by Billie Doux
[Please note that there are spoilers for The Walking Dead, the original X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer below.]
Shipping. (1) transporting an item through the mail; (2) a number of ships, especially merchant ships, taken as a whole; tonnage. (3) rooting for fictional romance to happen, short for "relationshipping".
Before I begin, I must explain how non-shippy I am. (No, I'm not being defensive, why do you ask?) As a lifelong science fiction fan, I am accustomed to watching a lengthy television series where very attractive characters living on starships almost never have sex, after all.
Okay, I ship. I admit it. Don't all TV fans ship someone? Television is the perfect medium for shipping. We spend years involved with these characters and sometimes we can't help caring about who they love.
The term "shipping" was originally coined by fans of The X-Files. I watched all of The X-Files when it aired, and while I wasn't obsessed with the show, I was definitely into Mulder and Scully as a couple. (Looking back, it's possible that I was more into the hotness of David Duchovny. He was pretty darned hot.)
For many fans, The X-Files was all about the ship. The show was about a man and a woman who worked together and were in constant danger, played by two actors with exceptional chemistry who could generate sexual heat during a dry exchange about autopsies. Back in the nineties, producers never gave the fans what they wanted. You could ship until the cows came home (and then you could beat up the cows), but rarely would that couple actually get together.
But eventually, even the suits had to admit that Mulder and Scully belonged together, and it happened. Except by that time, it was too little, too late. Anticlimactic, as it were. And sometimes it's true that when you finally put a massively shipped couple together, all of the zest and drama goes out of the relationship, like Sam and Diane on Cheers.
For me, when it came to ships, it wasn't The X-Files. It was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was absolutely banana cakes about that show, totally obsessed, and it is still my favorite show ever. I taped the episodes (ah, VHS tapes, I don't miss you) simply to watch the episodes a second time, but wound up saving them and rewatching repeatedly. BtVS was the first show I reviewed, because I simply had to write about it. I can even see my progression as a writer in my Buffy reviews. My early reviews were too brief and superficial, but as the show progressed, I really got into it.
Like many Buffy fans, I was deeply into Buffy and Angel -- at first. There was something so wonderfully "first love" and tragic about Bangel; it dripped with star-crossed emotion, especially after Angel's shocking turn during the last half of season two. But for me, Bangel paled next to the huge, sexy mess that was Buffy's relationship with Spike.
alliance at the end of season two, it was beyond adorable and bristled with romantic chemistry. I have absolutely no idea why the otherwise marvelous third season had practically no Spike, but bringing him back as a cast member in season four was such an obvious move for the producers to make after Angel left Buffy to star in his own show.
As shippable as they were, I'm certain the Buffy writers never even considered the possibility of Buffy and Spike as lovers until they had to. Buffy was our hero and began the series as a virgin, and unlike Angel, Spike had no soul. He was so evil in season two, even though his love for Drusilla made him softer and more relatable. ("I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.") The progression of Spike as a big bad in season two to Buffy's love slave in season six was sort of amazing. When the two of them finally did it (in "Smashed"), their angry passion for each other literally brought down a house. At the time, I was utterly astonished that they went there. Thrilled, too. It was delicious.
Was it the Spuffy fandom that made them go there? It had to be. I doubt that it would have happened if there was no internet (God forbid. I love the internet). I was so into it that I hung around the Buffy boards for months and read posts arguing the Spuffy/Bangel pros and cons ad nauseum. Unfortunately, after the house came down, the Buffy writers did pretty much everything they could to sink Spuffy. Whether they succeeded or not is one for the presidential debates.
How's this for a segue? While I was ruminating about ships and shipping this week, I realized that the Spuffy ship sailed in Buffy's sixth season, right after what many consider to be their best episode ("Once More With Feeling"). Coincidentally, my Walking Dead ship just sailed in this week's episode, "The Next World", also in their sixth season, and also right after an episode that might be their best ("No Way Out").
Rick has had a rough time with his love interests. When The Walking Dead began six seasons ago, Rick's best friend Shane had left him for dead and had run off with Rick's wife Lori and son Carl. After Lori's terrible demise, Rick was so damaged that it took a couple more seasons before he even looked at another woman -- and when he finally did look at Jessie last season, she was a damsel in distress, a battered woman with a husband so important to the community of Alexandria (he was their only doctor) that everyone was averting their gaze and allowing the battering to continue.
Although the Rick/Jessie relationship covered some ground that I considered thought-provoking (what do you do with a man who beats his wife during an apocalypse when prison and therapy aren't options?), Rick's attraction to Jessie was frustrating. I kept thinking, why Jessie? Can't he see that the perfect woman for him is right in front of his eyes, and even living in his house? Michonne has been Rick's friend and equal for such a long time, she has a strong, beautiful relationship with Rick's son Carl and helps them take care of baby Judith. I kept wondering if they weren't going there because of race. If Rick had been black or Michonne white, I would have assumed that the writers intended to put them together.
There have been so many lovely Rick/Michonne moments. Last season, when Rick decided that his people would not join the gated community of Alexandria, Michonne simply overrode his decision, and he let her, because he trusted her judgment. Two weeks ago, in the blow-out episode "No Way Out", Michonne quietly backed Rick up and was simply there for him. She killed someone for him, too. I thought it was touching how she removed his bloody sheet while he was sitting next to his son Carl, completely devastated by what had just happened. She was also the first one to follow him outside to fight, a move that was marginally suicidal.
When Rick and Michonne came together at the end of "The Next World", last Sunday's episode, it didn't feel forced or manufactured. It felt earned. Now that they're together, it doesn't feel like they'll either be (1) artificially pried apart for the sake of drama, or (2) one of them will die. Yes, cast members die all the time on The Walking Dead, but Michonne is one of the most popular characters, and Rick is the lead. The Walking Dead doesn't do the romantic tension thing or the artificial-break-up-for-drama thing. Rick and Michonne as a couple feel right, like a permanent change in the story. (And if I'm wrong and one of them dies at the end of the season, I'm going to be seriously pissed. But I don't think that will happen.)
I spent way too much time reading #Richonne articles on the internet this week. Here are the ones I enjoyed most:
-- Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple's explanation on why he decided to go there with Rick and Michonne
-- Vanity Fair article on The Walking Dead becoming one of the most socially progressive shows on television
-- Adorable interview with Andrew Lincoln about his and Danai Gurira's reaction when they read the script. (Lincoln also said on Talking Dead last week that even his mother shipped Rick and Michonne)
-- About how the actors pushed for the "nude scene with weapons" that followed the love scene
-- A Vulture article with adorable Richonne gifs
-- Twitter went nuts, thankfully in a positive way.
As I said, I've been shipping Rick and Michonne for a couple of years, and the delightful shock of having it actually happen brought back memories of all of that Buffy and Spike intensity. The only other ship I was into in the past few years that even came close was Damon and Elena on The Vampire Diaries, which only got heavier when the actors that played them became a couple. I sure wish that one had ended better, in real life and on screen. For some reason, when Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev broke up, my ship dissolved. Sigh.
Honorable shipping mention:
-- Willow and Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
-- MacLeod and Methos, Highlander (as friends, not lovers)
-- Michael and Nikita, the original La Femme Nikita
-- Ichabod and Abbie, Sleepy Hollow
-- Sierra and Victor, Dollhouse
-- Sawyer and Juliet, Lost
-- Sookie and Eric Northman, True Blood (although that was mostly in the books)
-- Logan and Veronica, Veronica Mars (they had the best portmanteau name, LoVe)
It's your turn. Who do you ship? What was your favorite ship? Post a comment! Doux Reviews contributor Juliette came up with a fun shipping questionnaire, if you like:
Favorite ship, current:
Favorite ship of all time:
Favorite canon ship:
Favorite non-canon ship:
Favorite sunken ship:
A couple you ship but just as friends:
A couple you can’t stand to even think of together:
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction. She also loves cats. Okay, and chocolate.