December 25, 2013

Top 10 TV Episodes of 2013

10. “Felina”, Breaking Bad

To be honest, it took me a rewatch to get fully onboard with the finale of this all-time great series.  However, repeated viewings revealed this to be a fitting conclusion that featured typically great moments of acting (Bryan Cranston’s final scenes with Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul are fantastic), direction (that sequence of Walter creeping through Gretchen and Elliott’s house), and enough moments of ambiguity (Jesse’s daydream in the meth lab was a nice touch) to make this a memorable episode.

9. “Hogcock!/Last Lunch”, 30 Rock

For me the 30 Rock had the best series finale of the year.  Just when 30 Rock was getting good again this two-parter showed why this series was ending at just the right moment.  All of the characters got once last moment to shine, and I enjoyed the final fates of all of these characters.  Also the scene in the strip club with Liz and Tracy is a perfect example of what 30 Rock could be when it was firing on all cylinders.

8. “And Now His Watch Is Ended”, Game of Thrones

A Storm of Swords is the favorite book of many A Song of Ice and Fire fans as it has many of the series most memorable moments, and this episode made sure to fit in as many as possible.  The betrayal of the Night’s Watch, our first introduction to Beric Dondarrion as the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, more displays of Varys’ secret weapon (patience), and, of course, the fire filled sacking of Astapor.  Episode writers and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss even found room to create a fan-favorite scene of their own: the meeting of Varys and Lady Olenna (played by the scene-stealing Diana Rigg).

7. “To’hajiilee”, Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad’s second entry on this list also happened to be Michelle MacLaren (who not only is one of the architect’s behind Breaking Bad’s visual style but also might be the best director on television)’s last episode as a director on the series.  MacLaren got a fitting sendoff as she was able to shoot one of the most intense phone calls ever put on television, a moment we have all been waiting for since the series began in the arrest of Walter White, and a worthy sequel to her “One Minute” shootout.

6. “The Climb”, Game of Thrones

One of the biggest debates going on right now in the world of entertainment is whether the medium of television has surpassed film.  The one thing going against television, though, is it just can’t maintain the scale of film unless it’s a premiere or finale.  This episode of Game of Thrones proved that television is finally up for the challenge as the scenes at the Wall are just fantastic large-scale moments of action.  Being at the Wall for large potions of time, also allowed the episode to showcase the most improved storyline of the year in the burgeoning relationship between Jon Snow (Kit Harrington finally doing some solid acting now that he has a strong supporting cast around him) and Ygritte (the fantastic Rose Leslie).  Don’t worry about the quality of the rest of the episode as the scenes in the Riverlands and King’s Landing (especially Littlefinger’s final monologue) work almost as well.

5. “Confessions”, Breaking Bad

With so much work being put into the relationship of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, there was a very high chance that there would be an all-time great moment of acting between Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in the final season of Breaking Bad.  Walter’s refusal to tell Jesse that he’s thinking for Jesse’s best interest instead of just using him as a pawn again in the desert of Albuquerque is a powerful moment of acting.  Yet what really makes this particular episode great is that expert reveal of Jesse finally figuring out where the ricin cigarette went.  Breaking Bad has always been a master of the reveal, and that might just have been its magnum opus of reveals.

4. “Granite State”, Breaking Bad

“Granite State” is quite a courageous (you will see that word come up again) episode of television.  Despite being the penultimate episode of the series, this episode not only decides to spend a lot of time with a character we were just introduced to (the superb Robert Forster as Saul’s guy) but also takes our three main characters (Walt, Jesse and Skylar) to unimaginably low depths.  If it was any other show I would have been shocked that this episode worked, but this is Breaking Bad.

3. “Clear”, The Walking Dead

I think everyone will admit that the best episode of The Walking Dead so far is the Frank Darabont-directed pilot episode “Days Gone Bye”.  While “Clear” isn’t as good as “Days Gone Bye” it’s the first episode of the series to get close to it.  It also functions as a long-awaited sequel to that episode as Lennie James (who is fantastic as Morgan) returned and had many great scenes with Andrew Lincoln.

2. “The Rains of Castamere”, Game of Thrones

It’s the episode that launched hundreds of reaction videos.  “The Rains of Castamere” centered around one of the most important events in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (The Red Wedding), and the cast and crew of the show absolutely nailed their interpretation of it.  Besides the Red Wedding sequence, the episode also featured some interesting Daenerys scenes and one of the more important scenes in the Jon Snow and Bran Stark stories.  All of it was beautifully captured by director David Nutter.

1. “Ozymandias”, Breaking Bad

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” indeed.  The amount of courage that went into the writing of Breaking Bad’s endgame is incredible.  Vince Gilligan and company didn’t write an ending that would make the viewers feel happy.  This was going to be the ending that had to happen, and “Ozymandias” was the key to all of that.  The episode was unbearably intense, and just watching all of the puzzle pieces fit into place as the fortunes of the White family crumbled was a sight to behold.  Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte were all on the top of their game, and Rian Johnson perfectly directed it from a series best script by Moira Walley-Beckett as Breaking Bad delivered an episode for the ages.

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