Well, here we are again, reliving some of the most emotional, tear-jerking moments on scripted television. As someone who just watched a whole host of scenes built to make you cry — way more than just the ten included on this list below — I’ve gotta tell you: We have watched some pretty grim shit this year. Usually I try to include some tears of joy along with tears of gut-wrenching pain in this annual roundup, but not this year. Sure, there are a few bittersweet cries and cathartic cries listed below, but for the most part these tears are painful ones, from heartbreak or death or injustice. And honestly, when you think about 2019 as a whole, that tracks.
So, should you feel like being reminded of fictional moments that made us weep into our sofas this year, below you’ll find a list of ten of the most emotional ones — not ranked, but in chronological order from the date they first aired. As always, if the TV moment that brought you to tears isn’t included, please know that what makes a person feel all of their feelings is a very personal thing. So, like, don’t cry about it, okay? Or, you know what? Maybe do cry about it. We very much approve of letting it all out here.
The Good Place: Eleanor and Chidi watch a montage of their love story before Chidi’s memory is erased
“Pandemonium” (January 24, 2019)
In the “most intricate cork-blork of all time,” our favorite moral philosophy professor must have his memory erased, lest he slip up and ruin the Soul Squad’s experiment to prove humans can be better, condemning humanity to eternal torture when his ex-girlfriend is selected as one of the experiment’s subjects. This means he won’t remember the love of his afterlife, Eleanor. Haven’t Chidi and Eleanor been through enough?! Like, “literal torture for hundreds of years” enough? Yeesh. Before Michael reboots Chidi, he gives the couple a gift — a montage of their relationship. It shows them falling in love, finding each other over and over throughout hundreds of afterlife reboots, and gosh dang it, DANCING IN THE RAIN. If you’re not crying by the time that ends, are you an actual demon? Just to heap on the heartbreak: The two of them promise that they’ll find each other again before saying good-bye. It’s a beautiful little tribute to the couple, made all the more moving by how well-earned the whole moment is. Jeremy Bearimy, baby.
Grey’s Anatomy: The women of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital line the hallways for a patient
“Silent All These Years” (March 28, 2019)
Throughout its 16-season (and counting!) run, Grey’s Anatomy has had countless episodes that packed emotional punches. I mean, you can watch earlier seasons in which every character in a scene is now dead. Grey’s fans have been through a lot, to put it mildly. But one of the show’s most important and emotionally moving episodes came in season 15, when Jo Karev, who just learned that she is the product of rape, takes care of a patient, Abby, who is the victim of a sexual assault. Abby is so terrified of any man that when her doctors tell her that she needs surgery for internal injuries from her attack, she refuses to leave her hospital room. She’s frozen in fear. So, what does Jo do? She gets as many women who work at the hospital to line the hallways between Abby’s room and the OR as she can so that Abby is surrounded by women, so that she can feel safe for even a fleeting moment. It’s a powerful Grey’s Anatomy scene that will stay with you for a very long time.
Schitt’s Creek: Stevie takes the stage to sing “Maybe This Time”
“Life Is a Cabaret” (April 9, 2019)
The big emotional payoff in the Schitt’s Creek season-five finale is our little motel-ier Stevie Budd as Sally Bowles, raising her hands in the air to belt out “maybe this time I’ll win” during the Schitt’s Creek community production of Cabaret, her tears signaling that she’s also exclaiming that sentence for herself — but it’s the buildup to that moment that truly deserves some praise. Moments before Stevie goes onstage, she has a chat with Moira Rose about how she’s happy to see her friends all growing up and moving forward with their lives. “I wish I wasn’t watching it all happen from behind the desk, you know?” she tells Moira, who has a heartfelt response. Yes! Moira! Heartfelt! She tells Stevie that unlike most people, she’s never anyone but herself, that she’s cool, and that she’ll remain so no matter where she ends up — even if she stays in Schitt’s Creek. With an unlikely warm moment to get us primed, no wonder when Stevie infuses everything she’s feeling into her performance that we’re all crying — and that includes TV’s Moira Rose.
Game of Thrones: Brienne of Tarth becomes a knight
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (April 21, 2019)
If you’re down and not even a Lizzo song can make you feel empowered or inspired, may I suggest listening to Jaime Lannister saying “Arise Brienne of Tarth, a knight of the Seven Kingdoms” on a continuous loop? It will make you feel like your dreams can come true and you can conquer the world and all those serums you’ve been drenching your dumb face with will make a difference. Game of Thrones will surely be remembered for its big, bold (and very dark) battles, but it was this quiet, character-driven scene that will stay with me the longest. Lady Brienne finally getting the one thing she wanted most would be emotional however it happened, but having her knighted by Jaime, the one person in the world who knows her better than anyone else? I mean, I’m tearing up just thinking about the moment when she stands and she and Jaime LOOK INTO EACH OTHER’S SOULS. Ser Brienne even let a smile spread across her face. Who among us is not also Tormund clapping loud and proud?
Fleabag: Fleabag and the Priest end things
“Episode 6” (May 17, 2019)
At least we were warned, right? In the first episode of Fleabag’s spectacular second season, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag looks right at us and tells us, “This is a love story.” Still, could anyone have predicted how fully we’d fall for the story of Fleabag and the Priest in just six episodes? From the gasp-worthy moment when the Priest sees her breaking the fourth wall because he is the first person to truly see her to the gasp-worthy-in-a-very-different-and-private-way moment when the Priest tells her to kneel in the confessional, we’re all in. And yet we know exactly what ending we’re hurtling toward. It is inevitable that the Priest will choose his vows to God over his love for Fleabag, yet still, we hope. Perhaps that’s why that final scene at the bus stop hits so hard. Or maybe it’s the way Andrew Scott walks away and tosses out “I love you, too” as both of them are crying. Or that the whole thing is capped off by a whopper of a final look, in which a heartbroken Fleabag says good-bye to us, her private audience, because she doesn’t need us anymore. Could be that, too.
When They See Us: The boys receive their verdicts
“Part Two” (May 31, 2019)
The true story of the Exonerated Five is heartbreaking, disturbing, and anger-inducing to say the least, and in her miniseries telling their story, Ava DuVernay makes sure you feel that the entire time. “Part One” finds the five teenage boys — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise — brutally interrogated by police for hours and coerced into falsely confessing to the rape of a woman in Central Park. It is unbearable to watch. “Part Two” follows suit with the two trials that determine their fates. It’s the final sequence — shot so intimately and unflinchingly, zooming in on each boy and their parents as the guilty verdicts come in — that will completely shatter you. And then there’s the gorgeous shot of Asante Blackk as Richardson, sitting on a chair in the middle of an NYC street, playing his trumpet. A shot you can’t, and shouldn’t, shake off.
Stranger Things: Hopper writes a speech for Eleven
“Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt” (July 4, 2019)
Okay, all right, obviously Hopper isn’t really dead, but that doesn’t mean the letter he writes to Eleven is any less moving when she finally gets to read it. He just sacrificed himself! She thinks her dad is dead! Joyce thinks her best friend is dead! THIS IS SAD. Hopper’s words, the ones he was supposed to say to Eleven when he grew frustrated with all the making out she and Mike were doing behind closed doors, become the voice-over while the Byers family and Eleven are leaving Hawkins and everything is changing. From a character who likes to put on a macho-jerk act, the idea of him sitting down with his teenage daughter to express his feelings, to tell her how she saved him from the darkness, how he’s scared to watch her grow up but knows it’s a good thing, about how leaving Eggo waffles out in the woods changed his life … well, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. In a show about melted rat monsters, it’s these emotional, human moments that ground it and make it something special.
Good Trouble: Dennis and Davia perform “Falling Slowly”
“Twenty-Fine” (July 23, 2019)
If I was put under oath and asked how many times I’ve watched the “Falling Slowly” scene from Good Trouble, my answer would have to be “I haven’t kept count, but I would estimate around 25 times.” If I was then asked how many times I’ve cried while watching that scene, well, that answer would be easy and immediate: “Every time.” Dennis and Davia’s performance at their friend Malika’s birthday party isn’t moving just because “Falling Slowly” could bring you close to tears in any setting, or because Josh Pence and Emma Hunton’s harmonies will make you feel so many things your body might explode — although those two factors certainly heighten the emotion. What really puts things into weeping territory is the beautiful slow-burn relationship we’ve been watching up to this point. Dennis and Davia have quietly fallen in love with one another, but due to some severe emotional baggage they’re each carrying around, neither has been able to admit it. Dennis and Davia’s relationship was one of the best story lines of season 2A, and this scene finds them saying everything they are feeling through this song. If they do not get together soon, I’ll be hurling my patio furniture over my deck.
Unbelievable: Marie thanks Detective Duvall
“Episode 8” (September 13, 2019)
Unbelievable is a show in which you could cry through the entire eight episodes. With anger, frustration, heartache, and utter sadness. From the harrowing tragedy that Marie and the other women live through to the infuriating injustice done to Marie by the police after her sexual assault, it will all make you want to cry. At the very end of the series, however, there’s one much-needed scene. After Marie learns that two detectives in Colorado — Karen Duvall and Grace Rasmussen — have arrested the man who raped her and so many others and that he’s going to prison, after she gets a payout from the city that wronged her, after she forces Detective Parker to apologize for what he put her through when he accused her of lying about her assault, she finally leaves her old life behind her. Standing at the beach, she calls Duvall, having never met her but wanting to thank her, heartbreakingly, for helping restore her sense of hope that good things can happen. It’s a quiet scene, but Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever convey so much emotion in little moments, in facial expressions, in a quiver of their voices. It’s a necessary and gorgeous catharsis.
Riverdale: Archie breaks down after the death of his father
“In Memoriam” (October 9, 2019)
It’s almost impossible to separate the death of Riverdale’s stalwart dad Fred Andrews from the death of Luke Perry, the beloved actor who portrayed him, within this episode dedicated to the late Perry. The plot has Archie receiving the news that his father was killed in a hit-and-run while being a Good Samaritan, but it’s clear that all of the actors’ real pain over the loss of their friend and colleague is bleeding through. Any shot of Perry, either in a photo or quick flashback, is especially heartbreaking. In the obituary Jughead writes in honor of Fred, he notes that “he left Riverdale better than when he found it,” which could certainly also be said of Perry. The most gutting scene comes when Archie breaks down over losing his father, crying out that Fred would be ashamed of him; the pain of this loss is fully displayed. It’s an emotional hour of television, to say the least, and a fitting memoriam for the actor.