It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time when we sit back and recall all the moments this year that made us weep into our couch cushions over fictional people on our television screens. For what is the point of scripted television if not to emotionally stir the soul?
We cried along as people suffered immense pain, celebrated great joy, fell in love, and yes, spoke to dead people. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it all. They say the best way to cry is alone in your shower, but we here at Vulture believe crying is best done together. Before the tears in my eyes render me unable to type, let’s talk about the ten most tear-inducing moments of TV in 2018.
10. Dre and Bow’s separation starts to feel very real (Black-ish)
The end of Black-ish’s season four saw stalwart couple Dre and Bow confront the fact that their 20-year marriage just wasn’t working anymore. They find one another exhausting, nothing one does is good enough for the other, no one is listening to each other, and honestly, their marital breakdown will make you rethink ever wanting to replace your kitchen sink again. When they tell their kids that Mom and Dad are going to take some time apart, the kids are somewhat upset, but things remain relatively normal — until they have one of their ugly, painful arguments in the middle of Junior’s graduation party. It’s so upsetting that even our favorite possible sociopath Diane breaks down into actual tears of confusion before running off. As hard as that is to watch, it’s affable, doofy Junior having to step up and yell at his parents to “stop pretending everything is okay” that really packs the emotional punch.
9. Patrick serenades David (with an acoustic guitar, no less!) and the world swoons (Schitt’s Creek)
“It’s not scary or embarrassing for the person you’re dating to sing at you with an acoustic guitar in front of people,” says David Rose, clearly panicking at the prospect of his fairly newish boyfriend, Patrick, singing during an open-mic night at their specialty store, Rose Apothecary. Even his mother, Moira, is on stand-by, should he need the fire alarm pulled. But then Patrick opens his mouth and sings a gorgeous acoustic cover of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best,” and David is moved. Moira is moved. WE ARE ALL MOVED. An open-mic night has never been so romantic! Even David, expert builder of emotional walls, can’t help but let a few crumble as he watches Patrick express such sweet adoration. The world deserves to cry joyous, heartfelt tears like this, I think as I listen to this song on repeat and cry into a bottle of high-end face cream that would make David Rose proud.
8. Jackson and April suffer one last trauma together (Grey’s Anatomy)
Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy to send off a longtime character by putting her through one last life-or-death situation. As if April Kepner hasn’t suffered enough, Grey’s! Before April scrubbed out for her last time, she ended up in a horrific car accident that left her hypothermic and unconscious. It sucks for her because, well, she’s hypothermic and unconscious, but great for us because it gave us one last emotional scene between April and Jackson, her baby daddy, best friend, and — let’s all be honest with ourselves — her true soul mate (I don’t care whom she married before she left!). Jackson discovers that April is dying and he (of course) goes to her bedside! He weeps! April has to live! In a last-ditch effort, the well-documented Man of Science prays to God to save this woman. And you guessed it — she wakes up. Jesse Williams has never been better on the show, and it was a final reminder that Jackson and April were always better together.
7. Xo and Rogelio confront the realities of her disease (Jane the Virgin)
Jane the Virgin’s always good for emotional moments (both happy and sad tears live in the Villanueva house), and season four was no different. Between Alba getting her citizenship to, um, hello, the huge reveal that Michael is alive, there was lots to cry (and scream) about. The heaviest emotional arc was no doubt the aftermath of Xiomara’s stage 3 breast-cancer diagnosis. Jane didn’t shy away from the effects surgery and chemo can have both physically and emotionally, and the story line added layers to both Xo’s character and Xo and Rogelio’s marriage. In one truly gutting moment, Rogelio finds Xo at the diner where she and her chemo buddy Donna, who has suddenly died, would go every week. Xo and Rogelio come to terms with the idea that this disease isn’t over when the chemo is and dying is a possibility. For two characters typically involved in the lighter story lines, this scene is a real doozy. When Rogelio cries, the world cries with him.
6. Our little Adams Foster babies leave the nest (The Fosters)
The most bittersweet tears to appear on this list belong to the final scene in the series finale of The Fosters. In the end, the Adams Fosters didn’t need a “through the years” montage, or one final mama heart-to-heart (although those are forever and always welcome) to leave us in tears. Instead, those gorgeous, messy, infuriating, wonderful Adams Fosters simply walked through their empty house one last time, took a quick family photo out front, and said their good-byes before each moving on to the next big adventure. It didn’t hurt that the entire sequence was set to Kyler England’s “This Is Our Time,” a song filled with so much hope and promise. Seeing this family that had survived all the drama and trauma the world (also, the writers) could throw at them go take on the world was enough to reduce any longtime viewer to a mere puddle. Our babies are all grown up!
5. “I learned a secret: There’s no without.” (The Haunting of Hill House)
Sure, the finale of The Haunting of Hill House is polarizing in its schmaltziness, but the saddest (and scariest, duh) show of the year wanted to give the haunted Crain family a little closure — don’t they deserve at least that? Dead Nell appears to her siblings in the Red Room and tells them each what they need to hear, granting them forgiveness, freeing them of their guilt, and assuring them, especially her twin, Luke, that she is always with them. It’s a catharsis that they all so desperately needed. After ten hours of being immersed in the heaviness of the Crain children’s grief and loss, it’s a catharsis that we as an audience needed, too. Just because it was a surprisingly saccharine ending to their story, doesn’t mean the emotion felt any less real. And hey, I’ll take tears of catharsis over ones of straight-up fear any day.
4. Penelope refuses to say good-bye to her mom (One Day at a Time)
Lydia has always seemed larger than life, so the visual of her in a hospital bed after being put in a medically induced coma is jarring enough to elicit an emotional response. But the season-two finale of One Day at a Time doesn’t stop there. It has each character come in and deliver sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking monologues to the unconscious matriarch. By the time you get to Penelope telling her mother that all she wants is for her to wake up and argue with her, and that she will NOT say good-bye, your tear ducts have already been warmed up. It’s no wonder you might let out a sob or four when Penelope, now in tears herself, tells her mother that she raised her so well, she knows they’ll all be okay, should she need to let go. And honestly, if you aren’t crying by the time Penelope crawls into the hospital bed to lay next to her mother and begins singing “Cielito Lindo,” I have some serious questions about your health.
3. Philip and Elizabeth pay the price for their double lives (The Americans)
Train platforms are notoriously sad locales (what with all the leaving and everything), but has one ever provided such an emotional gut-punch as the one on which Paige Jennings stands as her parents helplessly watch her fade into the distance as their train pulls away? I mean, no. It was hard enough to watch our sexy, conflicted Soviet spy couple grapple with their decision to leave son Henry behind as they flee to the motherland after being made by the F.B.I., and then just as they think they’ve safely duped authorities on a surprise passport check and will easily make it to Canada, Elizabeth looks out her window and sees her daughter standing there. Paige has chosen to stay behind and she’ll probably never see her again. The typically stoic Elizabeth can’t hold back her tears and Philip comes to sit beside her — disguises be damned — as they realize the true cost of their part in the Cold War is their family. The whole devastating sequence plays out to the perfectly selected tune of U2’s “With or Without You.” So, yes, Bono is going to make you cry.
2. Jack dies, ruins candy bars (This Is Us)
If you make a list of weepiest TV moments of the year and don’t include This Is Us, does it even exist? Though the NBC drama once again provided ample opportunities for a lady to get her cry on, the scene that packs the biggest emotional wallop is the one we’ve been waiting for all along: Jack’s death. Made extra devastating by the fact that Jack walked out of his burning home alive and seemingly well, we have to watch Rebecca process in real time the fact that while she was on the phone setting up a hotel room for her family and buying a Mars bar at the vending machine, the love of her life died alone in a hospital room a few feet away after a heart attack due to smoke inhalation. She cycles through denial and confusion until she walks into her husband’s room to figure out what’s going on and the truth hits her like a train. We only see Jack’s lifeless body on the bed through a reflection on the door, but it’s all we need. Cripes, even that door looks like it wants to grow arms so it can hold Rebecca as she collapses to the floor in anguish.
1. Blanca and Pray Tell duet at an AIDS ward (Pose)
Honestly, how does one look Billy Porter in the face without tearing up after watching Pose’s emotionally devastating “Love Is the Message”? As ball emcee Pray Tell dealing with the fact that his boyfriend Costas is dying of AIDS, Porter rips out your heart multiple times. His speech about losing more friends to AIDS than people could count? Promising his dying boyfriend that he will continue to live a life that’s loud and joyful after he’s gone? THAT DONNY HATHAWAY SONG? Still, the showstopping moment of the episode comes when Blanca, who like Pray Tell is HIV positive, shows up to sing at the cabaret Pray Tell is hosting in Costas’s AIDS ward. She belts out a gorgeous rendition of “Home” from The Wiz, but after seeing a woman ravaged by AIDS, after looking into her possible future, she can’t go on — so Pray Tell gets up and they finish the song together. Maybe you’ll cry because of the soaring vocals. Maybe you’ll cry because you’re watching two friends who have become family singing about home being a place “where love’s overflowing,” like the community they’ve helped create. Maybe you’ll cry because Blanca and Pray Tell are attempting to inject even the smallest amount of joy in the grimmest of places. Just know, you’ll be crying.