Sometimes, you just need a good cry. Good thing that television provided ample opportunity to shed a tear or two (or buckets, but who’s counting?) in 2017. We suffered through tragic TV deaths, celebrated personal and professional wins, and also This Is Us was on. All cry-worthy events. As we near the end of the year, Vulture looks back at ten TV moments that brought the tears. Of course, crying over fictional people is subjective and deeply personal, and if some of the scenes that wrecked you didn’t make the cut, it doesn’t mean they weren’t worthy of your tears. You go on and let it out, sweetie! Now, grab a box of tissues and hold a friend’s hand as we revisit the biggest tear-jerking TV moments of 2017.
Lena and Stef get remarried (The Fosters)
Let’s start this tearful journey with a moment that called for a happy cry. The Fosters matriarchs Lena and Stef got themselves involved in a sham divorce due to some financial issues (mortgages! Liens! All very dramatic!), but when the opportunity arose in season four’s “The Long Haul”, these two ladies wanted to reaffirm their love for one another and have the hard-fought paperwork to prove it. Their love, their marriage, and their family deserved to be official. Cut to the mamas surprising their entire family by sauntering down the aisle in a backyard wedding, moving us all to tears with their vows, and then topping it all off with a hardcore makeout sesh in the rain. Ah, love.
“Can you taste the ice cream, Mom?” (BoJack Horseman)
Ah, yes, the time a cartoon horse made us cry very real tears. BoJack has always craved his mother’s love, and that estranged, tense relationship is put front and center in season four, as BoJack learns Beatrice has dementia. “Time’s Arrow” is a powerful half-hour spent inside Beatrice’s mind, and gives us a glimpse into her life and the reasons she is so cold to her son. When BoJack brings his mother to a less-than-idyllic nursing home and she asks where she is, he could have been cruel, but instead he paints her a comforting picture of the family lakehouse and the ice cream her father never allowed her to eat. Yes, they are talking animated horses, but the moment is so sad and so touching, it’ll wreck you all the same.
Dustin at the Snow Ball (Stranger Things 2)
Dustin worked so hard to perfect his Steve Harrington–inspired, Farrah Fawcett–built hair, and what does he get for it? Nothing. He walks into the Snow Ball a confident kid, but after multiple rejections and watching his friends pair off and hit the dance floor, poor Dustin is left a sad sack. Luckily, badass Demogorgon-hunter Nancy Wheeler will not stand for it. She asks Dustin to dance, simultaneously upping his cred and building his self-esteem. She also tells him that he’s her favorite of her brother’s friends and that one day, girls will realize what a catch he is. Basically, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important, Dustin.” And we cry, not because we’re emotionally exhausted from The Upside Down shenanigans, but because we’ve all felt that sting of middle-school rejection. How could you not when Dustin makes that goofy little smile?
Meredith Grey wins the Harper Avery award (Grey’s Anatomy)
Meredith has had it rough. But finally, in season 14 (in the 300th episode of Grey’s Anatomy!) we got to watch our girl achieve her greatest dream: She wins the coveted Harper Avery award. Meredith gets the news while still in an OR (she wouldn’t stop working to go to the ceremony, because that’s who she is), and as her friends and colleagues give her a standing ovation from the surgical gallery above, Meredith looks up and sees the ghost of her mother applauding, too. Finally, at long last, her mother is proud of her. It is as moving and emotional as any of the tear-jerking tragedies on Grey’s Anatomy, but this one is even better, because this time we get to cry tears of joy.
Rayna James dies (Nashville)
The death of country queen Rayna James was tough to stomach — don’t make Daphne cry, show! — but also, inevitable. Word had spread that series star Connie Britton had only signed on for a handful of episodes in season five, and there was no way Rayna would just walk away from her family and career. After all Rayna and Deacon had been through (and all we’d been through with them), there was no scenario in the world in which Rayna would bail on the love of her life. So, car accident it is. In the end, Rayna is surrounded by her daughters and husband, singing to her with their angel voices, as she enters the big recording studio in the sky. We are all Bucky, silently weeping on our sofas.
Serena Joy visits Offred’s daughter (The Handmaid’s Tale)
So much of The Handmaid’s Tale induced angry, horrified tears, but this moment in the season finale called for the angriest and most horrified. Offred may be the one who is pregnant, but Serena Joy is still the one who’s in charge. To remind her of this fact, Serena Joy locks Offred in a van while she goes and has a chat with Offred’s long-lost daughter, right in front of her. Offred is just out of reach of the reunion she’s willed herself to survive for, but all she can do inside that locked van is claw at the windows and scream. It is as evil a power play as it gets, and Serena Joy’s threat guts Offred. Elisabeth Moss’s performance guts the rest of us.
#TeamMichael suffers the toughest loss (Jane the Virgin)
Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Way back in season one of Jane the Virgin, Our Dear Narrator promised that Michael would love Jane “until he drew his very last breath.” Shame on us for not realizing how soon that last breath would take place. Even the episode itself preps us for the devastating final act: Michael casually mentions not feeling well but attributes it to nerves for his LSAT, we revisit an early Jane and Michael date, and by the time Michael leaves for his big test and Our Narrator tells us that Jane would replay this moment over and over, we know something is up. That’s when Jane’s soulmate, Michael Cordero, collapses and dies from an unseen injury related to his gunshot wound from Sin Rostro. Jane gets the news and doubles over, wailing. The show jumped forward three years so that the characters wouldn’t have to stew in their grief. We are not so lucky.
Randall says good-bye to William (This Is Us)
This list could be filled with just moments from This Is Us, the weepiest drama to ever make a person weep. But there can only be one because those are the arbitrary rules we set for ourselves, and so it falls to the show’s saddest moment yet: the death of William Hill. Knowing that his cancer has run its course, William takes long-lost son Randall on a road trip to Memphis to learn about where he came from. The entire episode is gorgeous, but it’s that final scene in the hospital bed that really packs a wallop. With his last few breaths, William tells Randall that the two best things in his life were “the person in the beginning and the person at the end.” And then Randall holds William’s face and keeps him calm until he passes. Be right back, Sterling K. Brown’s single tear and I need to have a moment.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get your dad’s sweater back” (Halt and Catch Fire)
The aftermath of Gordon’s sudden death was bound to be a gut-punch. Just thinking about Donna and Cam’s conversation about missing Gordon (and missing each other) makes me tear up. Gordon diving off a cliff and into the water? Yep, that one also gets me going. But the scene that hits hardest is Joe MacMillan, sitting at the dinner table with Gordon’s people, unable to speak until he finally apologizes to Haley for accidentally donating the one sweater of her father’s she wanted to keep. Haley is fine, she’s moved past it, and the dinner continues. But the camera lingers on Joe as his eyes well up; he’s doing everything he can to not have a breakdown at the table. It’s a quiet moment that speaks volumes about loss and grief.
Nora and Kevin reunite (The Leftovers)
Who knew that all along The Leftovers was a love story? It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe Nora went to the other side and came back, or if it’s just a story she tells herself to deal with her grief, because Kevin believes it. Kevin believes it because he loves Nora. The scene is packed with close-ups of Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux, who act their faces off. It’s two sad, lonely people finding comfort in one another once again. Kevin puts it simply: Why wouldn’t I believe her? She’s here isn’t she? And Nora, in tears, echoes him: “I’m here,” she says. In a show about suffering loss and the grief of missing people, those words are really all either Kevin or Nora could hope for. They both are crying, they reach for each other’s hands, that familiar music swells, and we pan out of the house. That damn music. It gets me every time.