“It’s beautiful, and it’s all right to cry your eyes out. Fill your lungs up. We all hurt. We all lie. And nothing stays the same. Let your guard down. Get your heart pounded. We all bleed. We all breathe. And nothing stays the same. ” -Luke Sital-Singh, “Nothing Stays The Same”
We all need a good cry every now and then. Sometimes we cry when we’re heartbroken. Sometimes we cry when we’re deliriously happy. Sometimes we’re ridiculously jetlagged and overemotional. Sometimes the jetlag leads to watching videos at 3 AM to make yourself cry and inspires you to write about those tearjerkers.
I’ve never been one to cry much about my own life. Music and television, however, have always managed to have a profound impact on my ability to shed tears. (This, coming from the person who owns This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music, a book that’s all about depressing songs. Highly recommended if you like sad music.) There are certain scenes I know I can always count on to make me cry. Since we all need it sometimes, here are a few to help you along when you’re in need. Beware of some summaries, and therefore, massive spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Honourable mentions: 1) Veronica Mars – “Leave It To Beaver” (1×22) Keith telling Veronica the results of the paternity test. 2) Veronica Mars – “Ruskie Business” (1×15) Logan breaking down about his mother. 3) Doctor Who – “The End of Time: Part Two” Ten regenerating, “I don’t want to go.” 4) Doctor Who – “Doomsday” (2×13) Rose getting pulled into a parallel universe. 5) Emma Approved is a Web series, so it doesn’t count as TV, but “At Last” (Ep. 70) never fails to make me teary.
I rewatched all of these to make sure they still deserved their spots; all passed the test. As usual, they’re not necessarily in a particular order, especially towards the middle. Not all of them are sad, but naturally, a lot are. Prepare to have your heart ripped out. Read, watch, and weep.
10. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” (4×24)
If you grew up in ’90s America, chances are you know this scene and knew it would be on here. (It’s on many of these lists and rightfully so.) From the time Will calls his father Lou, not Dad, all bets are off. When he cries, “How come he don’t he want me?” I’m done. There’s really nothing else that needs to be said about this scene.
9. Angel – “Not Fade Away” (5×22)
I could only find a fan-made video with part of this scene, and that’s probably a good thing. I hated Wesley when he was on Buffy. By the end of Angel, he was my favourite character, along with Spike. Wesley was in love with Fred for pretty much forever. (I wasn’t a hardcore Fred/Wesley shipper, but let’s just pretend that Gunn thing never happened.) When it seemed like things were finally looking up, Fred’s body was overtaken by a parasite called Illyria. (Another tearjerker with Fred’s “Why can’t I stay?”) I always liked Fred, but I honestly liked Illyria more. In the series finale “Not Fade Away,” I lose it when Wesley is dying, and Illyria says to him, “Would you like me to lie to you now?” Illyria changes into Fred for a beautiful goodbye. This death goes down as one of my top 5 favourite TV deaths of all time and is one of the reasons for my love/hate relationship with Joss Whedon. He kills my favourite characters but damned if he doesn’t do it brilliantly.
8. Parks and Recreation – “Halloween Surprise” (5×5)
Happy tears! Ben and Leslie are one of my favourite TV ships, and Ben’s proposal was a long time coming. So many things tried to keep them apart over the years, mainly their jobs, but we all knew it’d happen eventually. I’ve cried through several scenes on this show, but this is the one that always gets me. I remember watching it with no idea it was going to happen (same as their wedding, which also makes me cry) and was so shocked and happy. When good people – even fictional ones – have something good happen, it’s hard not to share in their happiness. I only hope to find love like theirs someday.
7. Chuck – “Chuck Versus Sarah” (5×12)
Chuck is pretty much my favourite show, and I was devastated when it was cancelled. The finale is polarising – fans either love or hate it. I’m in the Love It camp. Without explaining the long, complicated plot in depth, Sarah downloaded the Intersect to save Chuck a few episodes before this one, which was part one of the series finale. The Intersect wiped her memory, and the villain brainwashed her into thinking she was against Chuck. The last few episodes are heartbreaking to watch (I bawled through all of them), but this scene is particularly difficult to watch. Chuck does everything he can to make Sarah remember him. At first it seems like she’s softening, but then, “I’m sorry I did my job too well.” Cold. It only gets worse, as she tries to fight him, and he promises, “You can kill me. I will never hurt you.” As things turn around again, there’s still a long way to go. All is well that ends (sort of) well, but this episode and scene are still painful to watch. This scene also doesn’t help. Still, I love the throwbacks to earlier episodes in the finale. The bittersweet ending is open to interpretation. I choose to think of it as a happy (enough) ending because I believe Morgan’s crazy idea of “one magical kiss” works, and Sarah remembers she really does “love a nerd like [Chuck].”
6. Nip/Tuck – “Joel Gideon” (2×5)
Nip/Tuck is one of those shows that started off well enough but got so ridiculous I stopped watching. I try to remember it for good scenes like this. I’m a sucker for complex, tortured souls, so Christian was always my favourite. The self-obsessed womanizer finally found someone he really loved with Wilber. Even when Wilber was born, and Christian found out he wasn’t really his son, he still wanted to raise him as his own. When Wilber’s biological father came to take him, Christian lost the one thing that made him happy. His speech to Wilber leaves me in tears, especially with Rachael Yamagata’s “I’ll Find a Way” playing in the background. I get teary when he gives Wilber advice about life and tells him things like, “Never get too jaded to care.” (Words of wisdom he could use himself.) Teariness turns to blubbering when he whispers, “Remember me.”
5. Doctor Who – “Vincent and the Doctor” (5×10)
Ten has always been my Doctor, but “Vincent and the Doctor” is easily the best non-Ten episode and one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. It was written by Richard Curtis, who wrote several of my favourite films, so it makes sense that I love it so much. It’s impossible not to cry while watching Van Gogh hear the praise for his work and life. It’s not every day an artist gets to see for themselves the significance their work has for others, and someone like Van Gogh never had that luxury. This scene with the Doctor and Amy bringing Van Gogh to 2010 makes you feel that joy for him, as it brings some light to his life, however temporary. Even though it doesn’t change the course of events, we can still appreciate the moment and be reminded that everyone can make an impact without even knowing it. Everything about this scene is perfect – the song selection (“Chances” by Athlete), the art curator wondering if it was the real Van Gogh who kissed him and dismissing the thought just as quickly as it came, the shot composition, and the acting.
4. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (2×3)
Most would probably consider Sherlock’s “note” to John before the fall the hardest part of this episode. For me, though, John’s plea to Sherlock for “one more miracle” is the worst. At this point, Watson doesn’t really have anyone else. As Sherlock watches him from afar, unable to tell him that he’s still alive, it’s completely gut-wrenching. Of course, he eventually got his wish for Sherlock to not be dead, but Sherlock being Sherlock, we had to wait years for the resolution. Martin Freeman deserves all the awards for this scene alone, and the fact that he wasn’t nominated for this episode is a travesty.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “The Body” (5×16)
Joss Whedon has done it again. In the interest of full disclosure, I think I’ve only seen this episode twice in the 10 or so years since my first viewing, which is saying a lot for someone who rewatches TV series a hundred times. It’s a brilliant episode, but I simply can’t watch it because it breaks me. Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch, and the waterworks begin, as I think of my close relationship with my own mother. In a show with so many supernatural deaths, a natural death from an aneurysm is particularly shocking and heartbreaking because we know there’s no coming back from it. The complete lack of music makes everything more realistic and chilling. We can easily see ourselves and people we know reacting to such a tragedy like the characters do. Anya’s reaction, though, is almost like a child’s in that she’s naïve and confused because she’s a former vengeance demon learning to be more human. She doesn’t know how she’s supposed to act and thinks of things people normally wouldn’t consider in such a case. “I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever.” Words cannot do this scene justice. It needs to be seen, preferrably with the entire episode, though it can hold up on its own.
2. Scrubs – “My Screwup” (3×14)
“You still doing the whole ‘kooky guy who brings his camera everywhere’ thing?” “Till the day I die.” This should have been the first clue about this episode. If you’re slow, like I can be, you don’t really get it until the end. When Cox’s brother-in-law, Ben, shows up for Cox’s son’s birthday party, he says those words to Cox, and we learn that Ben hasn’t followed up on tests for leukemia. Scrubs is a funny show with a lot of heart. Throughout this episode, we see J.D. tell Cox his worries about an older heart patient (which Cox sort of blows off, saying he won’t die in the next 30 minutes), J.D. respond to a code, Ben annoy Cox, and the usual antics of the others. When J.D. tells Cox that the patient died, Cox blames J.D. In the very end of the episode, Cox is talking to Ben, asking him where his camera is and if he’s going to take pictures of “the crying babies covered in chocolate, people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to my son who have never even met him before, you know, the whole routine.” J.D. shows up and says solemnly, “Where do you think we are?” Cox turns around to Ben, who is no longer there, and we see that they are at Ben’s funeral. Cue the tears. Rewatching the episode, it becomes clear. After J.D. answers the code, Ben’s camera is gone, and no one but Cox acknowledges him the rest of the episode. This is easily one of the most memorable, if not the most memorable, episodes of Scrubs. Its balance of humour and pain makes this scene hit hard once everything comes together.
1. Merlin – “The Diamond of the Day: Part Two” (5×13)
I’m not using a video for this one because I’m cheating a little bit. There isn’t one scene in the series finale of Merlin that makes me cry. There isn’t one scene that doesn’t make me cry. This list could really be filled with scenes from this episode alone. When I started watching the show last summer, I’d accidentally heard one major thing about how it ended, so I thought I was prepared for it. I found that even if you know how it ends, there is no way to prepare.
“The Diamond of the Day” is another polarising finale. Without going too much into the history of the show, Merlin was warned of the prophecy of Arthur’s death in series one. When Arthur is stabbed by someone he thought was a friend in the first five minutes of the finale, it’s not a surprise. The first time I watched, I was only shocked that it happened so early in the episode. I knew then that I was in for a world of hurt. The look on Arthur’s face right before he collapses is always enough to start the tears. I’m sure when it aired there were viewers who believed that they wouldn’t possibly kill a lead of a family show in the finale that aired on Christmas Eve. Those people are cute. Merlin was on BBC, the network that thrives on torturing viewers and characters alike. (See Doctor Who and Sherlock.)
While a lot happens in this episode, there’s no denying it’s really about Merlin and Arthur’s relationship. Whether you think their relationship is platonic or you ship them/Merthur, the focus is clearly on them in this episode. It’s never just about Arthur slowly dying and Merlin’s desperation to save him. The real pain starts with Merlin tearfully telling Arthur he’s sorry he didn’t defy the prophecy and confessing that he has magic he uses to protect Arthur. In this short scene, Arthur goes from disbelief (“You’re not a sorcerer, I would know”) to betrayal and disgust as Merlin shows him his magic, and he insists that Merlin leave him. The anguish they are both going through is unbearable and makes it impossible to watch this scene without crying.
Once Gaius convinces Arthur that Merlin is his only hope for survival, the rest of the episode involves Arthur trying to come to terms with who Merlin really is. Arthur’s attention is not on his impending death; it’s on Merlin, studying him and the magic things Merlin does to protect him that Arthur never noticed before. He speaks frequently of the lies Merlin told him over the years. Merlin, on the other hand, is focused on the only thing he has ever cared about – saving Arthur. Each of them focusing so much on the other speaks volumes about how much they both care, even if a certain dollop head won’t admit it.
As Arthur slowly tries to understand and be cordial with Merlin, he asks why Merlin never told him he had magic. Merlin explains that Arthur would have killed him, and Arthur confesses that he doesn’t know what he would have done. Merlin says honestly that he didn’t want to put him in that position. “That’s what worried you?” Arthur’s realisation of how much Merlin cares is enough to make anyone cry, but that’s only the beginning. “Some men are born to plow fields. Some live to be great physicians, others to be great kings. Me? I was born to serve you, Arthur, and I’m proud of that, and I wouldn’t change a thing.” Arthur doesn’t respond, but the look between them says more than any words could. He’s finally accepting Merlin for who he is and realising all that Merlin has done for him.
The show of acceptance continues as Merlin uses magic to ensure safety, and Arthur is quick to see, “All these years, Merlin, you never once sought any credit.” It’s amazing how their relationship changed so much over the years – from hating each other to being best friends, willing to die for each other – but even more so in the span of a few days in this episode. They changed but also came full circle. Arthur went back to hating Merlin temporarily because of his magic to accepting, even appreciating, him for it.
I, of course, am always a blubbering mess through all of this. The real waterworks come a few scenes later when Merlin tells Arthur not to talk, and Arthur reminds Merlin that he can’t tell the king what to do. (We all know Merlin is the only one Arthur lets give him orders.) Merlin says, “I always have. I’m not going to change now.” Arthur’s response?
Finally! Total acceptance! This is easily one of the most well-known lines of the episode/series. I’ll never be able to hear those words without crying. Not only that, but Arthur actually apologises to Merlin for treating him the way he did. Though the tone quickly shifts to their playful banter, the tears remain at the implications of all that is said – and unsaid – in this scene.
Still not enough tears for you? As Merlin tries desperately to get Arthur to Avalon to be saved, he is in denial the whole time, not believing they won’t make it. Just when they’re getting close, Arthur collapses and tells him that it’s too late. Merlin still refuses to believe/accept it, but Arthur just wants him to hold him, patting Merlin’s hand as he does. Arthur finally tells Merlin that he knows all that Merlin has done for him, uses his last bit of strength to ruffle Merlin’s hair, and says something he claims he’s never said to him before: “Thank you.” (Lies. He’s said that before, and nothing can convince me that’s what he was really going to say.) With those last words, Arthur dies in Merlin’s arms.
A very distraught Merlin finally calls on Kilgharrah the useless dragon (why he didn’t do this in the first place is beyond me) to have him take them the rest of the way to the lake of Avalon. Kilgharrah assures him that he has not failed his destiny and that Arthur will rise again when Albion’s need is greatest. You can actually see the moment that Merlin realises he will wait for that time to come.
All of this is still not enough to make you ugly cry like Merlin and those of us with hearts? Let’s try one more. After Merlin sends Arthur off in a boat, we see an old Merlin walking down the street. A truck passes, indicating that it’s the present time. He walks by and looks at the same lake where he left Arthur, still waiting for him to rise again. Talk about ending on a depressing note!
I know I basically wrote a summary of Merlin/Arthur parts of this episode (Believe me when I say there were other tearjerker scenes without them), but I thought it was important to explain why these scenes all make me cry. The way their relationship changes throughout the episode and the importance of each scene can’t be understated, and each scene/tear is connected in that way. So where do I stand on this depressing, polarising finale? I love it. Arthur was my favourite character, and I hate that he died, but I think it’s a beautiful finale that was brilliantly written and acted.
If you’re in need of a good cry, I highly recommend watching any/all of these scenes or episodes. If you’re anything like me, they’ll do the trick. If you watch all of these and none of them make you even a little teary, you should see a doctor because you might have a problem with your heart being missing.