Not every TV couple gets to live happily ever after.
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The star-crossed lovers found in the list below may have had their relationships torn asunder by death, major life changes or even off-screen drama, but to this day they remain some of our absolute favorite couples to ever grace our screens.
These doomed duos span many decades of television, from Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Edith Keeler (R.I.P.!) to The Wonder Years’ Kevin and Winnie, and other pairings from Fleabag, Better Call Saul, How I Met Your Mother and more. In our carefully curated list, we examine both the reasons these couples were ill-fated and why we wish they had survived their tumultuous predicaments.
Scroll down to view our full list, then be sure to hit the comments section and tell us which couples you wish had stayed together for the long haul.
Jack and Renee, 24
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Said simply, it ain’t easy being Jack Bauer’s love interest. (Just ask Teri. Oh wait, you can’t.) As Jack and Renee basked in the afterglow of the former’s first love scene ever, a sniper’s bullet zinged through the window and hit Renee, fatally.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: In badass Renee, Jack (and viewers) had finally met his equal, someone who could both appreciate and emulate his derring-do. —Matt Mitovich
Alison and Cole, The Affair
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: The death of their son Gabriel was too much for these high school sweethearts to overcome. As was the pressure Alison felt to bury her pain and move on. Alas, Noah came along at a most vulnerable time, and the rest is (sad, sad) history.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Because we know Alison and Cole still loved each other deeply, even though they were no longer together at the time of Alison’s (unjust) death. And our hearts broke for Cole in the Showtime drama’s future-set Season 5, when Alison and Cole’s grown-up daughter Joanie revealed that her father spent the rest of his days unable to mend his broken heart. —Ryan Schwartz
Stan and Nina, The Americans
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: The star-crossed affair between the FBI agent and the KGB officer ended for good when Stan chose his country over her, with poor Nina getting hauled back to the Soviet Union and executed for treason.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Nina brought out a passionate side in the buttoned-up Stan, and they did make a pretty good spying team while they lasted. (Plus, Nina’s brutal fate still haunts us.) –Dave Nemetz
Jimmy and Kim, Better Call Saul
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Kim left Jimmy when their life of slick scheming became too dangerous — and led to Howard’s death.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: They were perfectly compatible, with straight arrow Kim helping that scamp Jimmy clean up his act, and the flash-forwards made it clear they were miserable without each other. –D.N.
Shawn and Angela, Boy Meets World
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Shawn was always chasing what Cory and Topanga had. Once Angela chose to leave for Europe with her dad — mind you, she was always coming back! — the fairytale was no longer attainable in his eyes.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: They weren’t Cory and Topanga; they were better than Cory and Topanga, and actually shared common interests. (Remember how mesmerized Shawn was when he found Angela’s purse, and in it contained a book of sonnets, a CD of classical music and a Van Damme movie ticket?) Alas, Disney Channel sequel series Girl Meets World paired Shawn with Maya’s mom Katy, a woman he never actually dated before proposing marriage, because… well, it was convenient. And he saw himself in her daughter. Or something. (Yeah, we’re still mad.) —R.S.
Willow and Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Willow’s mounting desire for supernatural power caused her to wipe Tara’s memory — and when the traumatized witch found out, she ended things.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Because they’d just reunited… when a stray bullet from Warren’s gun ended Tara’s life. Sniff! –Kim Roots
Bobby and Pam, Dallas
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: With Victoria Principal quitting the primetime soap at the end of Season 10, Pam was involved in an explosive car accident — just as she was phoning her husband to inform him that (surprise!) they could have a baby. In the aftermath of that cruel twist, she left town and was later revealed to be suffering from a terminal illness.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Dagnabbit, if an entire season of Dallas could be discarded to bring Bobby back from the dead, why not Pam? Southfork’s Romeo and Juliet had always defied the odds. We wanted the star-crossed lovers to beat ’em, too. –Charlie Mason
Fleabag and Hot Priest, Fleabag
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Well… the guy was a priest!
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Considering Fleabag’s mental state and trauma, we were rooting for her to find some semblance of normalcy in at least one of her relationships. That aside, the chemistry between these two was fire! –Nick Caruso
Lane and Dave, Gilmore Girls
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: It was Hollywood logistics that ultimately kept Lane Kim and Dave Rygalski apart: After Gilmore‘s third season, Adam Brody departed the show to play Seth Cohen on Fox’s The O.C. Thus, when Gilmore Girls returned for Season 4, Dave had gone off to college in California (heh), and his long-distance relationship with Lane quietly petered out.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Because it was clear, from their very first conversation outside a Stars Hollow town meeting, that they were made for each other. Lane and Dave’s music tastes and senses of humor aligned beautifully, he encouraged her to pursue her drumming dreams, he gamely tolerated all of Mrs. Kim’s strict rules — and, c’mon, he read the entire Bible in one night for Lane. We love Zack and all, but he could never. –Rebecca Iannucci
Mark and Lexie, Grey’s Anatomy
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Not ready for kids, Lexie stuck a scalpel in her on-again/off-again relationship with Mark in Season 7 after learning that he’d impregnated fellow doctor Callie while they were on a break.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Mark put it best as Lexie lay dying after a devastating Season 8 plane crash (complications from which would ultimately claim his life as well). “We’re supposed to end up together,” he told his soulmate. “We’re meant to be.” –C.M.
Fonzie and Pinkie Tuscadero, Happy Days
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: On-screen, because Fonzie realized he was not cut out to be “Mr. Tuscadero” to the famed trick rider with a pink motorcyle. Off-screen, because Roz Kelly reportedly clashed with cast and producers, and what was set up to be Fonzie’s long-term love interest instead got scrapped.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Pinkie was very much the female Fonz, complete with motorcycle, mechanical savvy, catchphase (“Think Pink!”) and trademark hand gesture (her dual finger-snap). –M.M.
Dave and Alex, Happy Endings
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Not even Alex leaving Dave at the alter could’ve stopped the couple from reigniting their flame later in the series. But eventually, they simply decided the relationship had run its course and that the two of them were better off as friends.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: They were both just so dang likable! From their fun adventures with Groupons to their adorable goofiness, it bums us out that these two couldn’t get the storybook ending they deserved. But if they’re happier as friends, who are we to say otherwise (even though we kind of just did)? –N.C.
Barney and Robin, How I Met Your Mother
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: After a final season that revolved entirely around the couple’s wedding weekend, it was revealed in the series finale that the marriage only lasted three years. Robin’s hectic travel schedule made things difficult for the duo, who later realized they wanted different things in life.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: We fell in love with Barney and Robin’s deep friendship and always admired how they both wanted the best for each other. Plus, news of their divorce felt like whiplash in what became known as one of the worst finales ever. –N.C.
Jane and Michael, Jane the Virgin
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Being a telenovela, the CW series threw many soapy challenges the couple’s way: First, Jane was accidentally inseminated with another man’s sperm. Then the show really doomed the pair when Michael died! Finally, Jane discovered Michael was actually alive… but he had no memory of her!
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Much as we came to love Jane and Rafael, there was something so sweet and charming about Jane’s first love, who stood by her through a whole lot of craziness. –Vlada Gelman
Raylan and Winona, Justified
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Like many a workaholic (though in this case, one with a gun at the ready to draw), Raylan tended to put the job ahead of all else. As Michael Dinner, showrunner for the recent City Primeval miniseries, put it, “Sometimes you meet people in your life and it’s the wrong time or the wrong circumstances.”
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Did you SEE the look in Winona’s eyes in the City Primeval finale, when she realized Raylan had finally retired…? –M.M.
Villanelle and Eve, Killing Eve
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: A sniper’s bullet took Villanelle’s life just as she and Eve were celebrating their victory over shadowy cabal The Twelve.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: They just got together in the series finale! We barely got to see these two happy and enjoying each other before their love was unfairly snuffed out. –D.N.
Emma and Neal, Once Upon a Time
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Neal sacrificed himself so that his father, Rumplestiltskin aka the Dark One, could have a chance at vanquishing the Wicked Witch. “When [Neal] realized there was a price to be paid, he didn’t run from it,” co-showrunner Eddy Kitsis told TVLine. “He did it so that his son [Henry] would see him as a hero.”
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: While we came to appreciate the whole “opposites attract” thing that Emma and Hook had going for them, there was something very sweet about the idea of Emma winding up with Henry’s “regular guy” dad. –M.M.
Klaus and Caroline, The Originals
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Timing was always this pair’s downfall, entering and exiting each other’s orbits at the worst possible moments.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: The ultimate will they/won’t they couple in the TVD universe, Klaus and Caroline’s layered love story spanned all three series, beginning with that epic promise he made when she was still dating Tyler: “He’s your first love. I intend to be your last, however long it takes.” If only he’d gotten to keep it. –Andy Swift
Cruz and Eden, Santa Barbara
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: When Marcy Walker left for primetime in 1991, Eden didn’t just split, she was given a split personality. Alas, none of her alters wanted to remain married to A Martinez’s stalwart Cruz.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Not only did the Emmy winners have the kind of chemistry that their peers could only envy, but the end of the much-missed NBC soap’s premier supercouple was a harbinger of the end of the show itself two years later. –C.M.
Alexis and Ted, Schitt’s Creek
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: In the comedy’s final season, the on-again/off-again sweethearts proved just how true their love was by freeing one another to pursue their dream jobs — her as a PR whiz in New York, him as a researcher in the Galapagos.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: The bittersweet breakup of Alexis and her “Galapaguy” wasn’t a sign that they’d grown apart but a beautiful illustration of how much they had grown together. –C.M.
Maeve and Otis, Sex Education
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: With Maeve attempting to kickstart a life and writing career over in the States, the couple knew that being separated by an entire ocean would be too hard to maintain.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: This is one will-they-won’t-they that just didn’t happen soon enough for us to enjoy. We never got to celebrate the couple’s major feelings for each other because Maeve was whisked away far too fast. We felt short-changed. –N.C.
Captain Kirk and Edith Keeler, Star Trek
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Because if Edith, a social worker circa 1930, had lived, her rising profile as a peace advocate would have, through a chain of events, resulted in Germany winning World War II and conquering the world. Instead, Kirk was forced to let Edith be killed in a car accident, a fate a time-traveling McCoy had previously derailed.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: The iconic episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” did a wonderful job of setting up Kirk’s whirlwind romance with a smart, good woman — and a human one, at that. –M.M.
Dean and Lisa, Supernatural
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: The lure of the hunter life and the dangers of the supernatural world had it in for the couple, eventually forcing Dean to ask Castiel to erase Lisa’s memories of him.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Dean was never cut out for “normal” life, but his time with Lisa — who was, by far, the show’s best love interest — and her son Ben in the ‘burbs really made us wish Dean could have it all. –V.G.
Roy and Keeley, Ted Lasso
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Simply put, Roy let his insecurities get in the way of a good thing. Once Keeley’s career took off, the former footballer worried he’d get left behind, so he broke Keeley’s heart before she had the chance to break his — not that she ever would have!
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Because we were this close to Sexy December 28th becoming an annual tradition! No, but seriously: Roy and Keeley’s scenes together made us feel like we’d been “struck by f—king lightning,” and keeping them apart for the majority of Season 3 was a detriment to this feel-good show. —R.S.
Bill and Sookie, True Blood
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Despite possessing an antidote for his no-longer-fatal Hep-V, Bill still chose to meet the True Death, asking for longtime love Sookie’s assistance in staking himself once and for all. She obliged, naturally.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: You kind of had to be there, but Bill and Sookie were hot together, OK? Like, ridiculously hot. These two were having sex on graves nearly two decades before Saltburn made it cool. So fans were understandably peeved when the couple’s seven-season romance ended in tragedy, only for Sookie to then marry a faceless stranger in the series finale. –A.S.
Bonnie and Enzo, The Vampire Diaries
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Bonnie never had the best luck in love, but we were pretty sure she’d finally found her happy ending with bad boy vampire Enzo… until he was murdered in front of her just five episodes before the series finale.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: First of all, if there’s a TV character who endured more unjust suffering than Bonnie Bennett, we’d love to meet them. After putting up with everyone else’s nonsense for eight seasons — which cost her several family members, a couple of boyfriends and even her own life on multiple occasions — she deserved the world, not just a solo trip around the world. –A.S.
Veronica and Logan, Veronica Mars
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: After Veronica solved the case of Neptune’s nefarious spring break bomber, it seemed like happily ever after for the two newlyweds. That is, until Logan found one last bomb that had been planted in Veronica’s car earlier. He unfortunately met his end in that final explosion.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: These two former nemeses had survived high school, the death of their close girlfriend/friend, family scandals, a challenging military schedule and so much more throughout the years. It would’ve been nice to see the curmudgeonly Veronica finally happy. –N.C.
Glenn and Maggie, The Walking Dead
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: In Season 7’s premiere, the Saviors’ merciless leader Negan punished Daryl for reacting to his bloody murder of Abraham by adding Maggie’s husband to his list of victims.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: The post-apocalyptic lovers represented hope in a world (and on a show) where it was in extremely short supply. At least we can take comfort in imagining that someday in the hereafter, Glenn will make good on his last promise to Maggie: “I’ll find you.” –C.M.
Neal and Sara, White Collar
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: Secrets about stolen World War II art, assorted mixed signals and one fiancé were among the hurdles that Neal’s romance with Sara faced — but ultimately it was a London job offer that removed her from his orbit.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Cunning thief vs. cunning insurance investigator? You had to enjoy their small-screen version of The Thomas Crown Affair dynamic. –M.M.
Kevin and Winnie, The Wonder Years
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: The series finale’s flash-forward saw Kevin reunite with Winnie… but with a wife and kids in tow. “That’s part of the beauty of life,” EP Bob Brush explained at the time. “It’s fine to say, ‘I’d like everything to be just the way it was when I was 15 and I was happy,’ but it seemed more nurturing to me to say that we leave these things behind and we go on to forge new lives for ourselves.”
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: Kevin and Winnie’s first, sweet kiss in the pilot set in motion an on-again/off-again romance that many viewers had to assume was the comedy’s ultimate endgame. –M.M.
Liza and Charles, Younger
WHY THEY WERE DOOMED: After spending the show’s entire final season finding their way back to one another, the world’s two biggest HR nightmares called it quits (again!) after about five minutes in Younger’s polarizing series finale. In a nutshell, Charles didn’t like that Liza secretly submitted him for an exclusive artists’ retreat, and that she wouldn’t have told him if he didn’t get in.
WHY WE WISH THEY’D MADE IT: The crazy thing is that we were actually #TeamJosh for most of the show’s run, but after seeing him settle into his parenthood era, we made the difficult decision to switch to #TeamCharles. And this is how the show thanked us? With a quick split, followed by an ambiguous finale-ending moment between Liza and Josh that had us rethinking the previous seven years of our lives? No thank you. –A.S.
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