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The Top 22 Television Episodes of 2013

27 Jan

leadozymandiasAlright; now, let’s count down the top 22 episodes of 2013, and you know what? Let’s rank ’em. It should be known that I have a “one episode per show” policy for this list, which promotes variety and prevents half the rankings from being taken up by, say, “Breaking Bad’. Why are there 22 episodes on this list, as opposed to 20 or 25? I don’t know.

22. Six Minutes, “The Killing”: In one of the biggest surprises of the season, “The Killing” turns things around in its third season; “Six Minutes”, the Ray Seward execution episode, is absolutely devastating, featuring Emmy-worthy performances from Enos and Sarsgaard.

21. Liberty/Enemy of Fate, “Fringe”: “Fringe” ends its excellent 5-year run with an emotional, thrilling finale that gives us things like Fauxlivia and a gorgeous, thematically resonant final shot.

20. Meet the New Boss, “Banshee”: This show is insane, and when it embraces its pure, manic energy, it can be exhilarating. “Meet the New Boss” features a lengthy, bloody, and perfectly choreographed fight scene that elevates the episode to a whole other level.

19. Tall Men With Feelings, “Orange is the New Black”: The whole season essentially builds up to the radio interview at the end of this episode, a cathartic, devastating, and uplifting sequence that captures the essence of the show.

18. Phallic Victories, “Masters of Sex”: This episode beautifully navigates the relationships between Virginia and DePaul, Libby and Bill, and Ethan and George. Everything’s firing on all cylinders here. Also see: “Catherine”.

17. Farewell Daddy Blues, “Boardwalk Empire”:  In one of the most crushing episodes of the year, Richard Harrow gets a beautiful send-off; this is just one part of an intense finale that brings everything to a head. Also see: “Erlkönig”.

16. One Man’s Trash, “Girls”: This is a daring and, admittedly, controversial episode (for all the wrong reasons). It encapsulates who Hannah is and themes of loneliness and longing in a short 30 minutes, and the dreamlike quality of the episode only adds to its brilliance.

15. …To Miss New Orleans, “Treme”: David Simon beautifully ends his series in a finale that both wraps up our characters’ storylines and looks forward to the future. The final montage is sublime.

14. In Care Of, “Mad Men”: Don Draper’s journey leaves off in a place of both disappointment and hope, and this episode drops one bombshell while starting on the repairs. It’s a very satisfying finale that strikes at the heart of our main character: Dick Whitman. Also see: “The Crash”.

13. Survival of the Fittest, “Shameless”: In the show’s best season to date, it delivers a beautiful season finale that both paves a new direction for our characters and explores the character of Frank Gallagher with incredible nuance. That final shot is gorgeous.

12. The Gang Saves the Day, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”: Sunny’s 100th episode is a charmer, featuring a fairly high concept premise executed almost perfectly. The highlight is, of course, Charlie’s animation storyline, but all of them convey a great writers’ understanding of each of the characters.

11. All I Ever Wanted, “Enlightened”: There are quite a few masterpieces to choose from in this season, but I have to pick this one. Amy’s panic attack scene is one of the best of the year. Also see: Agent of Change, The Ghost Is Seen

10. Cooler, “New Girl”: This episode is a major stepping stone for the show, as it begins the Jess-Nick relationship. It’s handled remarkably well, and this hilarious episode sets up a fantastic run that really redefines “New Girl” as a must-see sitcom.

9. Decoy, “Justified”: There’s no question that this show has one of the best writing staffs on television, and we can see that very clearly in “Decoy”. This is a masterpiece that shows off humor, tension, and crackling dialogue, and the Tim-Colt showdown is brilliant.

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8. The Rains of Castamere, “Game of Thrones”: The Red Wedding: the most shocking moment of the year in TV. That sequence is executed (heh) perfectly, and the episode as a whole is a culmination of the whole season prior. Also see “And Now His Watch Has Ended”.

7. Off Duty, “Southland”: This is a flawless episode from one of the best cop shows of all time, and it’s sad that many people won’t see this work of art. “Off Duty” brilliantly showcases Sherman, Cooper, and Lydia, and King and Cudlitz in particular do excellent work. Also, that chase scene is perfect. Also see: “Chaos”.

6. Savoureux, “Hannibal”: The tension does not let up one bit in this episode, and it showcases brilliant work by all the cast members while crafting a very intriguing premise for next season. It’s a shocking and strangely beautiful finale.

5. Hogcock/Last Lunch, “30 Rock”: One of the all-time greatest sitcoms comes to a close with a downright hilarious and emotional final hour. The show fits in cameos and jokes galore while emphasizing the relationships between all our characters.

4. The Devil’s Share, “Person of Interest”: This is just an hour of Person of Interest at its finest, delivering an episode that deals brilliantly with the death of Joss Carter. Jim Caviezel and Kevin Chapman light up the screen with their performances here. Also see: “Relevance”.

3. Hitting the Fan, “The Good Wife”:  This is the best episode of the show ever, and it’s  a thrilling, cathartic, and intense hour of television bliss. Everything literally hits the fan, and the strength of the characters lend it its emotionally charged atmosphere. Absolutely perfect.

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2. Victory, “Spartacus: War of the Damned”: Much like with “Hitting the Fan” for The Good Wife, this is an episode that encapsulates everything great about Spartacus. We get one of the greatest, if not the greatest, battles ever produced on television, and the ending–even if you know what’s going to happen–hits you hard. Oh, and how about that Andy Whitfield tribute in the credits?

1. Ozymandias, “Breaking Bad”: Yeah, this is one of the all-time greatest episodes of TV ever produced, and it’s the climax of the show as a whole. Terrifying at one time, devastating at another…there are myriad scenes that really show off the show at its pinnacle: Walter calling Skyler. Walter, Walt Jr., and Skyler’s fight over the knife. Hank’s death. Add onto that some brilliant direction from Michelle MacLaren, and you’ve got yourself perfection. Also see: pretty much any other episode from his half season.

OTHERS CONSIDERED (from shows not in the top 22):

-Jacob’s Ladder, “Rectify”

-Meanwhile, “Futurama”

-Señoritis, “Arrested Development”

-Sacrifice, “Arrow”

-It’s Handled, “Scandal”

-Broken Home, “Nikita”

-Finale, “The Office”

-Effects of External Conditions, “Orphan Black”

-Andrew, “Veep”

-The Name Game, “American Horror Story: Asylum”

-The Midnight Ride, “Sleepy Hollow”

-Clear, “The Walking Dead”

-The Colonel, “The Americans”

Photo credit: AMC, Breaking Bad, Starz, Spartacus: War of the Damned, HBO, Game of Thrones

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