Call me joyless, but there was a time when slow-burn comedy romances — think Jim and Pam from The office — exhausted me. Every time a show would introduce a new couple to invest in, my heart soars at the promise of love. However, my enthusiasm for shipping often faded the longer the “will they, won’t they” dynamic went on, especially whenever a complicated new twist prolonged the inevitable. These twists, like a misplaced kiss between an ex or a new partner that thwarts the show’s It Couple, can make a show feel like it’s spinning its wheels instead of building momentum for one of its central relationships.
So when? Abbott Elementary planted the seeds of a romance between teachers Janine (Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) in its very first episode, I felt a wave of “oh no, not again” wash over me.
And I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
‘Abbott Elementary’ Season 2 Review: Quinta Brunson’s Comedic Sense Is Still As Funny (and Relatable) As Ever
Now a little more than halfway through Season 2, there’s no doubt that Janine and Gregory’s story is one of the best romances on TV right now, thanks to Brunson and Williams’ chemistry and the show’s careful writing. So far, it does every step of the slow burn right!
Abbott Elementary he understands the importance of small bonding moments, like Janine bringing Gregory an Italian ice to help him deal with a breakup, or Gregory being the only one to compliment Janine on her new hairstyle. It highlights everything from the knock code they use to communicate through their classroom walls to the luscious glimpses that no one else gets to see… except for the show’s documentary cameras, that is.
These smaller moments set the stage for his latest series Abbott Elementary episodes, which have gone into Hyperdrive Janine-Gregory. Ever since the two of them danced together at the hookah bar Abbott Elementary’small delightful Christmas episode, the series builds to the moment when Janine and Gregory realize their feelings for each other and after all meet.
I mean, come on!
Credit: ABC / Gilles Mingasson
For example, Janine and Gregory may be dating other people—Maurice (Vince Staples) and Amber (Naté Jones)—but Abbott Elementary’The first Valentine episode is all about them. The moment Jacob (Chris Perfetti) accidentally reveals Gregory’s love for Janine had me screaming at the TV, while Janine helping Gregory pick out Amber’s Valentine’s gift had me begging the two of them to understand that they are the perfect couple. Look how much Janine loves these Lego flowers, Gregory! Tell me it’s not her!
Of course, this all leads to the glory that is Season 2, Episode 16, “Teacher Conference,” an episode that will live on in every Janine-Gregory shipper’s heart as the first time these two kiss. The kiss itself is lovely, taking place in a ‘living classroom’ covered in flowers. Given Gregory’s love of gardening and how Janine thinks of flower growth as a perfect representation of student growth, the location couldn’t be better. (And need I remind you about these Lego flowers? The perfect gift!)
The flower pattern is just one of many ways Abbott Elementary she was so completely intentional in creating the relationship between Janine and Gregory. “Teacher Conference” also sees Amber break up with Gregory for over-scheduling what was supposed to be a relaxing getaway for the two of them. When Gregory shows up at the convention, Janine immediately hands him a notebook and jots down a possible schedule of events the two of them can go to. It’s a small gesture but a clear sign that these two are on the same page in a way that Gregory and Amber just weren’t.
Speaking of wavelengths, Abbott Elementary‘small The final episode, “Mural Arts,” sees Janine realize that she and Maurice are not on the same page. Between that and feeling guilty about kissing Gregory, Janine breaks up with Maurice, officially leaving the two halves of the Abbott power couple free to date. However, this being a sitcom, getting together is never that easy. Janine and Gregory insist the kiss meant nothing in an attempt to save face and maintain some professionalism, but we see right through their facade! Tragically, though, it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer for the Janine-Gregory ship to fully set sail.
In the meantime, we can still enjoy their interactions, like their awkward banter in “Mural Arts.” These scenes aren’t strictly romantic, but that’s okay: Janine and Gregory’s story isn’t strictly limited to their love. We also see how they work together to try to improve their students’ learning experiences, a pattern that fits perfectly with how Abbott Elementary pays tribute to teachers. Given how well Abbott Elementary has handled Janine and Gregory so far, and how great the show is overall, I’m happy — excited, even — to let this slow burn smolder for as long as the show needs.
New episodes of Abbott Elementary air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC and are available to stream on Hulu the following day.(Opens in a new tab)