2022 Was the Year of the Toxic ‘Ship on TV
Each year in TV brings changes to the ‘shipping landscape. New couples bloom. Long-standing favorite couples break up and wash away. Such is the cycle; the changing seasons of fictional romance.
The year 2022, however, brought a storm. Perhaps more than usual, many of the new couples we saw were what one might deem “toxic.” These duos weren’t particularly good for each other — and in fact, several of ‘em wound up being kind of awful for each other — but on the basis of chemistry alone, they got fans talking. Here are five such pairings that set the ‘shipping landscape ablaze this year.
Daemon and Rhaenyra Targaryen (House of the Dragon)
Uh, were we all too hard on Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey)? In the fall of 2022, many of us took a good, hard look in the mirror. We asked ourselves, “Wait. Hold on a minute. Am I really ‘shipping Rhaenyra and her uncle?!” It’s incestuous, but… that’s just how Targaryens do. And it doesn’t hurt that Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) have the kind of dragonfire-hot chemistry that could level King’s Landing.
Setting aside the obvious, Daemon and Rhaenyra start out okay-ish, but by the finale cracks in their relationship start to show. (In hindsight, him abandoning her in a brothel after almost hooking up with her wasn’t an indicator of a healthy relationship to come.) After the time jump he defends Rhaenyra’s honor fiercely, beheading the man who calls her children “bastards.” But in the finale, he also completely ignores her screaming for him while she’s in agonizing labor, and he chokes her when she reveals a secret that Viserys (Paddy Considine) never told him. The show makes it clear that there’s genuine love between Rhaenyra and Daemon, and in the end, he’s the one to break the soul-shattering news to her about her son’s death. But with all that happened in the last episode, we’re not sure what side of their relationship House of the Dragon will focus on in Season 2: the love, or the burgeoning strife.
Villanelle and Eve Polastri (Killing Eve)
Pour one out for one of the best “I can make them worse” TV relationships in recent years, which somehow managed to end both happily and horribly. Sure, former MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and master assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) released years of will-they-won’t-they tension when they finally caved to their feelings and shared a passionate kiss. The joy was short-lived, however, as Villanelle didn’t survive the show’s series finale… which ended with Eve screaming after she watched V drift away from her in the Thames.
Now, none of this is to romanticize the toxicity inherent in their relationship. Villanelle was a psychopath who, by her own admission, had killed “a lot of people.” Heck, these two had tried to kill each other more than a few times. They manipulated, lied, and really did make each other worse — but there was also an air of inevitability to their connection as they saw each other’s “true selves.” Given their large fanbase and scintillating chemistry, it was a darn shame for their story to end the way it did. Fans had clamored for that “Villaneve” kiss for years, but it came with a high price and left many with the bitter taste of the “bury your gays” trope in their mouths.
Louis de Pointe du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview With the Vampire)
They were toxic in the book, they were toxic in the movie, and now they’re toxic on the show — with some redeeming qualities and soulmate-type vibes. Louis (Jacob Anderson) and Lestat (Sam Reid) aren’t lacking in drama, that’s for sure. They adore each other just as passionately as they make each other bone-twistingly miserable. Lestat lies to, manipulates, and even physically fights Louis; he’s so desperate to keep Louis by his side that he ends up turning both his love and their daughter, Claudia, (Bailey Bass) against him. In the end, they kill him… or at least they think they do, and a bereft Louis weeps over Lestat’s body.
So, is this a healthy relationship? Absolutely not. And yet, much like Eve and Villanelle, there’s a kind of “all roads lead here” inescapability to them. In many ways, they’re the only people (er, vampires) who see and understand each other for who they are, and buried beneath the years of resentment and murder, they do love each other. We’ll have to wait and see whether a reunion is in the cards in Season 2.
Galadriel and Halbrand (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power)
Show of hands: who went into Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show thinking they’d emerge from it ‘shipping Galadriel (Morfyyd Clark) and Sauron (Charlie Vickers)? Nobody? Granted, these two are a tenuous inclusion on this list — the showrunners and actors made it clear that there was no romantic intent behind the Galadriel and “Halbrand” scenes. With that said, something sure seemed like it was brewing between the two of them, especially in a scene where they sit side-by-side in the forest as Halbrand yearns to bind the feeling of fighting at Galadriel’s side to his “very being.” Her response after he admits this to her? “I felt it too.” Yeah, so did we.
Of course, he’s literally Sauron and she’s married to Celeborn. Barring a massive change in canon, nothing’s likely to happen here. But whether or not you ‘shipped it, Sauron’s illusion “proposal” scene on the raft in the finale was among the show’s best moments. (We’re still thinking about that camera tilt to reveal their corrupted reflections in the water.) Given how well Clark and Vickers play off each other, we definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Sauron and Galadriel face off again in Season 2.
Syril Karn and Dedra Meero (Andor)
Surprise! Two of the worst people in a galaxy far, far away are now dating. (Maybe.) It’s both intriguing and sort of hilarious that Imperial Security Bureau supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and her uptight, obsessive stalker with mommy issues Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) ended Season 1 with one of the most charged scenes in Star Wars. “Rix Road” sees Syril pull Dedra from the clutches of an angry mob, whisking her away to safety in the tight confines of a storage closet. After realizing who he is and getting over an initial wave of disgust, she notes that she “should say thank you” to him. Syril’s response? “You don’t have to.” They breathe heavily. They stare into each other’s eyes, and glance at each other’s lips. It’s intense. It’s weird. It’s uncomfortably romantic.
Yes, they’re villains. Yes, any relationship here would be a knotted yarn of noxious toxicity that’d strangle them both. Their shared awfulness, however, makes them a perfect match. And strangely, they seem suited for each other in other ways — their single-minded determination to uphold order, their general awkwardness when it comes to human connection, and the fact that they both had major mess-ups on Ferrix. We want to see them irrevocably destroy each other’s lives almost as much as we want to see them kiss, and we have a feeling we might get both before Season 2 ends. We can’t say we’re rooting for them, but if nothing else, we’re pretty sure Dedra will use Syril’s feelings for her as a manipulation tactic. They’re the baddies, remember?
House of the Dragon, Returns 2024, HBO
Killing Eve, all episodes now streaming, Hulu
Interview with the Vampire, Returns 2023, AMC
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Returns 2024, Amazon Studios
Andor, Returns 2024, Disney+