One of the reasons why I like television so much is that it feels more communal than any other form of entertainment. Usually walking out of a movie, my friends don’t like to talk about it as much but if they finished a season of a show they need someone to talk to. So once again, I have recruited my friends to talk about their favorite episodes of 2012. Below you will see a wide range of opinions and writing styles which makes it all the more fun.

Small warning, there is occasional foul language and in one circumstance a lot of foul language. Most of the time, the author is vague about what happens in the episode or season, but in cases where that is not true, a spoiler warning is attached.

At the very end of this very long article, check out what episodes occurred the most Top 10 lists as I formulated the results of everyone’s picks.

Archer

“The Man From Jupiter” (Season Three, Episode 4)

Archer

By Ryan Lugar

Burt and Ernie. Buzz and Woody. Cheech and Chong. These are some of the most dynamic duos over the course of history, but they all fall second to one last duo. A duo that can do no wrong, in all the wrong ways. I am of course referring to Sterling Archer and Burt Reynolds. The combination of Archer’s black turtleneck and Burt Reynolds’ amazing moustache cannot fail.

Archer does it again with it’s fourth episode of Season Three: “The Man From Jupiter”. Archer’s wide range of emotions bounces around after he realizes his childhood hero, Burt Reynolds, is dating his mother. So, Archer does the only reasonable thing and kidnaps Burt Reynolds and leaves a fake note saying Burt left Archer’s mother for a younger woman. I don’t want to describe the episode in any more depth to avoid spoilers, but I will say the episode involves a Cuban hit squad.

Also, this episode starts the beginning of the best 5-second joke ever, Archer’s elaborate voicemail hoaxes. These season-long jokes are the funniest thing to happen to the show since Archer’s three greatest fears are revealed. This episode sets the bar very high (which it exceeds) for Season Three and leaves nothing off limits since BURT REYNOLDS leads a car chase!

With Archer being the man of all men and Burt Reynolds being the man Archer has always dreamed to be, it is hard to not call ‘The Man From Jupiter” the best episode of the season and all of television.

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Archer – “The Man From Jupiter” (Season Three, Episode 4)
2. Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis” (Season Two, Episode 10)
3. The Newsroom – “We Just Decided To” (Season One, Episode 1)
4. Game of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor” (Season Two, Episode 7)
5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Recycles Their Trash” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
6. The Life and Times of Tim – “Action-Packed Heist/Fall Foliage” (Season Three, Episode 8)
7. Game of Thrones – “Garden of Bones” (Season Two, Episode 4)
8. Archer – “Space Race: Part 1” (Season Three, Episode 12)
9. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Gets Analyzed” (Season Eight, Episode 5)
10. Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)

Breaking Bad

“Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)

Breaking Bad

By Beau Thompson

[There are plot spoilers for what happens in this episode of Breaking Bad.]

And I always thought spiders would be the scariest thing to find in the desert. It is with surprise that in the middle of the darkest season yet of Breaking Bad comes the heist episode “Dead Freight.” In an attempt to continue their meth business, Walt (Bryn Cranston), Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Mike (Jonathan Banks) plan to rob a train full of methylamine… Wait for it… Without hijacking it, or being discovered by the train engineers. Now that’s more like it, Mr. White.

In only 47 minutes time, we are shown the planning of the heist, the preparation, the execution, and the execution. (More on that in a bit.) It is to the show’s credit that these scenes do not feel rushed. Instead of getting us immediately to the heist, we see scenes of Walt, Jesse, and Mike discussing their options. We see them digging a big hole underneath a train track in the middle of the desert. We see them bring in Todd (Jesse Plemons) to help in the heist and bang it into his head that no one can ever know about it.

For a show known for it’s dark humor, Breaking Bad outdoes itself. From the trio discussing whether they should kill a business partner that they think betrayed them while this partner is in the same room in ear shot, to Saul Goodman’s hired gun Kuby (Bill Burr) attempting to stall the train engineers when he gets his truck to “shut down” in the middle of the train tracks, allowing Jesse and Todd to climb aboard the train and begin the heist that, of course, doesn’t go according to plan, and the show does a great job of balancing the tension with the humor. Can we not watch this scene and not recall the misadventure of the early seasons when Walt and Jesse were trying to cook meth in their RV?

However, the humor is only a set-up for what is to come. After successfully robbing the train of it’s methylamine, the group notice that a young boy-not yet a teenager-has witnessed the whole heist. Todd takes out his gun and kills him.

This is the catalyst for the rest of the season. Walt and Jesse had their share of problems in dealing with external factors, like drug distributors, but the episodes when they were on their own, just making their product, it seemed so harmless, like they could do no harm. This episode takes our nostalgia of those episodes and uses it to show us the harsh reality that nothing will ever be that simple again. Walt and Jesse’s actions have left a boy dead in the desert. Look how far they have come.

Beau’s Top 10 Episodes of 201

1.Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
2. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
3. Mad Men – “Signal 30” (Season Five, Episode 5)
4. Game of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor” (Season Two, Episode 7)
5. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Libertus” (Season Two, Episode 5)
6. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
7. Breaking Bad – “Fifty-One” (Season Five, Episode 4)
8. Parks and Recreation – “The Comeback Kid” (Season Four, Episode 11)
9. Spartacus: Vengance – “Wrath of the Gods” (Season Two, Episode 10)
10. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)

Call the Midwife

“We Are Family” (Season One, Episode 5)

Call the Midwife

By Larry D. Sweazy

I was prepared not like Call the Midwife, but I have some British friends who assured me I’d like it. Out of respect for them, I took a look. By the end of the first episode, I was hooked because of the great writing, unforgettable stories, and the willingness to look at difficult subjects squarely in the eye, with a stark dose of honesty that’s rare for something shown on American TV, during primetime.

The series concerns a newly-qualified midwife, Jenny Lee, who comes to a religious order’s house of nuns, when she had been expecting to be placed in a hospital. It’s 1957, but there are still signs of the war in the working-class section of the East End. Jenny is naïve, not without her own set of troubles, and is wholly unprepared for the poverty, and unfolding dramas, that she faces in her new capacity.

I like episodic television, and I’m not opposed to a soap-opera feel if it’s handled correctly, which in Call the Midwife, it is. The writers peel back the story like an onion, layer by layer, exposing Jenny and her fellow midwives and nuns as fully developed characters, who have loved and lost, or are in the process of losing their innocence, in one way or another, always with solid emotional direction that makes perfect sense. The writing is really top-notch.

By the time Episode #5 rolled around, I was fully involved in the Jenny’s life, why she was spurning a nice enough beau, Jimmy, and curious at what her lingering secret was. But it was Peggy’s secret that was the heart of this, my favorite, episode. Peggy was a cleaner at the house, and when her brother, Frank, fell ill she turned to the nuns and Jenny Lee for help. Peggy and Frank had been raised in a work-house (think Dickens), and Frank had no use for anything institutional, so a hospital visit was out of the question for him. As it turned out, Frank had pancreatic cancer, so there really wasn’t much they could do for him, but keep him comfortable. Jenny and one of the nuns, Sister Julienne, took to doctoring Frank, and it was then that Jenny learned that there was only one bedroom in the house that Peggy and Frank shared. Peggy and Frank lived as man and wife, sharing the one bed. Incest is a rare subject for television, and it was handled maturely and without judgment by Sister Julienne, but not by Jenny—at first. All the while, Fred the handyman was set on making some extra money by raising pigs at the convent, which provided an nice offset of comedy relief to such a deep, and difficult subject.

“Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals,” Sister Monica Joan said in one of the many memorable scenes of Episode #5…

By the time the end of the season rolled around, I was cheering for Chummy and her on-again, off-again romance with Peter Noakes, and thoroughly concerned for the welfare of Sister Monica Joan as she slowly declined into dementia. As well as Jenny Lee’s continued journey toward maturity and honesty. To put it simply: The characters of this show had become like family to me. I cared about what happened to them long after the television was turned off. It doesn’t get any better than that, as far as I’m concerned.

Larry’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Call the Midwife – “We Are Family” (Season One, Episode 5)
2. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
3. Justified – “The Gunfighter” (Season Three, Episode 1)
4. Justified – “Thick as Mud” (Season Three, Episode 5)
5. Call the Midwife – “Baby Snatcher” (Season One, Episode 4)
6. Game of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor” (Season Two, Episode 7)
7. Wilfred – “Progress” (Season Two, Episode 1)
8. Top Gear – “Series 18, Episode 1” (Season Eighteen, Episode 1)
9. Call the Midwife – “The Adventures of Noakes and Browne” (Season One, Episode 6)
10. Justified – “Slaughterhouse” (Season Three, Episode 13)

Community

“Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)

Community

By Keith Jackson

Community has been off the air so long that I keep forgetting it’s coming back for a fourth season. The fact it’s even returning (sans showrunner Dan Harmon) is astounding, considering the tone of much of Season Three. Despite starting by saying, “we’re gonna have more fun and be less weird”–promising to appeal to the masses–there was always the unspoken through line of “we’re going to go all-out, masses be damned”. And as the second part of the season progressed and things started to break apart, tumbling toward the series’ (assumed) end, an unprecedented amount of heart prevailed.

Of course, Community is renowned for its “stunt” episodes, and Season Three had plenty of great ones. One such episode was “Pillows and Blankets”, the second in a two-parter that pit best friends Troy and Abed against each other for school-wide linen superiority. All of this was presented as a Ken Burns documentary, because why not? Through an array of media (some of which contributed by Britta’s, uh, talents) the show portrays this epic battle without a hint of insincerity. In the end, it comes to a heartwarming conclusion, in its own silly yet grounded way. It speaks a lot of how Community is as a whole: wacky, yet able to reflect on reality in a poignant honesty.

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
2. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
3. Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)
4. Community – “Basic Lupine Urology” (Season Three, Episode 17)
5. Parks and Recreation – “The Debate” (Season Four, Episode 20)
6. Parks and Recreation – “Halloween Surprise” (Season Five, Episode 5)
7. Parks and Recreation – “Ron and Diane” (Season Five, Episode 9)
8. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
9. New Girl – “Fluffer” (Season Two, Episode 3)
10. 30 Rock – “Stride of Pride” (Season Seven, Episode 3)

Doctor Who

“A Town Called Mercy” (Season Seven, Episode 3)

Doctor Who

By Robbie Mehling

Can good deeds done in the present make up for terrible deeds done in the past? This is the issue the Doctor and Ponds must face in “A Town Called Mercy.” Hidden in a small western town is an alien doctor (Jex, not our Doctor) who is guilty of war crimes but has since helped save the town. A remnant of Jex’s crimes is out to bring justice, no matter what cost.

The opening narration describes a man who has lived forever, heavy with all that he had seen, and had fallen from the stars. This description can fit multiple people in this episode and is a beautiful way to start out the episode. This episode features some excellent acting from our regulars and guest cast along with a horse named Susan, a stunning western setting, and some excellent cinematography. It is truly a well-shot episode.

My favorite part of any Doctor Who episode is seeing how the Doctor reacts to the tragic moments around him and this episode truly pushes the Doctor to the limits of his ability to forgive. I loved seeing the Doctor and Ponds on different side of the arguments and what makes them change their minds.

Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1. Doctor Who – “A Town Called Mercy” (Season Seven, Episode 3)
2. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
3. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
4. Doctor Who – “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (Season Seven, Episode 2)
5. Downton Abbey – “Episode 5” (Season Three, Episode 5)
6. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1)
7. Breaking Bad – “Gliding Over All” (Season Five, Episode 8)
8. Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis” (Season Two, Episode 10)
9. 60 Minutes – “The Death and Life of Asheboro, Stealing History, The Face of the Franchise” (Season Forty-Five, Episode 5)
10. 60 Minutes – “The False Confession Capital, The Race to Save the Tortoise, Hugh Jackman” (Season Forty-Five, Episode 11)

Downton Abbey

“Episode 5” (Season Three, Episode 5)

Downton Abbey Joss Barratt Photographer

By Leigh Montano

I’m not one to cry at movies or books or television shows. Most of the time, I just don’t see the point. The amount of caring that I have about the characters lasts for that half hour or hour-long program and then I move on with my life. I rarely yearn for the next episode or don’t think twice about hitting “next” on Netflix. All of that changed with Downton Abbey.

There is an effort with this show that isn’t seen with your weekly sitcom or your carbon copy crime drama. It has actors and writers and directors who care about the characters they create and as such makes the viewer care about them as well. I don’t really care if Gloria has a boy or a girl this season or if Alex and Dave stay together or if Watson and Holmes sleep together (okay, no I do care about that but I needed to make a point).  Downton Abbey changed that.

I am trying my best to stay spoiler free but it is hard to talk about the most emotional episode of television this year without spoiling a bit.

I sobbed. Outright, chest rattling, gasping, snot all over, ugly face sobs. Sobs that I hadn’t experienced since I read Dumbledore’s funeral. The last 15 minutes of this episode are edited in such a way that once I thought I had control over myself again, something else was said and it started all over. It wasn’t a happy cry like I experienced when Anna and Mr. Bates were married or when Mathew and Mary finally kissed or a sad cry like when William died. No, I cried as if someone in my own family had died.

My brother came to visit the next weekend after that episode premiered and I made him watch it with me. Never mind he hadn’t seen the rest of the season or that I had already seen it, I made him watch it. And we sobbed together.

The most believable and gut-wrenching moment was from Dame Maggie Smith. It might be because I had compared her to my grandmother before that her momentary pause made me sob all over again but I think that that short moment, that stop she had in the hallway that was so brief, showed the audience so much emotion and character that many others wouldn’t be able to convey.  This is a show that is driven by small glances and sideways looks, but this small glimpse at a single character’s emotions because of a stumble in her stride could sum up this entire show for me.  Everyone argues with me about what the best show on television right now, and I even argue with myself, but Downton Abbey is always in the top two. This episode is why.

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Downton Abbey – “Episode 5” (Season Three, Episode 5)
2. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
3. 30 Rock – “Murphy Brown Lied to Us” (Season Six, Episode 18)
4. Parks and Recreation – “Win, Lose or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22)
5. Call the Midwife – “We Are Family” (Season 1, Episode 5)
6. Raising Hope – “I Want My Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back” (Season Two, Episode 22)
7. Modern Family – “Baby on Board” (Season Three, Episode 24)
8. 30 Rock – “Stride of Pride” (Season Seven, Episode 3)
9. Parks and Recreation – “The Debate” (Season Four, Episode 20)
10. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)

Fringe

“Letters of Transit” (Season Four, Episode 19)

Fringe

By Nick Rogers

[Plot spoils for what happens in this episode of Fringe that is dramatically different than anything else that has happened in the series before.]

A marijuana-induced musical laced with steampunk and film noir. A hallucinogenic, animated rescue mission inside the mind carried out by two tripping-balls characters. An acid-conjured homage to absinthe’s green fairy and Terry Gilliam’s herky-jerky, bulbous Monty Python animations of omnisciently squashing feet.

The viewership and budget of Fringe has dwindled since its first-season finale. However, in Episode 19 of each subsequent season — or Episode 9 in the current, shortened fifth (and final) season — writers have been given carte blanche for creative concoctions inspired by Walter Bishop’s (John Noble) recreational drug use.

But “Letters of Transit” was the only Episode 19 Experiment during which even the deepest “Fringe” devotees must have felt they’d been dosed with a potent blotter. Without a hint of foreshadowing or, more worrisomely, a fifth-season renewal, “Transit” hurtled us away from a present-day, multiverse-collapsing plot into 2036.

An epigram informed viewers that the Observers — bald, business-suited and heretofore docile humans from the future able to see, and travel, through time — traveled back from a poisoned, 27th century Earth to assume control of our world. Those they didn’t kill either comply in a bleak totalitarian state under their thumb or fight in a resistance intent on stopping them and saving the world.

No Olivia. No Peter. No Walter. No Astrid. Just Etta and Simon (flaxen-haired Georgina Haig and LOST vet Henry Ian Cusick), freedom fighters that eventually extracted Walter from amber in which he encased himself after the Observers’ invasion. A plan to defeat the Observers, hidden in a long-ago extracted portion of Walter’s brain, was ultimately retrieved, along with Astrid and Peter, and we learned Etta is actually Peter and Olivia’s grown daughter.

It was a powerful, unexpectedly emotional conclusion to a bold episode slyly stuffed with references to The Prisoner, Casablanca, Star Wars and Blade Runner. But at what cost to finality or closure for a show that seemed certain to have just three episodes left?

Yes, Fringe returned, miraculously, for a final season set in this dystopian future. So far, it has beguilingly and surprisingly tied back to Season One while thoughtfully, and sometimes painfully, developing Walter, Peter and Olivia’s suspicions, habits, fears and doubts as equally formidable to the Observers. Will it stick the landing? Only January will tell.

But even if “Fringe” hadn’t come back, “Letters” would remain emblematic of everything at which the show always excelled — sly in-jokes, solid action pacing, terrific acting and staunch rejection of de rigeur sci-fi nihilism.

By Noble’s count, “Letters” offered the ninth version of Walter he’d portrayed. And it gave this criminally overlooked performer a chance to display Walter’s darkness and doddering in the same time and space — playfully hopping a curb with joy to be alive in one act and later coldly killing enemies and sawing off hands. It set the table for how the weight of mental omniscience is tearing Walter apart in his future fight.

And so what if we hadn’t learned how our heroes would fight the Observers? Neither they, nor the show, has given us reason to doubt, as Olivia has called it, their “love’s invulnerability to space and time.” As listed in the fifth season’s opening credits, “imagination” is now an anomaly to be investigated. Thankfully, imagination has never been an anomaly in what’s likely to be the last serialized network sci-fi show of its ilk.

Nick’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012 (Aside from “Letters of Transit”)

1.Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Breaking Bad – “Fifty-One” (Season Five, Episode 4)
3. Louie – “Late Show” (Season Three, Episodes 10-12)
4. Parks and Recreation – “The Comeback Kid” (Season Four, Episode 11)
5. Homeland – “Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5)
6. Mad Men – “The Other Woman” (Season Five, Episode 11)
7. Justified – “Slaughterhouse” (Season Three, Episode 13)
8. 30 Rock – “Leap Day” (Season Six, Episode 9)
9. Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis” (Season Two, Episode 10)
10. Chuck – “Chuck vs. Sarah” & “Chuck vs. the Goodbye” (Season Five, Episodes 12-13)

Game of Thrones

“Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)

Game of Thrones

By Eric Martindale

“Those are brave men knocking at our door, lets go kill them.” – Tyrion Lannister

The Battle of the Blackwater is truly one of the most impressive things ever filmed for television. When you consider: A) it’s a battle sequence, and B) that a television show does it justice, it’s hard not to be impressed. Before Game of Thrones came along such things did not happen, however Thrones is constantly pushing the envelope on what’s considered possible for television.

Perhaps, in a post Lord of the Rings era many viewers have epic battle fatigue. I mean, let’s be honest, how many times in the past ten years have we been exposed to computer-generated armies charging at each other? Maybe spectacle has become more important than suspense (or cheaper). Yet, you have to admire how extraordinary it is when a show can pull something like “Backwater” off using a remarkable set, featuring real extras, incorporating excellent visual effects, all packed tightly within a television show’s budget. Even though I wouldn’t even consider this the best episode of the season, I find it to be a monumental achievement.

It appears that excellence is the norm and the future of Thrones. And considering the genre, many viewers had to be waiting for the show to fall through the ice. Yet, here we sit two seasons and twenty episodes in and the show has continued to be relentless in its distinction as the greatest fantasy epic ever filmed for the small screen.

No fantasy epic is complete with out its climatic battle, and to think we’ve got so many more to come…

Eric’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1. Breaking Bad – “Say My Name” (Season Five, Episode 7)
2. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
3. Mad Men – “Signal 30” (Season Five, Episode 5)
4. Game of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor” (Season Two, Episode 7)
5. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
7. Mad Men – “Far Away Places” (Season Five, Episode 6)
8. Breaking Bad – “Live Free or Die” (Season Five, Episode 1)
9. Game of Thrones – “The North Remembers” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)

Girls

“Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident” (Season One, Episode 7)

Girls

By Claudia Johnson

[Plot spoils for what happens in this episode of Girls.]

As an early 20-something who recently graduated college, is broke out of her mind and has no clue what her future is the HBO show Girls is a voice of a generation. Maybe that is a bit too cliche but that’s how this show is for me. The show is a well written, directed and acted depiction of today’s young people. In the ten episode first season there was not one bad episode, but my favorite was episode seven, “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident”.

The episode centers around a night where the four girls go to a warehouse party. Shoshanna accidentally smokes crack, Marnie sees her ex boyfriend with another chick, Jessa accidentally invites her boss to the party and Hannah navigates how she feels and what she wants from Adam (her on and off again booty call).

Throughout the episode the theme was relationships. Whether it was past, present or possible future. The main focus was Hannah and Adam’s. Hannah sees Adam at the party and wrestles with how she feels when she learns more information about him she wasn’t prepared for. She clearly likes Adam but up to that point she had not seen Adam outside of their booty calls at his apartment.

Something this show does well is the final scene. Hannah and Adam were arguing and Marnie pulls up in a cab to pick up Hannah. Adam is fed up and is about to leave on his bicycle. There is a wide shot of Adam and Hannah facing each other. Hannah has his book bag and doesn’t give it back. Adam says, “Look kid, I don’t know what you want from me. Do you want me to be your boyfriend?” Then Adam gets upset. “Is that it?! Do you want me to be your f***ing boyfriend?!” There is silence. Then there is a cut to Adam, Hannah, Marnie and Adam’s bike crammed in the backseat of the cab. No one speaks but a small slow smile forms on Hannah’s face. Watching it I feel so overjoyed. Because it is reminiscent of that giddy feeling you get when you are officially a couple with the one you like. There is only promise and possibility.

To finish off this review I have to mention one of my favorite funny moments, when Shoshanna was freaking out on crack. Best line was when Ray was chasing after her and yelled, “Shoshanna, I’m your crack spirit guide!” I seriously almost wet my pants when he said that.

Claudia’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Misfits – “Episode Four” (Season Four, Episode 4)
2. Girls – “Welcome to Buswick a.k.a. The Crackcident” (Season One, Episode 7)
3. Parks and Recreation – “Ron and Diane” (Season Five, Episode 9)
4. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
5. Girls – “Hannah’s Diary” (Season One, Episode 4)
6. Girls – All Adventurous Women Do” (Season One, Episode 3)
7. Parks and Recreation – “Ben’s Parents” (Season Five, Episode 6)
8. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Wrath of the Gods” (Season Two, Episode 10)
9. The Walking Dead – “When the Dead Come Knocking” (Season Three, Episode 7)
10. The Vampire Diaries – “The Departed” (Season Three, Episode 22)

Homeland

 “Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5)

Homeland

By Dennis Sullivan

[Spoils ahead for what happens in everything up to this episode of Homeland.]

Season One of Homeland is easily one of my favorite seasons of television because they have figured out a recipe for success. Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a secretly bi-polar CIA operative who becomes obsessed with Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), a man with post-traumatic stress disorder after being a prisoner of war for 8 years. Based on intelligence from a deceased informant, Mathison believes Brody is working with international terrorist Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) to plan an attack on the United States. However, nobody believes her and this drives her into obsession. Her new desire sets for a chain of events that lead to an unexpected romance, illegal wiretaps, explosions, and a risky race against time.

By the end of Season One, we know that Brody tried to make Nazir proud, but a technical malfunction prevented it. Time for plan B: infiltrate the US government by becoming a Congressman. Carrie, whose mental health status had been exposed to the CIA, was distraught after losing both Brody and her job. She begins making a new life for herself when she gets drug back in. She then proceeds to fuck up everyone’s plans. Brody’s cover? Blown in the first episode. The CIA’s secret mission to spy on Brody? Blown in the fourth episode.

So the CIA responds in the only way they know how: kick Brody’s ass and hold him indefinitely. In an interesting parallel, they begin doing exactly what Abu Nazir did for 8 years: break Brody down emotionally to get him to flip sides AGAIN. Seriously, this poor bastard gets the psychological shit beat out of him AGAIN. Then he’s stabbed just because.

A game of words and technicalities begins while the clock is ticking down before somebody notices the national hero is missing. Who can outwit the other? Brody is faring well, despite the CIA’s best efforts. Then their wildcard is played. Carrie, who is doing a lot of work for the CIA despite being fired, is sent into the interrogation room and the two have an intense conversation that changes the entire course of the show. In fact, it takes just one word for everything to be different. One. Word. This conversation is powerful and beautifully showcases the acting talents of the two leads, but especially Lewis. He is back to being a broken man. At least Nazir has the decency of rebuilding him.

And on a completely different note, this is the episode where Brody’s daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) goes on a date with the Vice President’s son and they kill a lady. Yup.

Dennis’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Breaking Bad – “Fifty-One” (Season Five, Episode 4)
2. Mad Men – “The Other Woman” (Season Five, Episode 11)
3. Homeland – “Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5)
4. 30 Rock – “There’s No I in America” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
5. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
6. Mad Men – “Commissions & Fees” (Season Five, Episode 12)
7. Parks and Recreation – “Win, Lose or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22)
8. Happy Endings – “Party of Six” (Season Two, Episode 18)
9. The Walking Dead – “Beside the Dying Fire” (Season Two, Episode 13)
10. Community – “Digital Estate Planning” (Season Three, Episode 20)

The Hour

“Episode Six” (Season Two, Episode 6)

The Hour

By J.C. Pankratz 

At some point in Abi Morgan’s The Hour, never-say-die journalist Freddie (Ben Whishaw) confronts his hesitant producer Bel (Romola Garai) with this little gem: “Cut you to your core, you’ll find news running through your spine.” And finally, this season we can say the same of this terrific newsroom drama. Of course, The Hour is always about news—but last year’s series suffered, I think, from a slightly overwrought obsession with a Soviet conspiracy plot line that never felt quite real. This year, The Hour features a twisted plot that reaches from sex scandal to nuclear conspiracy, with its credibility and existence as a program in the balance. But it works magnificently, because The Hour also gives us new, better-realized characters—instead of shadows in the dark. Commander Stern (Laurence Sullivan), a two-faced police chief with a troubled past, stands out in particular as a complex portrait of an abuser. Angus McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt) is transformed from an insufferably evil bureaucrat into a man with too many secrets and just as much to lose as The Hour itself. These are complex, difficult, destructive players in an all-consuming game for power during the global race for nuclear arms. Add to that the beautiful cinematography and art direction, and you really do have a show that’s difficult to stop watching.

This leads me to the finale: along with a better narrative arc and through-line, The Hour’s season has been an exercise in both destroying and rebuilding relationships. Here, Hector (Dominic West) and Marnie’s (Oona Chaplin) sham of a marriage endures obstacle after obstacle–yet by the end of the finale, you’re rooting for them just as much as anyone else. Chaplin in particular is luminous on the show, having been upgraded from sad housewife to a sharp and vibrant TV personality. Bel and Freddie’s strained will-they-won’t-they chemistry finally comes to a rather heartbreaking conclusion, though this season’s most compelling interaction is watching international news expert Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) and head-of-news Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) attempt to piece their mutual pasts together while searching for a daughter they’d given up into the hands of strangers. Capaldi is truly in his element here, and watching him interact with Chancellor’s verve and swagger is a treat. Watching his breakdown at the result is like a punch to the stomach, and perhaps the best moment on the entire show. In that moment, we see the core of The Hour–what happens when we pursue the truth, no matter the cost.

J.C.’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghuils” (Season Two, Episode 10)
2. The entirety of the 2012 Summer Olympics
3. The Hour – “Episode Six” (Season Two, Episode 6)
4. Homeland – ”Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5)
5. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1)
7. Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)
8. Parks and Recreation – “Halloween Surprise” (Season Five, Episode 5)
9. Game of Thrones – “The North Remembers” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10. Karl Rove and the Cast of FOX News on the night of Tuesday, November 6th 2012

Justified

“Guy Walks Into a Bar” (Season Three, Episode 10)

Justified

By Molly Raker

[Plot spoilers for what happens in this episode of Justified.]

It has been awhile since I have seen Season Three and since they don’t release the DVD until a week before the new season, it doesn’t give me much time to refresh my memory. But one episode stands out. The episode consists of a stand off between Raylan and Querles, the Emmy-winning Jeremy Davies as Dickie, the monster that is Limehouse and also my favorite Supernatural guy, Jim Beaver.

This episode marks the fall of Querles. Querles started off the season high on power and ideas but once he put those ideas into action, in Harlan, his power slowly decreases. Querles to me was never a smart guy so his character just bugged me so it was nice to see his plan crumble. After his Sheriff lost office on a technicality, thanks to Boyd, he knew he was screwed. What else was he to do then to get high and tie a man to a toilet. His humility continues when he tries to “scare’ Raylan and threatens him. First he gives a great speech on how he will kill Raylan sometime soon, “Maybe not tonight, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you’ll be walking down the street and I’m going to put a bullet in the back of your skull.” Boom, so he thought. Raylan shoots his gun to the ceiling clearing all the patrons from the bar stating “Why wait?” (BEST RAYLAN MOMENT EVER!)

Querles is thrown off guard and unprepared, which seems to be a theme for him. He isn’t ready to take Raylan because he knows the only advantage of taking down Raylan is the element of surprise. But of course him being cocky that he is thinks he can do it, but alas has no chance. He is scared off by a girl with a shotgun. Now this is the third act of humility and downfall for him. It can only get worse and it does.

This episode had Raylan being humiliated but in the end it all work out for him in a way. He’s speech about letting Dickie go was on cue. Either he will end up back in jail or he will be dead. Why should Raylan get a smoothie dropped on him, from some crazy lady, to stop it. This begins the new adventure of Dickie and his stupidity. I love Jeremy Davies portrayal so more of him is good! Boyd hears about Dickie inevitable release and he knows he will do something stupid to get his hands on the money. Limehouse is worried about the same thing so in his pig-murdering den he tells his minion to bring him to him. The way Limehouse always gives order while in the pig dissection room brings a stronger evil presence to Limehouse. I can only hope we will be seeing him in Season Four.

This episode picked up Limehouse’s storyline and decreased the power of Querles two things I wanted to see happen in the season. I just love when things go my way!

(Sidenote When Shelby lied to the deputies about having cancer I totally got a Bobby vibe.)

Molly’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012 (disclaimer: I hate picking favorites and numbering best to worst.)

1.Community – “Digital Estate Planning” (Season Three, Episode 20)
2. Mad Men – “Far Away Places” (Season Five, Episode 6)
3. Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulls” (Season Two, Episode 10
4. Cougar Town – “Ain’t Love Strange” (Season Three, Episode 1)
5. Justified – “Guy Walks Into a Bar” (Season Three, Episode 10)
6. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
7. Parks and Recreation – “Halloween Surprise” (Season Five, Episode 5)
8. The Vampire Diaries – “The Murder of One” (Season Three, Episode 18)
9. Community – “Virtual System Analysis” (Season Three, Episode 16)
10. New Girl – “Bath Tub” (Season Two, Episode 10)

Louie

“Late Show Part 3” (Season Three, Episode 12)

Louie

By Jason Braun

[Spoils for the resolution to the three-part storyline. Yet continuity doesn’t really matter on this show. Still the small warning.]

Louie C.K.’s life is shit, and his semi-autobiographical show, simply titled Louie, doesn’t sugar coat that fact with slapstick jokes or feel good endings. That being said, it’s probably the funniest show on television. Louie doesn’t force jokes; it sets stories and says “look how funny life can be”.

Louie breaks down the walls of what comedies and dramas are.

Scrubs tried to do what Louie does successfully. When Scrubs was written they had parts where you were supposed to laugh and parts where you were supposed to cry. Louie just writes stories with the pretense that this is a comedy, so you laugh.

That is something everybody can do every single day. Pretend when you wake up tomorrow that your life is supposed to be funny and I guarantee you will laugh all day long.

The third season’s three-part saga, “Late Show”, hits the nail on the head with this idea that comedy is changing. In these episodes David Letterman is retiring and Louie, along with Jerry Seinfeld, is considered as a replacement. Louie is given a date for a test show and a coach, played by David Lynch.

The episode chronicles the emotions and decisions Louie has to make. It shows the ugly underside of show business. His friends Chris Rock and Jay Leno betray him. He works his ass off and nails the test show. In the end, Louie doesn’t get the job but his impressive performance sends a message to David Letterman, forcing him to renegotiate his contract from $60 to $40 million dollars.

The last scene of this saga is the reason I chose this episode as the season’s best. Louie stands in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the Late Show is filmed, and he shouts “I did it!… Letterman, fuck you!”

Even though he didn’t get what he hoped for he still stuck it to the man. No one expected Louie to do so well, but he did. So well, in fact, that he took $20 million dollars out of Letterman’s pocket.

There isn’t this perfect ending like most comedies usually shoot for. However, in the eyes of Louie it was still a huge victory because he knew his 20 years of doing stand up comedy were worth something. He had not only been walking down the right path but his path has a bright future.

Jason’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Boardwalk Empire – “Margate Sands” (Season Three, Episode 12)
2. The Newsroom – “We Just Decided To” (Season One, Episode 1)
3. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
4. The Amazing Race – “Off to See the Wizard” (Season 21, Episode 7)
5. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
6. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
7. Shameless – “Just Like the Pilgrims Intended” (Season Two, Episode 11)
8. Awake – “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
9. XXX Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony
10. Louie – “Late Show Part 3” (Season Three, Episode 12)

Mad Men

“The Other Woman” (Season Five, Episode 11)

By Austin Lugar

Mad Men’s plotting is done as a surprise. Every scene is an interaction towards a small goal or thematic arc, you don’t know what it’s planning until the end. In this episode, it put majority of its characters in a room and they had to make a decision. Then suddenly, it threw me back on the couch. Everything had been leading up to this moment where Joan, Pete, Sterling, Cooper, Lane and Don had to decide what they really believe. It was perfect writing where everyone’s argument was dictated by how the characters had propelled themselves for the previous eight episodes.

In the previous episode, Don and Joan had one of my favorite scenes in the entire series as they played out their ideal versions of themselves in a bar. They were witty, sexy and warm to each other without ever being romantic. It was two people who knew the versions of themselves they liked the most and they were able to be that with a friend for a moment. To have two characters who always respect each other, but rarely get to interact with each other was a special moment.

Then like everything else after the decision in this episode, it becomes bittersweet. They can never have a moment like that again. At the end, great things happen for the agency and for the partners but Don can’t enjoy it because he refuses to forget what they’ve done. None of this is fun anymore. There used to be an understand of how business was done but now it’s all about greed, perversion and a downfall in quality.

To top it all off, Don has to say goodbye to someone very special to him. I think in that scene, Don is more desperate and emotional because he knows she’s right. He can’t do anything else for her. She has to move on and find the best situation for her life….something, that until recently, Don thought he finally found for himself.

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Mad Men – “The Other Woman” (Season Five, Episode 11)
3. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
4. Breaking Bad – “Live Free or Die” (Season Five, Episode 1)
5. Homeland – “Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5)
6. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
7. Mad Men – “At the Codfish Ball” (Season Five, Episode 7)
8. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
9. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Libertus” (Season Two, Episode 5)
10. Misfits – “Episode Eight” (Season Four, Episode 8)

Parks and Recreation

“Win, Lose or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22)

Parks and Recreation

By Rachael Clark

[Spoils for what happens in the election at the end of the Season Four election.]

What a great finale to a solid season of Parks and Recreation. From the very beginning of this season, Leslie Knope had been campaigning against all odds for city councilwoman with the help of the people who loved and cared for her. Now was the moment to see if Leslie was going to beat Bobby Newport, the heir to the Sweetums factory that employs many Pawnee citizens, and Brandie Maxxx, the porn star. This episode was filled with many laughs as usual, combined with moments of revelation, relationship dilemmas, and the notion that you can’t achieve anything alone.

Some of the best moments in this show are the silent/unspoken ones. My favorite scene was the peek we got to see of Leslie in the voting booth. She has just voted for herself and is standing in awe realizing what she has accomplished, on the verge of tears. She has waited practically her whole life for this moment and it has finally arrived. Then in true Parks and Recreation form, Bobby Newport breaks the seriousness of the scene and brings on the laughter, asking for Leslie’s help on how to vote. The second best unspoken scene was Leslie and Ben’s facial reactions when they hear the recount was in Leslie’s favor. Leslie jokes with Anne on how sneaky she was with her choice of words. Going from sincerity to silliness is why I enjoy this show so much. They are able to show these little moments of being authentic and genuine, and then they effortlessly go back to being a hilarious show with the goofy but loveable characters.

If anything else, this episode had the best ending line ever to a season. At the last second when Leslie finds out that Jerry forgot to vote, she appropriately responds, “Dammit, Jerry!”

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
3. Parks and Recreation – “Win, Lose or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22)
4. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
5. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1)
6. Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)
7. Mad Men – “Christmas Waltz” (Season Five, Episode 10)
8. Girls – “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackident” (Season One, Episode 7)
9. Homeland – “The Smile” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10. Veep – “Tears” (Season One, Episode 8)

Peep Show

“Jeremy Therapised” (Season Eight, Episode 1)

Peep Show

By Joshua Carroll

[This episode contains major plot spoilers for the season premiere in the marked paragraph.]

Flying by the seat of one’s pants for nothing more than personal gain is perhaps the driving force behind many of Peep Shows, a British television series (which, by the way, is what this rambling will cover) characters. Mark and Jez, roomies, ‘El-Dude Brothers’, and perpetual assholes (can I say assholes?), exist in an ever-constant battle with each other and their individual dreams. The show’s ‘gimmick’ is allowing us to hear Jez and Mark’s individual thoughts to a revealing extent; so we are right there with the two of them through everything. And the result is some very layered and uncomfortable comedy.

Jez and Mark’s exploits are never what you’d think two guys could get themselves into, but, minus the wincing a viewer often wears while watching it all unravel and explode in their faces, we never doubt Jez or Mark as the performances and writing solidly sell the insanity. Why is that? I’d venture to say it’s the honestly they and the writers ground themselves within. These two endearing twats excel in bringing to light that wonderfully wicked quality within us all: our ability, obsession, and incessant habit…of lying.

Let’s be frank. We all have a love affair with ourselves. Why else do every single thing we do? In some way, it benefits us. With our every action, we gain a smidge of something toward the completion our individual goals. ‘How dare you!’ you may exclaim. ‘What kinda monster are you?’ you may ask. Well, maybe I am a monster or maybe I’m just honest. Or I guess an ‘honest monster’ works so long as we’re getting picky (I can have one-sided conversations with myself!).   The point is, we aren’t great creatures, and since step one is admitting it, we can move on to step two.

Okay, you’re still reading, swell. That monster thing was out there wasn’t it? That guy needs to be fired. Anyhow, step three: ‘But Jez and Mark aren’t really monsters, are they?’ No. Certainly not. While we share a certain worldly culture of enjoying a good ‘ol train wreck, over time, very few of us would likely return to Peep Show if there didn’t exist that other very true human quality…compassion.

Jez and Mark use each other. That said, they have limits. If their need comes at too high a cost, they’ll back off. Maybe. Most of the time. Then again, maybe not. The close of the third episode this season (season eight) leaves us wondering just how horrible is Jez? Will he actually do that to Mark. Well, he might. So maybe they don’t have limits. Or maybe their limits have variables that they themselves evaluate – because who else is better to reason with then oneself when it comes to screwing over a friend for personal gain? Dangit. I’ve just contradicted myself. But I stand by my contradictions! Mark and Jez are horrific people that sometimes, maybe, will be there for each other and do the kinda right thing so long as it doesn’t stick a shiv into their own sinister goals. Yes.

Whew. Now what? Philosophical stuff aside (did I mention I don’t write reviews?), Peep Show doesn’t necessarily require a viewer to start at Season One Episode 1 in order to fully understand the show or its characters. Now, I’d encourage a fresh viewer to go back to the beginning at some point, but what I’m driving at is the skill of the writers and actors (again). I noticed that the first episode this season could very well have acted as a Series starter. While it’s not as good as the actual series starter (and shouldn’t have to be), it does not go out of its way to tell us who Jez or Mark are as people – Jez and Mark do that just by being themselves (as in their characters). They simply show us ‘this is us’ and what of it? In short, the series knows itself inside and out. There’s no doubt in my mind there.   Nothing is forced. And that’s a rarity in entertainment writing.

[Only the next paragraph contains major spoilers. The ones after are safe to read if you have not seen this season yet.]

Let’s examine a typical progression of the show (yes, it does have a formula, but hey – it works). Mark is a jealous, frightened, insecure, shell of a man. He’s great. Episode 1 finds him worrying whether or not Dobby, his newest girlfriend (and yes, be prepared to ask yourself why she chooses him…often) is going to actually move in with him. That worry eats at him and his insecure thoughts reveal the depths of his sexual paranoia as well as his consideration of locking her in his non-existent cellar once she hypothetically moves in. In other words, it’s almost a victory in and of itself to just trick her into shacking up. That’s normal right (refer to the ‘monster’ paragraph)?   Furthermore, Gerrard (who’s head over heels with Dobby) feigns an illness resulting in a doting Dobby and suspicious Mark showing up at his home to see if all is okay.   Based on his knowledge of Gerrard’s love interest and even pseudo-(when convenient)-friendship with him, Mark sees right through the plan and calls Gerrard out in private. Gerrard reveals Mark is indeed correct but that he’s ‘playing the long game’ and increases his sickly boo-hoos receiving Dobby’s immediate attention. Later, Mark and Dobby are attempting to have a romantic date, as they were interrupted by Gerrard the last time, and the phone rings. It’s Gerrard. But Mark refuses to allow her to answer it. Instead, they have their reality show watching date. Later, it’s reveled that Gerrard has died. Mark is pissed, basically believing Gerrard did it on purpose. And to make matters all the more awkward, Mark and Dobby’s living relationship ends up going into further obscurity (despite Mark’s sabotage attempts to Dobby’s microwave) as Gerrard left her a nest egg of money making it easier to afford her own flat.   Paranoia. Selfishness. Death. A Delicious Cocktail.

So that typical show progression I mentioned? Mark and Jez have goals and dreams but their own arrogance, insecurities , and rotten core, often stand in the way in accordance to the whole ‘careful what you wish for’ motif. Despite regularly failing, they somehow grow closer to each other and retain social contacts. And we keep watching, wincing and shaking our heads but smiling between it all.

Do we learn something from watching? Anything?   I think so.   I mean why else would scour I the internet (YouTube) in search of these episodes for my friend Austin Lugar (good guy, who will totally do something in return for me now) and write this review (if my review is even kinda good enough maybe I’ll get some recognition)? I do it because I enjoy writing (hey, I do!) and hope that this draws a larger audience to Peep Show (indifferent) and helps Mr. Lugar out (why is he having others do his work for him? What’s his angle?).

Just watch the show.

Joshua’s Top 6 Episodes of 2012

1.Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
3. Sherlock – “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” (Season Two, Episode 2)
4. Peep Show – “Jeremy Therapised” (Season Eight, Episode 1)
5. Peep Show – “Business Secrets of the Pharoahs” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
6. Peep Show – “The Love Bunker” (Season Eight, Episode 3)

Sherlock

“A Scandal in Belgraiva” (Season Two, Episode 1)

Sherlock

By Jim Huang

The triumph of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ series Sherlock is that it’s both familiar and totally fresh.  This new BBC series takes Holmes and Watson out of Victorian England and places them squarely in today’s London, with mobile phones, blogs and thoroughly modern interpersonal relationships.  The season two opener, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” written by Moffat, is a brilliant remaining of Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and it’s this great series’ most charged and tightly-wound episode.

Doyle’s story opens with the line “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman,” and continues with Watson’s observation that there’s no place for “softer passions” in the mind of a reasoning machine.  Moffat and Gatiss’ Sherlock is all about relationships, especially in this great episode – Holmes and Mycroft, Holmes and Watson, Holmes and Molly Hooper, Holmes and Mrs. Hudson, and, mostly importantly here, Holmes and Irene Adler.  Describe someone as “The Woman” today and what do you get?  Moffat’s answer is dominatrix, with a website of her own. What a brilliant answer it is.

But has Sherlock fallen under Irene’s spell, or is Irene enthralled by Sherlock?  I’m not going to divulge any details here.  Watch for yourself, without letting me or any one else spoil even a single twist or (apparently) incidental bit.  This Sherlock may be all about relationships – indeed, all of Moffat’s work seems to be obsessed with how people connect – but there’s also a dazzling plot that truly challenges Holmes on every level.

“Brainy is the new sexy,” Irene says to Holmes at one point.  “Scandal in Belgravia” is both.

Jim opted out of having a Top Ten Episodes list but offers this additional commentary.

I don’t have a top ten list.  There haven’t been 10 gems among the (few) shows that I watch regularly, and I don’t think rediscovering “Frank the Potato Man” (Picket Fences, Season One, Episode 5) or Fraiser episodes “Three Valentines” (Season 6, Episode 14) and “Room Service” (Season Five, Episode 15) is what Austin has in mind.

I did like “What Up, Bro?,” Raising Hope (Season Three, Episode 6), which offers a nice message.   Standout for the year may be “The Final Page, Part Two” from How I Met Your Mother (Season 8, Episode 12).  It’s been an up and down season for HIMYM, but where this episodes ends is totally lovely.  Part of what’s so great here is you know all those ups and downs?  Turns out that’s what you do to get to the lovely.

Spartacus: Vengeance

“Libertius” (Season Two, Episode 5)

Starz Contents

By Pedro Aubry

[Editor’s note. Instead of reviewing the episode, Pedro decided to write a running commentary of him watching the episode. What resulted was so strange and hilarious that I’m not going to edit a single word. This obviously spoils the entire episode. Also there is a lot of strong language.]

I will be reviewing the 5th episode of Spartacus: Vengeance.

I’m watching it now, as I type this, with a less than fresh memory of the previous episode or two, apart from the fact that the end of the 3rd episode saw Crixus knocked out by Ashur while biding time for Navia and Spartacus and the other to escape the mines. The next episode saw the three rebels captured in the mines alongside Oenomaus, previously taken by Ashur while severely weakened from constant and consecutive fights in the pits (his attempt at suicide as he had no honor in his life left to live for, his wife and the ludus of Batiatus being all he had, both now gone). One of the four was tortured and killed at the ludus as a party piece, the other three being left to await execution in the arena.

Now the 5th episode opens, with two gladiators fighting in the arena of Capua. Once their game ends, the horns sound for the execution of the three rebels. Once on the sands, Varinius announces to the crowd (and condemned) that their execution will be carried out by Gannicus, the only gladiator to ever earn his freedom on the sands. Now this was a big deal for me. Gannicus is …the shit. Again, he actually gained freedom from being so awesome (many of you may recall, this was the Fire-Net episode of Gods of the Arena). He may be my favorite character of this whole show. So I watch in a weird, anxious excitement as they make a scene of opening the gates, thinking to myself “oh my god, is it really him? Is he coming back? He has to be right? Why else would they have a whole mini-season prequel thing with him as main of character as he was, if they weren’t gonna bring him back? Is it finally time?” Then I realized what was happening…. He was going to (very likely) make his appearance …IN ORDER TO KILL CRIXUS AND OENOMAUS!!(and some other guy I don’t really care about)! Now my emotions have pulled a complete 180, and I have a whole new string of sentences flying through my head on how there’s no way he’ll succeed but at the same time how he (I so dearly wish) can’t die, and bear in mind that all this happens within a span of …however long it takes them to open a set of gates (seconds).

Then they actually show him (AND IT’S REALLY HIM!) and he struts out, being the shit (which he is) and with his awesome cocky half-smile greets Oenomaus as an old friend, mentioning how they’re finally meeting each other on the sands, what he said was Oenomaus’ wife’s “greatest fear.” Oenomaus, clearly seething at the sight of Gannicus given what Ashur had just imparted him the day before, asks him if it’s true that he slept with his wife the night she died. When Gannicus hesitates at a reply, Oenomaus strikes at him, starting the fight. By now I’m on the edge of my seat, quietly freaking out, when all of a sudden BOOM ….cut to “One day earlier”. So of course the episode’s actually starting now (or at least the meat of the episode), and being a good one, I’m forced to sit in anticipation for what the hell’s going to happen when they get back to Gannicus and Oenomaus (the other guy might be dead by now for all I know or care (even though I know he’s not); by now I actually care more about his girlfriend than about him).

So now, at most 5 minutes later, the episode more-or-less actually gets started. Ok, so now after finding a (mostly) abandoned temple, the rebels take refuge and come along an old Roman (priest?) who couldn’t give two shits for the Romans. He tells Spartacus of the coming executions and Spartacus gets it in his head that they should save their brothers. Now I’m all for it, I wanna see him do some crazy shit. But at the same time he’s saying “who knows more about the arena than those who’ve fought on its sands” and I’m thinking “um…. Anyone who was allowed to walk freely within, not confined to the sands and their cells.” But whatever, let’s see where this goes.

Meanwhile Ashur and Lucretia keep doing their backstabbing sneaky shit, to what avail I’ve lost track of by now. Clearly Lucretia’s doing fine cause she’s insane and a vessel of the Gods and Glaber likes having her around. Maybe Ashur could do with some more power cause he’s kinda still being treated like a slave, but why they’re working together… whatever, it makes for good TV.

Cut to a whorehouse, where I’m 99 percent sure we’ll find Gannicus (HELL YEAH). Oh, and there he is.

Looks like he’s found himself a pretty young thing, who quickly (after a romp) takes attraction to his rudus (a wooden sword that tells of his victories on the sands). Now I tend to like these brothel scenes in this show because (apart from the obvious) they usually have a collection crazy, jaw-dropping cuts, and by this point they’ve even conditioned you to expect an up-and-coming orgy/brothel/wtf-sex scene with this funny, high-pitched squeal of a score, as if the makers of the show know how ridiculous all this is. Not so in this scene. There’s no squeaky score, nothing out of the ordinary, and once Gannicus settles down for a cup of wine with his newfound companion, things get serious and emotional, with him telling this (presumably slave) about his rudus and how it’s a symbol of his freedom. The whole time, I’m just thinking of how awesome Gannicus is and it seems (to me) that the calmness is just an homage to Gannicus, and that the brothel, and entire scene, are just basking in his glory and awesomeness just as his companion is. But then they cut to him recalling the cup of wife that killed his best friend’s (Oenomaus’) wife, one they shared just after their (agreed) final affair. That was a downer, and brought Gannicus down to a human level, not the God of the Arena that he is. But whatever, makes him more awesome cause …it just does.

Well Ashur does some more sneaking and reveals to Glaber his wife’s intention to abort their child, which is cool and all, but doesn’t really stir any emotions on behalf of Glaber or Ilithyia (though perhaps for their unborn child) cause pretty much any non-slave is a terrible person who you just want to die. Also (big shocker) Ashur tells someone of someone else’s secret, thus further elevating himself and blah blah blah …Really I just hate fucking Asher cause he’s a slimy cunt.

Anyway, finally we’re back to the arena, oh and by the way, Spartacus and his crew just did some badass Navy SEALs shit, lifting their head out of the water in a body disposal sewer, presumably to attack the arena like he said before. Then after stealing roman soldier uniforms, he ends up standing by the gate while Gannicus awaits being released onto the sands, by which point I’m jumping up and down in my seat again. Fuck yeah, Gannicus.

I pause now, to watch the fight, maybe to type withought looking at the screen. Hell yeah, they’re setting fire to the arena, more more so, Hell Yeah for the fight. We’ve always secretly wished to see the best of the gladiators fight seriously, and Gannicus and Oenomaus are fulfilling that desire perfectly. And holy shit dozens of spectators are falling into a pit of fire, and oh shit dozens more just did.

Nice fucking shot Spartacus, on throwing a spot on spear right at Glaber, but of course Glaber’s a trained soldier so he just barely dodges it and this other guy gets hit. Awesome thing is he’s the guy who loves fucking slaves while getting they’re getting fucked by filthy gladiators, in other words he’s a fucking creep (prolly one of the biggest ones in the show), and when he gets hit with the spear he goes down like a little bitch, so he gets his just deserts.

The rest of the episode wraps up well, Ilithyia’s dad gets his face smashed by Glaber, kindof sweet. And Oenomaus and Crixus get rescued, with Gannicus helping at the end. So Wooo, all I hoped for at the beginning came true and no one important died.

All in all, prolly the best episode of the season. Awesome fights, engaging story, catches our attention early on, and FUCKING GANNICUS!!!

Pedro’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1)
2. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
3. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
4. Spartacus: Vengeance – Libertus” (Season Two, Episode 5)
5. Sherlock – “The Reinchenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6. Breaking Bad – “Say My Name” (Season Five, Episode 7)
7. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Wrath of the Gods” (Season Two, Episode 10)
8. Breaking Bad – “Gliding Over All” (Season Five, Episode 8)
9. Top Gear – “India Special” (Season 18, Episode 0)
10. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (Season Seven, Episode 5)

The Thick of It

“Episode Three” (Season Four, Episode 3)

By Aaron Wittwer

Back from a three year hiatus, Series 4 of The Thick of It wastes no time, throwing us right back into the everyday, mundane chaos at work behind the scenes of the (fictional) British “Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship” aka DoSAC.

With this (and the funny, yet slightly redundant, Veep), show runner Armando Iannucci satirizes the trivial power-struggles and day-to-day inanities that one imagines must overtake lesser government positions in the off-seasons. Not satisfied to simply “humanize” government authority figures, The Thick of It turns them into a bunch of children going to war over the last piece of candy.

There is so very much going on this episode that it’s almost impossible to describe it. It involves a “thought camp” team building exercise, the suicide of a homeless nurse with a funny name, a £2 billion community bank purchased out of “social embarrassment”, and a debate over inappropriately colored pants. This all culminates in two grown men, waving their phones in the air and climbing over each other to get to the top of a playground slide.

I chose this episode because I don’t think I can imagine a more perfect and concise visual metaphor for everything this show is about.

Aaron’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.The Hour – “Episode Six” (Season Two, Episode 6)
2. Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
3. Louie – “Late Show” (Season Three, Episodes 10-12)
4. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
5. Justified – “Slaughterhouse” (Season Three, Episode 13)
6. Peep Show – “Business Secrets of the Pharaohs” (Season Eight, Episode 2)
7. Sons of Anarchy – “Laying Pipe” (Season Five, Episode 3)
8. American Horror Story: Asylum – “Welcome to Briarcliff” (Season Two, Episode 1)
9. Strike Back – “EXPLOSIOOOOONNNSSS!!!!!!!!” (Season Three, Episode 4)
10. The Walking Dead – “Made to Suffer” (Season Three, Episode 8)

Treme

“Tipitina” (Season Three, Episode 10)

Treme

By Ken Jones

Treme is one of those shows that I find hard to explain why I love so much. There is very little plot in every episode, but I find myself engrossed in the lives of the characters that it feels like a lot happens. It’s the kind of show that you watch and love, or you don’t get it and are obviously a miserable person because you don’t like the rich culture of New Orleans. The latest season has been especially fun for me since I am now living in New Orleans, which brings a new familiarity. I recognize names of places and streets, as well as have seen a number of the musicians perform live. It also helps that now I get jokes about certain neighborhoods and recognize a few extras because I’ve worked with them.

One issue with deciding which episode is the best of the season is that they all sort of blend together. I would much rather discuss the significance of a show so true to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, or how David Simon has once again captured the essence of a city, but I’ll play by the rules. The last episode of the season was my favorite partially because it felt like an episode of The Wire, but with a lot of awesome music. There’s police corruption, shady politics, lack of justice, racial tension, drugs, and problems with the education system. The episode was one line about unions away from being The Wire. I’m also a sucker for finales. Hey, I like seeing things finally pay off.

This episode, “Tipitina”, has many New Orleans musical staples, occasionally playing together. One of my favorite parts of the show is the musical collaborations that happen on screen. You get the wide range of New Orleans music, from Jazz to Folk to Bounce. I love the DJ Davis song in this episode. Can’t say much about it because the song itself is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s another fun pissed off Davis original. And if you’ve ever wanted to see a Jewish boy playing Jazz piano, you’re in luck!

“Tipitina” is filled with awful things happening to good people. Enough bad things happen to make you feel awful at the end, but there are also many plotlines left unresolved. There will be plenty of joy and sorrow to be enjoyed in the next season.

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5)
2. Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14)
3. Mad Men – “Far Away Places “ (Season Five, Episode 6)
4. Parks and Recreations – “Win, Lose, or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22)
5. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
6. Archer – “The Man From Jupiter” (Season Three, Episode 4)
7. Treme – “Tipitina” (Season Three, Episode 10)
8. Spartacus: Vengeance – “Libertus” (Season Two, Episode 5)
9. Community – “The First Chang Dynasty” (Season Three, Episode 21)
10. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1)

The Walking Dead

“When the Dead Come Knocking” (Season Three, Episode 7)

When the Dead Come Knocking

By Josh West

[Plot spoils for what happens in this episode of The Walking Dead.]

The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows on television not only because there are zombies, but also because I care for the characters. These characters are what drive the story and make the show interesting. Also, who doesn’t love watching countless zombies get their face destroyed by a hammer, shovel, etc.? My favorite episode of this year is “When the Dead Come Knocking.”

Tyreese is a character the fans of the comics have come to know and love. Seeing this new group expose such a weak point in the prison defenses and Tyreese destroy zombies adds tons of points to this episode. The only fall back to his introduction is the show’s unsaid mantra of “to introduce a black male, you must kill a black male” and sadly, Oscar was no more.

Michonne is a vital reason this episode is so great. As a character who we know can be very brutal, we see a glimpse of her vulnerable side. Looking for the Governor, Michonne finds Penny instead. When she sees a child that is chained up with a hood over its head, we see Michonne’s face soften. She looses her cold steely demeanor and replaces it with concern and caring. Only then does she find out that this child is actually a zombie.

Although he is shown for only a short time, we see that Glen is a badass. In a previous episode we saw Glen get duct-tapped to a chair and then break the chair to kill a walker. Well in this episode, knowing he had no weapon to break Maggie and him out, he tore open a zombie open so that he could use its bones as weapons. Glen has gone from errand boy to brutal warrior who will do anything to survive and protect Maggie.

The final reason this episode is the best this year is the showdown between Michonne and the Governor. Now, this didn’t go down exactly like it did in the comic, which is kind of a letdown, but they wouldn’t let anyone show that on basic cable. This fight was between a woman who saw a man as sick and deranged and a man who saw a woman that was trying to mess up his way of life. They both did everything in their power to win this fight, including some pretty awesome eye-stabbing!

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

1.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “New Friend, Old Enemy” (Season One, Episode 4)
2. Doctor Who – “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” (Season Seven, Episode 2)
3. The Walking Dead – “When the Dead Come Knocking” (Season Three, Episode 7)
4. Girls – “All Adventurous Women Do” (Season One, Episode 3)
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “Metalhead” (Season One, Episode 6)
6. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1)
7. The Walking Dead – “Beside the Dying Fire” (Season Two, Episode 13)
8. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (Season Seven, Episode 5)
9. Girls – “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident” (Season One, Episode 7)
10. How I Met Your Mother – “The Final Page” (Season Eight, Episodes 11 & 12)

 

Collected Results

(This was done by a simple addition formula. The #1 pick got 10 point, #2 got 9 points, etc.)

The Gang’s Top 10 Episodes of 2012

Breaking Bad2

1.Breaking Bad – “Dead Freight” (Season Five, Episode 5) (91 points, 12 lists)
2. Sherlock – “The Reichenbach Fall” (Season Two, Episode 3) (67 points, 7 lists)
3. Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9) (66 points, 10 lists)
4. Sherlock – “A Scandal in Belgravia” (Season Two, Episode 1) (62 points, 8 lists)
5. Game of Thrones – “Valar Morghulis” (Season Two, Episode 10) (32 points, 5 lists)
6. TIE Community – “Pillows and Blankets” (Season Three, Episode 14) (27 points, 5 lists)
6. TIE Homeland – “Q&A” (Season Two, Episode 5) (27 points, 4 lists)
7. TIE Game of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor” (Season Two, Episode 7) (26 points, 4 lists)
7. TIE Parks and Recreation – “Win, Lose or Draw” (Season Four, Episode 22) (26 points, 4 lists)
8. TIE Breaking Bad – “Fifty-One” (Season Five, Episode 4) (23 points, 3 lists)
8. TIE Mad Men – “The Other Woman” (Season Five, Episode 11) (23 points, 3 lists)
9. Doctor Who – “Asylum of the Daleks” (Season Seven, Episode 1) (22 points, 5 lists)
10. Mad Men – “Far Away Places” (Season Five, Episode 6) (21 points, 3 lists)

 

Trivia About the Collected List

–There were 19 Top 10 lists in this article and one Top 6.

–46 different shows were mentioned on at least one list.

–97 different episodes were mentioned on at least one list.

–A Scandal in Belgravia was had the most #1 slots with 5.

–Every episode of Sherlock Season Two was mentioned on a list

–Four of Doctor Who Season Seven’s 5 episodes were mentioned on a list.

–5 out of Breaking Bad Season Five’s 8 episodes were mentioned in a list.

–5 out of Game of Thrones’s 10 episodes were mentioned in a list.

–6 out of Mad Men Season Five’s 13 episodes were mentioned in a list.