There is so much great TV out right now, it seemed inappropriate to leave them out of the favorites discussion.
We knew we wanted to highlight some TV greatness this year, so we went for episodes because no matter how you feel about a show or season as a whole, there’s always one episode that stands out in your mind and just won’t leave you alone. Maybe it’s your favorite because it’s great. Maybe it’s your favorite because it’s funny or dramatic or gamechanging or for some unknown reason it’s just simply your favorite.
So, in that spirit, here are eleven of our favorite episodes of TV that aired this year on some of our most beloved shows.
Our favorite TV episodes are…
‘Legacies’ 1×06: ‘Mombie Dearest’
When The Originals ended this year, it seemed like nothing could possibly take its place in my heart. The Mikaelsons were a damaged, but unfailingly loyal and interesting family to watch, and it really didn’t seem possible that Legacies could be good enough to fill the void.
But it is.
In fact, Legacies is re-energizing the TVD-verse by injecting vivacious, young energy into a series whose oldest living character measures her lifetime in centuries rather than decades. Hope and Alaric are the perfect way to link everything that The Originals and The Vampire Diaries built, but without dragging all the baggage along with them.
The specific episode that I chose is the perfect example of merging the old and the new. Watching Jo meet her twin daughters for the first time was heart-breaking and warm, but also reminded us where the seeds for this show started. Alaric’s truest love was stolen from him on the day she truly became his, and, until “Mombie Dearest,” he never thought he’d see her again.
While this episode dredged up a lot of painful memories for the Saltzman patriarch, it provided Alaric with a chance to say goodbye to Jo once and for all. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll meet someone who makes him want to take the leap again, but even if he doesn’t, he may just be able to make peace with what happened on his wedding day.
This episode also changed a lot of things for Josie, Lizzie, Rafael, Hope, M.G., and even Penelope, proving that “Mombie Dearest” may not have pushed the Landon/Malivore mystery forward, but it provided emotional growth for all of our favorite characters. When Legacies returns from the winter break, I have no doubt that it will continue to thrive in the post-Originals landscape in ways no one could have predicted.
‘The Haunting of Hill House’ 1×06: ‘Two Storms’
I had no hesitation picking The Haunting of Hill House season 1, episode 6, “Two Storms,” as my favorite episode of 2018. This series is well worth your time thanks to the incredible acting and storytelling, but “Two Storms” feels like icing on an already hauntingly delicious cake. The episode is comprised of five long-takes, where the camera never cuts away to another perspective.
The behind-the-scenes video reveals only a fraction of what it took to pull off this episode, and I wish they’d do an entire documentary on “Two Storms” alone. With pages and pages of dialogue, and truly tense and complicated scenes, it’s a marvel that everything aligned perfectly enough to make this happen. The episode serves as a turning point in the story, finally bringing the family back together in the present and revealing some hidden truths in the past. The episode itself would’ve been fantastic on its own, but with the added complexity of the long-takes, the tension ratchets higher and higher until the final breaking point, providing a tipping point that leads directly to the final confrontation of the series.
‘The Americans’ 6×10: ‘START’
The Americans, arguably my favorite show of the last decade, came to an end in 2018. It’s a spy show, a 1980s Russian-American Cold War drama that became all too contemporary, and, ultimately, a show about a family and personal relationships. Everything viewers were waiting for all these years came to ahead, people were devastated, and the biggest twist and best silent performances of the series came set against U2’s “With or Without You.” I believe it will be one of the best series’ finales of all time from one of the most carefully crafted dramas I’ve ever watched. While I’m sad to see it go, I’m happy it ended on it’s own terms, own timeline, and with enough mystery to keep the conversations around it going for a long time, ala the Tony Soprano leaving the table.
‘Sharp Objects’ 1×07: ‘Falling’
It feels wrong to choose just one episode from HBO’s Sharp Objects miniseries considering how well the episodes coalesce to create something remarkable – a dark and moving story of family and identity, trauma and love. However, the series penultimate episode “Falling” is arguably the purest distillation of what made Sharp Objects one of the year’s best. Led by a stunning performance from Amy Adams, “Falling” brings all the cryptic pieces of this striking southern gothic mystery together into horrifying clarity. Several of the show’s slow burn conflicts come to a head, with characters revealing and confronting secrets that had remained buried for so long. With “Falling,” Sharp Objects made it clear that it was no ordinary crime thriller, but rather a profound meditation on the lasting impact of inherited trauma and the strength and courage it takes to survive it.
‘The 100’ 5×01: ‘Eden’
The 100 season 5 was met with mixed reactions, but the premiere episode of the season, “Eden,” still stands out as one of the best episodes of the entire series. The first 20-ish minutes of the season are solely dedicated to lead character Clarke (Eliza Taylor) — a necessary re-centering of perspective for this multi-headed story, and a narrative choice that shouldn’t feel so revolutionary in 2018, and yet it was. How strange, that it still feels unusual to spend 20 minutes on screen with just one female performer, acting her guts out, every part of the emotional spectrum explored sans the one women are most often saddled with.
“Eden” felt like it ushered in a new, confident, groundbreaking era of The 100, marking the beginning of what is probably the show’s strongest four-episode stretch yet. While (most of) the rest of the season didn’t quite match the sky-high standards set by this episode, “Eden” nonetheless showcased this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama at its very best, and has earned its place not just as my favorite TV episodes of the year, but as one of my all-time favorite episodes of television.
‘Doctor Who’ 11×06: ‘Demons of the Punjab’
With this episode, Doctor Who finally did what we always wanted it to do: it took us back to a moment that has gone widely unexplored, to a place that wasn’t the UK or America, through a script that was written by an author that knew the history of the Partition of India very well.
The questions of choice, ancestral trauma, and the ways we humans allow our differences to break us apart were haunting, and in the context of India’s suffering, they were touched on realistically, painfully, and above all, respectfully. We also got a glimpse of Yaz’s family history and her own perception of her family, and all the characters were depicted with a powerful amount of agency. Of course, it also had its fair share of alien activity — we wouldn’t expect anything less from this show — but it was an episode that absolutely stands out in New Who and proves that Chibnall and Whittaker’s era is bursting with potential.
‘Daredevil’ 3×10: ‘Karen’
After almost three seasons of Daredevil and multiple important cameos on other Marvel Netflix shows (including The Punisher), Karen Page FINALLY had an episode all to herself. Honestly, this episode was so well-done and gave so much context to her character that I wish it would’ve come during season 1 (around the time she killed Westley). While she has always been a complicated character who has quietly fought her own demons, we never fully understood why that was or what they were. We knew she was tough, but we had no idea how tough. We knew she was resilient, but never realized just how much she has gone through. “Karen” is a beautiful episode that ties the past with the present, showing us all just what Karen Page is made of, and I, for one, will definitely be rewatching it in the future.
‘The Good Place’ 2×12: ‘Somewhere Else’
We don’t deserve The Good Place, but boy do we need it. TV shows might not literally have the power to change the world, but this one is doing its damndest – its mere existence is honestly a public service. The way everyone has united around this pure and perfect comedy that offers us this deeply ethical education is the most beautiful form of resistance. It’s become a cultural touchstone and it offers a refreshed reminder of, well, what we owe to each other.
Various episodes of The Good Place have made a good showing on many end of year lists from some of my favorite outlets – some notable oft-cited ones that also made my shortlist were “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent,” featuring Michael’s sob-worthy solution to the Trolley Problem, “Jeremy Bearimy,” in which the reincarnated humans find out the truth about their existence, and “Janet(s),” which proved what we all already knew on a spiritual level – that D’arcy Carden is, quite literally, everything.
But truly, 2018’s Good Place game changer for me was the season 2 finale, “Somewhere Else.” Written and directed by the show’s mastermind Michael Schur, it shockingly sets up the next season’s arc – as Michael and The Judge discover that the system they operate within may be fundamentally flawed, they decide to send the humans back to Earth to see if they could have changed their lives for the better without moral desert playing a part.
The Good Place’s ability to consistently elevate the story with unexpected twists while also reforging the bonds between these characters from scratch over and over is an achievement well beyond the scope of my imagination, but Eleanor’s do-over back on Earth, which fleshes out the second half of the episode, is so deeply moving in its mundanity. It really acknowledges how easy it is, how normal, how understandable, to slip back into old habits, despite best efforts.
It shows us that being good isn’t something you are, it’s something you do – a constant commitment, made all the more difficult by the majority of people around you not being complicit in your endeavours. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, and it feels impossible – which is why support systems are important, and why Bartender Michael knows he needs to bump his belligerent, blonde best friend in the direction of Chidi. Here we go, indeed.
‘One Day at a Time’ 2×09: ‘Hello, Penelope’
Truthfully, I had a hard time choosing between this episode and the sob-inducing season 2 finale, “Not Yet.” However, I ultimately decided on this also sob-inducing episode because not only it is emotional, well-written and well-acted, it likewise does tremendous work exploring the regrettably taboo topic of mental illness without ever romanticizing it, sensationalizing it, or turning the episode into an after school special. “Hello, Penelope” certified One Day at a Time as the funniest show to make you sob uncontrollably, while also turning out award-worthy performances from Rita Moreno, Todd Grinnell and, most of all, Justina Machado. In a better world, this episode alone would’ve garnered One Day at a Time all the awards, but for now, I’ll just have to settle for recognizing it here as the best episode of television that I watched all year.
‘Voltron’ 6×05: ‘The Black Paladins’
The Black Paladins is without a doubt, my most rewatched episode of Voltron. It is the culmination of six seasons worth of emotion, growth, and it shows the depths that the writers went to in regards to the connection between Keith Kagone and Takashi Shirogane. In it, Keith jumps through a wormhole, alone, with no way back to the rest of the Paladins in order to go after an “evil” version of Shiro, his best friend and leader. Through a beautifully done epic fight scene and stellar voice acting the tension is palpable as Keith fights with the person who never would give up on him.
Whereas earlier in the series Keith almost sacrifices himself with a look of fear, the end of The Black Paladins has him holding onto Shiro as they fall through space with a look of calm and determination. Keith would rather die than to go on without Shiro and now, after the show has ended I can say without a doubt that this is hands down my favorite episode of Voltron.
‘Voltron’ 7×08 & 7×09: ‘The Last Stand Part I & II’
While fellow staffer Beth pipped me to the post by choosing my — still — all-time favorite Voltron episode, “The Black Paladins,” I found my thoughts gravitating to the mid-way point of the seventh season, and the two-part episode “The Last Stand.”
Opinion is, often, divided on these episodes, but they were by far the strongest of the season for me — especially considering their bold choice to turn the narrative away from the central characters, and back to Earth, as we watched the people left behind struggle against the Galra finally invading.
There was no Voltron, and no Paladins, to rescue them. There was loss and desperation, but so much hope, as Earth fought back to try and save itself, and to give the Paladins somewhere to return home to.
“The Last Stand” was such a huge deviation from what anyone would have suspected from the show, and to great effect. It was a risk, but for me, it really did pay off. And so it remains a firm favorite of this year, and one I keep returning to, and appreciating more and more — especially now that the show has aired its final ever season.