together. Plus the song Marci wrote for PB that she played at the end of the episode is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard. — Heather
Sophie Moore and Julia Pennyworth, Batwoman
Okay, hear me out. Sophie and Kate were obviously meant to be the couple of Batwoman’s first season. And with Kate doing a little dilly-dallying here and there. Julia arrived to reveal more of Kate’s past and also offer up a different, less traumatic, more cheeky part of Kate’s dating history. But what actually happened was that Sophie and Julia had more chemistry than Kate had with either of them, and the writers leaned into it. That is so rare on any TV show when it comes to two women characters, especially two women supporting characters, and it’s also true to how damn messy queers are in real life. This is something that would absolutely happen in any circle of gay friends. I loved it. I kind of hope we haven’t seen the last of it. — Heather