Episode 9: Will They or Won’t They? Never Answer that until the Final Episode

No matter what the genre or form of serial, a romantic subplot between some of the protagonists will be clear almost from the first episode. Sitcoms and dramas on tv are particularly famous for this type of wonderment. Now it would be pretty simple to just have the romantic/sexual tension be resolved within a few installments but then that would be one less thing to keep the narrative moving. Depending on how long a particular show will run, it eventually becomes an exercise in determent as interest needs to be maintained in a potential relationship while still making the pursuit of something beyond the platonic to be believable.

The quintessential will they or won’t they relationship has to be Ross and Rachel from Friends. The possibility of them being together was foregrounded since the very beginning as the beauty inadvertently enamored the geek. It took a few of seasons but they finally got together and the fandom rejoiced. But then they had a lot of other seasons of material and a happy couple doesn’t really add much humor or drama to the narrative. The question then became how does one split up the people that are practically destined to be together without making any of the characters hateable since he/she is still a protagonist. If it were a more dramatic show or a soap opera then making someone a new target for the audiences’ rage would make sense. But Friends really wanted each person of the ensemble to be likable even at their worst. So Ross, was made to be clingy and jealous to the potential threat that Rachel’s boss posed for them. The arguments between them led to the infamous “break” that led to Ross sleeping with the girl from the copy place. This led to them being officially split but the tension about them ever getting back together stuck around until the final episode; which was three seasons after they got the Vegas wedding and another season they had a baby together. The fact that “we were on a break” became a running gag through out the show really just took away the original drama of the heartache and just enforced the question of their potential relationship even further.

While the writers can leave hints via lingering stares and awkward conversations between characters, there are still moments when relationships will be assumed by readers/viewers between just about anyone. This practice is referred to as “shipping” (because they are making relation[ships]) and can go in many different directions. Combinations of couples by respective fans are known by the portmanteau of the characters shipped together (Brangelina tabloid namers, I blame you). One of my favorite shows that ended up with a lot of shipping is Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show is awesome in just about every aspect but the shipping was fairly interesting even for those who don’t care about it. If you ever want to start a flame war on the Internet just make a Kataang vs Zutara post and ask which one is better. Shipping of Sokka with just about anyone was also pretty common as Suki was an obvious choice by episode 4 but Yue by end of Season 1 was official. Then just about anyone is Azula’s gang became prime shipping material alongside Toph and any other female character with a speaking role except for Katara for the obvious reason of them being siblings.

The previous exception of course does not apply to the darkest corners of the Internet. A land of no laws that functions by rules. One such rule is #34 which says that if you can imagine it then there is, well let’s call it “adult material” of it. Fair warning do not google rule #34 with just about any sort of name because what you see is probably pretty freaky to say the least. Be it through drawings or fan fiction, people have taken the liberty of taking anything from serial fiction that’s been around for a day or a decade. Just don’t even consider it for the sake of sanity and not putting something of questionable content into your web browser’s history. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Especially with the existence of rule #35: if it doesn’t exist, make it so.

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