Welcome to my Top 25 Television Episodes of 2013. This list is ranked; feel free to agree or disagree, and leave your thoughts in the comments.
25. Boardwalk Empire: The season started off slowly, but it ended beautifully; in addition, Jeffrey Wright and Michael K. Williams gave us one of the best rivalries on television.
24. Parks and Recreation: The year in Parks and Rec gave us a Leslie Knope City Council win–and subsequent recall–that was hilarious and heartwarming.
23. Orphan Black: Anchored by a magnificent performance(s) by Tatiana Maslany, this ridiculously entertaining sci fi show delivered week after week of wit, action, and drama.
22. Nikita: AKA the “Best show on network TV that no one watched”. This was one of the best action series on television.
21. Strike Back: This show is pure fun, and the last season improved on the one prior; it delivered the thrills, the chemistry, and awesome villains.
20. Nathan For You: Nathan Fielder is pretty much a Deadpan Master, and this under-appreciated Comedy Central series was absurdly hilarious.
19. Arrow: The first season ended with a stunning finale, and the newfound confidence drove the show forward in its second season; it’s been on a roll as of late.
18. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The fact that this show could still churn out quality episodes in season 9 is mindboggling; the season gave us such gems as “The Gang Saves the Day”.
17. Treme: David Simon delivered a beautiful coda to his New Orleans series, and we got to revel in the music, the sights, and the characters of Treme for a bittersweet final 5 episodes.
16. Game of Thrones: Although I do feel like the show is a bit over-hyped, it still brought us two of the best episodes of television in 2013: “And Now His Watch Has Ended” and “The Rains of Castamere”. In addition, the season did a fantastic job with Jaime Lannister.
15. The Americans: The first season of this FX Cold War series was brilliant, anchored by performances from Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, and Noah Emmerich; it was a compelling and well-written season.
14. Spartacus: War of the Damned: Although I feel like the final season as a whole was not up to par with the show’s earlier seasons, it ended in a spectacular, breathtaking finale that I absolutely adored. In addition, the season also delivered a tribute to the arena fights and sent Crixus off in a heartbreaking scene; Crassus was also an enjoyable villain.
13. Mad Men: The season did an effective job of handling the merger and tracing Don and Peggy’s respective journeys, and it gave us loopy episodes like “The Crash” and a beautiful finale in “In Care Of”.
12. Orange Is the New Black: This prison drama surprised us all with its nuanced depictions of women and companionship, and it has–arguably–the richest variety of supporting characters on television.
11. The Good Wife: The show was as thrilling and addictive as ever, and “Hitting the Fan” will go down as, quite possibly, the best episode of the series; everything was brought to a crescendo, and the performances were absolutely sublime.
10. Masters of Sex: The cast is excellent, and the show delved into a compelling story about the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It was laced with humor, emotion, and flat out beauty. The supporting cast was a weak link early on, but by the end of the season, we connected with each and every person.
9. Shameless: The third season of the Showtime dramedy turned Frank Gallagher into one of the best aspects of the show, and it also finally rid us of Jimmy/Steve (I liked him, but he was starting to get useless). Emmy Rossum was perfect, as always, and the finale was brilliant.
8. Justified: The fourth season of Justified lacked the barrel-forward momentum of the first three seasons, but the Drew Thompson mystery was still intriguing and well-written. Olyphant and Goggins gave fantastic performances, and the show deftly handled aspects like Raylan’s relationship with Arlo. Everything culminated in “Decoy”, which showcased the show’s dialogue, humor, and tension.
7. New Girl: The show’s second season elevated New Girl to a whole other level, and the run in early 2013 was one of the best stretches of episodes I have ever seen from a comedy series. The handling of Jess and Nick’s relationship is still impressive, and it doesn’t hurt when you have Jake Johnson–a breakout comedy star–and Zooey Deschanel as your actors. So far, season 3 has been a bit of a step down, but it’s still absolutely hilarious.
6. Rectify: Six episodes isn’t many, but Rectify managed to craft a compelling and gorgeous story with just that. The season wasn’t so much about plot as it was about personal relationships and the beauty of the smallest moments in life, the most transient. Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, and co. gave breathtaking performances, and the show’s attention to detail added to a rich and captivating season.
5. Hannibal: At first, we all thought that this was a silly idea. However, from the pilot on, the show transformed into something sick, captivating, and beautiful all at once. The cinematography and direction are both transcendent, and Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen turned in some of my favorite performances of the year.
4. Southland: Ah, that TNT cop show that no one watched. Sadly, it was cancelled after the end of its fifth season, but what we got beforehand was rich, exhilarating storytelling. Michael Cudlitz gave one of the best television performances I’ve seen, and the way the episodes were shot were fantastic as well. I just wish we could’ve had some closure.
3. Person of Interest: This is one of those shows that, after watching the first season, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find at #3 on a year end list. However, the second half of season 2 ramped it all up a notch, introducing characters like Samantha Shaw and expanding on Root. From “Relevance” on, it was just an extended thriller leading into season 3, and man, that first half of season 3 was fantastic. The death of Joss Carter led into “The Devil’s Share”, which was an episode that both delivered the thrills and the grief. Brilliant.
2. Enlightened: Although the show was cancelled, we at least got some element of closure; in fact, it was a perfect ending, if you ask me. Mike White’s underrated HBO series was a masterclass in acting, writing, and directing, and the show was magnificent when it came to getting the audience to care about its characters. I’ll miss you, Enlightened.
1. Breaking Bad: I’ll admit: I spent more time trying to think of reasons why this show shouldn’t be #1 than why it did, as I didn’t really want to emulate many other peoples’ lists. However, there’s just no damn way it didn’t deserve to be here. The final eight episodes delivered the end to Walter White’s journey–“Ozymandias” was the climax, and the final two were an epilogue–and they were near perfect. The performances were top notch, the directing was impeccable, and the tension was off the charts. “Ozymandias” was one of the greatest television episodes of all time, and Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows of all time.
INELIGIBLE DUE TO NUMBER OF EPISODES ACTUALLY AIRED IN 2013: Fringe/30 Rock (both would be very high on my list, though, if we’re talking about the full seasons. 30 Rock would crack the Top 10…Fringe would crack the Top 20), AHS: Asylum
-House of Cards
-The Vampire Diaries
-The Walking Dead
Photo credit: Indiewire.com, Netflix, Orange Is The New Black, CBS, Person of Interest