Top 10 TV Episodes of 2014

Photo Credit:

Now that we’ve already rolled out our TV shows list for 2014, it’s time to focus on the individual episodes that really shined this year. This is where some shows that maybe had some more uneven seasons can get some recognition. Some of these episodes are important in advancing the medium, while some of them are just among the best their respective show has ever delivered. A lot of them our both. Here are our ten favorite episodes of the year.


Matt’s Take:

Photo Credit: Game of Thrones: “The Children” (Season 4, Episode 10)

Thrones has always been shocking television, killing major characters seemingly on a whim. None of those deaths have been as satisfying as Tyrion’s point-blank murder of his father Tywin while on the toilet. It’s a tyrant dethroned, and one hell of way to close out the season. Bringing Bran, Arya, and others’ stories to a thrilling conclusion for the year, “The Children” was one of the most exciting episodes of the series to date, as well as its best finale. (Original Air Date: Jun. 15)


Photo Credit: Homeland: “Halfway to a Donut” (Season 4, Episode 8)

Nothing solidified Homeland‘s comeback more than the scene in this episode where Carrie guides Saul from afar through a town crawling with the Taliban. It’ll make you forget all the ridiculous business from the end of Season 2 and show you what Homeland has always wanted to be. This is a seemingly fallen show proving that it still has some juice left. (Original Air Date: Nov. 16)


Photo Credit: Looking: “Looking for the Future” (Season 1, Episode 5)

By no means did Looking get off to the best start, but with this episode, the series felt like it had stumbled on something never before seen on TV. This entry zeroes in on Patrick’s day long date with Richie. They connect and talk about different issues within the LGBT community. The best comes when they talk about bottom shame, deconstructing just one of the many stereotypes imposed on gay men by gay men. This is the next level of LGBT relationships on TV. (Original Air Date: Feb. 16)


Photo Credit: Mad Men: “Waterloo” (Season 7, Episode 7)

This is Mad Men at its best. After six and a half seasons of strong historical hindsight and character explorations, “Waterloo” rolls all that into one for an outstanding mid-season finale. Focusing on the moon landing, this episode finally sees Don let Peggy have her day. It’s a beautiful passing of the torch, made better by just how well Peggy does. But then the episode is faced with tragedy, as Bert Cooper dies at home, but then celebration, as Don hallucinates a joyful musical number to send this character out. The last seven episodes never seemed more far away. (Original Air Date: May 25)


Photo Credit: South Park: “The Cissy” (Season 18, Episode 3)

With “I am Lorde! Ya, ya, ya!”, South Park once again delivered something iconic. Randy turning out to be Lorde may have been the funniest running joke on TV in 2014. But “The Cissy” got on this list for more than just being hilarious. This episode very smartly and progressively tackles transphobia with Cartman dressing up as a girl so he can use the girls’ bathroom. Wendy brings in the whole issue of transphobia and South Park tells us we need to relax about who can use what bathrooms. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny while relaying a good message, so basically South Park at its best. (Original Air Date: Oct. 8)


Photo Credit: The Comeback: “Valerie is Brought to Her Knees” (Season 2, Episode 3)

After nine years off the air, The Comeback had some updating to so. Back in 2005, the show skewered reality TV before it was cool to do so. With this episode, it does the same with the current golden age of scripted television. Valerie stars with Seth Rogen on an HBO show about a struggling TV writer, but like many shows on right now, women are being exploited. Valerie becomes uncomfortable when her writer has a blow job scene that seems demeaning and entirely unnecessary. The Comeback is once again pointing out what’s wrong with current TV, ensuring that it remains ahead of its time. (Original Air Date: Nov. 23)


Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.20.18 AM4. The Legend of Korra: “The Last Stand” (Season 4, Episode 13)

Until just last week, there was another Korra episode on this list. But the recent series finale is the best work the show ever did. Starting with a trio of stirring action sequences, the finale ends with a relatively peaceful resolution, finishing Korra’s arc in the strongest way possible by forcing her to find reason in her greatest foe yet. But then things got progressive. The series ends with Korra and Asami joining hands and going on a vacation, just the two of them. There’s no kiss, but the intentions are clear. This is an LGBT couple on a “kid’s show”, breaking longstanding boundaries in one of the most tasteful reveals in all of television this year. (Original Air Date: Dec. 19)


Photo Credit: The Leftovers: “Two Boats and a Helicopter” (Season 1, Episode 3)

The Leftovers was certainly 2014’s most polarizing show. But those who loved it likely started to do so here. “Two Boats and a Helicopter” is a gripping character study and examination of faith in a grief-stricken world. Christopher Eccleston becomes an instant favorite as the priest Matt. This is the show’s first great episode, with a few more sprinkled throughout an uneven but effective first season. But at its best, The Leftovers was fascinating and beautiful, all of which started here. (Original Air Date: Jul. 13)


Photo Credit: Girls: “Free Snacks” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Another year, another season of people debating the remit of Girls. There’s no doubt that this show remains one of the most interesting on television. “Free Snacks” was perhaps the scariest episode of TV in 2014. Hannah’s now 25 and she’s just starting to work real jobs that pay her well. But at what cost? As she talks with her new coworkers, all aspiring writers who are in the slow process of giving up on their dream, Hannah begins to freak out about her career path. She wants to write essays, not advertisements. This episode brilliantly portrays the crossroads many 20-somethings face in their career as it takes turns that we may never have expected or wanted. (Original Air Date: Feb. 9)


Photo Credit: Louie: “Into the Woods” (Season 4, Episode 11)

Less of an episode of television at all, Louis CK essentially made an indie film and aired it as an episode of Louie. “Into the Woods” is as good as any coming-of-age story in theaters this year. Boasting strong performances, especially from Amy Landecker and Jeremy Renner, this story of a kid learning how to take responsibility for his own actions is beautifully made and told. Bookended by Louie’s present day parenting issue of witnessing his oldest daughter smoking pot, this episode not only shows his growth as a young man, but also his growth as a parent. In the end, he chooses to trust his daughter to do the right thing instead of directly punishing her. It’s a poignant examination of both parenting an growing up, and it was the best thing on television this year. (Original Air Date: Jun. 9)



Mike’s Take:

Photo Credit: Orange is the New Black: “You Also Have a Pizza” (Season 2, Episode 6)

Valentine’s Day episodes can be tricky to pull off, but this one hits all the right notes, being equal parts hilarious, romantic, and truly heartbreaking. The inmates confessionals on what it means to be in love are terrific, but even more captivating is Poussey’s backstory of star-crossed love. Her narrative arc is especially strong in season 2, but thanks to some poignant scenes and Samira Wiley’s marvelous performance, this is where it really hits home.  (Original Air Date: Jun. 6)


Photo Credit: The Legend of Korra: “Day of the Colossus”/”The Last Stand” (Season 4, Episodes 12 & 13)

Korra‘s two-part finale was nothing short of breathtaking. An action-packed first half leads team avatar up against Kuvira’s giant mecca suit while dealing an emotional blow with the death of Asami’s father. Part two sees an even more visceral battle between Korra and Kuvira, but ends in a rather calm resolution. For all of this show’s excellent fight sequences, however, nothing beat the awesomeness of Korra and Asami walking off into the spirit world together after Varick’s wedding. It wasn’t the romantic ending that anyone expected, but it sure made one hell of a beautiful statement. (Original Air Date: Dec. 19)


Photo Credit: True Detective: “Who Goes There” (Season 1, Episode 4)

To be perfectly honest, I never found this show to be as groundbreaking as everyone else. That being said, the fourth entry in the season is a true masterpiece. As Rust goes deeper into the seedy biker gang underworld of his past, Marty attempts to keep up so the two can catch The Yellow King. The best moment arrives in an elongated take as the two storm from house to house with a captive in tow. It’s exhilarating, suspenseful, and impossible to take your eyes off of. (Original Air Date: Feb. 9)


Photo Credit: Homeland: “There’s Something Else Going On” (Season 4, Episode 9)

The tension in this episode is so thick, that you’d probably need a buzzsaw to cut through it. The writers basically use this episode to control the audience’s emotions like master puppeteers. The lengthy trade-off sequence has several elements in play with a reluctant Saul, a boy with a bomb, and Carrie walking onto the tarmac unarmed. When it’s over, you think everything’s safe, but that’s when the missiles come. Be prepared to hold your breath. (Original Air Date: Nov. 23)


Photo Credit: Broad City: “Stolen Phone” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Losing your phone after a night out is a truly sh*tty situation, but I guarantee you that your search to find your missing lifeline was nowhere near as wonderfully ridiculous as Ilana and Abbi’s. After a night out where they decide to be “feminist heroes” and hit on men aggressively, the two traipse through the city in search of Abbi’s missing mobile. What follows is one of the funniest, and most authentic tours of New York City to ever grace the small screen, including a trip to Central Park that’s not to be missed. (Original Air Date: Feb. 19)


Photo Credit: The Affair: “Episode 7” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Up until this point, we’ve witnessed steamy his and hers versions of Noah and Alison’s affair, but now that Noah and his family are decamping from The Hamptons, things begin to unravel. What’s so interesting about this episode is that it’s one of the first where Noah and Alison’s stories are surprisingly similar. Both have no intention of telling their loved ones what they’ve done, and yet, through some expertly plotted circumstances, the truth comes out anyway. (Original Air Date: Nov. 23)


Photo Credit: The Comeback: “Valerie is Brought to Her Knees” (Season 2, Episode 3)

Most people can agree that women are oversexualized in the media, and yet each year there seem to be more and more female nude scenes on premium cable. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a woman’s body, but why is it often in such a demeaning nature, and why are men not asked to do the same thing? The Comeback uses its brilliant style of meta-commentary to examine this, and I can’t tell what’s more genius: the shocking and revelatory nature of Valerie’s shoot, or the fact that this episode aired on HBO, home to repeat offenders like Entourage and Game of Thrones. (Original Air Date: Nov. 23)


Photo Credit: Transparent: “Looking Up” (Season 1, Episode 9)

The Pfefferman family often hides from themselves, but in this episode some new truths come to light. Amy begins to question her rash decision to end her marriage, while her brother Jay finally seems to be finding true love, and her sister Ali comes face-to-face with her own selfishness. The best scenes, however, come from Maura and Shelly, as the two exes bond over the hardships they’ve endured. Once the entire family gets together, it’s slightly chaotic, but it’s also surprisingly beautiful. (Original Air Date: Feb. 6)


Photo Credit: Masters of Sex: “Fight” (Season 2, Episode 3)

In one of the many highlights of season 2, Masters and Johnson take on gender roles in a quasi-bottle episode that sees them trapped in an endless battle of the sexes in their hotel room. While they bicker, have sex, and share some painful secrets, the outside world is revealed to be truly disturbing as we see a hermaphrodite infant be operated on because of his brutish father. It’s a fascinating character study of the two leads, but also a powerful statement on what society expects of men and women. (Original Air Date: Jul. 27)


Photo Credit: Hannibal: “Mizumono” (Season 2, Episode 13)

All season long we witnessed the slow evolution of Will Graham from innocent man to psychopath. It turns out the wool was pulled right over our eyes, as his cohorts at the FBI were in on it the whole time. It’s difficult to pull off a deception with Hannibal Lecter, however, which is why the episode’s final sequence is a brutal bloodbath. We received hints of trouble in the premiere, but there’s nothing that prepares you for a showdown full of flawlessly revealed twists, and heart-pounding faceoffs. The best, of course, is saved for the final few minutes, and it’s so damn good that I dare not spoil it here. (Original Air Date: May 23)


What do you think of our picks? What were your favorite episodes of 2014? Let us know in the comments below!


By Matt Dougherty and Mike Papirmeister

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