Best Serialized TV Episodes 2012/2013

2012/2013: Best TV Episodes

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Summer is coming, and it’s time to look back at the best of what TV has had to offer us this past year — and of course, the best in TV is also the best in serial. Let’s honor those hours of serialized television that were extremely special in their own ways; the ones that made us laugh, cry and sit on the edges of our seats as we watched and talked about them at the watercooler in the days, weeks and months that followed.

besttvepisodes

I have watched over 150 episodes of more than 25 separate shows this year, and boiling them down to a list worth the time to read was NOT an easy task! That’s why I have decided to pick one episode from each of the serials listed. It doesn’t mean that the shows – listed or not – aren’t great, but as a list of, say, eight Breaking Bad episodes would be a boring read, it seemed like the better option to focus on the real standout episodes of this year instead.

The episodes are not listed in any particular order.

The title of the show is listed above the article. If you haven’t caught up, I strongly advise you not to read. In other words, beware – major spoilers ahead.

THIS IS NOT THE END (FRINGE)

2012/2013: Best TV Episodes fringe
Show: Fringe
Episode: 5.13 An Enemy Of Fate
Quote: “It’s not about fate, Walter, yours or mine. It’s about changing fate. It’s about hope and protecting our children.” – September
Standout scene: Walter tells Peter about his plan to sacrifice himself.

  • The only series finale on the list this year. “An Enemy Of Fate” is Fringe‘s 100th episode, and it’s exactly what you can expect a series finale to be: plenty of fan-service, reflection of the show’s history, character farewells and a good conclusion to an “epic” story.
  • Fringe‘s last episode serves as a tribute to its characters – namely Walter, Peter, Olivia, Astrid, September, Broyles and Windmark – and the journey they’ve all been on. It’s an hour of television that we simply cannot forget. It pretty much goes as expected, with Walter coming full circle, sacrificing himself to save the world from the Observer invasion. Still, there have been few things this year that felt more rewarding to watch.
  • The scene that stands out most is, of course, the one where Walter says goodbye to his son and tells him “You are my favorite thing, Peter. My very favorite thing”. It’s a touching and beautifully acted moment that shows just how far the two characters have come. Another memorable moment is the Fringe “hall of fame” scene, in which Olivia and Peter invade Observer headquarters by pulling the grand supply of old case-of-the-week cases out of their bags, and using it on the bald bastards. A nice, gruesome little treat for fans of the show.
  • The honorable mention for Fringe goes to episode 5.07 “Five-Twenty-Ten”. It’s an episode filled with great character moments, unexpected twists and a special appearance from Nina Sharp.
A TABLE SET WITH LIES (HOMELAND)

2012/2013: Best TV Episodes Homeland
Show: Homeland
Episode: 2.05 Q&A
Quote: “I know that you think that he was kind to you, that he saved you, but the truth is he systematically pulled you apart, Brody. Piece by piece until there was nothing left but pain. And then he relieved the pain and he put you back together again as someone else.” – Carrie
Standout scene: Carrie interrogates Brody by making a confession of her own.

  • The episode is almost an hour long, but it’s the fifteen minute scene with Emmy winners Claire Danes (Carrie) and Damian Lewis (Brody) that earned it its place on this list. The first four episodes of Homeland Season 2 were a rollercoaster ride that we never thought we’d take so soon, and “Q&A” is its emotional free-fall. Besides maybe Bryan Cranston, no one can deny Danes and Lewis their Emmy wins – especially after this scene, in which Brody admits that he’s working with Abu Nazir.
  • Carrie and Brody’s relationship has always been complicated. She’s the bipolar, obsessive CIA agent and he’s the broken, lonely Marine-turned-terrorist. It’s a relationship that never should have happened, but in the end it’s the bond between the two characters that convinced Brody to confess. A beautifully written and acted scene that shows all the greatest qualities of the show.
  • Besides the confession, there are plenty of other things in the episode like David Estes trying to cover up Brody’s arrest, Dana and Finn hitting someone with their car (let’s not talk about that part), Brody turning into a CIA spy and Quinn getting his chance to be the “bad cop”, stabbing Brody in the hand. “Systematically pulling him apart” sounds about right.
YOU GAVE IT A NAME? (DEXTER)

2012/2013: Best TV Episodes Dexter
Show: Dexter
Episode: 7.02 Sunshine and Frosty Swirl
Quote: “I’ve dreaded this moment my whole life, but I never pictured it like this.” – Dexter
Standout scene: Dexter calls Debra so she can talk him out of killing Louis Greene.

  • After the sixth season of Dexter, it was a relief to learn that the two following seasons would likely be the last. The show had been going in circles for the past two years, seemingly desperate to figure out ways to keep the show fresh and exciting. So that’s what we got at the very last minute of season 6: a game-changer that breathed new life into the show.
  • The season 7 premiere concluded with Debra learning the full truth about her brother being a serial killer. This put a lot of weight on the shoulders of “Sunshine and Frosty Swirl”, and, boy, did it deliver. For the first time in a long while, watching Dexter felt like a rewarding experience – finally diving into new territory and asking significant questions like: Who is Dexter really? Can he ever change? How will the truth change his relationship with Debra? Was Harry’s way of raising him the right way?
  • Watching Debra react to the truth about her brother involved some expected vomit and swearing, but was quite satisfying in the end. Seeing Dexter defend his motives to his sister was nearly as fascinating. He never had to explain himself the way he has to now. This is his sister – the most important person in his life – and he has to tread really carefully from now on. That’s why, for the first time in a long while, we see Dexter at his core: very much wanting to put a knife through Masuka’s weird intern Louis, but deciding to call his sister instead. Why? Because he promised her.
  • The standout scene of the episode gives us hope that Dexter might be able to stop, or at least control his murderous side. Dex admits to his sister that he lost control when he went to Louis’; “Harry was right – I am a monster. You should arrest me.” Debra chooses to focus on the other part: the part where Dexter stopped to call her. She believes her brother can change and even trusts him enough to give him some time alone.
  • Besides all of this, the episode gives us plenty of other stuff to enjoy: a detailed explanation of what Dexter experiences when he feels the urge to kill, Debra mocking “The Dark Passenger”, Louis explaining his motives and challenging Dexter, Isaak Sirko’s first on-screen kill, and Hannah McKay’s boyfriend: Wayne Randall, who mirrors Dexter’s personality and foreshadows a lot of what’s to come.
  • Dexter episode 7.08 “Argentina” ended up not making the cut. It’s the episode that featured the return of Astor and Cody as well as beautifully written love confessions from both Debra and Isaak. You know the one.

Next: “The time in between the seconds..”

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Comments

  1. Adam says

    “Regardless of the fact that I was spoiled by internetting book readers long before even Ned Stark’s head was chopped off”

    As dramatically uncool as that is, the best solution is to pre-empt them by reading the books ;)

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  2. says

    I still haven’t gotten around to watching Game of Thrones yet, so my lips are sealed on that regard.

    Other than that, I think I completely agree on all of these (though, with Person of Interest, I prefer Relevance to Prisoner’s Dilemma, but alas).

    The Walking Dead’s Killer Within is easily one of the most emotional episodes of any show that I’ve ever seen, and the entire cast pulled off such grand performances. This episode deserves so many awards. But in a year where we had so many great episodes from several other phenomenal shows, does Killer Within still receive the recognition it deserves? I definitely think so.

    Sexual Peeling was a great way of showing the audience just what Rectify is. What a wonderful choice, Jim. Daniel’s speech to Tawney about weather and time is something that I’ll never forget. I think it was absolutely brilliant to include a trait like the loss of understanding time-flow in a character like Daniel. It’s certainly aided in him being one of the most human characters I’ve ever watched.
    I love the way you word your input on the relevance of Daniel’s possible deed. I always took Daniel’s guilt as something that we would have to interpret for ourselves. But you pretty much throw that out the window and gave me a lovely epiphany: whether or not Daniel raped and murdered Hannah doesn’t matter; what matters is what he does from this point forward. Thanks, Jim ;)

    Breaking Bad’s Gliding Over All was such a crazy episode. There was some great visuals. There was a poignant mystery. There was disgust to be felt for our main character. There was an organic twist. There was a game-changing revelation. There was wonderful acting. There was um…nicely done musical montages to provocative clips? My only problem with the episode was that there wasn’t enough Jesse.
    Overall, I think Gliding Over All and Live Free or Die really shone above the other six episode in terrific ways.

    The Americans didn’t quite live up to my expectations after a really solid pilot episode. It ended up being pretty hit-and-miss for me. There was usually at least one or two good scenes in each episode, though. However, Safehouse definitely stood out as being a memorable episode. Everything was really well done. I was certainly surprised to see Amador die.

    An Enemy of Fate was certainly a most prevailing episode of Fringe with it being a powerful series closer. Unfortunately, I think it was missing another big kicker somewhere in there. Everything that happened was too expected. The bit of hypocrisy of the characters kind of bothered me a bit, since there was really no development for Olivia with her in terms of being okay with killing/torturing people–even the bad. Broyles didn’t really feel relevant enough for me. He was more just there for cheap fan-service and to answer a question that was hardly a mystery to begin with.
    Anyhow, I though Black Blotter was a MUCH more stand-out episode in every sense of the notion.

    Q&A–by a long-shot–was definitely the best episode of Homeland yet. The interrogation scene was just such a tense and unexpected thing. I love it. I’m fine with even Dana’s and Finn’s joyride. I think that sub-plot receives more disdain than it deserves.

    I guess Sunshine and Frosty Swirl was good episode of Dexter. I just don’t think Season Seven was as refreshing as you seem to think it was, let alone as refreshing as it should’ve been. Like with The Americans, this season of Dexter was really hit-and-miss for me (though, it was WAY better than the fifth and sixth seasons!) with a few good scenes in each episode and then a lot of scenes that either felt out-of-place, or just didn’t live up to what they should’ve been. Sunshine and Frosty Swirl probably handled the context of the season as a whole the best out of the twelve episodes we had. I think what didn’t do it for me was that unlike you, I didn’t find myself re-questioning Dexter as I’d hoped. However, it did thankfully re-enforce that Dexter has become much more humanized over these years, so I’ll give the episode that.

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    • says

      Also, I was surprised to see that you didn’t include anything from Bates Motel or Orphan Black. I saw a snippet of Bates Motel in your photo montage header ;) Did you watch Orphan Black? If you didn’t, I SERIOUSLY recommend checking that one out after you get around to the Rectify finale!

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    • Jim says

      Thanks for the long reply! You should really watch Game Of Thrones! I thought of picking two episodes for Person Of Interest at first; since the season was twice as long as the ones from all the other, it would have been fair. ;) I ran out of time though, so I decided to go with Prisoner’s Dilemma, which I felt was more important for the original characters.

      Rectify; Good to hear that I gave you some new insights! That’s a great compliment. Btw, I wrote this post two weeks ago (I’m actually in Indonesia at the moment!) so I have watched the season finale now. Needless to say, it was great.

      Breaking Bad; Short as it was, I thought season 5 was pretty excellent. The premiere was so good at showing the change in Walt, and I thought the other episodes (with the possible exception of the third) were very good as well. I can’t recall all the titles, but we had Madrigal (which was a great way of showing Mike’s perspective), 5.04 with Skyler’s major breakdown and the big argument with Walt, 5.05 with the train heist, 5.06 with the awkward dinner and tons of other great scenes, 5.07 as a final tribute to Mike… They all could have been listed here IMO!

      The Americans; I really liked the first season. It feels like it’s missing something, but IMO it does have a certain charm. The writing and acting is so good too.

      Fringe; My personal favorite would be 5.07, which might be a pretty odd choice but felt very well put together to me when I first watched it. The finale is a lot more memorable, and I’ve watched that one a lot more. After The Recordist, Black Blotter was actually my least favorite episode of the season. I usually love the “special” episodes, but this one didn’t really grab me. I thought the five minute recap of previous Walter scenes at the end of the episode was really strange!

      Homeland; When I watched S2 a second time I did appreciate the Dana storyline some more. There was just too much time spent on it. The only episode that I really didn’t like was the one in which Walden turned out to have a pacemaker that Nazir could hack from his underground lair. What?! It just took away all meaning from Brody’s original mission and the way it concluded (with Brody NOT killing Walden).

      Dexter; Season 7 is one of my favorites! The biggest problem I had with it was that Hannah was not nearly as interesting as Isaak. Everything else was done really well IMO, and for the first time the show actually acknowledged characters that appeared in previous seasons, like Doakes, Lumen, even Paul (when Astor was afraid she’d become like her dad and compared it to Dexter)… I dunno, I thought it was one of the more rewarding seasons. Definitely not as good as the first two though!

      I considered Bates Motel (good eye, btw ;)) but couldn’t think of an episode that really stood out. It’s a great show, but just not good enough for me yet. Hannibal was a contender as well! I haven’t seen Orphan Black yet, but I will when I have the time. I’m glad that’s the only show I’m missing out on haha!

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      • says

        Oooh, I really appreciate you getting back to me when you’re away, Jim! :) Thanks for a strong and lengthy reply.

        I have every bit of intention to watch Game of Thrones. I’d be more inclined to hurry up if I could afford HBO, but I have Showtime instead. I don’t think my household could scrape up the money for another cable package. Not to mention, I think I’m the only one in my family interested in any of HBO’s shows. Oh well, I’ll just rent the dvds off of Netflix after that “long wait” diminishes. I’m also currently watching Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy, which are both taking up some of my time. I’ll definitely get to Game of Thrones soon.

        It didn’t even occur to me that it’d be a bit more fair to have two episodes of Person of Interest. That does sound about right, since it did have practically ten episodes more than most of the other shows you listed. I won’t deduct any points for your tight schedule :P

        Very glad to hear that you enjoyed the Rectify finale! You’re welcome for the compliment. I was just happy to read something about a great show that gave me a new perspective. That’s part of why I love Seriable; there’s also great people with ideas way better than my own! Haha.

        Season 5A of Breaking Bad was definitely very excellent with each episode really packing some sort of unexpected punch. 5.03, Hazard Pay, was probably the weakest link. I remember watching the first two episodes and being blown away by how great they were and then being sorely disappointed in the third for just pulling a random 180. You probably could’ve said any episode other than Hazard Pay was your favorite, and I’d be totally content.

        I completely agree on The Americans. I can’t complain about the writing, the acting was unexpectedly good (frankly, I didn’t go in that department expecting much) and the story frequently connected in neat ways. But there was still something…missing, as you said. And I don’t think it had much to do with me usually being bored by political espionage thriller types.

        Other than the scenes with Nina and Peter, I wasn’t too thrilled with 5.07. Peter’s story felt like it was forced to end too soon for my liking, and Walter expressing interest in having Nina remove parts of his brain was just re-treading a plot that I already thought was ridiculous in the first place. Weird, that I thought the removal and then re-placement of parts of Walter’s brain was where I drew the line with jumping the shark… Nonetheless, I just wasn’t happy to even play with that idea. Olivia’s scenes in that episode felt kind of depressing (and not in a good way) and also felt like they were tearing me away from more interesting things that were happening in that episode. Maybe I’d like 5.07 more upon re-watching the series, but as it stood upon original airing, it just disappointed me.
        I absolutely loved the recap-esque scenes at the end of 5.10. I thought the editing of them was quite strangely unique and John Noble’s performance was fantastic as usual. That ending scene, playing Walter’s regretted memories, is–I feel–the most emotional scene of the entire series. I cam pretty close to crying. Maybe it was the way everything was displayed, maybe it was because it hadn’t dawned on me until then, “oh my god, this show is about to end…!” The episode was also a nice break for me because I tend to dislike the “special” episodes (I don’t consider 4.19 to be a “special” one). Black Blotter was just unexpectedly good for me and I love any episode that really forces you to analyze Walter’s arc. I also loved seeing Carla Warren again and having an interesting mystery in the burning of Walter’s notebook. Not to mention, the episode brought some really great special effects (Carla’s crispy body!).

        I have to agree on the episode of Homeland that featured Walden’s death. The entire time, I was sure that it was just some really deep trick on Nazir’s end. But nope… Walden suffered an anti-climatic end. It did feel like a bit of a cop out of what Brody’s arc was supposed to have been before it became more about his relationship with Carrie, but alas.
        I have to say, I felt like there needed to be a bit more meat in Dana’s story toward the end. I kept expecting some sort of closure with her and Finn, but just never got it. He just…died…off-screen…

        Dexter’s seventh season was definitely the best in a while. But even saying that, I don’t think it comes anywhere close to matching Seasons 1, 2, or 4. Hannah was unbearable for me. Isaak didn’t get as much development with Dexter as I would’ve liked. And anybody who wasn’t Dexter, Debra, Isaak, Hannah, LaGuerta or Matthews, spent pretty much the entire season doing nothing. There’s nothing I hate more than having characters and never doing anything with them. However, I did enjoy how the last three or four episodes kind of broke the usual formula for the show. The Isaak story was wrapped in a decent way and then we did some alright, mini-plots. And of course, like you said, Season 7 had the strongest continuity with the others. It’s always irked me how little each season acknowledges the events and characters of the past seasons, so it was nice to see Season 7 feature a good number of call-backs.

        I’m sorry no episode of Bates Motel popped at you enough to list on here. And I’m glad you’ll try to get around to Orphan Black when time permits! ;) You’ll have to give your thoughts on that one when the time comes. I really think Orphan Black’s been this year’s silent sleeper. Hardly anyone knows about it and I don’t think too many people were really expecting much out of it (hell, I only watched because I accidently recorded it with The Nerdist and one night, only my DVR was working with no cable :S). Needless to say, I pretty much immediately regretted not anticipating the show. As word of mouth grows, I think it may become the next big thing (and not in a bad, bandwagon way). It’s really proven to be a really smart, fun and artistic show for me.

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  3. Peanut says

    Can’t argue with your “Fringe” choices.

    When “Homeland” is good, it’s very, very good, indeed. “Revolution” could learn some lessons that action isn’t everything & that talking can be riveting if the writing & acting are there (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).

    I liked the “Argentina” episode of “Dexter” although I also like “Sunshine and Frosty Swirl.” The big thing for me in “Argentina” was the search for a place to be, but you know that they would probably never get there & it would likely not live up to Hannah & Dexter’s expectations if they managed to reach it.

    “Person of Interest” has improved over time, which is a good thing. I think that “Relevance” might be my favorite episode, but I like the other two episodes as well, “Zero Day” & “Prisoner’s Dilemma.”

    There are lots of good things about “The Americans.” Yes, I think that the episode you picked is a pivotal one. One of the aspects that I like about the show is that the children seem much more integrated into the plot & not so annoying as with some other series that readily come to mind. Spy Dad seems much more loving to the children than Spy Mom, which is an interesting dynamic.

    I think that “Hannibal” is comparable to “Homeland” with being outstanding in so many different ways (visuals, acting, writing, musical scoring, etc.). Of course, we aren’t through the season yet so it’s difficult to say which episode would be the best (if I could pick one). This show, like “Homeland,” also manages to make talky scenes work & not be dull.

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  4. freudian says

    A little surprised that Doctor Who’s The Snowmen or The Name of the Doctor didn’t make the list (although, considering the other shows on the list are all American…) but I’m very glad Fringe made the list, especially An Enemy of Fate which was the perfect conclusion to an amazing show.

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