Thursday, 26 February 2015

The 10 Best TV Episodes Ever Made

So, recently I have found myself enjoying television just as much as I enjoy film. I've been working my way through various shows for a while now, and decided it was about time I compiled a selection of my personal favourite episodes of television, be it from sitcom, drama or just about anything, really. In order to ensure that this list doesn't simply become ten episodes of Breaking Bad, I decided to limit it down to one episode per show. So, let's crack on.

10. Sherlock - The Reichenbach Fall (2012) IMDb Score- 9.6

Sherlock's second series was by far its best. It built on everything that worked the first time round, without taking it too far like the third season did. Acting as the series two finale, Reichenbach took everything that viewers love about this show and cranked it up to eleven. I'd even push for twelve. This was fantastically written and superbly performed, and one of the most intelligent stories I've ever seen on TV. Sherlock at its weakest is a bit of a struggle, but Sherlock at its best is damn near unstoppable. Dark, smart and astronomically tense, it's very unlikely the show will offer anything close to the TV quality they gave us here.

9. True Detective - Who Goes There? (2014) IMDb Score- 9.7

True Detective premiered to critical acclaim early last year, and went on to win awards left right and centre. This was understandable; the show was dark, visually superb and tremendously well told. But when you combine all three of those traits and cram them into an eight minute tracking shot across an entire town, you get something truly special. True Detective had been slow up until this point, but admirably so. Who Goes There went full throttle without a word of warning, and the episode is all the better for it. Now this is how you do cinematic television, folks. 

8. Modern Family - Message Received (2014) IMDb Score- 8.3

Anyone who knows me well will know that Modern Family is my favourite TV show, at least in its earlier seasons. Whilst I still believe the show to be on great form, it has lost some of the magic that made its first three years such a delight (although this current sixth season is seeing a resurgence of quality). The show's fifth season was a mixed bag, but Message Received is far and away the best of the year, and arguably the entire run. All three stories are unique and equally hilarious and the episode is brilliantly written. But it's the final moments, in which Modern Family took a deep breath and ended on a character driven cliffhanger leading up to its biggest ever finale that this episode truly excelled. It was funny, it was emotional, and it was pretty damn memorable. 

7. Blackadder - Goodbyeee (1989) IMDb Score- 9.4

Wait, aren't sitcoms supposed to be fun? Aren't they meant to be light and funny and always leave you in a good mood? Blackadder was never one for conformity, and its series four finale continued its streak of killing most of the characters by the end. Goodbyeee was already set to be one of the show's greatest episodes; it's brilliantly funny throughout and features some of the show's most memorable lines. But when we reach that slow motion sequence of four beloved characters going "over the top" into no-mans-land, followed by fade-throughs of an empty battle zone and a poppy field, it's hard not to feel a lump in your throat. No other sitcom has ever offered such a heart wrenching, poignant sequence that will remain as timeless as the show itself, and it's unlikely this will ever be replicated.

6. Pushing Daisies - Comfort Food (2009) IMDb Score- 8.9

Pushing Daisies was always known for its visual flare and unique stories, but the show's second (and annoyingly final) season pushed the boat out to levels no-one really thought it was capable of. Despite being hit countless times by the infamous writer's strike of that year, Comfort Food managed to exceed any episode the show had offered before, or any it would offer later. In terms of crazy production & costume design and top notch cinematography, Comfort Food borders on masterful. But it also developed a pretty powerful story in terms of the resuscitation of Chuck's father, and brought the on-going narrative to both dramatic and comedic new heights. I've yet to see comedy and drama combined so seamlessly on any other show, and if you use Comfort Food as a reference point, you'll be hard pressed to find anything that even comes close. 

5. Parks and Recreation - One Last Ride: Parts 1 &2 (2015) IMDb Score- 9.7

Parks and Rec is a show I only began watching last year, but it didn't take long before I fell in love with it. Sure it struggled to begin with, but by the time you reach the final third of season two, it becomes clear that this show knows how to make you laugh, make you cry and pretty much everything in between. Acting as its final ever episode, One Last Ride took every ounce of character development this show had given over seven years (and that is a lot), and tied everything together seamlessly, giving us both insights to the future and nods to the past. The script was fantastic, it was superbly acted and it offered some great comedy along the way. But by the time the camera focused on Leslie Knope for the show's final ever shot, it suddenly became incredibly emotional too. Heartwarming, funny and powerfully nostalgic in a way I struggle to describe, I've never had a TV episode affect me in a way quite like One Last Ride

4. Game of Thrones - Blackwater (2012) IMDb Score- 9.6

Game of Thrones is arguably the most talked about TV show of this decade, and rightly so. It's unquestionably one of the biggest television productions the world has ever seen, and this is most evident in Blackwater. This episode gave up the show's multi-narrative formula and stayed in one location for fifty minutes, offering the biggest battle ever produced for the small screen. But whilst The Battle for Blackwater Bay is terrifically executed and visually masterful, it works doubly well thanks to the repeated cutting back to Queen Regent Cersei in the Red Keep. This allows the episode to stay grounded, and perfectly combines the show's talent for both narrative scale and emotional scope. Not a single second of the run-time is wasted, and everything comes together perfectly by the end. By the time the credits roll, you will be exhausted. 

3. Doctor Who - Blink (2007) IMDb Score- 9.8

This is widely recognised as the greatest episode of Doctor Who's revival series, and I can't disagree. Although his scripts have been controversial since he became head writer, Moffat wrote some absolute gems for this show in its early years, and Blink is the very best of his offerings. What makes this so unlikely, though, is that this was written as a 'Doctor-lite' episode; the Doctor hardly appears in order to improve filming schedules. So Carey Mulligan took center stage here, and completely owned it. Blink is phenomenally clever television, and represents Doctor Who at its scariest, but also at its most human. The Weeping Angels are a great design, and this episode builds to a conclusion that would terrify Alfred Hitchcock himself. Eight years on and Doctor Who has never reached this height again, and I can't be sure it ever will. 

2. Hannibal - Mizumono (2014)  IMDb Score- 9.9

Hannibal is the most under appreciated show on TV right now. Hardly anyone watches it, yet those who do rarely stop talking about it. Season one was pretty stellar, but series two left the stratosphere. Receiving critical acclaim and labelled by many critics as the best TV show of 2014, series two capped off with Mizumono. This was an interesting finale for a number of reasons, namely that it just didn't feel like a Hannibal episode, yet somehow still felt like the culmination of everything the show had worked towards. The cinematography here is stunning, matched with some of the greatest sound design you'll ever hear on TV. A clock audibly ticks you through the first two acts before catapulting you into a frenzy of violence, plot twists, character developments and emotional breakdowns. It bordered on unbearable, yet I couldn't look away for a heartbeat. 

1. Breaking Bad - Ozymandias (2013)  IMDb Score- 10.0

I don't know where to begin with this one. Breaking Bad spent a long time using the slow burn narrative. It took three (admittedly superb) seasons before anything truly mind blowing happened, but when it did, it was quite something. There is a reason why Ozymandias is the only production to ever sustain a perfect 10.0 on IMDb, and why it is considered by many to be the greatest episode of television ever produced. Ozymandias opens with one of the most heartbreaking sequences Breaking Bad ever offers, and then refuses to calm down until the credits roll. Despite sitting in the final three episodes of one of the best television seasons ever produced, this episode somehow managed to slaughter everything that came before it and finish as the greatest episode of one of TV's greatest shows. 

Much like the previously discussed Mizumono, this was incredibly difficult to watch. Ozymandias essentially takes every character you've grown to care about over six years, and destroys every ounce of hope you had for them. It's impossible to know where you stand when the plot moves at such a rapid pace, but it will leave you breathless. Cranston, Gunn and Paul were all terrific here (the former two both winning Emmy's for their performances in this episode), and you'll struggle to find anything as horrific to watch as the five minute sequence inside the White household. Relationships are torn, bonds are broken and lives are taken, but simultaneously television gold was produced by Vince Gilligan and everyone else involved. There is simply nothing out there quite like Ozymandias

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