Honorable Mentions (these would round out my top 20 if I made a top 20): “B.A.N.”/”The Club” (Atlanta), “Season Two Episode Seven” (American Crime-specifically that restaurant booth scene…), “Shut Up and Dance”/”San Junipero” (Black Mirror), “Part 20” (Bloodline), “That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), “The Beach” (The Night Of)
Others Considered: “One Long Day” (Love), “New York’s Finest” (Daredevil), “Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo” (IASIP), “War” (Hap and Leonard), “A Room of One’s Own” (The Path), “People Persons” (OITNB), “A Blade of Grass” (Penny Dreadful), “Al Fin Cayo” (Narcos), “Episode 4” (Fleabag), “eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx” (Mr. Robot), “Coats or Keys” (Masters of Sex), “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (Westworld), “The House of Uncanny Truths” (Search Party), “If I Were a Bell” (Transparent), “…Someone Like Me as a Member” (The Good Place), “Requiem” (Banshee), “Hope” (black-ish)
12. Girls-“The Panic in Central Park”: I know I might catch some flack for picking a Girls episode to fill the final slot over the beloved “B.A.N.” and “San Junipero”, but this episode truly was fantastic. Beautiful imagery, a wonderful self-contained story, a great Allison Williams performance, and actual character development for Marnie. Who would’ve thought a Marnie-centric episode would be one of their best?
11. You’re the Worst-“Twenty Two”: Desmin Borges turned in one of the best performances of the year in this harrowing, heartbreaking depiction of PTSD.
10. The Americans-“The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”: This episode featured a daring turn of events that felt like they should belong in a finale. It served as a perfect transition point for the season, and Keri Russell showed off for the world in a dynamite Elizabeth-Paige scene.
Shoutouts: “The Rat”, “Travel Agents”, “Dinner for Seven”, “Chloramphenicol”
9. Game of Thrones-“The Winds of Winter”: Featuring an incredible opening sequence set to Ramin Djawadi’s “Light of the Seven”, the Game of Thrones finale concluded the season in spectacular fashion and set into motion the final set of falling dominoes for the series. These last two years should be interesting.
Shoutout: “The Battle of the Bastards”
8. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story-“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”: The FX series perfectly captured the outlandish nature of the trial overall, but its strongest aspect was its exploration of the lawyers involved. Sarah Paulson killed it in “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”, a heartwrenching hour of television that conveyed how taxing it was to be a woman in her position.
Shoutouts: “Manna From Heaven”, “The Race Card”
7. Horace and Pete-“Episode 9”: A stunning portrayal of tragedy and grief, and a hell of a final sequence.
Shoutouts: Episodes 3, 6, 10
6. Bojack Horseman-“Fish Out of Water”: A funny, inventive, and poignant work of art. Not only brilliant because it broke formula, but also because it structured its premise around Bojack’s character development.
Shoutouts: “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew”, “That’s Too Much, Man!”, “It’s You”
5. The Girlfriend Experience-“Blindsided”: 25 minutes of unrelenting tension. As the walls closed in around her character, her facade crumbling in her hands, Riley Keough delivered the performance of a lifetime.
4. Rectify-“All I’m Sayin'”: It may not have been the best episode of the series–or even of the season–but it repeatedly demonstrated the main strength of the show: letting two people talk. It was a gorgeous and satisfying way to end the masterful achievement that was Rectify.
Shoutouts: “Pineapples in Paris”, “A House Divided”
3. Person of Interest-“The Day the World Went Away”: This might have been the show’s crowning achievement. A climactic showdown with devastating consequences. A terrifying monologue from Michael Emerson. A perfect episode all around.
Shoutouts: “6,741”, “Return 0”
2. O.J.: Made in America-“Part Two”: The other parts were equally compelling, but the pre-trial parts of the miniseries were the most essential. Watching O.J.’s television and football careers craft his celebrity–especially with the background of a contentious racial divide in the country–was fascinating stuff.
1. Veep-“Mother”: Comedy is just as alive and well as ever (my #1 last year was “Charlie Work”). All of the episodes I listed above were pretty hard-hitting, but none of them quite matched the impact “Mother” had on me. It was one of the funniest episodes of anything I have ever seen, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was comedic perfection. You almost feel bad laughing at the situation in the episode until you realize it’s an insult not to laugh. Best episode of the year.
Shoutout: “Kissing Your Sister”
Haven’t Seen/Haven’t Seen Enough Of: Baskets, The Get Down, This Is Us, Insecure, Quarry, Better Things, Luke Cage, Jane the Virgin, Catastrophe, Casual, Speechless, Halt and Catch Fire, High Maintenance, Broad City, Peaky Blinders, One Mississippi, black-ish, Preacher, Gomorrah, People Of Earth, Happy Valley, The A Word, Queen Sugar, Easy, Documentary Now!, Steven Universe, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Supergirl, The Flash, Outlander, RuPaul, Agent Carter, Superstore, Arrow (did not watch this season), Vikings, Vice Principals, Roots, Underground, Bates Motel, The Carmichael Show
Special Mention: I only realized after I published this that Please Like Me aired its fourth season this year. I’ll get around to it eventually, but it likely would’ve received recognition on my tv lists had I seen it earlier. I really enjoyed seasons 1-3.
Also, I will likely enjoy the Sense8 Christmas special.
Photo credits: HBO, CBS, Netflix