In 5 To Watch, five writers from The A.V. Club look at the latest streaming TV arrivals, each making the case for a favored episode. Alternately, they can offer up recommendations inspired by a theme. The reasons for their picks might differ, but they can all agree that each episode is a must-watch. In this installment: We celebrate Galentine’s Day by highlighting some of TV’s best female friendships.
The inaugural Galentine’s Day took place in 2010 in a fictional Pawnee, Indiana, but the holiday has taken on a life of its own outside of Parks And Recreation. The Leslie Knope-created Valentine’s Day precursor gives women a chance to celebrate each other before all the heart-shaped candy and proposals start to flow. It’s just as important a holiday as Treat Yo Self Day (which we’re also inclined to observe here at The A.V. Club), so in honor of the eighth annual Galentine’s Day, we’ve written about some of our favorite episodes about female friendships. Get your bouquets of hand-crocheted flower pens, mosaic portraits made from crushed bottles of soda, and personalized essays about “why you are all so awesome” ready.
Parks And Recreation, “Operation Ann” (season four, episode 14)
“What’s Galentine’s Day?” Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) rhetorically asks in season two. “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” That early episode showed the power of lasting friendships over temporary romances and is one of the best showcases of Parks And Rec’s steading of the boat after its wobbly first season. But a better showcase of “ladies celebrating ladies” comes in season four, when another Galentine’s Day brunch is followed by a Valentine’s Day dance put on by the parks department. Leslie channels her usual intense enthusiasm toward finding Ann a date at the dance, but there’s nothing unusual about her devotion to her best friend. It’s April who surprises Ann and Leslie, and maybe herself, when she makes an unconventional pitch for who Ann should choose to continue the night with. After years of resentment and knee-jerk derision when it comes to Ann, April finally solidifies the slowly crystalizing friendship. It just took a little nudge from Leslie, delivered earlier in the episode: “That’s what friends do, April. They help friends find happiness.” [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Although Insecure grew out of creator Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl webseries and centers on the professional and romantic life of her character, 29-year-old Issa Dee, time and again the real anchor of the hit HBO show has proven to be her friendship with Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji). In the first-season finale, “Broken As Fuck,” things are as bad as the title suggests, with Molly and Issa having had a blowup and each facing hard personal truths. They’re barely talking to one another when they head to Malibu on a girls’ trip with Kelli and Tiffany, but as the weekend wears on, Molly and Issa realize they’re the only ones who’ve got each other’s backs. After initially dismissing her, Molly agrees to drive Issa back to Los Angeles, where she hopes to reconcile with Lawrence (Jay Ellis) but instead finds that he’s moved out the last of his stuff. It’s a devastating episode where both women find their own delusions crumbling, but one that ends, powerfully, with the two leaning on one another—and entering a new phase of their friendship. The word “Malibu” becomes a symbol, a preface to any incoming real talk that means, “You might not want to hear this, but I’m saying it because I love you and we’re gonna be cool no matter what.” No matter how work or “hoe-tation”s might be going, these two share a frank, funny-as-fuck wavelength, and the reassurance that there’s no going back after Malibu. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Throughout Daria’s five-season run, sarcastic outcasts Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane were thick as thieves, bonding from the very first episode over their shared worldview that high school and everything it entailed—from football games to school dances—was worthy of mockery. But no friendship worth its black combat boots should go untested, and some of the MTV cartoon’s best episodes came when tension arose between the pair and they showed each other what they were made of.
When artistic punk Jane joins the track team in the second season’s “See Jane Run,” Daria takes her best friend’s sudden interest in extracurriculars as a “surrender to the system.” What’s more, with Jane at practice, Daria gets a glimpse of what her life would look like without her: a lot of time spent alone talking to herself. Unfortunately, Daria lets her insecurities get the better of her, and is unwilling to drum up much enthusiasm when Jane wins her first meet, and then adds insult to injury by embarrassing her in front of a cute teammate. It’s not always easy when someone close to you changes—it can feel like you’re being left behind—but a real friend will come around eventually, and after mutual apologies, the two go back to suffering through high school together. This and other Daria episodes like it show that good friends will come out stronger after disagreements, or at least reset to where they were before, which, when you have a friendship as great as these two do, is pretty solid. [Laura Adamczyk]
Life in Litchfield isn’t just punitive, it’s paradoxical—being behind bars means you’re stuck together, whether or not you get along with your cellmate(s). But Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero), Orange Is The New Black’s ultimate friends in adversity, have managed to establish a deep and abiding bond over the course of five seasons. They even have the kind of portmanteau usually reserved for celebrity power couples: Flaritza. The two Latinas have given each other plenty of shit over their tastes in music and makeup, and they’ve even resorted to smear campaigns for a spot on the “WAC Pack.” But they’ve never stopped having each other’s back.
In the season two episode, “You Also Have A Pizza,” though, Flaca and Maritza briefly consider changing the nature of their relationship. As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, the Litchfield inmates describe how it feels to fall in love. Flaca and Maritza do their interview together, of course, which provides the episode’s title; but once the cameras are gone, they open up about their loneliness. Although Flaca’s heart has recently been broken, she tries to comfort her friend when Maritza sighs about their wasted youth and beauty. They share a couple of deep kisses before realizing they’d rather remain platonic friends. And there’s no sense of rejection (though Flaritza ’shippers may disagree), because they’re already as close as two people can be. [Danette Chavez]
Grace And Frankie, “The Party” (season two, episode 11)
Netflix’s Grace And Frankie is one of TV’s greatest depictions of female friendship, with the firm foundation of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s real-life BFF status at its core. But interestingly, in the show, the two don’t start out as friends, but as very different women who are forced to move in together when their husbands leave them for each other. Tightly wound Grace (Fonda) thinks Frankie (Tomlin) is a flake, while free-spirited Frankie considers Grace a skinny drill sergeant. This odd couple sets off to a proper friendship when they start to have positive effects on each other (Frankie gets Grace to loosen up; Grace gets Frankie to be more focused). But this new relationship gets derailed in season one’s “The Bender,” when Grace hits the sauce too hard and consequently lambasts Frankie for all of her help.
In the next episode, “The Party,” the two must come back together to help their friend Babe (an effervescent Estelle Parsons), who wants Frankie to assist her with killing herself, as her inoperable cancer has come back. It’s the climactic test of a friend, and although Frankie hesitates, she’s able to help Babe when she needs her. And even though Grace doesn’t agree with this choice, she’s ultimately there for her friends as well, in a lovely celebration of both life and the end of it. Grace And Frankie not only offers a treatise on what friendship really means—being there for each other no matter what—but it is also a heartening reminder that people constantly keep changing and growing, even as they face their seventh (or eighth) decades. [Gwen Ihnat]