Top 10 TV Episodes of 2015

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You know what our favorite shows were for the year, but now here are our favorite individual episodes that aired in 2015. Not all of them are from shows that made our top 10 lists. Sometimes a half hour of a merely good show manages to finally do what that show was trying to do all along. That’s the case with many of these. For other shows, it was just hard to have to pick one. Here are our ten favorite TV episodes of 2015.

 

Matt’s Take:

star-wars-rebels-darth-vader10. Star Wars Rebels: “The Siege of Lothal” (Season 2 Episode 1)

Before The Force Awakens finally landed into theaters, Star Wars Rebels frequently gave us glimpses that Disney actually got Star Wars right. The best sign was the mini-movie event that kicked off Rebels‘ second season. While Harrison Ford and co. returned in the seventh film, there was only one place to hear James Earl Jones reprise his role as Darth Vader. The Sith Lord’s attack on the core cast was fierce and horrific. Vader hasn’t been this scary since Empire Strikes Back. Throw in a big connection with Anakin’s former apprentice on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the signs that fans were in great hands have been there for a while.

 

daredevil-corridor9. Daredevil: “Cut Man” (Season 1 Episode 2)

Jessica Jones may be a stronger series than Daredevil, but the latter’s second episode is the best episode of live-action superhero television in history. The big thing people will remember from this episode is the beautifully shot hallway fight scene that ended the episode. As badass as it was, the best moment here is Matt Murdock taking a child by the arm out of the building, showing us a true hero. Following the best told origin story for a superhero in quite some time, with flashbacks that really made you feel for Matt’s boxer father before his death, this episode packed an emotional punch like no other.

 

episode-15-10248. Looking: “Looking for Plot” (Season 2 Episode 7)

Looking‘s second season was about a lot more than being “the gay show” on TV. No episode embodied that more than “Looking for Plot,” a melancholy meditation on life-long friendship, grief, and how people change. When Doris’ father unexpectedly dies, she and Dom return to their hometown to say goodbye, with Patrick tagging along for good measure. Between the small-town gay bar and Patrick hilariously weeping at the funeral of a man he never met, this episode managed to be among the funniest of the season, despite its subject matter. But the best moment comes when Dom fails to find his own father’s grave, instead coming out to the whole cemetery by shouting “DAD, I’M GAY!” out the car window.

 

Trivia-time-Broad-City-fans-Whats-the-name-of-Abbis-stuffed-animal-BroadCity17. Broad City: “Wisdom Teeth” (Season 2 Episode 3)

I wrote in my top 10 TV shows list that Broad City is the best display of pure comedy on television right now. Of the ten consistently hilarious episodes season two delivered, “Wisdom Teeth” is the show at the height of its comedic powers. It’s a simple and easy premise: Abbi gets her wisdom teeth taken out and Ilana gives her the wrong dosage of her medication (not to mention the plate of weed laced snacks). The results are hilarious as Abbi parades around the Brooklyn Whole Foods with Bingo Bronson, the giant stuffed tooth she hallucinates is with her the whole time. It’s proof that both these actresses are among the best physical comedians of their time.

 

Game-of-Thrones-Hardhome-716. Game of Thrones: “Hardhome” (Season 5 Episode 8)

Winter came in this instantly iconic episode of HBO’s fantasy epic. The last 20 minutes of “Hardhome” is the best chunk of the season and among the best overall scenes of this great series yet. As the show slowly but surely prepares to wind down, the threat of winter had to manifest. And manifest it did with an endless hoard of the undead and the elite White Walker warrior that Jon Snow manages to kill with his sword. In a moment of such pure horror, hope emerges, just before the horror returns at the sight of the even larger undead army that rises from the fallen once the fighting is over. Before that, Tyrion and Danerys meet and have two of the season’s best conversations. “Hardhome” will forever rank among the best Game of Thrones episodes.

 

14453634455025. The Leftovers: “Off Ramp” (Season 2 Episode 3)

As the legendary second season of The Leftovers was just taking off, this episode had we worried. Why so soon into the relocation to Texas were we going back to New York to see two characters who didn’t seem to fit into the new season’s modus operandi? Well, it ended up being the best episode in a season full of episodes that almost made this list. But Laurie’s quest to take down the Guilty Remnant, no matter what that means, was a fascinating place to take the character after her mostly silent role in season one. Then there’s that cut from Laurie yelling to her son through a closed door that everything is fine to a woman she helped free clearly not doing fine. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and overall pacing.

 

master_of_none_mornings4. Master of None: “Mornings” (Season 1 Episode 9)

Master of None‘s first season may have had more important episodes than this one, but “Mornings” was still its best for its brutally honest portrayal of a long-term relationship from the second they moved in together to their very uncertain future. The writing and editing here are top-notch, weaving through the calendar year at a brisk pace, showing the little nuances that make up the couple’s cute moments, small bickering, and relationship changing arguments. It all makes for one of the most emotional episodes of TV this year, no matter what your relationship history looks like.

 

Photo Credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-EtAsIBFVFws/Vc0R-7nWOLI/AAAAAAAAGO0/wtkP3Zfxsaw/s1600/rsz_15-2.jpg3. Hannibal: “The Wrath of the Lamb” (Season 3 Episode 13)

The only series finale on this list, “The Wrath of the Lamb” brutally wrapped up the final season of Hannibal in an accidentally perfect manner. With NBC’s cancellation of the series, there was almost no way Hannibal would get the perfect ending it deserved. Bryan Fuller seemed to have the foresight to do so anyway. Sure, a few characters are ignored in the finale, but the ones who aren’t were the most important anyway. In the end, Hannibal proved that it was a love story all along. After an intense confrontation with Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Red Dragon, Will and Hannibal embrace as equals and lovers on the edge of a cliff. As Will finally gives in to who Hannibal wants him to be, he takes them both off the cliff in the most beautiful, complicated romance suicide since Romeo & Juliet.

 

1430879576000_us_comedy_central_3202. Inside Amy Schumer: “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” (Season 3 Episode 3)

Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central series has been pretty hit-and-miss since it began, depending on the sketch. Having an entire episode based around one sketch was certainly a risk, but what a sketch! Hiring the likes of Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum, John Hawkes, and others for an episode-long 12 Angry Men parody was a brilliant move. The sketch revolves around 12 men arguing whether Schumer is “hot enough” to be on TV. It’s an important exposure of the way men talk about women that also manages to be an absolute riot. Of everything Schumer has written, this is the most incredible work of her already impressive career.

 

Transparent-Season-2-Episode-9-1-cece1. Transparent: “Man on the Land” (Season 2 Episode 9)

Transparent second season is as much about heritage as it is about accepting who you are. “Man on the Land” slowly builds to one of the most difficult moments of television in recent memory. Aside from following the Pfefferman’s on their long road to being comfortable with themselves, the second season also showed the family’s history in 1930s Berlin. Back then, the family was already all over the map considering their sexual orientation. Considering the setting, we know their bougie parties can’t last. It’s only after Maura is told she’s not welcome in an all-women retreat in the woods that we watch the Nazis rip the her ancestors from their home. Back when no one was equal, they stood together. But now that same-sex couples can get married, a group of lesbians can ban a trans woman from their get together. As Ali puts it an episode later, are these not “metaphorical holocausts?” Transparent rips the blanket off an LGBTQ community that really divides itself by those letters, rather than uniting for a common struggle. The way it does this, by paralleling this exposure with a formerly united community facing a much greater evil, is the most effective storytelling of the year.

 

Mike’s Take:

Photo Credit: http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/5368/33/16x9/960.jpg10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “Kimmy’s in a Love Triangle!” (Season 1 Episode 10)

The true triumph of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is its ability to tackle a rather dark subject with a determinedly sunny disposition. Kimmy is no victim, and although this episode features several pointed references to her warped view of the world—her laughter at “things that people who haven’t been kidnapped find scary,” her awkward first sexual encounter with Logan—the narrative focuses far more on her overcoming obstacles than being overwhelmed by them. It’s heartwarming to see Kimmy both help out Xan, and choose a compassionate love over a selfish one. Meanwhile, Titus’ exploits in attempting to “pass” as straight offers one of the sharpest and funniest critiques of traditional masculinity to grace TV this year.

 

Photo Credit: http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/5402/32/16x9/1200.jpg9. Veep: “East Wing” (Season 4 Episode 2)

Veep is at its best when it’s executing a high-wire act between its many talented actors as their characters scramble to fix the latest political blunder. All of this rushing back-and-forth doesn’t leave much time for individual development, yet the standout “East Wing” found time to give Selina’s loyal bagman Gary a moment to shine. Their confrontation is both funny—what did Gary do for Selina on Labor Day?—and caustic, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale delivering top-notch performances. Rounding out the episode are sight-gags about mustache dye, and a great cameo from Michaela Watkins, making this an excellent entry in what was arguably this show’s best season yet.

 

Photo Credit: https://flavorwire.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/apg_bc_0072-episode-204-e1423077824313.jpg8. Broad City: “Knockoffs” (Season 2 Episode 4)

2015 has most certainly been the year of the ass obsession, but no show tackled this concept more brilliantly or hilariously than Broad City. Abbi finally gets her wish to spend some alone time with Jeremy, only to discover he’s into pegging. What starts out as a just a joke, quickly evolves into a discussion on personal taste and open mindedness that’s as frank as it is funny. We also get to watch Ilana bond with her mother (the perfectly cast Susie Essman) through a truly wacky purse shopping spree. Neither plotline takes the route you’d expect, which is part of what makes this series so spectacular in the first place.

 

Photo Credit: http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/5992938/LookingSeasonFinaleSeason2_article_story_large.jpg7. Looking: “Looking For Home” (Season 2 Episode 10)

For a show that greatly matured during its second season, it’s fitting that the finale is all about growing up. The main plot revolves around Patrick’s creeping suspicion that he’s just made a terrible mistake—props to the amazing cinematography for transforming his and Kevin’s new apartment complex into an inescapable labyrinth—while Doris and Dom share an achingly poignant, but necessary goodbye, and Augustín is finally given some true happiness. The final scene is powerful in its simplicity, making the fact that this is the show’s last official episode (before the two-hour special, of course) all the more heartbreaking.

 

vlcsnap-2015-10-22-11h13m34s16. You’re The Worst: “There is Not Currently a Problem” (Season 2 Episode 7)

Despite its striking sense of cynicism, there’s no denying that You’re The Worst is a true romantic comedy at heart. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected an episode as revelatory as this one in which it is revealed out Gretchen came to be her “worst” self. Of all the shows that tackled mental illness this year, it’s this little comedy on FXX that depicted clinical depression with the most authenticity. Through a mix of blunt, but effective writing—“I can’t tell him my brain is broken”—and a flawless performance from star Aya Cash, the series was able to elevate itself far beyond the competition. You’re the Worst is often praised for pushing boundaries, but this episode solidified that there’s really nothing like it on TV.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.ew.com/sites/default/files/styles/tout_image_612x380/public/1438366473/ur_110_08072014_jd_0717.jpg?itok=U2vd7lwr5. UnREAL: “Future” (Season 1 Episode 10)

Why do we continue to watch reality TV even though we know full well how orchestrated it is? Perhaps it’s because there’s a small part of us that’s hoping to find something authentic within the spectacle. UnREAL‘s stellar season finale features a brilliant scene in which the two leads Rachel and Quinn commiserate over the fact that they both actually let themselves believe the fairytale was true. This is followed by the two concocting their most masterful piece of manipulation yet, with an ending to the show-within-a-show that’s gleefully satisfying. Then there’s the real ending where you realize that the series’ most toxic relationship is also its strongest. Rachel and Quinn might not believe in happily ever after, but I’ll watch these twisted sisters ride off into the sunset forever and ever.

 

Photo Credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-EtAsIBFVFws/Vc0R-7nWOLI/AAAAAAAAGO0/wtkP3Zfxsaw/s1600/rsz_15-2.jpg4. Hannibal: “The Wrath of the Lamb” (Season 3 Episode 13)

“Romantic” is probably not the first word you’d use to describe Bryan Fuller’s gorgeously violent magnum opus, yet it’s hard not to feel the love during the series’ fantastic final scene in which Hannibal and Will fully embrace each other, and embrace their deaths. Leading up to this pivotal moment is a brutal and excellently directed confrontation with The Red Devil, a final test for Bedelia, and a bit of happiness for Alana. For a series constantly on the brink of cancellation, the fact that Fuller was able to give such an exquisite send off is wholly impressive. It was a fitting end to a series that never fit in to a specific category, and it left me breathless.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.themarysue.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/master-of-none.jpg3. Master of None: “Parents” (Season 1 Episode 3)

The success of Master of None relies heavily on creator and star Aziz Ansari’s ability to find universal truths in more specific, individualized experiences. “Parents” is the perfect example of how amazingly this can work, as it shows us the divide that often occurs between immigrant parents and their first generation-American children. The show doesn’t intensely chastise the offspring for not appreciating their parents’ sacrifices, but it does make some incredibly smart points about how easy it is to take things for granted. Overall, it’s the emphasis on connection and the importance of spending time with loved ones that really makes this episode a winner. That, and the performances of Ansari’s real-life parents. Seriously, how adorable are they?

 

Photo Credit: http://insidepulse.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/bojac_ps2_061_h.jpg2. Bojack Horseman: “Escape From L.A.” (Season 2 Episode 11)

The idea that Bojack Horseman is an animated successor to Mad Men doesn’t quite make sense at first look, but it’s terrific episodes like this one that really justify the comparison. The series can often be bitingly funny, but its somber entries pack just as much of a punch, if not more so. “Escape From L.A.” finds Bojack making a last-ditch effort to get what he thinks he really wants—the one who got away (Olivia Wilde, giving a masterful voiceover performance). Of course, he’s really just trying to put a band-aid on his problems instead of work to fix them, so things don’t work out and, in typical Bojack fashion, he self-sabotages. It’s certainly a bleak half-hour to witness, but it’s grasp on human loneliness and introspection is nothing short of extraordinary.

 

Photo Credit: http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/5616/01/16x9/960.jpg1. The Leftovers: “Lens” (Season 2 Episode 6)

“Lens” is one of the first episodes of the season to bring several plotlines together at once, but taking away from the overall vignette structure of the story does little to diminish the mesmerizing characterization that happens throughout the hour. The focus is on Nora, who tries to block out the idea that she is a catalyst for those departing around her, and Erika, who’s grieving the loss of her daughter. The scene in which they sit together to discuss a DSD questionnaire is a masterclass in tension building, thanks in no small part to the exceptionally stunning performances of Carrie Coon and Regina King (seriously, please give them both all of the awards). This is the year’s best show performing at the top of its game; disquieting, complex, and totally unmissable.

 

Did your favorite episodes make our lists? What would you have added? Let us know in the comments below!

 

By Matt Dougherty and Mike Papirmeister

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