We all know the story — prince kisses princess. They live Happily Ever After. Well, okay. That’s BS for so many cis-heteronormative reasons, to begin with! But the myth HEA hinges on romance is perpetuated in real life, too. In 2020, Valentine’s Day generated $27 billion in the US alone. Fun fact: like many holidays, Valentine’s Day’s origins are a little… Well, let’s just say Roman V-Day involved goat sacrifice and intimate partner violence. So, you know, different gods, same ole… Look. I love a good romance and a ship as much as the next person, but sometimes when there’s a bomb about to detonate, maybe they could save it for later? So in dishonor of February 14, here’s a list of some fantastic TV characters who either end up single or don’t look at love as a priority in life. Because, yes, you can get your Happily Ever After without a bae.
Our first TV character who isn’t counting on a bae for her Happily Ever After is Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) of Bridgerton. Not only does she not want a suitor, but she’s also downright annoyed by the Regency idea of romance. Sure, the show only just finished its first season so this may change. But for now, Eloise is entirely occupied with little trivialities like reading and solving mysteries and not becoming the legal property of a man.
Next up, we have Raphael Santiago (David Castro) of Shadowhunters. While the vampire may have shared a sexy blood lust biting thing with Shadowhunter Izzy (Emeraude Toubia), he draws the line at romance. Instead, his friendships and loyalties matter to him more. Raphael’s also one of the few canonically asexual characters on TV (but being ace doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want a relationship).
Walter & Astrid
Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) of Fringe were a dynamic duo. It’s always awesome to see intergenerational friendships. It seems unlikely the show would have ever gone there with them, considering the age gap, but I appreciate that Fringe let their bond blossom into something so strong. They weren’t just colleagues in the end. I have a very dear friend and former roommate 40 years my senior, so they will always have a special place in my heart. This isn’t a relationship you see represented every day.
In general, cartoons are more preoccupied with romance than ya might think. That’s why Rick and Morty‘s Rick (Justin Roiland) is such a breath of fresh air. It’s not a surprise that a curmudgeonly sociopathic genius would think love sucks, but on TV, usually, everyone falls in love. I mean, this is a comedy, which means it’s also a tragedy. Rick is complicated. He’s a depressed, self-loathing, pansexual a**hole. So, to see someone who’s probably not (Yet? Currently? Ever?) suited for romance not have one is cool. Or, you know, Rick might actually just be happy being single.
Our next TV character to have a Happily Ever After without a bae is Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Oh, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition to saving the world (a lot), Buffy had a lot of sex, love and boyfriends throughout the show’s seven-year run. In the end, she stood alone; or single, rather because she was surrounded by her family which includes her exes. (Buffy was such a formative show for me and I’m sorry to hear it seems to have been such a toxic work environment. I still wanted to celebrate the character, though.)
Most of The Magicians
The Magicians was another show preoccupied with saving the world(s). Sure, over the course of the series there was shipping and love (I mean A LOT), but ultimately, most of the gang ended up single. Single for now, maybe, but when you’ve just saved the world HEA is being alive. Time and again, the characters picked found family and friendship over romance. Their connections and bonds don’t end just because their romances do. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it’s a world I’d like to live in.
I’d argue that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had to end with Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) single. Her story is about her mental health, and in her particular case, she has to learn to be alone and happy. And that, my friends, is a satisfying conclusion. It’s not a forever conclusion. In fact, I think many of these characters would eventually find romantic love if we followed them past the series. Rebecca is one of those characters, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not that story, it’s not that part of Rebecca’s story, and I would have been angry had she ended up with someone.
Next, we have another character who wouldn’t have been able to blossom had she remained in a relationship. Alexis Rose (Annie Murphy) of Schitt’s Creek has spent her life following man after man after man (after man). They’re not all bad men. She and Ted (Dustin Milligan), her small town vet fiancé, are adorable. But when they break up in the series’ final season, it just feels right. Alexis has to fly free and make her own way, unencumbered.
The Good Place‘s Tahani (Jameela Jamil) spent her life trying to get even and ahead of her sister. She spends her afterlife trying to figure out the meaning of life. It seems she had a string of flings on Earth and even hooks up with her fake soulmate Jason (Manny Jacinto) in the afterlife, but she’s the true love of her life. Which I think is just lovely. Tahani ends the series as a fully empowered businesswoman who works in the service of others.
I’ll admit that Friends hasn’t aged well for me, and I hesitated including Joey (Matt LeBlanc) on this list. However, when I contextualize the show, I do think it’s cool that he never settled down. From my perspective, Joey ending up single wasn’t a punishment for his promiscuity, but rather the way he wanted to live his life. I’d hope his sexism and, generally, immature behavior would have been handled better had this series been made more recently.
And finally, the last character not to give a flying monkey about a bae is Abed (Danny Pudi) from Community. His Happily Ever After comes in the form of chasing his dreams of film and television. I’ve always enjoyed the friendship between Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed. For some reason, however, relationships between males are a tricky subject (platonic or otherwise). But I think Community does a pretty good job realistically portraying two best friends.
So that’s the list. A bunch of characters who probably aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day. Who’s your favorite single character on TV?