There's an unwritten rule that every superhero movie or TV show must, at any given time, have a romantic subplot. Don't believe us? Take a closer look at some of your favorite superhero movies or television series. It is expected that the hero will have at least one love interest at any given moment. This "obligatory romance" has become a tired trope, yet it continues to be used, and at times abused. Now, this doesn't mean that a good superhero story can't also have a good love story. There are plenty of examples of successful romantic subplots that blended well with the main narrative and even added to the story. The problem arises when the romantic subplot is nothing more but a token romance that exists only because it's expected to be there.
In very extreme cases, these unnecessary romances can act like poison to the main narrative. In comic book adaptations, the biggest problem is those romances that we know happen from the original works. And even if an adaptation doesn't really do it justice, we're willing to go with it because that's how it is supposed to be. The couple in question has a history. And as a result, some of these romantic subplots seem to develop out of thin air.
20 LOIS LANE AND CLARK KENT (MAN OF STEEL)
All right, put down the pitchforks, calm down, take a deep breath and read on. We are well aware of the fact that Clark Kent and Lois Lane are not only one of the most iconic comic book couples, but one of the most iconic fictional couples in general. If we were talking about the portrayal of their romance in the comics or in the Richard Donner Superman movies for that matter, it would most certainly hold up as a good romance story. However, we’re talking about their relationship as it was depicted in Man of Steel.
Unfortunately, the script did very little to develop the relationship between Lois and Clark. With the movie focusing on Clark’s daddy issues, his relationship with Lois wasn’t given nearly enough time to properly develop. They have very little screentime together, and when the movie builds up to a climactic kiss, the scene fails to resonate with the audience and falls flat. Simply put, Man of Steel never earned its so-called big kiss. We weren’t given enough time or incentive to get invested in the romantic subplot, so even though we all knew that Lois and Clark are supposed to get together, when they finally kissed it felt forced and unnatural.
19 PHIL COULSON AND ROSALIND PRICE (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
You have got to hand it to Phil Coulson. The guy started out as a minor character in Iron Man who didn’t even have a name and ended up with his own TV show. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave us the chance to get to know Coulson better. We witnessed Coulson become sort of a father figure to a group of young S.H.I.E.L.D. agents aboard the Quinjet. The kids proved to be quite the challenge at times, but luckily Coulson wasn’t alone. He had Agent Melinda May, the unwitting team mom, to help with the difficult task of keeping the youngsters in line. From the beginning, it was clear that there’s history between these two, and everyone was waiting for Coulson and May to get together.
That's why we were taken aback when Coulson got in bed with the enemy, so to speak, in season three.
Rosalind Price was the head of the organization set up by President Ellis to replace S.H.I.E.L.D., tasked with finding a way to control the increasing numbers of Inhumans. She and Coulson did have chemistry, but most of the time they were just bickering. But, since the unwritten rule of television states that, if two characters fight they must be in love, a romance between Coulson and Rosalind was unavoidable.
18 LENA LUTHOR AND JAMES OLSEN (SUPERGIRL)
Supergirl’s third season has had its ups and downs, the lowest point being episode twenty-two titled “Not Kansas.” But, we’re not here to pick apart the show episode-per-episode. While it’s true that this season has been wonky at times, the good still outweighs the bad as far as we’re concerned. Reign is an awesome villain, Alex’s story continues to be strong and emotional, Mon-El has become a much more interesting character, and the introduction of the Legion of Superheroes was awesome. Still, a lot of fans seem to hate the hot new couple that has formed in the romantic atmosphere of CatCo offices – Lena Luthor and James Olsen.
Putting aside other preferred ships people may have for either of these two characters, let’s just take a look at their relationship and how it came to be. To say that it was so unexpected, as some are making it out to be, would be overstating things. The signs were all there. However, when we say here that their relationship came out of nowhere, what we mean is that it did not make much sense to pair these two together – aside from having a minor romance subplot to focus on when there’s nothing else going on. It's a relationship that didn't need to be there, and one that most people did not expect to see.
17 OLIVER QUEEN AND SUSAN WILLIAMS (ARROW)
Oliver Queen hasn’t always had the best judgment when it comes to women. The former playboy billionaire has had plenty of girlfriends and random hook-ups over the years, but the one that annoyed pretty much everyone is Susan Williams. Susan was introduced in Arrow season five as a Channel 52 news reporter. Out for blood, Susan was constantly criticizing the then-Mayor Oliver Queen and actively investigating his past, precisely the five years he was missing. In one of his less lucid moments, Oliver decided to start dating Susan for no other reason but to find a placeholder until Felicity took him back
This development in Oliver’s love life made little sense to the audience and the other characters on the show.
Other than the usual ambiguous sexual tension that Oliver has with most female characters, except those in his family, there was nothing else that hinted at a potential romance between Oliver and Susan. The fans already hated Susan, and their animosity towards her only grew when this pointless romantic subplot came into play. The upside is that like many other women in Oliver’s life, Susan didn’t last long. Still, this meaningless relationship will continue to baffle us.
16 LEE THOMPKINS AND EDWARD NYGMA (GOTHAM)
Gotham is definitely not a show you should look to if what you’re searching for is an example of a healthy romantic relationship. That being said, the relationships on Gotham do have very high entertainment value. Take for example, Gotham City’s hot new couple – Lee Thompkins and Edward Nygma. Though we may find their relationship immensely fun, we have to admit it kind of took us by surprise. While Lee and Nygma did interact a lot in the past, their relationship never showed any signs of bordering on romance. However, in season four they became Gotham’s newest iteration of Bonnie and Clyde.
In episode seventeen, Lee challenged the Riddler at his riddle game show and actually won. And how exactly did she win? Well, the cunning Lee tricked the Riddler into giving her the answer. But the reason she was able to do so is that Edward Nygma had fallen in love with her. While it’s true that the two spent a lot of time together in the buildup to this moment, we still didn’t see this development coming. What surprised us, even more, is when Lee sealed it with a kiss, and the two truly became a couple.
15 RAY PALMER AND KENDRA SAUNDERS (LEGENDS OF TOMORROW)
The first season of Legends of Tomorrow was most certainly not the best the show has to offer, but that’s okay. It was a good enough start to pique our interest and warrant a second season. Still, the romantic subplots in season one of the show are some of the worst in the Arrowverse. After the tired Hawkeye/Hawkman romance came to an end with Carter’s death, Kendra soon found herself with two new suitors. Jax was out of the game pretty early on, but Ray somehow managed to break down Kendra’s walls.
Ray and Kendra's relationship came out of nowhere and felt unnatural.
Not long after losing Carter, Kendra was pursued by Ray Palmer. Despite Dr. Stein’s advice not to engage, Ray went along and asked Kendra out, to which she said no. And had the writers left it at that, we would have been fine with it. However, for reasons unknown, Kendra suddenly changed her mind, kissed Ray and started an idealistic suburban life with her new boyfriend in the 1940s. Their romance was short-lived, leaving Ray heartbroken and leaving us wondering was this really necessary. But, apparently, you can’t have a show without a romantic subplot or two, whether that romance makes sense or not is irrelevant.
14 KARA DANVERS AND ADAM FOSTER (SUPERGIRL)
Romance in superhero shows is always a hot topic – pun intended. No matter how they are handled, these romantic subplots somehow always end up being more discussed than the main plot. Sadly, such is the case with Supergirl. It's an amazing show that has a lot to say, but it often boils down to whether Kara really needs a love interest, and if so, who should that love interest be. So far, all of her relationships have instigated some kind of a “shipping war.” But, the one romance that pretty much everyone can agree had no business being there is Kara’s brief relationship with Cat Grant’s son Adam.
Back in season one, we were introduced to Adam Foster, Cat’s son who ended up being Kara’s love interest for a couple of episodes. While their short-lived romance could have been foreseen, it still did not make much sense. At the time, Kara was still pining after James, so to have her making googly eyes at Cat’s hot son didn’t seem right. Just like Adam himself, the romantic subplot between him and Kara came out of nowhere. In the end, all the relationship did was serve as filler and create additional tension between Kara and Cat, and Kara and James.
13 CAITLIN SNOW AND JULIAN ALBERT (THE FLASH)
Though not as much as Arrow, The Flash also has a tendency to include unnecessary romantic subplots into the narrative, which at times come seemingly out of the blue. Such is the case of the short-lived love story between Caitlin Snow and Julian Albert. Julian was introduced in season three as a post-Flashpoint anomaly. He was a fairly interesting character, especially in the first half of the season, but the romance between him and Dr. Snow was met with mixed reactions. The shipping of these two characters started pretty much the moment they met, which is usually how shipping works.
Those who did not see the appeal of Caitlin and Julian were less than enthused when they became a couple.
Unlike some entries on this list, where it was impossible to even imagine that two individuals would end up in a romantic relationship, the case of Caitlin and Julian is a bit more difficult to explain. While most of us did predict that Julian would be Caitlin’s season three love interest – because, apparently, she must have one each season – the writers didn’t bother all that much to actually give their relationship a natural flow. It just sort of happened. And because we always expect stories to have a romantic subplot, we are likely to go with it no matter how poorly thought out it is.
12 SCOTT LANG AND HOPE VAN DYNE (ANT-MAN)
Ant-Man and the Wasp is less than a month away and we couldn’t be more excited to finally find out how their story ties in with Avengers: Infinity War. Judging by the trailer, Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne have become a crime-fighting duo, much like Hank Pym and his wife Janet van Dyne were back in the day. But what of their private lives? Are Scott and Hope a couple in Ant-Man and the Wasp? Well, guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. They did kiss at the end of Ant-Man, so anything’s possible.
And while we’re on the subject of Scott and Hope’s kiss, a lot of fans felt that the romance between these two happened just a bit too early. Sure, they’ve interacted with each other over the course of the movie a lot, they engaged in the all too familiar banter, and you could say they had chemistry. But did that mean that they absolutely had to kiss by the end of the movie? Not necessarily. Even though everyone probably expected the two to get together, it felt like the romantic subplot was shoehorned into the movie at the last minute. It was rushed and had absolutely no effect on the plot.
11 WALLY WEST AND JESSE WELLS (THE FLASH)
One of the major complaints about The Flash is that there are way too many speedsters on the show. While was the season four villain wasn't a speedster, it also looks like two very important speedsters are more or less done with the Arrowverse. Jesse Quick pops up only occasionally, and Wally West was given away to the Legends but won’t be coming back on that show either. Speaking of Wally and Jesse, it would be amiss not to mention their relationship on this list. Honestly, did anyone even want these two to get together? Well, clearly the writers did, however, we never really cared much for this couple.
Wally and Jessie's relationship simply lacked any kind of meaningful context.
Television series with 20 to 24 episodes often tend to include a number of romantic subplots, if for no other reason than to fill in the time. Which is exactly what Wally and Jesse’s relationship felt like. There was no reason these two needed to fall in love and start dating, other than they’re teenagers and that’s all teenagers want to do. The only thing connecting Wally and Jesse is their super speed, but is that really enough to lead to a relationship? Well, it probably shouldn’t be, but the writers sure thought it was. As for us, we just found it unnecessary and boring.
10 LAUREL LANCE AND TOMMY MERLYN (ARROW)
Out of all Arrowverse shows, Arrow is the one most often criticized for its abuse of the "Romantic Plot Tumor" trope. A lot of the show’s unnecessary drama is derived from various romantic subplots. In season one, the plot twist that no one saw coming was that Oliver’s ex-girlfriend Laurel was dating his best friend Tommy while Oliver was M.I.A. This revelation came towards the end of the first episode and pretty much left us in a state of wondering. We had a lot of questions. When and how did this relationship develop? Exactly how serious is it? And is there any future for Laurel and Tommy as a couple?
Since the show had only started, we did not have much to go off. The expectation was that, in one way or another, Laurel and Oliver would find a way back to each other. After all, they are an iconic comic book couple. Another reason we found this revelation surprising is because it didn’t seem like there was anything troubling Tommy when he was talking to Oliver. Although we liked the pairing's element of surprise, we most certainly didn’t like that Laurel and Tommy’s relationship was relegated to a mere plot device when it could have been so much more.
9 TRISH WALKER AND WILL SIMPSON (JESSICA JONES)
The first season of Jessica Jones is absolutely marvelous. Kilgrave is one of the scariest villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jessica is a compelling main character and the story as a whole is well-written and interesting. But, if we had to find one bone to pick with season one, it’s Trish Walker’s relationship with Will Simpson. That did not work at all. For starters, Simpson was an unnecessary addition to the story altogether. What, one psychotic egomaniacal villain wasn’t enough? The season would’ve been just fine without Simpson, and especially without his relationship with Trish.
From their first meeting, putting Trish and Simpson together seemed like a bad idea.
Their “meet-cute” consisted of Simpson, who was being mind-controlled by Kilgrave, attacking and trying to kill Trish in her own apartment. Once Jessica and Trish managed to free him of Kilgrave's hold, Simpson realized that what he did was horrible and went to Trish’s apartment to apologize. Oh yeah, and he gave her a gun for protection. Soon enough, the two entered into a relationship that no one could have predicted because it made no sense. Their relationship continued to border on abuse, especially when Simpson slowly descended into madness and turned into a violent creep.
8 STEVE ROGERS AND SHARON CARTER (CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Being encased in ice for 70 years and waking up in the era of internet and dating apps is more than enough to make anyone a bit awkward when it comes to social interactions, especially romance. Unsurprisingly, Captain America didn’t really know how to navigate this brave new world, which was fine. Honestly, we weren’t expecting him to start dating women the moment he was up and about. Yet, in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Natasha Romanoff hints at a possible love interest for Steve – a mysterious nurse.
The nurse was unmasked as an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Sharon, but her relation to Peggy Carter was not revealed in Winter Soldier. Sadly, Sharon didn’t get much development, beyond the usual strong female character archetype. However, she did flirt with Steve a couple of times, which came into play in Captain America: Civil War. During Peggy Carter’s funeral, Steve found out that Sharon is actually Peggy’s grand-niece. The very next scene between the two sees Steve kissing Sharon, which didn’t sit well with most fans who felt that this particular development was a bit rushed. Hopefully, the MCU won't give up on Sharon, because there’s no reason this relationship couldn’t work, despite the initial backlash. After all, the two do have an extensive comic book history.
7 TRISH WALKER AND MALCOLM DUCASSE (JESSICA JONES)
Jessica Jones season two received mixed reactions from the fans. Some hated how Jessica’s story progressed, others were upset over what the writers did to Malcolm, some were really angry at how Trish’s story was handled, and so on and so forth. While we do think there's some merit to the criticism directed towards the second season, we wouldn’t exactly call it a bad season. Perhaps it wasn’t entertaining in the same manner as season one, but the second season did have a lot to say – perhaps even more than the first one.
If there’s one thing we didn’t exactly enjoy about Jessica Jones' second season, it was Trish and Malcolm’s relationship.
Out of the blue, these two started what we will loosely refer to as a romantic relationship. Apparently, over the course of the season, Malcolm developed a bit of a crush on Trish, which Jessica politely pointed out to the oblivious Trish, who then took advantage of that fact to manipulate Malcolm. Call it a plot device, a poorly written romantic subplot or just needless filler, it really doesn’t make any difference. The fact of the matter is, Trish and Malcolm’s relationship lacked any sort of buildup and ended up causing more harm than good.
6 BATMAN AND BATGIRL (BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE)
Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland and John Higgins, Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most influential comic book stories in existence. But, while it is praised by many, on the other end of the spectrum, are those who found the objectification of Barbara Gordon highly problematic. According to the critics, the polarizing comic strips Barbra – a seminal character – of agency for the sake of a male-driven narrative. In the comic, Joker shoots Barbara, paralyzing her from the waist down, takes off her clothes to take photos of her, which he later uses to torture Jim Gordon. Certainly, it’s not difficult to see where all the criticism is coming from.
Still, despite the growing criticism of Moore’s book, Batman: The Killing Joke was adapted into an animated movie in 2016. In order to fix the issues in the original work, an extra twenty minutes were inserted at the beginning of the movie, that served the purpose of developing Barbara as a character. And that would have all been fine, had the story not included an intimate scene between Bruce and Barbara. Now, the idea of the two of them being romantically involved is not completely without basis, however, in the context of this story, it just did not work. But, most importantly it did nothing to make Barbara a more nuanced character. That particular scene took us by surprise and left a bad taste in our mouths.
5 MELINDA MAY AND GRANT WARD (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.LD.)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has perfected the use of cliffhangers and plot twists. Basically, every single episode ends on at least one cliffhanger and every season has one big plot twist that changes the game completely. And every single time, it paid off in an unexpected way. This is a show that knows how to do surprises, both big and small. To the point in question, the ending of the season one episode "The Well" sees Agent Melinda May and Agent Grant Ward hook up. It was one of those moments you had to pause and back up a bit just to confirm that what you think you just saw is indeed what happened.
Up until that point, Skye and Ward were being presented as a possible couple on the show.
In fact, everything was pointing in that direction. The writers had everything down from the whole opposites-attract idea to the teacher/student schtick to make sure that this is the pair everyone had their eye on. Once they established Skye and Ward as the so-called O.T.P., they threw a curve ball at us by having Ward connect with Agent May, of all people, despite his obvious flirting with Skye.
4 BRUCE BANNER AND NATASHA ROMANOFF (AVENGERS)
Avengers: Age of Ultron had its fair share of problems, chief among them a very misguided romantic subplot between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff. The revelation that Bruce and Natasha had at some point developed romantic feelings for each other and started a relationship came completely out of left field. Their relationship has no basis in the comics. In fact, Black Widow has a history with another Avengers teammate – Hawkeye, and many were expecting to see these two as a couple at some point in the MCU. But comics aside, let’s take a look at Bruce and Natasha’s relationship on the big screen, prior to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
While the two did interact in the past, their interactions never gave off a potential romance kind of vibe. If the scenes were supposed to establish attraction or unresolved tension between the characters, the backlash over this pairing is a safe indicator that this did not get across. The Avengers hinted at a possible romance between Hawkeye and Black Widow, while Winter Soldier seemingly played with the idea of pairing Natasha with Steve. So, where did the Widow/Hulk relationship come from? Who knows, but as it seems it’s here to stay.
3 ROBIN AND WONDER GIRL (YOUNG JUSTICE)
Thanks to the upcoming DC Universe streaming service, Young Justice is finally getting a third season, titled Young Justice: Outsiders, which is set to be released later in 2018 with a total of 26 episodes. Fans of Young Justice are thrilled that the show is finally getting revived after a five-year break. The season two finale aired way back in March of 2013 and hopes for a third season were slowly fading away. Fortunately, Warner Bros. decided to give the animated series a new season with a couple of new characters – Arrowette and Traci Thirteen with members like Blue Beetle, Wonder Girl and Robin set to return.
Wonder Girl and Robin caused quite the confusion among fans when they got together in the season two finale.
At the Watchtower, Wonder Girl and Robin were welcoming Static into the team, and while doing so, they held hands in secret. But, Superboy caught them in the act and asked the question on everyone’s mind: “Since when are Tim and Cassie a couple?” At that moment, we were all Superboy. Luckily, Miss Martian provided some much-needed context, stating that Cassie kissed Tim after Wally died, because it made her realize life is fleeting. There was really little to no build-up to this relationship. It just sort of happened.
2 CLINT BARTON AND LAURA BARTON (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON)
In the first Avengers movie, there were a few hints indicating that there was more to Natasha Romanoff and Clint Burton than meets the eye. Given the comic book history that these two have, it was logical for many of us to arrive at the conclusion that Whedon was alluding to a possible romance between Natasha and Clint. Then, Avengers: Age of Ultron came out and shattered all our hopes and expectations with the reveal that Clint was married and with children. Needless to say, this did not sit well with the fans, and not only because everyone was “shipping” Hawkeye and Black Widow.
Giving Clint a family and a happy life on a remote farm felt more like a sloppy attempt to give the character depth after having him brainwashed for the majority of the first Avengers film. And the easiest way to give any male hero motivation to fight the good fight is to give him a family – something to protect. But therein lies the problem. Fighting aliens and superpowered humans with a bow and arrow was always ludicrous, but doing so while having a family waiting for you at home is downright irresponsible and stupid. Not only were we blindsided by this development, we were utterly bewildered by its purpose in the larger narrative. While it may have serviced the story Avengers: Age of Ultron was trying to tell, it did nothing to improve Hawkeye's status in the MCU.
1 WOLVERINE AND STORM (X-MEN)
The X-Men, whether it be the comics or the movies or the animated series, have always had a particular relationship front and center. The X-Men’s infamous love triangle Cyclops, Jean and Wolverine is rivaled only by Riverdale’s Betty, Archie and Veronica. It’s the oldest story in the world, guy falls for a girl, and the girl has a boyfriend who she loves, but she isn’t above occasionally flirting with the other guy. And while that’s great and all, the X-Men movie franchise decided to add another element to the already-complex love story – Storm.
According to Halle Berry, her Storm and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine had a romantic relationship off-screen.
Don’t believe us? Check out the deleted scene from Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Before Wolverine traveled to the past to save the future, he said goodbye to the X-Men and shared a passionate kiss with Storm. The scene was supposed to bring to light an existing relationship between the two mutants. Berry stated that she wanted people to care more about Storm, so this past romantic relationship with Logan was created, but ended up on the cutting room floor. While we don't mind the idea of Logan and Storm together, we’re not sure this was the right way to go about it. If Jean really did cause the happy couple to break up, wouldn’t that have shown at some point throughout the movies? To wait until Days of Future Past to acknowledge the relationship doesn't make any sense.