‘The West Wing,’ ‘SVU’ & More of TV’s Most Frustrating Slow Burn Romances

Janel Moloney and Bradley Whitford in 'The West Wing,' David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in 'Friends,' and Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime'
© NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection; Robert Isenberg / ©Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection; Peter Kramer/NBC

More often than not, our favorite romances on TV are of the slow burn nature. We wait years and years (and years, in some cases) to see the will they/won’t they back-and-forth and tension actually go somewhere. But as much as we enjoy it, sometimes it gets to be just a bit too much.

Take, for instance, the couples that take so long to get together that we barely get to see their relationship onscreen, whether because the show ended soon after (FriendsThe West Wing) or one half left (Chicago Fire, NCIS). Or maybe a revival took a couple of a few steps back (The X-Files). What about when a will they/won’t they have stretched across over two decades and now two shows (Law & Order: SVU and Organized Crime)?

Scroll down as we take a look at these and more of the slow-burn romances on TV that have frustrated us the most (though that doesn’t mean we don’t still love them).

Kara Killmer and Jesse Spencer in 'Chicago Fire'
Adrian Burrows/NBC

Brett & Casey, Chicago Fire

It took a while, but Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Brett (Kara Killmer) finally got together in the Season 9 finale … only for their time together onscreen to be short. Spencer exited the series early on in Season 10, Casey left Chicago, and by the following premiere, Brettsey broke up via a phone call. But that wasn’t it! Casey returned to Chicago for work near the end of Season 11, then in the finale, proposed to Brett after she found out she’ll (eventually) be able to adopt the baby she wants. And now the wait continues, but given that nothing has been said about Spencer returning to the show full-time, we might still only have those few episodes of Season 10 to see them actually together onscreen.

David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in 'Friends' - 'The One Where Ross Finds Out'
Robert Isenberg / Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Ross & Rachel, Friends

One of the reasons why Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) are the superior Friends couple is that they didn’t have the frustrating back-and-forth that Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) did. First, it was for them to initially get together. Then, after he cheated on her (“We were on a break!”), they got married in Vegas (then divorced), they eventually had a daughter, and they dated other people (and couldn’t stand the other doing so), they ended the series together … and she gave up a great job offer in Paris. Because that happened in the finale, we didn’t even get a chance to see why they’d make it last other than saying they would.

Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson in 'Gilmore Girls'
Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Luke & Lorelai, Gilmore Girls

Listen, we loved the initial slow burn, the scenes in his diner as Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Luke (Scott Patterson) flirted over coffee. We loved their kiss at her inn. We loved seeing them navigate their relationship and go “all in.” We didn’t even mind the initial breakup, in the scheme of things. But when he didn’t tell her about the daughter he found out he had, they broke up, reunited in the series finale, then didn’t get married until the end of the revival on Netflix, our exasperation hit a high.

Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders in 'How I Met Your Mother' - 'Something New'
Ron P. Jaffe / CBS / courtesy Everett Collection

Barney & Robin, How I Met Your Mother

This one is tied into the part of the How I Met Your Mother ending that we just can’t believe. After spending years watching Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) on-again, off-again and all of the final season with their wedding weekend, it all turned out to be for nothing, with them divorcing, her ending up with Ted (Josh Radnor), and the titular mother dying.

Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson, Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - 'With Many Names'
Peter Kramer/NBC

Benson & Stabler, Law & Order: SVU & Organized Crime

We’re about to be going into 25 seasons of will they/won’t they with Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and her former partner, Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), now leading different shows. And ever since Stabler returned to New York, the possibility has not only been teased (that “I love you” at the intervention!), but the two have come very close to kissing. And yet … nothing. Something’s gotta give.

Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo in 'NCIS' - 'Past, Present & Future'
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Tony & Ziva, NCIS

Since Ziva’s (Cote de Pablo) introduction in Season 3, a romance between her and Tony (Michael Weatherly) seemed like a foregone conclusion … only for them to part ways with a kiss when she exited at the beginning of Season 11. Then came news of her death and the fact that Tiva had a kid(!) together in Season 13, as Tony left. Ziva turned out to be alive, as revealed in the Season 16 finale, and the two have reunited — off-screen! Will we ever get to see them actually together?

Janel Moloney and Bradley Whitford in 'The West Wing'
NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Josh & Donna, The West Wing

Him being her boss wasn’t ideal, but there’s no denying how wild it is that Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Donna (Janel Moloney) didn’t even kiss until episodes before the drama ended in Season 7. (And it took them a bit to figure out things even after that!) There were the flowers he gave her for their anniversary, him throwing snowballs at her window, and, of course, him flying to Germany after the attack in Gaza. It’s almost hard to believe that “if you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for red lights” came in Season 2.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in 'The X-Files'
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

Mulder & Scully, The X-Files

Remember when a bee was the main source of our frustration when it came to Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) relationship? Oh, we were so naive. To think seeing them kept apart by abductions should be considered easy. The revival took their relationship (more than) a step back — and that’s not even taking into account the truth about the identity of William’s father.