The end of the year is a time for traditions. Annual rituals like putting your presents under the tree, watching your favorite Christmas movies with your family, pretending you know the name of that one relative who comes over every couple of years (You know, the classics). For the past two years, I’ve started what I like to think of as my own little tradition here on the blog, with my annual end-of-year TV celebration post where I list the ten episodes I enjoyed the most from the year that was. Now, as 2015 winds down, it is time for this year’s edition, but before we get started, let’s go over some ground rules.
GROUND RULES: The episode must have originally aired in the United States during 2015, 1 episode is allowed per show, two-parters (EX: Finale Part 1/Finale Part 2) are counted as one.
DISCLAIMER: I am human, there’s no way for me to watch every episode of TV that came out this year. This isn’t a list of the definitive best episodes of TV released this year, or even the best shows, this is just one man’s opinion on what he liked most from the year in TV. So if your favorite show isn’t on here, that’s why.
Now that we got that all cleared up, without further ado, I present my 10 favorite episodes of television from 2015.
Episodes are listed in no particular order.
THE JINX – “What The Hell Did I Do?”
In 2015, the year of the true-crime drama (Serial, Making A Murder), HBO’s The Jinx reigns supreme. The six-part journey into the life and deaths of Robert Durst captivated me from beginning to end, and reached an unbelievable crescendo with “What The Hell Did I Do?”
I’ve used the term jaw-dropping before, and will probably use it again (In this post, probably), but I have never meant it more than when talking about The Jinx’s season finale. Seriously, “What The Hell Did I Do?” completely floored me, I was left speechless, mouth agape, and scared out of my mind, and even when I could start forming words again, it took a while before I could muster anything other than “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!” and curse words I prefer not to use on the blog.
Director Andrew Jarecki’s documentary series was one of the most innovative, haunting, and engrossing of the year. It has been nearly eleven months, and I still can hardly believe that the events I saw unfold on my TV actually happened.
I’ll admit, I was pretty late to the party on FXX’s You’re The Worst. Multiple friends and reviewers recommended the show since it debuted in 2014, but I never really saw the appeal of a TV rom-com about two despicable people. It just didn’t seem like my type of show. Fortunately, I have never been more wrong. You’re The Worst more than lives up to the hype, and is now one of my absolute favorite shows on TV.
You’re the Worst’s second season told an honest and complex story about living with depression, and loving someone with depression. The season-long arc was beautifully executed, and hit emotional beats that I didn’t even know a TV show could hit, let alone a half hour comedy. The show made me laugh, and, I’ll admit, it made me cry. (Seriously, this show hit heart-strings that only PIXAR had touched before, I’m dead serious.)
“Other Things You Could Be Doing” is You’re The Worst at its absolute best, emotionally devastating, gut-bustingly funny, and when it’s all said and done, incomparably heartwarming. I know those things might seem incompatible, but You’re The Worst puts them all together with ease week after week.
DAREDEVIL – “Cut Man”
I could write stuff here, but I mean, this scene pretty much speaks for itself.
PARKS AND RECREATION – “Ron And Leslie”
Parks And Recreation, one of the best TV comedies of all time in my book, ended this year. A lot of great shows, particularly sitcoms, treat their final seasons like a victory lap and stick to the formula that got them to the top. Parks on the other hand took a completely different route, delivering a final season that took huge risks, changed the formula, and ultimately crafted some of the best episodes of the entire series. I thought picking a single episode from this season would be extremely difficult. The show’s finale was a heartwarming and perfect ending, the bizarre Andy Dwyer send-off was wonderfully absurd in all the right ways, but in the end, “Ron And Leslie” stood above them all.
Parks and Recreation is technically an ensemble comedy, but the show was built upon the relationship between Leslie and Ron. More of a contained stage play than a TV episode, “Ron And Leslie” explores mines complex dynamic between the two characters, not only for laughs but for raw emotions. The episode has some of my favorite jokes in Parks history, but what I remember most is the gut-wrecking performances from Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler, that showed the vulnerable side of these characters who I, like many others, had spent the last six years growing to love.
No show on the air today treats their characters with the love and care that Parks treated theirs, that is what made it so special. Farewell, Pawnee, you’re 5,000 candles in the wind.
SENSE8 – “I Can’t Leave Her”
The more I think about Sense8, the higher my opinion of the show gets. After my first viewing, I wrote about my mixed feelings about the show, and its storytelling structure in general. But as time has gone on, Sense8 just stuck with me. The show is an awesome, if uneven, ride and while definitely not for everybody, I love this crazy show.
“I Can’t Leave Her” is Sense8’s first season finale, and, more importantly for this list, a heart-stopping thrill ride of emotions and triumph. There are times when Sense8 can be frustrating, when the Wachowski siblings can get bogged down in uber-liberal agendas or upper-level philosophy class style exposition. But the thrilling, edge-of-your-seat excitement contained in “I Can’t Leave Her” had me literally screaming “Yes!” or “Let’s GO!” at my TV screen. Sense8 isn’t perfect by any means, but very few shows can get the kind of emotional investment out of me that Sense8’s premiere season did.
THE FLASH – “Out Of Time”
The Flash sped out of the gate in 2014 and quickly earned itself the title of TV’s best comic book series (Two speed puns, One sentence. Yeah I know, I’m the best). What set the show apart from the pack though, wasn’t The Flash’s humor, or action, or dramatic twists (though there is a lot to be said about those), but rather the emotional heart at the show’s core.
“Out Of Time” has some incredible twists, hilarious gags, and a couple of how-in-the world-did-they-do-this-on-a-CW-budget action sequences. Months removed from its original air date though, the scene that really sticks out is this one between Cisco and Harrison Wells. The emotions of the moment, plus stellar performances from the actors make this one of the most genuinely tragic TV scenes of the year.
If you haven’t watched The Flash, but plan to, I’d definitely not press play on the following video…
GAME OF THRONES – “Hardhome”
Season 5 of Game Of Thrones was an up and down affair to say the least, but even an unbalanced Thrones can produce awesome TV. The enormous scale and unbelievable action packed into “Hardhome” would’ve made for an amazing action movie, but as an episode of television it is even more impressive.
Jon Snow and company’s journey beyond the wall was as exciting as it got on TV this year. The sequence was given ample time to breathe, as the show committed half of the episode to these events. With all this time, the writers expertly crafted a battle with clear stakes and motivations for all involved. The action was superbly shot and choreographed, simultaneously conveying the frantic nature of a hard-fought battle with a sure-handed simplicity that helped viewers keep track of the proceedings. Simply put, “Hardhome” was just plain awesome.
While Game Of Thrones might have stumbled once or twice in Season 5, when the show is firing on all cylinders, like it is in “Hardhome”, there isn’t anything on TV that can keep up.
INSIDE AMY SCHUMER – “12 Angry Men”
This is admittedly a little indulgent of me, but whatever this is my list I get to do what I want.
In many ways 2015 was the year of Amy Schumer, Trainwreck became a huge hit, she is now best friends with Jennifer Lawrence, she had far and away the best talk show interview of the year. But for me, the single greatest thing Schumer did this year was an episode of her Comedy Central sketch series Inside Amy Schumer.
She dedicated an entire episode to a send up of one of my favorite movies of all time, 12 Angry Men. Instead of a murder trial however, Schumer had twelve men locked in a room to debate one simple question: “Is Amy Schumer hot enough to be on TV?”
The delightfully meta send up a Hollywood’s male dominance is a pitch perfect parody of the Henry Fonda classic, right down to the sweating jurors and obviously fake rain. This sketch definitely isn’t for everyone. For me though, “12 Angry Men” is without a doubt one of the most inspired pieces of sketch comedy I’ve ever seen.
MASTER OF NONE – “Mornings”
Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None is one of my favorite new shows of 2015. Ansari’s first post Parks And Recreation role tackled some pretty serious topics, but the stand-up comic showed an impressive amount of restraint and comedic touch in his handling of them. I was always a huge fan of Aziz Ansari, but Master Of None put a whole new side to him on display, one that I don’t think anyone thought existed before.
The season’s penultimate episode, “Mornings”, exemplifies this new side to Ansari wonderfully. Paired with the fantastic Noel Wells, Ansari dives head first into the modern relationship. The episode is a poignant look at the benefits and the drawbacks of moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, from the amazing honeymoon phase to fights over cleanliness. It’s a really funny piece of TV, but more importantly “Mornings” is a fascinating character study performed by two actors at the top of their respective games. I can’t wait to see more from Ansari and the rest of the Master Of None team in 2016.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT – “Kimmy Goes To School!”
From the moment I first heard the iconic auto-tuned UN-BREAK-ABLE from the opening theme song, I knew Kimmy Schmidt was going to have a place in my heart. The show, endlessly irreverent and absurdly simple, takes its strange premise and runs with it from the word go. Every single one of Kimmy’s adventures put a smile on my face, from her verbal sparring with teenage girls to the insanity that the trial of the mole women, the show was undeniably hilarious.
“Kimmy Goes To School!” isn’t what many would consider a particularly special episode. Its not a finale or a premiere, there isn’t some huge battle or groundbreaking twist, instead the episode is just a downright hilarious piece of television packed with laughs. A lot of the comedy episodes highlighted on this list stand out because of their emotional undertones or thematic brilliance. This one, however, is on here because it is just plain funny.From the classroom to the music video shoot, “Kimmy Goes to School!” goes for the laughs and wins. But who am I kidding, I would’ve put this episode on the list just for Titus singing the line “Pinot Noir, Plus Sized Car.”
(Other TV Episodes I loved this year, that didn’t make the cut)
BROOKLYN NINE NINE – “The Chopper”
THE GRINDER – “A Hero Has Fallen” aka “But What if it Wasn’t”
CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND – “Josh Just Happens To Be Here”
ARROW – “My Name Is Oliver Queen”
NATHAN FOR YOU – “Electronics Store”
SILICON VALLEY – “Adult Content”
VEEP – “Testimony”
LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER – “The NSA/Privacy”
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH – “Alone In Tucson”
SUITS – “Faith”
THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART – “Finale”
PAST BEST-OF LISTS
If you don’t agree with my list, that’s fine. Let me know what you thought I was wrong about in the comments. Again, I can’t watch everything, but I’m interested in hearing everyone else’s opinions. Thanks for a great year, here’s to 2016!