This feature contains spoilers.
The love triangle may often be derided as cheesy and overdone, its reputation ruined by its prominence in the Twilight franchise, but there’s a reason it’s been a constant presence in literature for thousands of years. Love triangles present wonderful opportunities to drag out romantic plots, as one party may find themselves torn between the other two, or for conflicting loyalties to emotionally torture characters in a way that allows for plenty of angst and hopefully some passionate love scenes as well. Plus, on a subconscious level, they appeal to that part of ourselves that likes to think two incredibly attractive people might want us. And so, for Valentine’s Day, we present geek TV’s hottest and most intriguing love triangles.
5. Elena/Stefan/Damon, The Vampire Diaries
Ways to make Pythagoras’ head hurt: Stefan and Damon are brothers who are both in love with Elena, who is in love with both of them, though her choice of which one she prefers varies.
SFF twist: Stefan and Damon are vampires, while Elena is the recently vamped descendent and doppelganger of their sire/long-lost love Katherine.
Three’s company: The Vampire Diaries’ love triangle is a fairly basic teenage girl fantasy, but it’s a classic trope done well. Stefan and Damon aren’t especially original characters, being iterations of Louie/Angel/Bill and Lestat/Spike/Eric (but with reversed hair colours!), but they’re well developed enough to be interesting, reasonably compelling and of course they’re extremely good-looking, while Elena stays just about active enough to function as a character in her own right (some of the time). Some reviewers feel that the love triangle gets too much attention sometimes, but to me that particular criticism seems to be missing the point of the show. Just look at the publicity material – The Vampire Diaries is the love triangle. Everything else, even other beloved characters, is window dressing.
Resolution: As yet undetermined. Human-Elena tends towards Stefan, while Vampire-Elena prefers Damon, but whether Elena will end up human, vampire or something else, and whether possibly-ex-vampire Elena will go back to Stefan, stay with Damon or decide she’s well shot of the both of them remains to be seen.
4. Worf/Dax/Bashir, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Ways to make Pythagoras’ head hurt: Bashir falls for Jadzia Dax, who likes him but falls in love with and marries Worf; until Jadzia dies, and Ezri Dax eventually ends up with Bashir.
SFF twist: It’s impossible to describe this triangle without the science fiction; Dax is a Trill symbiote, living in conjunction with a humanoid host. Jadzia Dax likes Bashir but falls in love with Worf (who falls in love with her) but when Jadzia dies, new host/incarnation Ezri Dax and Bashir fall for each other.
Three’s company: It’s the science fiction that makes this one fun. The dual personality of a Trill symbiote is totally unlike anything that’s possible in the real world, and creates plenty of intriguing and potentially angsty relationship issues concerning how much of the person is Dax, how much is the host, and what happens to romantic feelings held by a particular incarnation after that host dies. And from a story-telling point of view, if there’s one good thing that came out of Jadzia Dax’s death, it’s that Bashir finally got this particular girl.
Resolution: With Jadzia dead, it’s Bashir who ends up with Ezri Dax, but Worf and Jadzia Dax’s relationship remains unaffected; tragically cut short, but mutual and loving.
3. Sheldon/Amy/Penny, The Big Bang Theory
Ways to make Pythagoras’ head hurt: Amy is in love with Sheldon, but also attracted to Penny, who is not attracted to either of them. Sheldon’s feelings on the subject are complicated.
SFF twist: None, for obvious reasons.
Three’s company: The best love triangles are about more than two people fighting over a third person, they involve complex, overlapping feelings swinging between all three. Neither Sheldon/Penny nor Amy/Penny will ever become a fully-fledged romance, but the sexual tension is undeniably there. Sheldon and Penny have great chemistry, and his reasons for going straight to Penny when he wanted to ask someone out to make Amy jealous may not have been entirely down to ‘she was the only other woman he knows,’ plus both have frequently taken care of each other. Amy’s clearly sexual attraction to Penny is also well-documented, though she’s eased off a bit in the latest season, and while Penny may not be attracted to Amy, she cares about her enough to hang on to that awful portrait (thankfully on the fourth wall, where the audience can’t see it).
Resolution: Sheldon and Amy belong together, whatever happens between Leonard and Penny, but she’ll never be entirely separated from them – Amy is the sort of person who’ll take Best Friends Forever very literally.
2. Angelus/Drusilla/Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ways to make Pythagoras’ head hurt: Angelus is obsessed with Drusilla, who likes him, but is also in a relationship with Spike, who is in love with her.
SFF twist: Well, all three are soulless vampires for starters. Angelus tormented Drusilla until eventually he turned her, upon which she seems to have returned his affection as much as vampires ever do. Season two implies that Angelus also turned Spike, while season five shows Drusilla siring Spike – either way, he is created to be her mate. Additionally it seems that, according to the Judge, Drusilla and Spike share love and affection, but Angelus has no warm and fuzzy feelings in him whatsoever.
Three’s company: The joy of this particular triangle is how gloriously twisted they all are, and how William the Bloody manages to come out of it as the soppiest member of the trio. Drusilla plays both like a fiddle, revelling in their rivalry and jealousy, while Angelus makes the most of his ability to walk around and kill shop-girls and Spike fights back with the only remaining weapon in his armoury since he’s wheelchair-bound for half of season two, his wit. Flashbacks reveal a not entirely dissimilar relationship back in the day, though tempered by the presence of Darla.
Resolution: Both men dump poor Drusilla for some blonde chick, so she rebounds with a slimy-antlered Chaos Demon.
1. Sookie/Eric/Bill, True Blood
Ways to make Pythagoras’ head hurt: Bill and Eric are both in love with Sookie, who is in love with both of them. They also come to be pretty good buddies with each other.
SFF twist: Bill and Eric are both vampires, Sookie is a telepath who can hear human but not vampire thoughts. Also, thanks to the complicated nature of vampire politics, either Bill or Eric is generally in a position of superiority with power of life and death over the other.
Three’s company: Sookie and Bill’s relationship is complicated by the fact he was originally sent to ‘procure’ her, while she and Eric are happiest when Eric has no memories, but both pairings are fun, passionate and undeniably hot. Meanwhile, after several years of simmering tension as rivals, Eric and Bill’s bromance in season five reaches such heights that Bill sounds almost as panicked when he thinks something’s happened to Eric as he usually does when Sookie’s in danger.
Resolution: As yet undetermined, but the reason this love triangle is No. 1 is that the ultimate love triangle resolution, the happy threesome, is actually a distinct possibility. So far that may only have happened in Sookie’s dreams (and it’s rather dependent on exactly what’s happened to Bill in the season five finale) but given the simmering sexual tension between all three and the hints that Eric, at least, is bisexual, I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility to imagine that eventually they’ll all just settle down together.
Bubbling under: Sydney/Will/Vaughn, Alias, Jeff/Britta/Annie, Community, Helo/Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii/Chief, Battlestar Galactica, Peter/Olivia/Fauxlivia, Fringe, Merlin/Arthur/Gwen, Merlin (stuck in the subtext, but it’s there).
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