20 Times TV Made Us Weep in 2018
This year, even the comedy shows cued the waterworks.
Sometimes, after a long day, all you want to do is curl up on your couch and get emotional over the lives of a bunch of fictional characters. Even if you know it's all fake—even if you know everything in your TV, from the characters to the situations, is carefully scripted—great, cry-worthy TV is still a welcome distraction. And boy, on that front, did 2018 sure deliver.
From emotionally charged dance routines (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) to ill-fated familial reunions (The Handmaid's Tale) to gut-punch deaths (uh, pretty much every show), here are the most tear-jerking moments that aired on the small screen in 2018. So read on and weep on. Just make sure the tissues are close. (Also—and it should go without saying—there are spoilers here at every turn.)
Hulu's hit miniseries came back with an unexpected (it was supposed to be a one-off) but much appreciated second season, and it leaned even harder into the dark, painful heartbeat of each script. It seemed as though the show set out to break our hearts in new ways every week, but the outstanding moment was when June ( Elisabeth Moss) is finally able to see her daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake), for the first time since the two were riven apart in the pilot episode.
As audience members, we know that Hannah is what keeps June going—the prospect of getting to see and save her daughter is the only hope she can cling onto in a new world that beats her down at every corner. So, coming into this scene we are already aware of the emotional significance.
On top of that, we, and June herself, know that the reunion will be brief, and that they will be torn apart from one another again. What makes this scene so heartbreaking is watching June work so hard to be strong for her daughter. Because Moss is such an incredible actor, and the show is shot with such exquisite, extreme close-up shots, we're able to so clearly see the pain in June's eyes that she is attempting to mask so that her daughter can feel comfort in this moment. The moment Hannah is taken from June again is so impactful it was legitimately excruciating to watch.
Bojack Horseman continues to be one of the most innovative, well-written shows on television, and this episode ("Free Churro") takes the cake in terms of risk-taking perfection. The entire episode is Bojack (voiced by Will Arnett) delivering a speech at his mother's funeral and, like the show itself, it seamlessly flip flops between—and at times weaves together—bleak truths and hilarious punchlines. Like any good tragedy, the hardest hitting moment comes at the climax.
After a long rant of inappropriate jokes and comments, Bojack finally speaks carefully about his mother. "My mother understood what it's like to feel your entire life you're drowning, with the exception of these moments, these very rare brief instances, in which you suddenly remember…you can swim," he says. Bojack continues by commenting on how he only understood happiness by watching it acted out on television (points for meta-commentary), and how even in sitcoms happiness is fleeting because shows need conflict. "But there's nothing more realistic than that. You never get a happy ending because there's always more show—I guess, until there isn't." And now we let the waterworks flow.
The second season of this Netflix series had its ups and downs, but this episode ("AKA Three Lives and Counting") lives in the former. Kilgrave (David Tennant) is back, which is perhaps what makes it such a standout—he and Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) have undeniable chemistry on screen, albeit one that's underwritten with toxic chemistry.
Kilgrave arrives in the beginning of the episode as figment of Jones' imagination—a manifestation of her guilt (for murdering someone) and self-hate. The entire thirty-seven minutes is a beautiful, heart-wrenching depiction of trauma, and it is perfectly set up when Kilgrave tells Jones, "I'll be in your dreams too. I'm inside you forever," when she tries to brush his presence off as a result of lack of sleep.
Anyone who is haunted by an abuser hears this line and is ready to have their heart ripped out. And that is exactly what happens at the end, but it's done in such an empowering, moving way. Jones has another conversation with Kilgrave, which again perfectly captures how an abuser dwells in your mind and plays the role of Devil's Advocate; she says she's enough, he tells her she isn't, et cetera, et cetera. It's a back-and-forth with her self-worth on the table. As she looks out at the city lights—which we see over her reflection in the window, in what may very well be 2018's most haunting single shot—she says to Kilgrave, "I can control myself. And that makes me more powerful than you ever were." With that, he is gone, and so is our ability to stay composed.
If there's one show that takes the cake for weepiness points, it's the one that was literally invented with the sole purpose of making us cry our eyes out. What did we do to these writers that made them want to hurt us so badly? An episode called "Number One" seems to really have it out for viewers; it centers on the heartbreaking storyline of Kevin (Justin Hartley) as he struggles with his substance use and emotional baggage.
A series of small tragedies take place, but the one that twists the knife the most is when he realizes that he has lost the necklace his deceased father gave him. He returns to the house of the woman he had just slept with (a thing he did in order to steal her prescription pills) and yells out for her over and over on her lawn. The whole scene is really just Kevin yelling out for help in general, and it goes on for just long enough for you to share his feeling of agony.
The impeccably written and performed dramedy toyed with our heartstrings throughout this entire season, especially with the storyline of Xo (Andrea Navedo) being diagnosed with cancer. The fourth season also brought us in closer to Alba's (Ivonne Coll) journey of receiving U.S. citizenship, something she has wanted for a long time. In this episode ("Chapter Seventy-Nine"), these two plot lines come together for perhaps the most emotional moment of the season.
Xo is very ill at this point, can barely walk, and is hooked up to multiple bags and IV's. Being the firecracker she is, she insists on joining Alba and Jane (Gina Rodriguez) for their trip to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Alba's citizenship test. They arrive without much time, and because Xo can't walk well, she tells them to run ahead of her. The guard informs Alba and Jane that they are two minutes too late and therefore Alba cannot take her test. Just when all hope seems lost, Xo struggles her way inside and stands up for her mother. When the guard refuses her too, she opens her sweater and exposes all of the bags, tubes, and needles hooked up to her. The guard tries to look away, but Xo doesn't let him and doesn't stop until he agrees to let Alba in. After a season of watching Xo struggle with being physically weak, seeing her be vulnerable with that while being so emotionally strong is truly a tear-jerker.
HBO's latest and hottest drama sure wasn't light on moments of gravitas. But nothing hit harder than, in the season finale, when Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), son of scion Logan Roy (Bryan Cox), falls into his dad's embrace, finally receiving the fatherly affection he has longed for all this time.
The tender moment is earned after a tedious, drama-packed episode in which Kendall leaves a wedding after a public, passive aggressive feud with Logan to go for a drive with a cater-waiter who supposedly has cocaine. Kendall has to drive because the cater-waiter isn't high on cocaine, but rather ketamine (a downer), and he ends up steering off of a bridge and crashing into the river. He tries to save the waiter but fails, and then simply walks back to the wedding.
In itself, the act is despicable (vehicular manslaughter at best), but even more so is the fact that Logan comes to his son and implies that he will "take care" of this—so long as the two make amends. So, they make amends. And despite the horrifying nature of the situation, it still evokes empathy for Kendall, as we see him break into sobs and retreat to a childlike figure as he leans on his father.
The recently released four-episode docuseries brings us behind the scenes of Ariana Grande's "Dangerous Woman" tour. The first three episodes are mostly playful and fun, and give us an inside look at the charismatic pop sensation's daily life. The final episode addresses the terrorist attack that took place at her concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, which left 23 dead and 139 injured—most of whom were children.
Grande wrote an open letter and released it in this episode. It expresses her sorrow over the horrible tragedy, and in the end says that, while she'll never understand or be able to get over what took place, the love the people of Manchester showed her inspires her to keep moving, keep loving, and to not let hate win.
After the letter, we are given a full, live performance of Grande singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at a concert after the attack. Her powerful voice is often enough to bring one to tears, and the emotion is only maximized by Grande tearing up during the performance herself. She breaks down at moments, but always perseveres and continues to hit every note with perfect pitch. It eloquently encapsulates her message to keep singing in times of darkness, and there are plenty of tears left to cry while watching it.
Say what you will about 2018, it is the year that gave us the reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—the new and improved version entitled Queer Eye. It's a challenge to get through just one episode of this show without crying, but "To Gay or Not Too Gay" was an episode that really brought people to their knees.
In this episode, the crew sets out to makeover AJ Brown, a sweet young man who has lost his father and remains close to his stepmother. He was never able to tell his father that he was gay before he passed, and he lives with that regret. Now, he decides that, with the help of the fab five, he will come out to his stepmother. It all culminates at a house party, where AJ has invited his friends, his partner, and his stepmom. He's clearly very nervous, as he has expressed his uncertainty over how she will receive the news, but once he tells her his truth she immediately accepts and embraces him. It's incredibly heartfelt and we suggest watching it either alone or with people you don't mind ugly-crying in front of.
Yes, we already talked about The Handmaid's Tale, but, as previously touched on, the season was so devastating that it deserves additional coverage. The episode "After" puts Moira (Samira Wiley) at the center, something the show should do more often. (Wiley is an extremely gifted actor, and at times it feels like the show-runners don't fully utilize her talents.)
In this episode, we learn that, before the war, she was in a relationship. Flashbacks show us how they ended up together and how deeply in love they fell. In the present, we watch Moira dig through Canadian government documents, trying to track her partner down. In the end, she stumbles upon a graphic photo of her lover, dead on the ground with bullet wounds. As usual, Wiley gives a stunning, raw performance as she completely crumbles looking at what she feared—and deep down knew—to be true. Have fun blowing your nose after this one.
This show seems to have put a curse on its viewers, making it so we cry every time Annalise (Viola Davis) cries. (Or perhaps it's because Davis is such a convincing, talented actor? That's definitely it.) The ninth episode of the fourth season ("He's Dead") draws parallels from one of the series' most emotional scenes of all, in which we saw a flashback of how Annalise tragically lost her child in an accident while she was pregnant.
In "He's Dead," we're reminded of this tragedy when Laurel (Karla Souza) gives birth and her son is immediately taken from her. Annalise comes to comfort her in the hospital, and hands her a photo of her baby. This is a callback to when Annalise held her dead baby in her arms, and the nurse took a photo, which Annalise still has. Now, it is Laurel who lays in a hospital bed and sobs over the child she has lost. The two reach for each other and hold hands—a moment that seems small, but is obviously significant to fans. Both Annalise and Laurel are strong female characters who work hard to live up to the tough exteriors they present, so seeing them be vulnerable with each other leaves an emotional impact on the viewer.
The fourth season of this delightfully hilarious show delivered more sentimental moments than it has in seasons past, and we're not mad about it; the series wears heart well. David (Dan Levy), in particular, is more three-dimensional in this season, as he delves into a committed relationship and begins to let down the walls made of sarcasm that have protected and represented him in the past.
In the episode called "The Olive Branch," David really puts in the effort to but his pride on the line for his boyfriend, Patrick (Noah Reid), by performing a dancing/lip-synching routine for him. As if this isn't adorable enough, the song in question is the same song that Patrick had sung an acoustic version of for David a few episodes back: "The Best," by Tina Turner. David fully commits to the bit, and the scene lets us watch the entire song through. It's too cute for words, and is sure to turn you into a laugh-crying mess.
Always Sunny is one of the few shows on-air that has able to survive without an ounce of sincerity. And it's been able to do so for thirteen seasons, no less. However, the writers took a chance and dropped in a dose of genuine emotion during the episode in which Mac (Rob McElhenney) comes out to his father.
Mac can't find the words he needs in order to tell his dad that he's gay, so he decides to do so through dance instead. What's so amazing about this is that Always Sunny could have easily leaned into comedy in this moment; it's what they do best, after all. But instead, they delivered a five-minute, meticulously shot dance scene between Mac and professional ballerina Kylie Shea, all set to a tune by Sigur Ros—the musical maestros of "sad." It's a contemporary dance between the two, one that McElhenney reportedly spent months preparing for, and to say it's moving is an understatement.
You can easily cry throughout its entirety, but one particularly powerful moment is when Mac's father, unable to accept his son's homosexuality, walks out. Mac is heartbroken, but his dance partner consoles him, and eventually they finish the dance. It's brutally honest and evokes raw emotion, and the fact that the show had never been earnest before makes it hit even harder. We're not crying—you're crying!
If you're looking for an intense show that will have you in pieces, Sharp Objects is the one for you. Amy Adams gives an amazing performance as Camille Preaker, a woman haunted by her traumatic past. She harms herself with cutting (hence the show's title), and is constantly dressed head to toe in black clothing in order to cover up her scars, despite living in the Southern heat. Everything about this show stirs up pain and emotion, but a standout moment is when Camille allows herself to be seen for once.
The situation itself isn't perfect—she's sleeping with a younger man who is being accused of murder—but for the first time someone offers her a moment of relief when he says he wants to see her scars and kisses them tenderly. She not only sheds her clothes, she also sheds the emotional armor she has had on up until this point. For anyone who is familiar with self harm and stigma, this scene will give you chills. And even to those who aren't, it's a beautiful depiction of momentary liberation of trauma that anyone could weep over.
Freeform's hit, magazine industry dramedy knows exactly what it is, and doesn't try to be anything more; this is the show's greatest strength. It's well aware how cheesy it is, and it leans right into the cheese, allowing us to do the same and eat said cheese right up. From afar, some things may not seem worth crying over, but the writers of The Bold Type have expertly created a world that invites viewers to cry over "silly" things.
An example of this is Kat (Aisha Dee) and Adena's (Nikohl Boosheri) breakup. It's a small moment, as both characters quietly come to the conclusion that their partnership is no longer working. It really hits home for anyone who has experienced a passionate love that runs its course (so, most people), and the scene lasts for the perfect amount of time—enough for tears to well up in your eyes, but not so much that you're over it before these two characters are.
As a dramedy, this show usually teeters more towards comedy, and even the parts that do delve into the drama aren't usually tear-jerkers. The scene when Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) finally scream everything they've been holding back all season is the exception to this. Ruth is in the hospital because Debbie injured her during their wrestling match, and it's pretty obvious that it was not an accident. Debbie visits her to see how she's doing, and the tension in the room is palpable. Watching the moments lead up to the verbal fight, you're just as ready as these two character are to get emotional. When the tears begin to well up in both of their eyes, as they get to the core of what's been eating at them and their relationship all along, you'll find your own vision blurring.
In its fourteenth season, Grey's Anatomy is still making us choke up. It's also still making us believe that pretty much every employee of Grey Sloan Hospital will end up in a freak accident that leads to them either dying or almost dying in the hospital they work at. Realistic? Eh. Worth crying over? Huge yes.
In the 23rd episode of the latest season, April (Sarah Drew) is brought into Grey Sloan after a car accident. She's frozen and unconscious, so it's not looking good. The team is able to bring back her heartbeat, but but can't wake her up. Jackson (Jesse Williams) comes to talk to her, and that's when the floodgates open. He begs her to come back to him, even calling on God (he's a known Atheist) at one point. It's some of Williams' best work acting wise, and it will bring you to your knees.
Like any quality horror series, Hill House is, at its core, about trauma. In this case it's about family trauma, the most relatable of all. The season finale of the show brings us a wonderful twist, but it also brings all of the Crain siblings into the same room (the mysterious Red Room), where they are able to confront one another. The red room gives them nightmares that harp on their deepest shame and guilt, and once they wake up they are ready to forgive. This warm scene comes after a bleak season filled with death and horror, and the contrast hits hard. It gives you one of those 'single, gorgeous tear streaming down your cheek' moments, which we could all use from time to time.
After making a splash with its first season, Dear White People came in even stronger in its second. Season one was a thinker; season two was a tear-jerker. The penultimate episode gave us some more backstory to the show's leading lady, Sam (Logan Browning). Up to this point, Sam had always been presented as someone who never stops or slows down, but in this episode we get a refreshing look at what happens when she does.
She returns home after the shocking news of her father's death, and, in a particularly poignant scene, she sifts through his office drawers and reminisces on their relationship. She stumbles upon a letter he wrote for her before his passing, and as she reads it the viewpoint shifts to the scene of his funeral, where Sam reads the letter aloud. It's all very touching, but the moment that will make you cry is when she concludes her eulogy with, "That's my dad. He knew I'd have trouble writing a speech for his funeral, so he wrote one for me."
No one expects to cry setting out to watch Sabrina. The main draws here are the campy vibes and feminist undertones, not the tears. But there's one moment that could bring anyone right back to being a heartbroken teenager—along with all the same hormonal tears. Sabrina's (Kiernan Shipka) regular-human boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) discovers that she is half-witch, and tells her that he no longer wants to see her. She runs home to her aunt, whose arms she collapses in. Her aunt had been the one telling her all along that this would happen, but she doesn't offer up an "I told you so." Instead, she just holds her.
As mentioned, This Is Us is the show when it comes to weeping while watching, but no episode this season hit harder than "Superbowl Sunday." It was obvious ahead of time that the patriarch of the Pearson family, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) would die, and you'd think that would make viewing it a bit less sad. Welp, think again.
Once again, this show proves it knows exactly how to toy with our emotions. Watching Jack escape the house fire only to die in a hospital bed from a smoke-induced heart attack is heartbreaking enough. But the moment that really gets the tears flowing is when we see his wife, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), discover that he is dead, and she realizes that nobody—not even her—was by his side as he passed. Ouch! And if you're looking for a new show to binge watch, here are 13 Netflix Shows You're Not Watching But Should.
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