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.
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)
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)
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)
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..”