As we approach the end of the year, it’s always fun to look back on the best that entertainment had to offer in 2021. As always, there were a number of movies and TV shows that broke our hearts and had us reaching for the tissues. To celebrate the year as it comes to a close, we’ve pulled together some of the best moments in television and film that absolutely wrecked us.
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
Grace and Judd’s accident on 9-1-1: Lone Star: It would be fair to say that the writers ripped our hearts out of our chest and stomped on them for a bit during the story arc involving Grace and Judd’s accident. When they were under the water and her legs were trapped and she couldn’t get out, we cried along with him. We got to see the meet cute in flashbacks between them while we waited with bated breath to see if Grace would wake up in the hospital.
Then when Grace did wake up – we all go the emotional reveal that she was pregnant. Oh, but the writers weren’t done with us yet. We also watched in the following episode as she worked through her pain and healing. We went through plenty of tissue boxes on this one. But all this angst only made us love these two characters even more.
After We Fell
Hardin learns the truth about his father in After We Fell: If you’re a fan of Anna Todd’s After
series like we are, then you already knew the moment Hardin learned the truth about his father was going to be heartbreaking. When we read the book it was definitely a moment that brought us to tears, and seeing it on the big screen only magnified our emotions. Hero Fiennes Tiffin, who plays the lead character Hardin Scott, was phenomenal in the final scene alongside Stephen Moyer, who plays Christian Vance, the man we all know to be Hardin’s biological father.
Watching the realization come over Hardin’s face as he tried to process what he was hearing
broke us. So many emotions are showcased in that moment. Hardin is not only learning that the man he just thought was a family friend is his father, but he’s also hit with the shock that the man he trusted for so many years abandoned him and his mom. Vance knew that Hardin and his mom’s situation with Ken was a volatile one, yet he just left them there. The amount of trauma that he and his mom experienced because of that is something he can never get over. We were right there with Hardin, feeling every emotion in that moment.
Asher finds out he can no longer play football in All American: Our baby Asher has been
going through a lot. Season after season, he’s been struggling with family drama and he’s been working his way back into being able to play football again. Asher made a lot of
bad choices, including using steroids, which ultimately got him kicked off the team. He’s been showing how much football means to him by working his hardest to get back in the good graces of every coach he’s had, from Coach Baker to Coach Montes. His continued determination and the fact that he’s taken the time to get his teammates to come together and win doesn’t go unnoticed, and Coach Montes finally gives him the opportunity to play again. He even gets the chance to play for one of the scouts of his dream college.
In season three, we were pulling for Asher and we were so excited to finally see him getting to have his dream again, until he found out that dream was no longer possible. After an injury on the field, Asher goes in for a checkup and thinks all is well until his father shows up and tells him he can no longer play football because he has a heart condition. The utter pain and devastation on his face, the breakdown, the tears, it had us in tears. Asher worked so hard, and we saw that. So the moment he found out he couldn’t play anymore, we felt like rug had
been pulled out from under us just like he did.
Penelope’s breakdown in Bridgerton: Penelope’s crush on Colin was obvious throughout the entire season – to everyone but Colin, of course. And so her breakdown, which was seemingly over Marina’s cruel words that Colin did not and would not love her, was heart wrenching. For those who had read the books, however, the truth was more complicated. Penelope’s tears were likely in part due to Marina’s words, but they were also likely caused by the knowledge of what she was about to expose as Lady Whistledown – and the fallout her words would have.
The revelation of Whistledown’s identity at the end of the season made Penelope’s character a controversial one, due in large part to the exposure of Marina’s secret. But it was a complicated situation, in which both Penelope and Marina were sympathetic characters. Marina was in an impossible situation for the time, trying to protect herself and her unborn child from the inevitable fallout that would occur once society learned that she was pregnant out of wedlock. However, her decision to marry Colin in haste, taking advantage of his love to provide a shield of respectability without offering him the truth of the matter, wasn’t fair to him either. It’s particularly unfortunate since we have no doubt he would have married her regardless, even if he had known the truth. Regardless of whether one thinks her actions as Whistledown were wrong or right, Nicola Coughlan perfectly conveyed Penelope’s internal conflict, her regret, and her heartbreak. Bringing more than one tear to our eyes.
Gilgamesh’s death in The Eternals: This entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe had the thankless task of introducing a number of characters that were largely unknown to the viewing audience. It strove to flesh out each character enough to make the audience care about them, and it succeeded to varying degrees. Of all the characters on the team, Gilgamesh was one of our favorites. His humor and kindness – particularly towards Thena – stole our hearts.
It was for this reason that his death didn’t just make us sad; it made us angry. How dare they make us love him so much, only to break our hearts this way? That he sacrificed himself trying to save Thena was both tragic and the only way it made sense for his character to die. But recognizing that doesn’t make his loss hurt any less.
NCIS: Los Angeles
Basically every second of the Densi storyline stretching over season 12 and the beginning of season 13 has been heartbreaking and real and also kind of uplifting while still being sad? Couples go through infertility issues, and TV rarely shows that. That NCIS: Los Angeles is doing it with its main couple, and that it wasn’t just an issue that plagued them for a few episodes, or even a season and then was just magically fixed, say a lot about the show and about the commitment everyone involved has to telling the most realistic story.
The way they’ve handled it, together, has been superb. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been heartbreaking to see them go from trying, to frustration, to sadness, to anger and yes …to resignation, only to now consider adoption and fostering. It’s a great storyline, and we’re so glad the show decided to go this route. It’s just also …sad. But that’s life.
Jackson’s death on The Rookie: The show came back with a bang with its series premiere – we watched the fallout of Angela and Jackson’s abduction by Sandra de la Cruz’s men and some of our characters make the hard choices to find them. Unfortunately, we were in for a shocker when we found out that Jackson was killed in his attempt to escape his capture. Jackson was an amazing character on the first three seasons of the Rookie. He had a rich back story, trying to both live up to and not hide behind his father’s shadow as an IA detective.
His season 3 battle against systemic racism in the police department was compelling television. Our hearts broke with him as he stood up to a superior officer who not only made racist choices, but tried to get Jackson killed in order to keep him quiet. His survival of that ordeal only to be taken out by La Fiera’s crew several episodes later was a devastating blow for fans. Jackson’s loss will be felt deeply on a show that really is about an amazing ensemble of characters.
Nate’s betrayal of Ted broke our heart, but it did so in a ragey way, if that’s possible. There’s a real sadness in the ways Ted just couldn’t communicate Nate’s importance to him, and Nate missed the signs of how much he was valued, but there’s also real anger at how Nate could turn against the person who gave him the opportunity to become the man he is now, the person who saw something in him, who lifted him up, who believed in him.
TV broke our hearts a lot this year. It’s hard to think of a moment that involves no character deaths that comes even close to realizing that it was Nate who leaked Ted’s mental health struggles to the press, Nate who betrayed him in that way, and yes, Nate who chose to listen to his demons over his heart.
Wanda and Vision say goodbye (again) in WandaVision: We’ll be honest: Wanda and Vision’s love story wasn’t really developed enough to make his death as heartbreaking as it should have been in Avengers: Infinity War. Most of the relationship development happened offscreen, between movies. WandaVision filled the gaps that the movies had left in this relationship, stealing our hearts by showing the depths of love these two had for each other. And, thus, the immeasurable depth of Wanda’s grief over his loss.
When the terrible truth about Wanda’s spell was revealed, the ending was inevitable. Wanda and Vision were going to have to say goodbye. Again. Knowing it was coming didn’t make their final moments together any less wrenching, however.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Mitch and Zoey dance on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: When it comes to getting wrecked, Zoey’s is always a good bet. We’re written about the show before. Extensively. And we’ll be honest that it wasn’t easy to pick just one moment that had us reaching for the tissues. Skylar Astin’s performance of “Say Something” was a strong contender, as was the Clarke family’s performance of “Carry On,” David’s rendition of “To Make You Feel My Love,” and all of Emily’s postpartum depression storyline.
But in the end, there could only be one choice. Zoey’s dream dance with her dad, in which Mitch sang “I Lived” called back to her “last dance” with him as he was dying last season. And no matter how many times we watch the scene, we’re emotionally compromised. Every. Single. Time.