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Teen Drama Enemies Turned Best Friends
Relationships often get top billing on the teen dramas, but you can’t deny the power of the friendships.
Some of these friendships are already in existence when the show starts, like Kelly and Donna on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Others become fast friends, like when Brenda joins up with Kelly and Donna upon her move to Beverly Hills. And then some pairs are just straight-up enemies for years and years, like Kelly and Valerie.
But what if Kelly and Valerie became best friends? It’s not that far-fetched. On “The Melrose 90210 RPG,” a fan-fiction I was part of circa 2001, we actually wrote episodes where Valerie returned to Beverly Hills (after leaving town in season 9) and unexpectedly found a kinship with Kelly.
Sure, that might’ve just been a role-playing game, but the teen dramas themselves have a handful of examples of enemies turned best friends. Take a look at some of my favorite teen drama frenemies below.
Joey and Jen
To say Joey (Katie Holmes) was less than pleased when Jen (Michelle Williams) moved to Capeside would be an understatement. In fact, much of the “Dawson’s Creek” pilot is built around Joey’s growing jealousy and dislike of Jen. That continues in subsequent episodes, despite Jen telling her, “Joey, I plan to make it really hard for you not to like me.” The tide starts to turn in seasons 2 and 3, and by season 4, a drunk Joey is telling Jen, “I can’t really even pinpoint exactly when we became friends.” Jen’s amusing reply: “Let’s not delve too far into it, ‘cause then we'll just remember why we’re supposed to hate each other.” Later that season, they take a trip to New York that further solidifies their bond, and though their friendship faces some hiccups in season 5 (thanks, Dawson and Charlie), they share an incredibly moving deathbed moment in the series finale when Joey tears up after Jen tells her its her “dying wish” that Joey finally stop running and choose between Dawson and Pacey once and for all.
Summer and Taylor
When Taylor (Autumn Reeser) is introduced as a fellow Harbor student in season 3 of “The O.C.,” she’s immediately a foil for Summer (Rachel Bilson). The two clash over the school’s annual carnival and tensions rise to the point where Summer exposes Taylor’s affair with the dean. Taylor later sets her sights on Seth, despite his relationship with Summer, but when Taylor aids the effort to get Marissa readmitted to Harbor, Summer starts to warm up to her. In season 4, Marissa’s death opens the door for Summer and Taylor to get much closer. It certainly helps that Taylor’s villainous personality traits from the prior season disappear. In the series finale, Taylor even serves as the maid of honor at Summer’s wedding.
One Tree Hill
Lucas and Nathan
Much of the “One Tree Hill” pilot and its first batch of episodes revolve around the growing rivalry between half-brothers Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan (James Lafferty). The two never crossed paths much until Luke is convinced to join the basketball team, where Nate is the star player. Their dynamic only becomes more complicated when Lucas takes an interest in Peyton, Nathan’s girlfriend, and when Nathan later starts using Luke’s best friend Haley just to get under his skin… and then finds himself genuinely falling for her. As the season goes on, the brothers start to find some common ground (thanks in part to both of them being mistreated by their mutual father), culminating in a touching goodbye scene before Lucas leaves town in the finale. Then, when he weighs the pros and cons of returning to Tree Hill in the season 2 premiere, Nathan is firmly on Luke’s “pro” list. Their brotherhood and friendship only grows stronger in subsequent seasons, with too many priceless moments to list.
Brooke and Rachel
Much like Summer and Taylor, Brooke (Sophia Bush) and Rachel (Danneel Harris) are full-fledged enemies throughout “One Tree Hill” season 3, constantly warring with one another over friends and guys. Their verbal brawls often consist of the show’s most biting lines and are still quoted by fans today. And again like with Summer and Taylor, things between them start to thaw toward the end of the season, with Brooke witnessing Rachel in a moment of vulnerability, before their arc significantly bends toward friendship in season 4. A genuine bond starts to blossom, with Brooke even moving into Rachel’s house and Rachel actually stealing an answer key so Brooke can pass calculus (and taking the blame when caught). Sadly, the frenemies scale tips back to the “enemies” side in seasons 5 and 7. Things deteriorate so much that, in their final exchange on the series, Brooke slaps Rachel across the face.
Annie and Naomi
In a significant contrast to “Beverly Hills, 90210,” where newbie Brenda is welcomed by Kelly with open arms, the same can’t be said on nu90210 when Annie (Shenae Grimes) moves to Beverly Hills and encounters queen bee Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord). In the show’s early episodes, they flip back and forth between “friends” and “enemies,” clashing over Ethan in particular, and have a blowout fight at Annie’s birthday party and again, episodes later, at a prom after-party. In season 2, the on-and-off iciness continues, but as time goes on, things swing more and more in the “friendship” direction. In season 5, they meet their mutual half-brother, which prompts them to acknowledge that their fighting is the result of them becoming close like sisters. In the series finale, Naomi ecstatically watches Annie get engaged to Liam — with any awkwardness over Liam being Naomi’s ex long behind them.
How’s this for an amazing example of life imitating art? Not only were Annie and Naomi enemies at various points on “90210” before ending the series as best friends, but so were their portrayers. Grimes and McCord have candidly spoken in recent years about pretty much hating each other while filming the show, only to work out their differences last year and become incredibly close. They even have a joint podcast now.
You might be wondering why Blair and Serena of “Gossip Girl” aren’t included in my selections above. While I certainly enjoyed their ups and downs, they were less enemies-turned-best-friends than best-friends-turned-enemies-turned-best-friends-again. Unlike the above pairings, they were already besties before things went south, whereas those I’ve highlighted here started off at odds before settling their differences.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, anyway — just some of the teen drama frenemies that always come to mind first for me. Do you have any favorite TV frenemies?
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