The TV Love Triangles We Will Never Stop Debating

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Dawson's Creek, we're celebrating Dawson-Joey-Pacey and more of TV's most iconic love triangles.

By Tierney Bricker Jan 20, 2023 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Katie Holmes Shoots Down Dawson's Creek Reboot Idea

Cats or dogs? Morning or night? Dawson or Pacey?

Dawson's Creek premiered 25 years ago on Jan. 20, introducing audiences to the emotional, verbose and gorgeous teens of fictional Capeside, Mass. And while it didn't factor into the WB drama's first season, the love triangle that ended up emerging between wannabe filmmaker Dawson (James Van Der Beek), girl next door Joey (Katie Holmes) and sensitive slacker Pacey (Joshua Jackson) would end up defining the show and the teen soap drama.

And to think, the epic love triangle almost never happened, with series creator Kevin Williamson revealing he only noticed the dynamic between Joey and Pacey by happenchance. 

"During season one's 'Science Project,' Joey and Pacey were paired to do the science project and they had to go and collect samples," Williamson told People. "They got wet and had to take their clothes off in the truck and there was that very uncomfortable moment where you could just see how she peeked at him and he peeked at her. They were so nervous with each other. They had instant chemistry."

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The rest, as they say, is history, with the debate over who Joey should end up with playing out over the show's six-season run. And, while fans finally got their answer in the 2003 series finale, that doesn't mean they have ever stopped labeling themselves Team Pacey or Team Dawson.

So, in honor of Dawson's Creek's anniversary, we are looking back on the most iconic love triangles to hit the small screen. Prepare to feel all the feels all over again: 

Dawson's Creek

The Trio: Pacey (Joshua Jackson), Joey (Katie Holmes) and Dawson (James Van Der Beek)
We Why Loved It: There are two types of people in this world: Team Pacey or Team Dawson. While the WB teen drama's writers didn't initially envision a forbidden romance forming between aspiring filmmaker Dawson's two best friends, the Joey and Pacey relationship that emerged in its sophomore season completely changed the series, every relationship within it, and, honestly, the future of every teen drama that came after it.
Endgame: Cue the Dawson-ugly-crying-on-a-dock meme because Joey and Pacey were totally made for each other and reunited in the series finale. 

The Vampire Diaries

The Trio: Stefan (Paul Wesley), Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder)
Why We Loved It: A sure-fire way to add even more bite to a love triangle? Making the two suitors immortal brothers who previously clashed over another woman a century ago. Oh, and did we mention she looked identical to Elena? Yes, the teen's relationship status on Facebook was definitely set to "It's Complicated" during the CW hit's eight-season run. But what an epic run it was, with enough grand gestures, bitter breakups and breathtaking kisses to make the "Delena" vs. "Stelena" face-off one of TV's most infamous debates. 
Endgame: After Dobrev's decision to exit TVD after season six required Elena being put into an eternal sleep, Damon remained devoted to her. And, in the series finale, the pair were finally reunited and made human again.

It was later revealed in the spinoff series Legacies that the couple got married and have a daughter named Stephanie Salvatore.

Gilmore Girls

The Trio: Dean (Jared Padalecki), Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia)
Why We Loved It: It's a tale as old as time. Girl meets nice boy. Girl and nice boy fall in love. Nice boy builds her a car. Girl ultimately breaks nice boy's heart when she can't help but fall for the new bad boy in town. Apologies to Logan (Matt Czuchry), but he never really stood a chance in fans' minds when it came to Rory's love life. 
Endgame: While Rory ultimately ended the original WB series single, she is revealed to still be hooking up with Logan when fans caught up with her and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) in the 2016 Netflix miniseries, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Sure, Jess fans were given a small crumb of hope when the exes shared a sweet reunion. But those dreams of a second chance between Jess and Rory may have been dashed when Rory dropped a bombshell on her mom in the final moments of the series: "I'm pregnant." Oy with the shocker!

Gossip Girl

The Trio: Chuck (Ed Westwick), Blair (Leighton Meester) and Dan (Penn Badgley)
Why We Loved It: Sure, the CW hit had dabbled in love triangles before, with Chuck and Blair's unexpected-yet-show-defining romance causing a rift with Nate (Chace Crawford). And then Dan had to compete with Nate for the love of golden girl Serena (Blake Lively). But no one really saw the crackling chemistry between queen bee Blair and "Lonely Boy" Dan coming in season five. Still, the show dared to "Dair," a storytelling move that made interesting ripples among most of GG's relationships. You know we loved it, XOXO. 
Endgame: Spotted on the Upper East Side: A five-year flashforward revealing that Chuck and Blair happily married with a son, Henry Bass, and Dan and Serena getting married. Oh, but the real love story of the show was between Dan and drama as he was revealed to be Gossip Girl, a decision we will truly never get over. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Trio: Angel (David Boreanaz), Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Spike (James Marsters)
Why We Loved It: BtVS' love triangle was unique in that Buffy's stakeable suitors rarely competed for her affection at the same time, due to Boreanaz landing his own spinoff series, Angel, after season three. But that didn't stop fans from breathlessly (no pun intended) debating which vamp was the best for the Slayer: Her brooding first love or the bleach-blonde bad boy.
Endgame: Our girl was cookie dough and wasn't done baking, which means she ended the 2003 series finale on her own—though each shipper group got a glimmer of hope.

Grey's Anatomy

The Trio: Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Addison (Kate Walsh)
Why We Loved It: Come on, who can forget when, after a season of will-they-or-won't-they tension between McDreamy and Meredith, Addison rolled up into the hospital and dropped the bombshell that she was his wife on a shell-shocked Meredith? While it was hard to imagine Der and Mer not ultimately ending up together, the addition of Addison in season two of the ABC drama helped elevate the tension so high that we were concerned for our blood pressure.
Endgame: Meredith and Derek got their happy ending. Except, Shonda Rhimes had to, well, Shonda-Rhimes us and devastated Grey's fans when Derek died in season 11. No, we're still not over it. 


The Trio: Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Jake (Scott Foley)
Why We Loved It: As if dealing with political scandals and assassination attempts wasn't enough to deal with, President Fitz had to handle his love for Olivia, his former communications director-turned-professional fixer. Complicating matters even further was the introduction of Fitz's good friend and secret agent Jake, whose chemistry with Liv was equally as potent. 
Endgame: Rhimes went and Rhimesed us again, leaving it open to interpretation in Scandal's series finale if Olivia and Fitz achieved their dream of living a secluded life of jam-making in Vermont. It's so not handled.


The Trio: Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway)
Why We Loved It: When fans weren't theorizing about why there was a polar bear on an island or discussing what the lottery numbers meant, they were battling it out over who Kate should be with: The tortured doctor with daddy issues or the smooth-talking con man with a secret heart of gold.
Endgame: "Jate" really was fate as the duo reunited in the afterlife in the Fox hit's polarizing series finale. But Sawyer's fans weren't too bitter considering his beautiful love story with Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell). 


The Trio: Ben (Scott Speedman), Felicity (Keri Russell) and Noel (Scott Foley)
Why We Loved It: When curly-haired freshman Felicity Porter followed bad boy Ben Covington to the University of New York—which still makes us cringe, TBH!—she wasn't expecting to also find herself drawn to her nice guy R.A. Noel Crane. Four collegiate years filled with surprise girlfriends reveals ("Her name is Hannah?!"), passionate monologues and "Dear Sally" tapes followed, with fans debating Ben vs. Noel until the very (weird) end. 
Endgame: Technically, both? Because this was a J.J. Abrams show (see: Lost), Felicity initially chose Ben, only for the following four episodes to add an unexpected time-travel element to the show. In those installments, Felicity made different life choices which eventually affected the series finale, including Noel dying in a building fire in the alternate timeline. Ultimately, after whether Felicity made the right decision or not was explored,  she did end up with Ben.

True Blood

The Trio: Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephen Moyer)
Why We Loved It: Listen, this love triangle was worth it for that infamous naked Entertainment Weekly cover alone! It also helped that Paquin had palpable chemistry with both of her vampire suitors, which was put to good use in the HBO drama's many sex scenes over the years.
Endgame: Instead of ending up with Bill, Eric or the werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello), it's revealed the fairy waitress married a nameless, normal dude. 

Beverly Hills, 90210

The Trio: Brenda (Shannen Doherty), Dylan (Luke Perry) and Kelly (Jennie Garth)
Why We Loved It: Arguably one of TV's first major love triangles, the drama between dreamy bad boy Dylan McKay and BFFs Brenda and Kelly helped turn the teen soap into a massive hit in its second season. And who knows what would have happened between the trio if Doherty hadn't abruptly left the show in its fourth season.
Endgame: Though he had an off-screen reunion with Brenda, in the BH, 90210's 2000 series finale, Dylan and Kelly decided to give their romance another try.

Sex and the City

The Trio: Big (Chris Noth), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Aidan (John Corbett)
Why We Loved It: It was impossible not to get carried away by Carrie's love life on the HBO series, especially her on-and-off relationship with the elusive commitment-phobe Mr. Big. So, of course, fans found comfort and safety in the reliable-yet-sexy carpenter Aidan Shaw when he was introduced in season three. Alas, Big's allure was just too much for Carrie to ultimately resist, leading her to ultimately end her engagement to Aidan. (Well, and there's also the cheating…and the fight in the mud…but we digress!)
Endgame: TBD?! While Carrie ultimately ended up marrying Big, she shared an unexpected kiss with Aidan when the exes randomly ran into each other in Abu Dhabi in Sex and the City 2. While that indiscretion abso-f--king-lutely reaffirmed her love for her husband, the fashionista's world (along with the fanbase's) was rocked when Big died in the first episode of the HBO Max revival, And Just Like That...

Cut to January 2023, when one of the first looks at the second season included a photo of Carrie and Aidan walking hand-in-hand. We couldn't help but Aidan really Carrie's true love?!

One Tree Hill

The Trio: Brooke (Sophia Bush), Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Peyton (Hilarie Burton)
Why We Loved It: Two best friends, one brooding basketball player/writer. It was the simple yet compelling setup for the love triangle that would define the early seasons of the CW teen drama. 
Endgame: Lucas and Peyton and their newborn baby rode off into the sunset together when CMM and Burton exited the series at the end of season six.

Jane the Virgin

The Trio: Rafael (Justin Baldoni), Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Michael (Brett Dier)
Why We Loved It: During its five-season run, the CW telenovela fully leaned into the divide between fans rooting for Jane to be with Rafael, her baby daddy, or her devoted boyfriend Michael, who she eventually married...only for him to lose his memory after being shot. ¡Ay, caramba!
Endgame: By series end, even though Michael got his memories of their life together back, Jane realized that she was in love with the father of her child, Rafael, and decided to marry him. 

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