Is there anything in this world more committed than a passionate fan? Fans that stick by their favorite characters through the good and the bad, pick apart episodes with fervor, and have heated opinions about every possible controversy are the lifeblood of any series.
It’s not surprising that diehard fans become most heated when it comes to the relationship drama — or ship drama, in fandom terminology — that inevitably accompanies their favorite series. Most fans have those One True Pairings they love to root for, as well as the couples they love to hate — but the real controversy comes when relationships form a triangle.
Love triangles are a classic trope of countless television series, but they seem especially prevalent in sci-fi and fantasy shows of the last few decades. More often than not, these triangles see a female protagonist caught between two worthy lovers, both of whom have the ability to grasp onto fans’ hearts and never let go.
These love triangles can result in some of the most fierce fandom debates. Fans quickly become split as they take sides and vehemently defend a chosen champion, insisting that one coupling is clearly superior to the other. And although these triangle scenarios can result in much frustration, they’re also the juicy storylines that keep us coming back for more.
While many of these three-sided relationships have succeeded in intriguing their audiences over the years, a select few will go down in history as the love triangles that divided us all. These are the most controversial examples in all of genre television, and we warn you that spoilers are ahead.
5. Kara, Lee, and Sam (+Dee)
The main love triangle on Syfy's stellar remake of Battlestar Galactica is admittedly more of a square, but this really only adds to the fan frustration about relationships aboard the battleship Galactica.
For many, the clear OTP (“one true pairing” for those who aren’t fluent in Internet slang) is undeniably between Kara (a.k.a. Starbuck) and Lee (a.k.a. Apollo). From the start, it seems these two are meant to be. Although it takes some time for the romantic tension between them to blossom into something more, their chemistry is truly undeniable.
The frustration comes in Kara and Lee’s decision to pursue long-term relationships with other characters, despite their true feelings for one another. To further complicate things, both Sam and Dee, the partners that Kara and Lee eventually end up marrying, are incredibly likable. In many ways, Sam and Dee are better for Kara and Lee than they ever could be for each other!
The Starbuck/Apollo chemistry is volatile, often erupting into anger, jealousy, and overprotection on both of their parts. All the same, the passion of their pairing is irrefutable, and although it’s wonderful to see our favorite characters in happy and healthy relationships, it’s hard to forget the fireworks that accompanied the bonding of our two favorite Viper pilots.
4. Kate, Jack, and Sawyer
Just as Jack once famously said, “We have to go back!” It’s true—we have to go back (again and again) to debate the controversial love triangle that revolved around Kate, Jack, and Sawyer.
Fans of the epic saga that was Lost may not remember the intricacies of the show’s confusing mythology, but they will undeniably recall rooting for the strong and scrappy Kate to pair up with one of her two island companions. Like many other love triangles on this list, one partner seems a safe, kind choice — in this instance, Jack. The other partner — in this instance, Sawyer — is more morally complicated, a bad boy who tempts a different side of their conflicted lover's personality.
While Kate goes back and forth between Jack and Sawyer early on in the series, by the end it seems largely established that Jack is her true soulmate, while Sawyer finds lasting love with Juliet. Still, diehard Kate and Sawyer shippers will never surrender their side. (Even those on Team Jack have to admit that that fateful night in the cage kept us all yearning for more.)
3. Elena, Damon, and Stefan
The Vampire Diaries
Caught between two dark and handsome vampire brothers, Elena’s plight to reconcile her feelings for both Damon and Stefan is one of the main driving forces of The Vampire Diaries.
Although she quickly falls for the kinder, gentler Stefan at the beginning of the series and rejects his brother’s evil tendencies, Elena slowly grows closer to Damon, both physically and emotionally. Once she gives into her feelings, their relationship is tumultuous but passionate, resulting in a love between them that seems pure and strong.
Throughout the twists and turns of a love triangle that resulted in Elena becoming a vampire herself, fans were along for the ride, divided as to which brother she was truly destined to be with. In the end, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder’s real-life relationship may not have lasted, but Damon and Elena’s love for each other will stand the test of time.
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2. Sookie, Bill, and Eric
This triangle (which involves yet another human woman trapped between the alluring clutches of two vampire lovers) divided fans of the True Blood series for the show’s entire run.
In the beginning, it was clear that telepathic ingenue Sookie Stackhouse and the tortured but sexy vampire Bill Compton were destined to be together. Their love and attraction for one another seemed set in stone, and the simultaneous real-life romance between actors Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer only added to the excitement of it all.
Still, it soon became clear that Sookie had another suitor—a bad boy with a soft side that she couldn’t seem to get out of her head, and who clearly felt the same way about her. Fans couldn’t wait for Sookie and Vampire Eric’s inevitable pairing, and many maintained that their romance was the one Sookie was truly meant to be in.
Although Sookie doesn’t end up with either vampire in the end, it’s obvious that both Bill and Eric have her heart, and that both of them were instrumental in her journey of self discovery. Plus, fans will always thank their lucky stars for that one dream sequence involving both men, a sexy red robe, and a lot of neck play.
1. Buffy, Angel, and Spike
Ever wanted to see a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan’s blood boil? Ask them to defend their views on Team Angel or Team Spike. Since the show’s run in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Buffy diehards have been concretely split between those who think Buffy should have ended up with Angel, and those who love her volatile relationship with Spike.
In actuality, the show chooses for us: In the end, Buffy doesn’t need a man in her life, and she has bigger things to worry about than romance (like saving the world, for instance.) Still, she does spend much of the series wrapped up in the cold arms of one of her vampire lovers, and lasting feelings develop for both hunky companions.
The natural irony of the vampire slayer falling for the vampires she’s supposed to kill is undeniably enticing. However, the situation becomes even more complicated (and gripping to watch) as both Angel and Spike prove they’re deserving of Buffy by having or gaining a soul.
While both undead have their bad boy moments, their love and respect for Buffy is impossible to ignore. The two vamps represent very different sides of Buffy’s personality and accompany her at very different times of her life, but both clearly still have a place in her story.
In the end, though, whether you love her with the sweet and brooding Angel or long for her forbidden relations with the feisty, passionate bleach blonde baddy Spike, one thing’s for certain: No one here was ever rooting for Riley.
Honorable Mention: Kala, Wolfgang, and Rajan
While we can’t say with any real conviction that we were rooting for Sense8’s Rajan to end up with the girl (Kala and Wolfgang had a truly unique connection from the very start), the finale of the Netflix series did a lot to convince fans that Rajan was actually a deserving, loving suitor for Kala.
Sticking by her side throughout their ups and downs, he accepts her for who she is and immediately steps up to help the sensates during their final mission. While the passion between the husband and wife pair is feeble in comparison to Kala’s fire with Wolfgang, it’s sad to see Rajan left by the wayside while the love of his life pursues more exciting options.
In the end, though, Sense8 resolves the love triangle in an unexpected but welcome way: Kala chooses them both (at least for one night), and the two men are along for the ride.
Featured still from "The Vampire Diaries" via The CW