I don’t know that I would call myself an expert when it comes to love triangles, but I’ve watched a lot of them play out in television and movies over the years, so I know what I like. I know some people hate love triangles with a passion because they wonder why a couple can’t be allowed to exist without any drama. And to those of you who say that: that is not how things work and it is boring to watch! Please log into Archive of Our Own and read a fan fiction instead.
Since I recently had a love triangle win (see entry #1 on this list), I thought I would rank some love triangles. These are some I enjoy and some that I hate, and they’re ranked based on how much I wanted to throw things at the screen while I watched them play out.
Ricky, Gina, and EJ on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
I’ve been hooked on this show since the Season 1 for one reason and one reason only: Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Gina (Sofia Wylie). This is a bold statement, considering Season 1 is all about how Ricky is pining for his ex Nini (Olivia Rodrigo), who begins the season dating EJ (Matt Cornet). But like any eagle-eyed viewer, I paid attention to Ricky and Gina’s interactions, as they both navigated East High’s theater department for the first time. There’s clear chemistry between Bassett and Wylie that showrunner Tim Federle decided to write to, but of course there had to be some obstacles first.
Ricky and Nini get back together in the Season 1 finale; in Season 2, we see Gina attempt to distance herself from Ricky because her feelings for him are too strong for her to consider being friends with him while he’s in a relationship. She then starts something up with EJ. I don’t mind EJ, but High School Musical Season 3 shows that he and Gina are clearly at different points in their lives, what with EJ working to figure out what he wants now that he’s graduated from high school. There’s a similar structure to Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) getting together on The Office, in the sense that we’ve seen Gina pine after Ricky, but we haven’t seen Ricky pine after Gina; this is what Season 3 is all about. The build-up has been right in front of our eyes since the beginning. There’s history between the two of them, and this just so happens to be the first time that they’re both single at the same time and finally could be together.
And yet, I’ve seen some people say that Ricky has more chemistry with EJ. But that’s just because some people hate to see a Black woman win. Ricky and Gina is the thing that makes the most sense for High School Musical – though I also have to remind myself that this is technically a teen show, meaning I’m not the target audience. Even so, if you say that Ricky and Gina don’t make sense together, we clearly have not been watching the same thing.
Aggravation Meter: 2/10, but only because seeing fan takes on this never fails to piss me off.
Paxton, Devi, and Ben on Never Have I Ever
I’ve gone on record saying that this is a love triangle I enjoy watching play out for two reasons. One is that Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is messy no matter what she does and I understand the appeal of both Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison). And two is that I also find that as each season progresses, I keep changing my mind about which side I’m on. In Never Have I Ever Season 1, I was solidly Team Ben and I didn’t think anything could change that. I’m a very stubborn person, so once I pick something, I stick to it. But Season 2 managed to surprise me by turning me Team Paxton. With more character development, I found myself warming up to him. By the end of Never Have I Ever Season 2 I was sold; it made sense at that moment for him and Devi to be together.
Now that Never Have I Ever Season 3 is out, though, I like to call myself Team Devi: in the end, I really just want her to be happy. Whether she ends up with Paxton or Ben, I don’t think I’ll care either way, just as long as she is able to heal and figure herself out.
Aggravation Meter: 2.5/10 for any moments that Ben and Paxton made me scream at them for being dumb teenage boys.
Conrad, Belly, and Jeremiah in The Summer I Turned Pretty
Here’s an entry from the Jenny Han Cinematic Universe. I haven’t read The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy, so I actually have no idea how this one ends, but I think I can make a safe guess that I’ll probably be disappointed, even though I know some parts of the television adaptation have certainly veered off from the books. I’m normally a huge fan of the childhood-best-friends-to-lovers trope, but in this instance I don’t find myself rooting for Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Belly (Lola Tung). Maybe I’m at a point in my life where when I watch teen romances I just wish for all the characters to get therapy rather than be in a relationship, but Conrad certainly needs an attitude adjustment before he starts anything with Belly. He’s rude to her for much of The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 1, taking out his anger over other issues on her.
While he’s busy moping, Conrad’s brother Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) swoops in and frankly makes more of a case that he could actually be there for Belly in a relationship at that point. Of course, it’s never that simple, and it’s clear that Belly is always going to feel something for Conrad; so, unlike with HSMTMTS, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for this love triangle to go my way.
Aggravation Meter: 5.5/10 for Conrad’s behavior.
Dan, Serena, and Nate on Gossip Girl
There is not a character on Gossip Girl who has not pissed me off in some way or another, and frankly these three get on my nerves more than anyone else. I’ve rewatched this series multiple times, and I stand by my claim that Dan (Penn Badgley) and Serena (Blake Lively) were very cute together in their Season 1, lovey-dovey teenagers phase. Any other time they tried to get back together after that was simply a mistake.
Enter Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), the entire reason that Serena fled Manhattan in the first place. To me, he will always be her “one that got away,” which is why this particular love triangle irks me so much. A lot of the issues surrounding Dan and Serena’s relationship have to do with the fact that Dan fell in love with the idea of Serena far before he really knew her, and she’s never able to live up to the version of herself that Dan always imagined. I’ve always found Nate to be a better match for her: he’s known the real Serena his entire life and loves her for who she is. Serena is also responsible for her own misfortunes because she was never truly able to decide between Dan and Nate. I have never seen a more wishy-washy individual than Serena Van der Woodsen on my television screen.
Aggravation Meter: 7.5/10 for Serena’s indecision and also the fact that she should NOT have ended up with Dan.
Nick, Ingrid, and Murphy on Partner Track
This love triangle upset me mainly because I found myself unable to root for anyone in it. Murphy (Dominic Sherwood) and Ingrid (Arden Cho) are both awful people, and Nick (Rob Heaps) is simply so boring that I wanted to cry. I question a lot of Ingrid’s choices throughout Partner Track Season 1, but the one I question most is why she entertained Nick’s advances to begin with, since she clearly didn’t like him that much. Here is my message to Ingrid: Just because he is nice and rich doesn’t mean he is your soulmate, especially when you are rich on your own! Why waste his time and accept his proposal when you clearly still have feelings and tension with Murphy?
This love triangle also upset me because I’m tired of interracial relationships that for some reason must include a white person onscreen. Believe it or not, an interracial relationship doesn’t have to have a white person in it at all. But if you told that to certain television executives, I think they would either pretend they didn’t hear you or spontaneously combust. (I also realize that this sounds silly because the HSMTMTS love triangle involves a person of color and two white people – but I like all of those characters, so I can let it slide.)
Aggravation Meter: 8/10 for the number of times I yelled at Ingrid that she was going to hell.
Jack, Kate, and Sawyer on LOST
I stand by a statement I once made that no other love triangle will ever annoy me as much as the one between Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), and Sawyer (Josh Holloway). Mind you, I inhaled all of LOST in under a month during the middle of the pandemic, so I come at this show from a binge watcher’s perspective rather than as someone who waited week-to-week for six years.
For me, a love triangle is successful only when I can understand why a person would choose either option. And I just cannot understand why anyone would willingly choose to be with Jack Shephard, especially when Jack and Kate try to make a go of it when they get back to California and he treats her terribly. I also feel like Kate just enjoyed both Jack and Sawyer’s attention, which is yet another reason that some of this love triangle felt drawn out. (I once called Kate the “Queen of Mixed Signals,” another declaration I stand by.)
Until Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) shows up in LOST Season 3 and it’s clear that she’s Sawyer’s soulmate, I was staunchly Team Sawyer when it came to the show’s initial love triangle. I’m thankful they didn’t draw the drama out over the entire series, though, because three seasons of following it were definitely enough.
Aggravation Meter: 10/10 because Jack should’ve ended up alone.