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Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite TV Episodes of 2015

Alan Sepinwall from wrote an excellent article a few weeks ago defending the seemingly now lost art of the singular episode. While it was not the inspiration for this article as I've done the best television episodes in a given year before, it is a great read (like almost all of Alan Sepinwall's pieces are) and an excellent introduction into this article.

Since I will be discussing the specific episodes as well as the specific season of the show, obviously each blurb will contain lots of spoilers.

10) "One Last Ride"
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Episodes 12 & 13, Season 7
Written By: Michael Schur & Amy Poehler / Directed By: Michael Schur

Thoughts: Ever since the first episode of the show's second season, Parks and Recreation has been one of the best comedies on television. The show has been so consistent and operating on a higher plane than almost everything else on TV. That's what makes choosing a single episode from the show to make this list so difficult. However, with Parks and Recreation's final season, I had to go with the two-part series finale. The show has always been optimistically hopeful, and held the belief that when you do good, good will come back to you. That's what made the finale so satisfying. We got a chance to glimpse into the future of all of the major characters we care about and see the greatness that awaited for them throughout their lives.

9) "Rhinoceros"
Fargo (FX)
Episode 6, Season 2
Written By: Noah Hawley / Directed By: Jeffrey Reiner

Thoughts: I hadn't much cared for Season 2 of Fargo until they aired "Rhinoceros" aka Assault on Precinct Minnesota. While the classic trope of outlaws staging a coup on a small town police force to rescue 'one of their own' who's been imprisoned could have sunk the show for me, it was Noah Hawley's execution and Nick Offerman's silver tongue that turned a cliche into a classic. Part of what made Season 1 so great were the secondary and tertiary characters that you loved and cared about, and Season 2 of Fargo didn't have that until Offerman's Karl Weathers had to drunkenly protect his friends using only his vocal chords, charisma, and power of persuasion. The highs of Season 2 (which is essentially this episode) haven't lived up to the highs of the first season IMO, but I'll still enjoy a great episode when I see it.

8) "Marco"
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Episode 10, Season 1
Written & Directed By: Peter Gould

Thoughts: I don't believe many people do these types of lists, but if they did, I can't imagine "Marco" would be the Better Call Saul episode they would have been chosen. "Five-O" the Mark Ehrmantrout (Jonathan Banks) centric episode where Mike announces at the end "I broke my boy!" seems to be the episode that resonates with most people (especially the Emmy voters). However, for me, the most emotionally impactful moment was when Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) yells at him "You're not a real lawyer! The law is sacred!". We all know that Slippin' Jimmy will eventually become sleezeball Saul Goodman, but throughout the entire season, Jimmy McGill is trying to do the right thing. We hear Jimmy's monologue outburst at the beginning of "Marco" during the bingo game about the dumb mistake that caused him to go to jail in the first place (taking a shit in the convertible), but Jimmy has been trying to do right ever since. He even gets his law degree online from University of American Samoa. However, everything that Jimmy has worked so hard for comes crashing down when his brother doesn't respect him. That moment alone earned "Marco" a spot on my list.

7) "Cut Man"
Daredevil (Netflix)
Episode 2, Season 1
Written By: Drew Goddard / Directed By: Phil Abraham

Thoughts: I generally don't like to judge an episode on a single moment. Even Better Call Saul's "Marco" had more than just Michael McKean's "The law is sacred!" moment. However, when an episode has a scene that is just so indelible as the hallway fight scene that occurs at the very end of "Cut Man", it earns a spot on my list. The main thing that made Daredevil so great was its raw, lived-in action sequences. Daredevil will eventually become a superhero, but this 13 episode origin story showed the audience that his alter-ego Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) still had plenty of learning to do. That couldn't be more evident by the exhausting 3+ minute one take fight scene. Daredevil is just so freaking tired taking on a small army, but its worth it just to rescue the kidnapped child. It's type of TV moment that will always be remembered.

6) "Kimmy Goes Outside"
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Episode 1, Season 1
Written By: Tina Fey & Robert Carlock / Directed By: Tristram Shapeero

Thoughts: It's extremely difficult to make a great comedy pilot. A lot of the All-Time great sitcoms (Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Recreation) had atrocious pilots. With TV comedies, you need to establish the characters, establish the world, and establish the rules all while being funny. Almost always that can be counter intuitive because the humor won't be able to flow until everything, especially the characters and their relationship to everybody, has been established. Yet for some reason, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have been able to make not one, but two incredible sitcoms pilots. The pilot for 30 Rock was great and the pilot for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is even better. I have probably seen "Kimmy Goes Outside" five times now, and I still pick up on different things and laugh my ass off every time. By the way, dancing is about butts now!

5) "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer"
Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Episode 3, Season 3
Head Writer: Jessi Klein / Directed By: Ryan McFaul & Amy Schumer

Thoughts: Amy Schumer and her show has always had funny sketches, but it really feels like she stepped up her game to an entirely new level in 2015, and its obvious to see why she's on the cusp of super-stardom. Between sketches like "Last Fuckable Day" and "Football Town Lights", Season 3 was shaping up to be the best for Inside Amy Schumer. Then, she released an episode that was just one sketch- a parody of the film/play 12 Angry Men where a jury of 12 men decide if Amy Schumer is hot enough to be on television- and it took the third season to a crazy good new level. Featuring a plethora of guest stars including Paul Giammati, Jeff Goldblum, Vincent Kartheiser, Kumail Nanjianii, Dennis Quaid as The Judge and John Hawkes as Juror #8, the show delves deep into the double standard of being a woman on television. It has the biting humor and wit that we've come to expect from Amy Schumer. Plus, it's fantastic as just a straight-forward parody of 12 Angry Men.

4) "Hardhome"
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Episode 8, Season 5
Written By: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss / Directed By: Miguel Sapochnik

Thoughts: Generally speaking, Game of Thrones will leave its big action, packed episode for its penultimate, episode 9 episode. That episode used to be its best episode as well. Season 1 saw the beheading of Ned Stark, Season 2 saw the show's best episode "Blackwater", and Season 3 saw The Red Wedding as that season's second-to-last and greatest episode. Season 4 had the action packed Battle at the Wall in episode 9 (even though its best episode was either The Scarlet Wedding or The Trial of Tyrion Lannister). Season 5 decided to mix it up and have its action packed episode occur in episode 8. That way the audience was expecting a clunker and was treated with a white-knuckle fight sequence that lasted for over half of the episode. Game of Thrones has always been at its best when its stayed at one location for an extended period of time, and "Hardhome" was no exception. The battle between The White Walkers and the Wildlings North of The Wall was exquisite and seems to be the defining episode to set up the rest of the series. If you disagree with me, then Come At Me Bro.

3) "Out of Time"
The Flash (CW)
Episode 15, Season 1
Written By: Todd & Aaron Helbing / Directed By: Thor Freudenthal

Thoughts: The Flash gave us a season finale smack dab in the middle of its first season with "Out of Time". It was an episode so good I would have been content if the show really did take a break. Instead, "Out of Time" was the episode that out The Pedal to The Metal and zoomed to an epic second half of the season. Having to fill a 23 episode season can be difficult, and if The Flash was going to keep up its Big Bad a week, procedural style for the entirety of the show's run, then that would have been fine with me. Then, out of the blue, we had an episode where Harrison Wells kills Cisco, The Flash goes back in time, and Barry Allen professes his love to Iris. Obviously almost everything was undone by the whole "going back in time" part, but still, "Out of Time" was a treat and was the beginning of the fantastic end to Season 1.

2) "International Assassin"
The Leftovers (HBO)
Episode 8, Season 2
Written By: Damon Lindelof & Damon Cuse / Directed By: Craig Zobel

Thoughts: Damon Lindelof has managed to tell an extremely tight-knit story for all 10 episodes on this season of The Leftovers while giving its major characters their own individual episodic story arcs. The Leftovers has always been at its best when one character gets their own episode (see "Two Boats and a Helicopter" and "Guest" in Season 1) and Season 2, for the most part, took that narrative structure for all of its episodes. "International Assassin" focused entirely on Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his trip through purgatory to kill Patty Levin (Ann Dowd). It was a strangely surreal and impactful journey that wasn't showy for the sake of bring showy, but showy for the sake of Kevin's journey. It was one of those episodes where the only words that you can utter after seeing it is "Wow!".

1) "Is Anybody Out There?"
The Last Man on Earth (FOX)
Episode 1, Season 2
Written By: David Noel & John Solomon / Directed By: John Solomon

Thoughts: No episode has brought me as much joy this year as the first episode of the second season of The Last Man on Earth. I haven't always enjoyed Will Forte's pet project, but it has always intrigued me. I tuned into the first season to see how the show was actually going to make an entire series based upon one man. It started off strong (and soon introduced Kristen Schaal's annoying character Carol), but as soon as they introduced the rest of the cast, the show immediately went down hill. The second season seemed to make up for the mistakes of the first season. The show was just centered around Forte's Phil Miller and Schaal's Carol. The episode starts off having the two drive around a B52 bomber around the streets of Washington D.C. and the entire episode focuses around the relationship between Phil and Carol. Carol's annoying bad habits and behavior is toned down, and the viewer is treated to a new beginning and a new promise for the ceiling of The Last Man on Earth. Unfortunately, the rest of the second season hasn't quite lived up to the excellence of its first episode, but that doesn't take away the joy I felt watching "Is Anybody Out There?" for the first time.


- "40th Anniversary Special" Saturday Night Live
- "eps1.5_br4ve-trave1er.asf" Mr. Robot
- "Knockoffs" Broad City
- "Mornings" Master of None



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