Ships. In entertainment, and especially, in fandom, we live and die by them. Which is why every Friday, we’ll be focusing on a couple, analyzing why we ship them, and overall, just proclaiming our eternal love for those couples that make us say:
I will go down with this ship.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a new show, and sometimes, with new shows, finding THE ship can be tricky. She does, after all, have two love interests. How to know which is the one? How to know who we should root for? How to know where to invest?
Except, sometimes, that isn’t a question. No, sometimes, the answer is obvious. And sometimes, you don’t even have a choice to make. As they say, sometimes you don’t choose the ship, it chooses you.
And that’s exactly what happened to us with Zoey and Max…
HERE’S THE THING WE STARTED OUT FRIENDS
The best relationships are the ones that grow out of friendship, and that’s where we start with Zoey and Max. They’re best friends. There for each other. More than that, they’re each other’s person. And that’s key. That means they already know each other inside out and love each other for who the other is.
No real relationship can survive without friendship. Some people build it after, while the romance is going on. Some people struggle to get that connection, and despite a physical attraction, end up going their separate ways because emotionally, they’re not compatible. That’s not the case with these two. They already passed that test.
IT WAS COOL BUT IT WAS ALL PRETEND
Except it wasn’t just friendship, not really. Max was already aware of his feelings for Zoey, and she …well, girl isn’t exactly in touch with her feelings when this whole journey starts. In fact, before she started hearing people’s thoughts in song, Zoey probably didn’t know people had so many feelings.
But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real friendship because they were both (yes, both) feeling more. It just means the growth was exactly what it had to be …
PUSH, PUSH, PUSH AWAY
Of course, for this to be a journey, someone (predictably, Zoey, as she’s the main character and the one who’s, you know, supposed to grow) had to freak out. And freak out Zoey did as soon as she heard Max singing his first love song. And a part of me gets it. It’s super scary to be confronted with feelings when you’ve lived your life avoiding them. Especially when you know those feelings are real.
Feelings are messy. And complicated. Feelings require things from you. So for Zoey, it was easier to just avoid, avoid, avoid, with a side dish of push Max away. Self-preservation at its finest.
I WOULD WALK 500 MILES
Except Max wasn’t there because he was in love with Zoey. He was there (and by there I mean beside her) because …he cares, and he’s, above all things, Zoey’s friend first and foremost. And when she needed him (even if that was, you know, in the middle of an awkward scene at another man’s engagement party), then Max was going to be there.
That’s the brand of love he feels, the one he’s felt all the time: the one that asks for nothing in return. Aka, the real thing.
And as he said that night, after literally proclaiming his love again (not that he knew) sorta encompasses the whole journey of Zoey and Max. He’s always gonna be there for her. Even when it hurts. As long as she wants him – and needs him, Max will find a way to be there for Zoey.
Which doesn’t mean he has to be a doormat, let her walk all over him, no. Relationships are a two way street, after all. But it does mean that Max will always try to be there. And that’s more than enough.
EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU
Of course, things couldn’t remain static. And I admire Max for this, for going for it. For putting himself out there. He could see, as clearly as we can, that Zoey has feelings for him. He might have even been able to sense her hesitation, but he wanted to give her a reason to jump into the abyss.
He wanted to reassure her, make sure she knew that, no matter how hard it got, or how scary it all was, he would have her back.
And sometimes timing is wrong, for many reasons. For Zoey, because as much as she’s grown, as much as she’s learned about herself, there’s so much of who she is that’s still tied up in the waiting to grieve for her father. And that person, the one in a holding pattern, can’t imagine putting herself in a situation that could lead her to losing something else. Especially not the most important person to her: Max.
But sometimes, we lose things by inaction just as we can lose them by action. Love means taking risks. Love means putting yourself out there. Love means …well, it means trying. And as much as Zoey said she wasn’t ready to go all in, she did promise she was going to be honest with Max. And honesty is the first step, isn’t it?
But Zoey’s feelings – and her power – would betray her, by making her sing out her feelings. And her feelings said she was in love with Max. They also said she thought Simon was hot (and who can blame her there?), but it was obvious by the way she looked at her best friend, and by the words she sang, that her feelings for Max were the real deal.
Which leads us back to before. The real deal is scary as hell. Physical attraction, that’s easy. Sex? No real emotions involved in that! But love? Real love? The kind Mitch and Maggie have, the kind Zoey dreams about – that’s scary.
OR AM I?
So once again, it’s one step forward, two steps back. Except this time, Max wouldn’t be there to wait for Zoey – and he shouldn’t have been. It’s not his responsibility to wait for her to make up her mind. That’s not love, or even friendship. That’s just masochism.
There’s a part of the journey towards love that’s intimately personal. You have to accept that you deserve love, and you have to get to the point where you’re willing to risk it – not because you don’t care, but because you know it’s up to you to put the work in to make the relationship work.
BYE BYE BYE?
In every OTP journey there’s a moment where things look bleak, where it seems like the two people everyone can see (EVERYONE, Leif said it) love each other, won’t find a way together. And when that happens, when someone behaves like Zoey did, well, the healthiest thing is for the other person to walk away.
What is that thing they say? Oh, yes. If you love something, let it go. If it does not return, it was never yours in the first place.
MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE
But Zoey returned. She made her choice. She stood in front of Max and said I can’t imagine my life without you. I need you. And no, she didn’t say I love you, but she might as well have. Because when you see the vastness of life stretching before you, and you identify the thing, the person, that will make your life complete, you know.
And you grab that with both hands and you don’t let go. Ever.
That is the story of Max and Zoey. It’s not complete, not by a longshot, but what we have is enough to say that they’re already the stuff OTP dreams are made of. And these are just some of the many reasons that make us say: We will go down with this ship.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist will air its season 1 finale this Sunday at 9/8c on NBC.