They've never been lovers. They're definitely not cop buddies. And they're not really related. But some TV twosomes are more than the sum of their parts. They may have been thrown together by writers unsure what else to do with their quirky characters, by circumstance of age or even worldview. But a good platonic pairing can pop from the screen faster than even the most sizzling of romantic couples. Here are three of the most electric duos we've spied lately on TV, twosomes whose intimacy is on a whole different level than their counterparts but who leave us wanting more — like their own spinoff series!
FULL COVERAGE: Emmys 2015
Dowager Countess of Grantham Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton)
Two of a kind: Two of the most elder stateswomen of Downton, the dowager and Isobel started off sniping at one another over class differences (Violet was, after all, the dowager and Isobel just the middle-class mother of the newly discovered Grantham heir). But over the seasons, they've shared snippy quips and a budding friendship that bloomed in Season 5, when both found themselves pursued by inappropriate men … and learned they preferred each other's company the best.
What makes them work: "Isobel is an upper-middle-class, educated, sensible woman and not caught up in the dying aristocratic way of life," says show creator Julian Fellowes. "She can be as honest with Violet as she likes, because Violet is more powerful than she is. They are both very funny actresses, and they can play comedy without it ever being real — they stay within the parameters of reality but make it funny. It seemed natural for them to form a sort of Greek chorus on the activities of the family in the house. What I like about the kind of rivalry of Violet and Isobel is they are friendly, and there are aspects of each other that the other admires, but also aspects that drive the other nuts. That gives them a springy basis to write for them."
Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor)
Two of a kind: "Gotham's" square-jawed do-gooders may make for upright and right-thinking heroes, but the show might have turned into a big snooze without the witty, cynical repartee of criminal anarchists Fish and Penguin. Frenemies never had so much fun. Early on, Oswald must kowtow to Fish's every demand (including a foot rub on request), but his underworld ambitions are much too grand for him to be a mere doormat. Called by one critic "prime-time's Punch and Judy," Fish and Penguin this season had a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, neither having a solid upper hand.
What makes them work: "It started out as a kind of mistress-slave relationship, and that dynamic has become more complex as the season has rolled on," says show runner and creator Bruno Heller. "There's always a deliciousness in watching the servant outwit the master, and sometimes vice versa. It's the nature of the Penguin character: We saw someone who started out as the underdog, so we needed a strong opponent for him to demonstrate that essential underdog character. When they're in a scene, it's like a video game where you have two different styles of fighting going after each other — Fish is vim and courage, and Penguin is sly and foxy. It's hard not to love."
'Game of Thrones'
Two of a kind: Jaime is an odd duck of a character: He's a recovering antihero who hasn't quite been able to shrug off his one true love: his twin sister. That's left the show to pair him with characters who also skirt the edge of respectability yet never get too close. Last season, his scenes with female warrior Brienne, who was sworn to bring him back to King's Landing, were crisp, moving and often funny, as two antagonistic outcasts discovered they had much in common. The new season sees a different, perhaps not quite as stirring, pairing as Jaime means to rescue his niece (daughter) from Dorne with Tyrion's former sword-for-hire, Bronn.
What makes them work: "Brienne was a beautiful relationship," says Coster-Waldau. "A pure relationship, if you will. It was a classic story of two opposites who despise one another, then are forced to know one another and through that journey discovered a deep respect. With Bronn, there are very few people someone like Jaime encounters who will be truthful to him, who aren't intimidated with everything he brings into the room. Bronn couldn't care less — 'You pay me money, I'll do this, but I'm not going to suck up because of who you are.' And what they both want is similar in a way. They've been around war a lot, and if they had a choice they'd both take a quiet life and not have to fight all the time."