No matter what we watch, my friends always want to discuss TV shows more in depth than movies. That doesn’t mean that they like these shows more than the movies we watch, but there’s something subject to debate when you break up a story into installments. There’s the theorizing about what happened next and arguing what episode was better. To view a show in segments tricks you to analyze parts of the whole and to watch the show over a course of weeks makes you more invested.

So I love talking with my friends about their thoughts on these excellent shows. Every year I like to ask them to write for my blog and show everyone their perspective. Here are 23 of my friends and myself writing about some of their favorite episodes of the year equipped with their Top 10 list. Due to when I’m posting this, there are few episodes in 2013 that sadly won’t be up for consideration like the Treme series finale, Matt Smith’s final episode of Doctor Who and the Downton Abbey Christmas Special.

At the very end you can read about what episodes were the collected Top 10 with other bits of trivia. But first let’s head over to the CW…

 

Arrow

“Three Ghosts” (Season Two, Episode 9)

Arrow

By Aaron Wittwer

It’s hard to turn the TV on anymore without becoming mired in the tendrils of some cinema-quality masterwork of a show like Breaking Bad or Homeland or Game of Thrones or Justified or Sons of Anarchy etc… Tightly plotted, intelligent dramas perfectly crafted to challenge our idea of what television can be. Arrow isn’t one of these. Arrow is a show about a second tier, comic book superhero who shoots things with arrows. It’s got a cast of really, really good-looking people. It’s on the CW. All the ingredients are there for it to be yet another piece of under-wrought YA garbage. But it’s not. Instead, it’s one of the most gleefully fun and entertaining shows on television, treating us with a refreshing degree of unapologetic melodrama, consistently well-choreographed action, and a compelling cast of core characters.

The first season of Arrow was primarily list based. That is to say that our hero, Oliver Queen, literally had a list of bad guys and each week he’d try to cross another name off. As mentioned earlier, this usually involved shooting someone with arrows. Only towards the end of the season did it start to ease up on that formula as the “big bad” became more apparent. It was fun, and it let the writers work on establishing the character before starting the major arc of the plot, but too often potentially decent shows get stuck in this episodic phase and never mature. Not so with Arrow. This season they’ve pushed the show much closer to the serial end of the scale. Oliver has ditched the list and is trying, with dubious success, to be at least slightly less murderous. Where he was an avenging angel, he now seeks to become a protector/savior/hero. It’s not a clean journey for him to make, and the show has been handling it well with gradual steps all leading up to this pivotal episode.

“Three Ghosts” is the mid-season finale, sort-of a Christmas special, and also the primer for a spin-off about The Flash. On top of the main plot, and the flashback plot, that’s a lot of (or at least two) potentially terrible things for one hour of television to handle, and yet, Arrow pulls it off with class, humor, emotion, and violence. After a near-death experience, Oliver’s regrets begin to haunt him in the form of three former friends whom he has failed to save. As Oliver confronts these manifestations of his psyche, he must also contend with the significantly more material threat of a potential army of super-soldiers, the architect of which has kidnapped his sister’s boyfriend. We get to see Oliver shoot arrows at both his internal and external demons and the results are…transformative. This is all coupled with a particularly devastating installment in the flashback plot, and capped off by the reveal of the inevitable big bad we’ve all been dreading. And also…Oliver finally gets an actual mask. And also…the Flash.

All in all, this episode represents everything that this show aspires to be and frequently achieves. It’s fast paced and full of action, but also fearless when playing with character dynamics and growth. Several things that occur during this episode change everything for the show going forward, and this isn’t even the first time in its one and a half season run that Arrow’s dared to mix things up so suddenly, almost casually and drastically. This is Arrow’s way of preventing stagnation and it’s been working wonderfully. It may be somewhat out of place playing for pure escapism in a world of increasingly high-grade, stone serious drama, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t complex, smart, and thrilling.

 

Aaron’s Top 10 (or 12) Episodes of 2013

1.) Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)

2.) Game of Thrones —“The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)

3.) Sons of Anarchy— “ A Mother’s Work” (Season Six, Episode 13)

4.) Hello Ladies— “The Wedding” (Season One, Episode 7)

5.) Justified —“ Decoy” (Season Four, Episode 11)

6.) Hemlock Grove — “Children of the Night” (Season One, Episode 12)

7.) The Venture Bros. — “O.S.I. Love You” (Season Five, Episode 5)

8.) Veep— “Helsinki” (Season Two, Episode 5)

9.) Orphan Black —“Unconscious Selection” (Season One, Episode 9)

10.) Homeland — “Gerontion” (Season Three, Episode 7)

 

11.) Banshee— “We Shall Live Forever” (Season One, Episode 9)

12.) South Park— “The Hobbit” (Season Seventeen, Episode 10)

 

 

Arrested Development

“Señoritis” (Season Four, Episode 12)

Arrested Development

By Robbie Mehling

Without a doubt, the fourth season of Arrested Development is different than anything that has ever come before. While the entire season is one large story, each individual episode is unique. So my favorite episode of the season, has to be ” Señoritis,” the story of Maeby Funke, the daughter who had no choice to keep her life together.

Throughout the entire season, Maeby pops up sporadically in George Michael’s dorm room or with her parents, then disappears off the map again. It’s a lot of fun to finally see just what exactly she is up to in one of the funniest stories of the season. Within one episode, she’s accepting an award while cursing out the entire audience to attempting to seduce someone she believes to be an undercover cop. Hilarious.

 

Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

1) Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)

2) Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)

3) Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)

4 Game of Thrones – “And Now His Watch Is Ended” (Season Three, Episode 4)

5) Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)

6) Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)

7) House of Cards – “Chapter 11” (Season One, Episode 11)

8) Parks and Recreation – “Fluoride” (Season Six, Episode 8)

9) Arrested Development – “Señoritis” (Season Four, Episode 12)

10) Arrested Development – “The B. Team” (Season Four, Episode 4)

 

Black Mirror

“The Waldo Moment” (Season Two, Episode 3)

By Ken Jones

Wait, there’s a show not meant to be binge watched and demands discussion with friends about our culture and morally ambiguous gray area? If I used the word ‘jam’ to mean something I really love, Black Mirror would totally be my jam. Me, I’m a grape jam kind of guy. But through watching this show I have learned that people have different views on things, so strawberry and apricot are cool too. Everything else is weird and different and should be avoided. My favorite jam I ever had came from … What? Oh, Black Mirror, right! The best thing on television in 2013. Yeah, I said it. “Oh, but The Walking Dead has zombies.” Get the hell out of my house! Or at least watch better shows. Yeah, Breaking Bad was phenomenal, but lying and murdering is fairly black and (Walter) white bad in this case. Black Mirror uses all 50 shades of gray to make your brain hurt. Much like the first workout after being a slob for years. I can’t think of anything that has made me question my moral standing like this show. I took an ethics course in college, but that entailed fairly easy questions and the only thing I learned was that most people don’t have the spine to think for themselves. Much like zombies.

So why this episode of Black Mirror? Well, the second season offers a heart-wrenching drama involving very futuristic technology, and intense thriller that, well let’s just say it takes things way beyond what our society currently is, and there’s this final episode that is the least bizarre, non-futuristic one of the series.  It’s chilling just how applicable it is to our lives now. Do you watch The Daily Show? The Colbert Report? Fox News? What? That one is supposed to be serious? You may want to check your facts on that one. Anyway, this episode is about a guy who voices and animates a cartoon bear that gets pushed into local politics. The bear, not necessarily the man. Yes, this is a cartoon bear and Colbert is a human, but they’re both characters. I love that after five brilliant episodes that pose difficult “what if” scenarios, Charlie Brooker says, “This is actually happening, how is it affecting the way you view politics and media?”

If you mistakenly make your way over to the IMDb discussion section for this episode, you will see a bunch of morons who complain about this episode not being as bizarre and futuristic and twisty as the other episodes. I don’t understand how anyone can watch all six episodes and not find this episode amazing and brilliantly put as the final episode.

But don’t take my word on it, watch all six episodes. No, don’t take an afternoon to watch them all by yourself. Get some friends together and maybe watch two episodes in a gathering. Trust me, you want to have friends also watching the show, because you will want to discuss this show until your throat bleeds from overuse. Yeah, gross. And if you are like me and don’t have friends, feel free to seek me out to discuss this show, because I will gladly drop everything I am doing to discuss this show.

 

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Black Mirror – “The Waldo Moment” (Season Two, Episode 3)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  3. Spartacus – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  4. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  5. Breaking Bad – “Blood Money” (Season Five, Episode 9)
  6. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  7. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)
  8. Treme – “Yes We Can Can” (Season 4, Episode 1) Finally they capture what it’s really like to live in New Orleans, potholes.
  9. Archer – “Fugue and Riffs” (Season 4, Episode 1) Bob’s Burgers, gotta love it!
  10. Arrested Development – All of Season Four Binge watching makes it all seem like one big episode

 

Special mention to Master Chef Junior for being the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen on television. Just feel like that needed to be mentioned and I have no shame in saying it.

 

Breaking Bad

“Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)

Breaking Bad

By Eric Martindale

“Ozymandias” wasn’t just the best episode on Breaking Bad this year. Nor was it merely just the best episode on all of television this year. It was, in the humble opinion of this author, the best hour of television in this self-proclaimed “golden age.” In large part this was due to Walter White, Bad’s infamous protagonist, finally receiving his just reward. Defeat. Main characters are killed, the family falls apart, the money is stolen, and everyone knows he’s Heisenberg. The end? Not exactly.

The show did have two more episodes remaining in its fifth and final season, but they were the curtain call, a denouement. Great, as well. But they served the show in a different way. “Ozymandias” changed everything that came before and profoundly served us everything we ever wondered might happen in one, solitary episode. This was the real ending. The just reward for Walter White’s unthinkable wickedness. It was showrunner Vince Gilligan’s chief masterpiece amongst a show that will go down in history as one of the finest pieces of fiction ever.

Eric’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Breaking Bad – “”To’hajillee”” (Season Five, Episode 13)
  3. Game of Thrones – “The Climb” (Season Three, Episode 6)
  4. Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  5. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  6. Game of Thrones – “”Kissed by Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)
  7. Mad Men – “The Crash” (Season Six, Episode 8)
  8. Arrested Development – “Flight of the Phoenix” (Season Four, Episode 1)
  9. Game of Thrones – “Second Sons” (Season Three, Episode 8)
  10. Breaking Bad –”Rabid Dog” (Season Five, Episode 12)

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

“Sal’s Pizza” (Season One, Episode 9)

Brooklyn Nine Nine

By Keith Jackson

Of the new shows this fall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine came up on top. It has a great sense of familiarity to another of my favorite comedies on right now, Parks & Recreation – and it should, since it contains much of the same DNA in producers Mike Schur and Dan Goor (I always enjoy the production company tag after a Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode when we hear Nick Offerman: “Fremulon”). Importantly, it doesn’t feel like a carbon-copy of the show that came before. Yet it shares the spirit of the ensemble cast. Parks & Rec is in its sixth(!) season, and the characters are so well fleshed out that much of the comedy comes from what we know about them. That show had a notoriously rocky first season, and it took a while to get to where they are now.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine didn’t repeat history for Schur and Goor in that way, fortunately: at only the midpoint of the first season, the characters are already lived-in. All of the different dynamics, like Peralta/Santiago, Peralta/Captain Holt, and Boyle/Diaz, are all working so well and then you sweeten the pot with Chelsea Peretti’s character, Linetti, or Terry Crews’ character, Jeffords. Whereas I fear that Parks & Rec will lose steam in their story arcs, we’re only getting starting with the 99th precinct and by nature of the profession there’s a lot of avenues to take. One thing that solidified it for me was the introduction of Patton Oswalt as the fire marshal, and the contention between him and the police detectives just feels so right and organic that I can’t wait to see that rivalry pop up again.

Whenever NBC decides to send Parks & Rec off, as sad as that will be, we can take solace in the fact its heir apparent is alive and well.

 

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  3. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  4. Breaking Bad – “”To’hajillee”” (Season Five, Episode 13)
  5. Breaking Bad –”Rabid Dog” (Season Five, Episode 12)
  6. Breaking Bad – “Confessions” (Season Five, Episode 11)
  7. Breaking Bad – “Buried” (Season Five, Episode 10)
  8. Breaking Bad – “Blood Money” (Season Five, Episode 9)
  9. Parks and Recreation – “London” (Season Six, Episodes 1/2)
  10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Sal’s Pizza” (Season One, Episode 9)

Honorable mentions: Arrested Development season 4, Doctor Who “The Day of the Doctor”, Hannibal season 1, House of Cards season 1, Rectify season 1

Dishonorable mentions: Community season 4, Doctor Who season 7 minus “The Name of the Doctor”, Whose Line Is It Anyway? after the freshness wore off.

 

Bunheads

“Next!” (Season One, Episode 18)

Bunheads

By Alan Gordon

I’ve by and large given up on sitcoms. They all sound the same — the same rhythms, the same caricatures walking about doing the same shtick, the same old same old. One recent episode of a series that I’m almost through giving the benefit of a doubt sounded entirely as if the writer had been told to write lines that sounded like jokes, but weren’t quite. I felt like a character in a book I’ve been reading, who says, “Your joke is no doubt very amusing.”

Then there was Bunheads. A show I never wanted to end. I hadn’t seen Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s previous show, but I heard great things about the rapid, intelligent dialogue. Yeah, goes double here. Double-speed, double- smart. Starred Sutton Foster, who won a Tony for The Drowsy Chaperone, perhaps my favorite musical of the last twenty years, and Kelly Bishop, who won a Tony for A Chorus Line, my favorite musical of the previous twenty. And four girls who could do anything — be realer than real, more stylized than stylized, and dance, dance, dance. Sasha, Boo, Ginny, and Mel. Not merely assigned their designated quirk to beat to death with a laugh track, but four fully-realized girls on the verge of everything. Sasha, who emancipated herself from her divorced parents, but who found her alpha status slipping. Boo, who came to realize she didn’t have to be a second banana. Mel, with her unexpected reserves of liberating violence. And Ginny, the smallest girl taking the largest leaps into the unknown. Girls who fell down, fell in love, fell from grace, fell out, and fell back together again. Girls who obsessively planned their next moves, and the moves after that, who thought that if they planned hard enough and well enough that the plans would save them, and that they would save each other. But who constantly learned that life has other plans for those who plan.

The best comedy comes from pain, and the greatest comedy will break your heart. The girls’ role model, their surrogate big sister, their scout in the real world was Foster’s Michelle, who was in fact fleeing towards the place the girls wanted to flee from. Foster was to this writing born, her post-modern screwball rhythms throwbacks yet like nothing that has ever been. She could take that wrong turn at Albequerque in mid- sentence. “No, I was yes, that’s exactly what happened.” [as she realizes that she had the wrong audience to tell that particular blow-job story.]

In the final episode, “Next,” the girls surreptitiously trail Michelle as she heads into L.A. for a cattle call chorus audition. As the hopefuls are winnowed down, the girls watch as their idol, who has the game to back her stories, soars above the pack, finishing at the top. Then Michelle gets to see the director’s chosen dancers strut by — the whole audition a sham, a sop to appease the union rules. She never had a chance.

And the girls themselves, their lives in disarray, their long-time pecking order disrupted in the second season by the arrival of a preternaturally gifted pair of twins, find themselves subjected in their ballet class to sex ed with bananas, taught by Kelly Bishop as one more life tool. Which leads to this

I invested in these characters. I wanted to know what happened to each of them. But “Next” was the last.

At least they finished with a dance.

 

Alan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Bunheads – “Next!” (Season One, Episode 18)
  2. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15) Fun writing, great chemistry. Billie Piper stole the episode. The season wasnʼt great, mostly due to the writersʼ inability to define Claraʼs character and her relationship to the Doctor.
  3. Nashville – “Dear Brother” (Season One, Episode 14) Shout out to “Old Yeller”
  4. Grey’s Anatomy – “She’s Killing Me” (Season Nine, Episode 20) The writing has come back, although I still wouldnʼt want to get treated at this hospital. A few less arbitrary outside disasters would suit me.
  5. Dancing With the Stars (Season Sixteen) Yeah, we take ballroom lessons. Ya gotta problem with that? Final showdown between Kelly Pickler and Zendaya was killer. Both deserved to win. Derek Hough may be one of the best choreographers, period, in the USA — not just of ballroom.
  6. Bunheads – “The Astronaut and the Ballerina” (Season One, Episode 14) This is the one that ends with Michelle and her brother [played by Fosterʼs actual brother]recreating the Steve Martin/ Bernadette Peters ukulele duet of “Tonight You Belong To Me.”
  7. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14) A good explanation for the Impossible Girl. Redeemed the rest of the season, and great intro for John Hurtʼs Doctor.
  8. Ray Donovan – “The Golem” (Season One, Episode 5)
  9. Nashville – “I Don’t Want to Talk About It Now” (Season Two, Episode 3)
  10. Face Off – “The Laughing Dead” (Season Five, Episode 10) Another addiction. This one, Roy created a brilliant double midget act. Trust me, itʼs genius.

Burn Notice

“Reckoning” (Season Seven, Episode 13)

Burn Notice 

By Brandon Lugar

Burn Notice’s series finale, “Reckoning”, was not only one of the greatest episodes on television in 2013, but also the perfect wrap that could have been written for this television show. Burn Notice has been a show that is wrapped around the general concept of loyalty, not only from the characters in the show, but also from the fans. My brother introduced our family to this show back when it first started and I was the only one that stuck with it through the years. Each year it seemed to get a bit repetitive, but slowly the plot did move forward. Michael continued to be the ultimate badass, and his friends made you continue to love them through their devotion and loyalty.

What made this episode not just good, but great, was the closure it brought to all the characters that grew to be a part of you. One of the greatest and most loyal characters of television history had the grandest exits to the show, which actually brought a tear to my eye. Maddie Weston gave her life to the son who always seemed to make life a little riskier than normal; to the son who always fought and did everything he could to make her life safe. She finally got the chance to pay him back. She sacrificed her life to give Michael, Fiona, Sam, Jesse, and Charlie another chance with either the old life they had or with a new life they always wanted. Overall, this was one of the best shows aired in 2013 and a fantastic finish to one of my favorite television programs.

Brandon’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Confessions” (Season Five, Episode 11)
  3. Burn Notice – “Reckoning” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
  4. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  5. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)
  6. Doctor Who – “Nightmare in Silver” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
  7. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  8. Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  9. Doctor Who – “The Bells of Saint John” (Season Seven, Episode 7)
  10. Burn Notice – “Psychological Warfare” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

 

Cougar Town

“You Tell Me” (Season Four, Episode 10)

 Cougar Town

By Molly Raker

New network, new writers and new showrunner. Unlike Community all these changes didn’t affect the cul-de-sac crew. Did anyone else see the webseries of the writers, Brad and Emily? That was just the first sign of an awesome season to come.

Lets get to the real reason why Cougar Town was one of my favorite shows of the year, it was naturally because I made a special cameo appearance in the tenth episode! I was living Abed’s dream but I didn’t poop my pants. The change of the new showrunner is always a red flag but thank goodness Bill Lawerence didn’t leave his shows side like Dan Harmon. Plus I met the new showrunner and he’s a cool guy, we said ‘Hi’ to each other.

But really, there’s always concerns when two of the main characters get married it may fall flat like New Girl or excel like Parks and Recreation! Cougar Town joins the ranks of Parks and Rec, Jules and Greyson marriage may seem dysfunctional but the wine brings them together.

Almost everyone is paired off besides Bobby (which makes sense) but the two married couples go through their rough and funny patches. Even though I thought Ellie was being extra harsh to Andy and Jules being crazy to Greyson (cue the therapist) the comedy is still there but I hope the dial back the crazy and harshness of the relationship. Then the not surprise relationship of Jellybean and Travis finally bloomed, what will the cul-de-sac do now with all of them paired off.

As any good comedy does, they do handle pretty rough stuff as Jules discovers her dad has Alzheimer’s and they forgo their trip to Jamaica to go to LA. The finale of them going to LA was heart felt and funny, it was interesting to see Ken Jenkins in a vulnerable role also that dance with Tippi.

With the change of network and many other things as Ellie would say, “change approved”. Grab some wine and catch up with Cougar Town, it’s back January 12th!

Molly’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Cougar Town – “You Tell Me” (Season Four, Episode 10)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Rapid Dog” (Season Five, Episode 12)
  3. Game of Thrones – “Second Sons” (Season Three, Episode 8)
  4. Justified – “Decoy” (Season Four, Episode 11)
  5. Parks and Recreation – “Women in Garbage” (Season Five, Episode 11)
  6. Mad Men – “A Tale of Two Cities” (Season Six, Episode 10)
  7. Veep – “Running” (Season Two, Episode 9)
  8. Parks and Recreation – “The Cones of Dunshire” (Season Six, Episode 9)
  9. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castemere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  10. Arrested Development – “Colony Collapse” (Season Four, Episode 6)

 

Doctor Who

“The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)

 Doctor Who

By Evan Dossey

This review contains spoilers for the season finale of Doctor Who Season Seven.

Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who has been controversial, to say the least. It’s worth saying up front that I think Moffat’s highs are greater than his lows, and that when he writes a good episode of Doctor Who, he writes a really good episode of Doctor Who.

“The Name of the Doctor” is the start of Matt Smith’s swansong on the show, a trilogy comprising of Name, Day, and, this Christmas, Time of the Doctor. At the end of the sixth season, Moffat left us with the question: Doctor Who? This trilogy of episodes, bit by bit, aims to answer that question, starting with the most essential: who are the people the Doctor chooses to surround himself with?

Like most of Moffat’s episodes, “Name” moves from concept to concept at an absurdly brisk pace. The episode begins with The Doctor’s friends Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, being captured by The Great Intelligence and taken to Trenzalore, which we learn is the Doctor’s grave site. It’s a molten, desolate world, scarred by a cataclysmic past war fought by The Doctor in his own future. Looming above the field of graves is a giant, dead TARDIS. The Doctor’s TARDIS. What else would they bury him in? Naturally, the Doctor collects his companion, Clara, to go rescue their friends.

To The Doctor, Trenzalore is the most dangerous place in the universe. He explains that a time traveler finding his own grave is immensely wibbly-wobbly stuff. You see, time travel leaves an open wound in the fabric of space and time. The Doctor has traveled more than anyone. His wound is enormous. If someone besides himself were to enter his time stream, they could do immense damage to him. If he were to enter it, he might never escape.

The Great Intelligence intends on entering the time stream to kill the Doctor across time. Clara follows him in, thwarting his multitude of murders. In doing so she is splintered into infinite Claras across time and space, each leading their own lives that in some way involve meeting, and saving, the Doctor. He doesn’t always know it’s her – most of the time, he hardly hears her – but she’s always there, always rescuing him.

Clara.

She’s the key to all of this.

Moffat has gotten a lot of flack for Clara’s lack of characterization throughout Season Seven. She doesn’t have much of a supporting cast, or any characteristics besides being cute, kind, and brave. As a character, she really is somewhat underwhelming. But as an idea, as the quintessence of companion in Moffat’s grand scheme, she works wonders for me. It is her kindness and bravery, uniquely human, that keeps the Doctor returning to humanity again and again. It is ultimately what saves him.

What makes “The Name of the Doctor” so satisfying is that it largely works on the archetypal level. It’s a story about The Doctor, about his companions and friends and his life. It’s about what makes the Doctor ‘the Doctor,’ and why we, simple humans, love his strange alien ways.

 

Evan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

 

  1. Hannibal – “Sorbet” (Season One, Episode 7)
  2. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)
  3. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandius” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  4. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  5. Mad Men – “The Doorway” (Season Six, Episodes 1/2)
  6. Arrow – “Three Ghosts” (Season Two, Episode 9)
  7. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  8. The IT Crowd – “The Internet is Coming” (Season Five, Episode 1)
  9. Hannibal – “Savoureux” (Season One, Episode 13)
  10. Arrow – “City of Heroes” (Season Two, Episode 1)

 

Game of Thrones

“Kissed by Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)

 Game of Thrones

By Beau Thompson

This review contains spoilers about the entirety of Game of Thrones Season Three.

“The Rains of Castamere” is seared into every viewer’s memory for the surprising slaughter of main characters, yet it was “Kissed by Fire” that has just about everything that makes Game of Thrones is such a great show. Sword fights and magic? The episode starts out with a wonderfully coordinated fight sequence between the physically imposing Hound, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), who can magically set his sword aflame. The brutal fight lasts just long enough for us to appreciate the spectacle, then ends with a sudden victory by Clegane and a fatally wounded Dondarrion… Except he gets back up, good as new a few moments later. Game of Thrones is so good at human drama, and plays its magic so close to the chest that it’s a constantly pleasant surprise to see the show become more and more fantastical. Loyalty, honor and oaths are constantly being questioned in this episode, and in true Game of Thrones fashion, there is no right or wrong. We are simply given different characters’ viewpoints and are left to ourselves to make our own judgment.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) breaks his oath of celibacy to the Night’s Watch for Ygritte (Rose Leslie), but the Night’s Watch is a broken mess of rapists and murderers that killed their own Lord Commander. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) executes his comrade Lord Rickard Karstark (John Stahl) for his treason in executing his Lannister captives, yet Robb himself has broken an oath of his own last season by marrying Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead of a Frey.

And then there is Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Wow. This is the real magic of the show. I hated Jaime Lannister with a passion almost from the very beginning of the series. I mean, he throws a little boy from a window because he catches Jaime having sex with his sister! He is repeatedly told to his face again and again that he has no honor for killing the former King of the Iron Throne. And he is the father/uncle of that awful King Joffrey! Yet he has probably saved more people than anyone else has or possibly will in the entire story. In of the most powerfully acted monologues I have ever seen, Coster-Waldau finally shows us the real Jaime that was hidden under a smug smile and cynical words. Maimed, and struggling for consciousness, Jaime shares a bath with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and reveals the awful truth that the former King was going to burn the entire population of King’s Landing when it was endanger of being sacked.

The simplicity of the scene is a thing of beauty. A lesser show would simply show us this in a flashback, but that would take away from the relief, and hurt that Jaime reveals in telling the whole truth. The show trusts Coster-Waldau’s acting ability to tell the tale. Game of Thrones’ surprising, brutal deaths, are not easily forgotten, but what elevates it to great storytelling is its long, dialog-heavy scenes that show us characters like Jaime Lannister, and not only eventually come to understand their (sometimes deplorable) actions, but even like them. Nowhere is this more evident than in “Kissed by Fire”.

 

Beau’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandius” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Spartacus: War of the Damned – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  3. Game of Thrones – “Kissed by Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)
  4. Mad Men – “The Crash” (Season Six, Episode 8)
  5. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  6. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castemere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  7. Arrested Development – “A New Attitude” (Season Four, Episode 11)
  8. Doctor Who – “Hide” (Season Seven, Episode 10)
  9. Orange is the New Black – “Fucksgiving” (Season One, Episode 9)
  10. Mad Men – “The Flood” (Season Six, Episode 5)

 

Hannibal

“Buffet Froid” (Season One, Episode 10)

 Hannibal

By Pedro Aubry

This is a creepy episode. Creepier than most. And that means a lot given that this is… well… Hannibal. This show follows protagonist Will Graham, a troubled man whose unique cocktail of mental disorders allows him a rare ability (not sure he would call it a gift). Capable of perfectly and completely empathizing with others, he can place himself in another’s point of view entirely and he is uses this to bring crime scenes back to life. He envisions himself as he who commits the heinous and brutal murders and, feeling as the killer feels, gains a unique insight into their personality, hopefully leading to arrest. Of course, with such a hefty load on his psyche, he needs and indeed enlists (though initially not of his own accord) the help of esteemed surgeon-turned-psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter. As the show progresses, Will’s psyche becomes stretched to unbelievable limits and, coming back to this specific episode, we start to see true evidence that he indeed near (or has already tipped past) his breaking point. The first episodes of the season rely on shock and awe to grip you to the screen, and amazing performances all around by the four or five main characters (especially the interplay between Will and Hannibal). This episode, however, begins to confirm what we fear to be the inevitable and gets the snowball rolling. In a similar fashion, though the show always has an awkward and uncomfortable aura of impending doom, this episode seems take the emotional distress itself and bring it to the climax for a dreadfully creepy and utterly amazing set up to the terrible things sure to come. To me, then, this episode encompasses all things that this show is about, but you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out.

P.S. Hannibal’s dishes look amazing…. Not sure I’d be able to pass.

Pedro’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1.   Spartacus: War of the Damned – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  2.   Breaking Bad – “Ozymandius” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  3.   The Returned – “Camille” (Season One, Episode 1)
  4.   Spartacus: War of the Damned – “The Dead and the Dying” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  5.   Top Gear – “Africa Special Part 1 & 2” (Season Nineteen, Episodes 6/7)
  6.   Mad Men – “In Care Of” (Season Six, Episode 13)
  7.   Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  8.   Hannibal – “Buffet Froid” (Season One, Episode 10)
  9.   Mad Men – “A Tale of Two Cities” (Season Six, Episode 10)
  10. Hannibal – “Savoureux” (Season One, Episode 13)

 

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

“Talking to Myself” (Season One, Episode 96)

 Lizzie Bennet

By Jim Huang

Lizzie Bennet is asking questions.  “I don’t understand Darcy at all,” she says.  She’s learned that William Darcy intervened to protect her younger sister Lydia.  But Darcy hasn’t taken credit, hasn’t contacted her at all.  She wonders what to make of the situation.  She wishes her sister Jane was with her, and she realizes she knows exactly what Jane would say.  She puts a large flower in her hair, and mimics Jane.  And then she mimics what Fitz William would say, though she doesn’t don the ‘fro to impersonate Fitz.  Then she puts on a cap and flower to portray Gigi Darcy, William’s younger sister.  What she realizes is that Darcy doesn’t want her to know that he’s responsible for saving Lydia’s reputation.  But she does know and, she says, “I’m not sure what to do about that … If his good opinion once lost is lost forever, well then we’re right back where we started, I guess.”

It’s Pride and Prejudice — a remarkably faithful Pride and Prejudice, and not just faithful in plot but in every other way too — except that this Lizzie Bennet is very much of our moment, pursing an advanced degree in new media and telling her story in a series of video blogs that she’s creating as a thesis project.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su, isn’t just a delightful update of a beloved Jane Austen novel, it is an audacious and brilliant innovation in storytelling, using the internet in all its glory — video, tweets, websites, comments, social media, etc. — to create a totally immersive experience.  The central story unfolds through Lizzie’s 100 video blogs, but there’s lots more — vlogs from Lydia, Gigi and Charlotte Lu’s younger sister, plus Mr. Collins’ company’s videos, a company website and profile for Collins on LinkedIn.  Not to mention lots of tweets from various characters.  It’s a rich universe, and it’s hard to figure out how to wrap your head around it all.  Which is, in part, the point.

So let’s just focus on the central thread of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lizzie’s 100 video diary entries.  Is the rest just supporting material?  Margin notes?  Advertising?  Fanfic?  Who knows?  Sticking with the main vlog posts also keeps us focused on the part of all this that’s the most like a “show” anyway, and television shows are what we’re supposed to be writing about here.  (Hard to argue that a fake LinkedIn page is television in any way.)  We watched much of Lizzie Bennet on the flatscreen television in the family room — YouTube via AppleTV — so that pretty much counts as television.  (But we also watched episodes on a computer and on an iPad. That’s television too, these days, right?) Let’s just leave all those existential questions to the side.

You all know and cherish the novel so we don’t need to talk about plot. We can focus, instead, on the how the story is told.  The vlog entries are simple and straightforward, Lizzie talks to the camera, three to five minutes a pop, about what’s going on in her life and the lives of those around her.  She’s being assisted in this project by her best friend Charlotte, whom we’re told, is handling all of the editing and technical aspects of the production (though the production values never lag when Lizzie and Charlotte are apart).

The vlogs command attention right from the start because Ashley Clements, who plays Lizzie, is terrific — smart, engaging, lively and earnest.  And the writing is also smart, engaging and lively, as sharply observed and cleverly delivered as you’d expect from Austen herself.  Bits of Austen are quoted and paraphrased — Janeites will recognize Darcy’s line “my good opinion once lost is lost forever” — but this Lizzie has a voice all her own.

The vlogs are more than just Lizzie.  Right from the start, folks barge in on her while she’s filming, and end up sharing what’s going on with them.  When Lizzie needs to tell us what others are saying or when she needs to work things out, she performs a little costume theater.  She enlists Charlotte and others to play various parts. They wear a scarf, a hat, a flower, etc. to indicate characters, and Lizzie usually writes scripts that reenact conversations.  The key to all this, though, is that these little costume dramas aren’t just exposition, they are the vlog version of Austen’s arch and intelligent delivery — devastating, on-target and (usually) affectionate all at the same time.  “Lizzie sees what Lizzie sees,” we hear more than once throughout the series.  These costume theater allows us to see what Lizzie sees.

But the ingenuity of the writers doesn’t stop there.  The writers are keenly aware that this is a new way of telling a story.  This is more than just an epistolary narrative because letters don’t have the same audience as do posts on the internet, and making a video is different from writing a letter.  The series is fully invested in exploring these possibilities, posing questions about how this works and What It All Means.  Bing Lee is among the (many) folks who barge in on Lizzie while she’s filming, but he’s the one person whom Lizzie wants to keep in the dark about the audience for the videos.  She lies and tells him that the videos are just for Charlotte.  Then in episode 29, Lizzie frets over “the ethics of putting Bing in these videos under ‘grey’ pretenses.”  It’s not the only time that Lizzie and company confront questions of what should be filmed and what shouldn’t be, and whom the vlogs are for.  Lucky for us, they’re always erring on the side of filming.  The series does a nice job of showing us how and when the folks around her discover what she’s doing, and the effects of their discoveries.

Episode 80, “Hyper-Mediation in New Media,” is the best exploration of these meta issues, a moment when Lizzie delves into how costume theater helps her figure things out.  “Nothing like a little costume theater to focus the mind,” she says.  But she can’t find anyone to work with her; she’s away from the usual fellow thespians.  So she enlists Darcy, and that leads to a fabulous and funny, self-conscious and self-referential conversation between Lizzie and Darcy about costume theater.  When Lizzie tells Darcy that he will be portraying Darcy and Lizzie will be portraying Lizzie, Darcy observes “you thought that costume theater as ourselves would remind the audience that this isn’t a conversation that we would naturally have but because of that the obviously constructed nature of the scene would by its very artificiality create its own sense of verisimilitude.” Yes, exactly, as counterintuitive as all that sounds.

It all comes together in episode 96, “Talking to Myself.” “My name is Lizzie Bennet, and I don’t understand Darcy at all,” she says. This four minute and twenty second chapter is the series at its best, a tour de force for writer Margaret and for Clements, who is at the top of her game as a Lizzie at her most uncertain and emotional. Lizzie turns to costume theater, but instead of providing the comfort and the answers that she’s seeking, costume theater argues back until she reaches the epiphany that spurs her to take action, to take charge of her life: “Talking to the internet.  Not the same as talking to people.”

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries isn’t like anything we’ve seen before. It’s dazzling new media storytelling. We should be ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who showed us the possibilities, and who made it all so engaging and so much fun.

Jim did not have a Top 10 Episodes for 2013.

 

Mad Men

“In Care Of” (Season Six, Episode 13)

 Mad Men

By Nick Rogers

“Peggy, listen to me. Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

Narratively, we’re nearly a decade removed from Don Draper’s plea to Peggy Olson after the birth of her illegitimate child. Back then, we thought we knew every anxiety in Don’s own past this endorsement of self-delusion was meant to assuage. But we’ve learned much more about Don, perhaps more than some care to know.

Large swaths of the audience turned on season six — complaining about Don’s newlywed bliss curdling into another adulterous clench or grousing about “The Crash,” a cryptically experimental episode in which the agency inadvertently took speed to soldier on through a weekend of work. They thought they knew everything worth knowing about Don and that the series would repeat ad infinitum until its end. As usual, the ubiquitously complaining “they” were wrong.

The season finale finds fascinating footing from which to venture forth for a seventh, final season — to be split in half because AMC likely fears whatever other Low Winter Suns it has lying in wait. We think we know everything about Don? Here’s a man who, for the first time, understands the value of knowing himself by way of recognition, not reinvention.

Amid this metaphysical subtext, the finale also reminds us how unpredictable, morbid and uproarious its comic asides can often be. Here, Pete Campbell and his fearfully retreating hairline investigate his mother’s mysterious death, likely abetted by shadowy new adman Bob Benson. (“Pete, how are you?” “Not great, Bob!”)

Don begins the episode bleary-eyed after a drunken night in the stir — poaching art director Stan’s plan to move to California to handle the Sunkist account. There, he tells second wife Megan, they can be happy as they were when they got engaged. But over the course of the episode, Don makes a more difficult choice to stay put.

He does it to save his kids, whose love he’s at greater risk of losing than ever after his oldest, Sally, discovers his infidelities. And he also does it to help hapless colleague Ted Chaough, who sees a move to California as a way to save his own family and forcibly end his affair with Peggy.

But Don’s choice comes at a price after a Hershey meeting that’s occupationally disastrous and personally victorious, in which the king of pitches negates his smooth bullshit with a jaggedly authentic tale of his broken childhood and his real mental association with chocolate. The most honest pitch Don has ever made gets him hobbled, perhaps permanently, from the agency he helped to ascend to new heights. It’s a scene powerfully underplayed by Jon Hamm and shrewdly written with aching emotional entendres (“The wrapper looked like what was inside.”)

Whatever catharsis Don finds is bound to be a bleakly beautiful mess. After all, the ground he gains with his kids by showing them the dilapidated whorehouse where he grew up is lost when he jeopardizes Megan’s career by backpedaling on the move. For a man whose selfishness has known no bounds, the first hints of selflessness are inevitably reined in.

But until this moment, unabashed truth has been the only suit Don Draper has been afraid to try on. As we enter the last season, I can’t wait to see how he wears it.

Nick’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013 (aside from “In Care of …”)*

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandius” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. The Americans – “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
  3. Hannibal – “Savoureux” (Season One, Episode 13)
  4. Parks and Recreation – “Leslie & Ben/Correspondents Lunch” (Season Five, Episodes 14/15) They aired back to back.
  5. Rectify – “Plato’s Cave” (Season One, Episode 4)
  6. Orange is the New Black – “Tall Men With Feelings” (Season One, Episode 11)
  7. Eastbound and Down – “Chapter 29” (Season Four, Episode 8)
  8. Homeland – “The Star” (Season Three, Episode 12)
  9. Orphan Black – “Variations Under Domestication” (Season One, Episode 6)
  10. Jimmy Kimmel Live – “Jimmy Kimmel Sucks” (January 24, 2013)

* Limited to 10 separate series lest “Breaking Bad” make up an unfair majority

 

Orange is the New Black

“Bora Bora Bora” (Season One, Episode 10)

Orange is the New Black 

By Leigh Montano

For those who don’t know me, I recently moved from Indiana to Florida, something I can’t really recommend because Florida is hot all the time and it is gross. It is taking a lot for me to adjust but one thing I found comfort in was TV. I know that this sounds a bit sad, but it was nice to be able to turn on Netflix and continue watching shows I had watched in Indiana even though I was now 1000 miles away.

Unfortunately because I couldn’t find a job, I was stuck at home all day with not much to do. So I watched Netflix. A lot. Probably more than was healthy. The new TV season hadn’t started yet and I was slowly making my way through every sitcom that Netflix has to offer when I started seeing ads for Orange is the new Black. I was skeptical because I’ve heard mixed reviews of Netflix produced shows but I thought I’d give it a try because I didn’t have anything else to do.

And then I watched the whole season. In 14 hours. I paused for bathroom breaks and to quickly make some food. I didn’t really get hooked into this excitingly original show until “Lesbian Request Denied.” That episode started to show what this whole thing was all about. It wasn’t just going to be some quirky romp about a upper-middle class white girl going to jail, an idea that I rolled my eyes at because uuugh, it was going to talk about people with problems who needed to find a way out and ended up in prison.

And then “Bora Bora Bora” happens. This episode, I feel, is the turning point in the season. Up to this point, the audience deals with these characters who are all kinda heinous and frustrating and then shit goes down and they go from frustratingly terrible to actually terrible. It takes a lot for me to hate a character in a television show or movie or book (Umbridge and Joffrey are pretty much my list) but Orange is the New Black created a whole set of characters that were all in shitty situations and showed how real people would react and guess what, real people are the terrible.

I started my marathon at about 3pm. It was at about 1am that I watched “Bora Bora Bora” and then decided I needed to see what happened to these characters and it couldn’t wait until the morning.

“Bora Bora Bora” took the idea that these are people who just happen to be in a bad situation because of mistakes they made and amplified it. It also showed, without question, that there are consequences because of your actions and sometimes they are really bad, like someone OD’ing on drugs that you gave them. Up to this episode, everyone is on edge, threatening to become worse people and then it all comes to a head like the world’s ugliest pimple. This was the episode that I fell in love with the show. This was the episode that makes me continue to recommend this show to everyone I talk to. This was the episode that made me want to watch the whole season again as soon as I finished it, something that I restrained myself from doing until about a week later.

 

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. 30 Rock – “Last Lunch” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
  2. Parks and Recreation – “Leslie and Ben” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  3. Orange is the New Black – “Bora Bora Bora” (Season One, Episode 10)
  4. Downton Abbey – “Episode Three” (Season Four, Episode 3)
  5. Girls – “On All Fours” (Season Two, Episode 9)
  6. Archer – “Sea Tunt: Part 1” (Season Four, Episode 12)
  7. Bob’s Burgers – “Boyz 4 Now” (Season Three, Episode 21)
  8. The Mindy Project – “You’ve Got Sext” (Season Two, Episode 8)
  9. Happy Endings – “Deuce Babylove 2: Electric Babydeuce” (Season Three, Episode 22)
  10. Don’t Trust the B—– in Apt. 23 – “Using People…” (Season Two, Episode 17)

 

Orphan Black

“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (Season One, Episode 10)

Orphan Black 

By Michelle Manzo

In its first season on BBC America, Orphan Black threw us headfirst into a massive conspiracy as a group of clones (played brilliantly by Tatiana Maslany) become self-aware and work together to discover their true origins.

It’s difficult to choose a standout episode from the series so far, but the finale “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” certainly competes for a top spot in my mind if only for the sheer number of jaw dropping moments. This episode does a masterful job of wrapping up a few of the storylines while still providing the audience with new revelations and plenty of mystery going into next season.

The aspect of this episode I love the most is that it reminds us that in spite of everything, the clones are unique women with very different needs, hopes, and desires. Dr. Leekie and his team know that it will take radically different approaches for each clone to get Sarah, Alison, and Cosima to play by their rules.

Of course in the end, their unique personalities and lives doesn’t change the fact that their shared DNA connects every clone. What Cosima and Delphine find in that DNA is what helps send this episode over the top, and what will bring me back as a regular viewer next season.

 

Michelle’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  3. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  4. Orphan Black – “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (Season One, Episode 10)
  5. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14)
  6. Orange is the New Black – “Fucksgiving” (Season One, Episode 9)
  7. Orphan Black – “Natural Selection” (Season One, Episode 1)
  8. Orange is the New Black – “The Chickening” (Season One, Episode 5)
  9. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “F.Z.Z.T.” (Season One, Episode 6)
  10. Arrested Development – “Señoritis” (Season One, Episode 12)

 

Rectify

“Jacob’s Ladder” (Season One, Episode 6)

  Rectify

By Ryan Lugar

This year was full of great television. Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones. Hell, even Drunk History was pretty damn good. However, Rectify was the best television show in the entire year of 2013. That’s right Aaron Paul: Breaking Bad won the silver medal. Yes, Breaking Bad had its final season and ended perfectly. Yes, it will most likely win every single Emmy (if the Emmy’s didn’t suck). And YES, we will all miss the show greatly, but Rectify was still better. Rectify, in its six episodes, made its viewers beg for more and become infuriated at the Sundance Channel for not allowing a longer first season. Each shot, each line, each blink by a character is done perfectly and this makes all six episodes perfect. There was no big explosions or any ploy to get more viewers, just pure humanity.

Rectify embraced human emotion more than any other show I have ever seen. There was more said through actions and body language than any amount of dialogue in this show’s opening season. The main character may have said a total of 500 words in 6 episodes, but you can describe him in a million words through his behaviors and reactions to the world around him. The show took a simple concept, in a simple town, with a simple man, and ran wild with it.

Rectify made the audience, myself mostly, really dig down deep to find emotions that I knew not existed. I, and the audience as well, were forced to pick sides in a conflict of which there truly is no winner. You can either root for a man who was accused of rape and murder and put on death row or root for a malicious small town out to get him after he is found innocent after already spending 19 years on death row. I will not say much more about the plot because there is not much more. That is how amazing this show is. I will admit however, there are some big details I am leaving out. So go watch the show! I’m serious don’t read any more of these articles and watch Rectify.

 

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Rectify – “Jacob’s Ladder” (Season One, Episode 6)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  3. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  4. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  5. Rectify – “Always There” (Season One, Episode 1)
  6. Rectify – “Drip, Drip” (Season One, Episode 2)
  7. Drunk Chicago – “Chicago” (Season One, Episode 2)
  8. Breaking Bad – “Rapid Dog” (Season Five, Episode 12)
  9. Game of Thrones – “Walk of Punishment” (Season Three, Episode 3)
  10. Talking Bad – “Felina” (Season One, Episode 8)

 

 

The Returned

“Camille” (Season One, Episode 1)

 The Returned

By Kevin Brown

As television dramas develop, we’re witnessing more and more experimentation and stylization, and in 2013, and nothing better encapsulates that evolution than the new French series, Les Revenants (The Returned). The mythology intrigues and the characters compel, but the pilot makes it clear; this show’s about atmosphere.

Watching The Returned is like watching cinematic poetry. Every movement, every conversation, every camera angle compliments the aesthetic of the overall product. Each episode begins by unveiling another character’s past, starting with Camille, a little girl who becomes the victim of a highway bus accident. After the crash and an indefinite forward leap through time, we find her walking down the same road, unharmed. We have no idea how she’s alive, but our inner LOST-junkies are resurrected with her. No more holding our breath for every 15th episode of Once Upon a Time. The next mystical TV saga has arrived.

As the episode segues seamlessly into its chilling opening credits sequence, I’d be remised if I didn’t take a moment to mention the amazing score, composed by Glasgow post-rock legends, Mogwai. Equally epic and esoteric, the droning organ and distorted guitar riffs lay the perfect backdrop for the surrealism to come.

I don’t want to go too much into the plot, partially to avoid spoilers, but the basic premise is that Camille is just one of many, dead or disappeared, that have suddenly returned, rejoining their families as if nothing ever happened. It’s fodder for countless theories, but before we can withdraw to our message boards and water coolers, the episode delivers with a pack of last-minute twists that changes the perspective entirely.

And then there’s the setting itself, a misty mountain community that exists there but for the grace of a nearby dam. The last time the dam broke, the residents lost their town and got a new lake in its place. They built the new town above the lake but the top of the old church steeple still peeks out above the water as a reminder of the sunken ruins, looming below. That alone is creepy as hell.

For those of you who really don’t want to read subtitles, I’m sure it won’t be long before AMC churns out an American version. But, in all honesty, this show isn’t going to be the same in English. At the risk of pulling out the cliché snobbery of “the foreign version was better”, whispering in a Romantic language just makes any line of dialogue feel more poetic. I can’t imagine Colorado having the same mystique.

Network television has been trying to push that separate-yet-connected-people-with-unique-abilities format for almost a decade now, and France, possibly just to spite us, found a way to make that format work. It echoes Twin Peaks and LOST with a tone just slightly more hopeful than Top of the Lake. That being said, The Returned felt like the most original TV I’ve seen all year. It finds a way to be elegant in its gloom, and exhilarating in its introspection. It brings the French subtlety but salvages the levels of suspense we thrive on. You never know what’s coming next, but you always feel like whatever it is, it’s about to happen and it’s going to be huge.

Watch The Returned in what ever state of consciousness you find yourself most perceptive, and I promise, you won’t regret a minute of it.

Kevin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Boardwalk Empire – “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Season Four, Episode 12)
  2. Homeland – “The Star” (Season Three, Episode 12)
  3. The Returned – “Camille” (Season One, Episode 1)
  4. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  5. Boardwalk Empire – “The Old Ship of Zion” (Season Four, Episode 8)
  6. Broadchurch – “Episode 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
  7. House of Cards – “Chapter 12” (Season One, Episode 12)
  8. Orphan Black – “Instinct” (Season One, Episode 2)
  9. The Fall – “The Vast Abyss” (Season One, Episode 5)
  10. Orange is the New Black – “Can’t Fix Crazy” (Season One, Episode 13)

 

Rick and Morty

“Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

 Rick and Morty

By Austin Lugar

The way I rewatch shows is when I find something that I’m so excited about that I have to show it to everyone. There hasn’t been a comedy pilot that has done that to me like this since the Community pilot. Dan Harmon also has a say in this one, which is clear from the show’s commentary on its own structure. Yet the real joy of this pilot is the limitless insanity. By putting a twist on the Back to the Future/Doctor Who formula, Rick regularly endangers his grandson through his drunken and dangerous scientific experiments through different universes. Instead of commending this Doc Brown figure, we are forever worried about how ruined Morty is, all with hilarious consequences.

In the scene to introduce the characters, Rick wakes up Morty, spills alcohol all over his bed, throws him into a homemade spaceship with a surprise that he’s going to blow up humanity. But he’ll pick up that girl he likes in school and he promises that he won’t try to make a move on her. That’s about a minute in. The episode continues to go down insane paths involving inter-dimensional customs, horse heart surgeries and casually murdering a high school bully. There seems to be a plethora of imagination at a breakneck speed. It’s one of the darkest shows on the air and for some messed up reason that only keeps making it funnier. Here’s to Rick and Morty for 100 years!

 

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Spartacus: War of the Damned – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  3. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  4. Hannibal – “Buffet Froid” (Season One, Episode 10)
  5. Game of Thrones – “Walk of Punishment” (Season Three, Episode 3)
  6. Justified – “Decoy” (Season Four, Episode 10)
  7. Mad Men – “In Care Of” (Season Six, Episode 13)
  8. Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15)
  9. The League – “Rafi and Dirty Randy” (Season Four, Episode 4)
  10. Arrested Development – “Flight of the Phoenix” (Season Four, Episode 1)

 

Honorable mentions: 30 Rock’s “A Good’s Deed in a Weary World”, Black Mirror’s “Be Right Back”, Bunhead’s “Next!”, Doctor Who’s “Hide”, Game of Thrones’ “The Rains of Castamere”, Happy Endings’ “The Marry Prankster”, The IT Crowd’s “The Internet is Coming”, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s “The Gang Saves the Day”, Masters of Sex’s “Standard Deviation”, Misfit’s “Episode One”, Nathan For You’s “Santa / Petting Zoo”, Parks and Recreation’s “Two Parties”, Rectify’s “Drip, Drip”, Rick and Morty’s “Pilot”, and Veep’s “Running”.

 

Spartacus: War of the Damned

“Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)

 Spartacus

By Claudia Johnson

This article contains spoilers for the series finale of Spartacus.

We knew it would happen eventually, but it still hurt. Spartacus ended after 3 seasons and a mini series, with a finale that did not disappoint. Some historical shows and movies are predictable and boring but not Spartacus. The writers did a phenomenal job of taking what we already know and making it heart wrenching and emotional. Viewers, like myself, would forget that we know what happens to Spartacus in the end. The final episode showed Spartacus as the legend we all know. And just like what occurred in history, Spartacus is killed.

Of the whole episode there are two scenes that standout the most to me. The first is the love scene between Gannicus and Saxa. Gannicus found true love with Saxa. It was beautiful to see their love before the end of Gannicus’ life. The other scene that stood out is the last scene, the credits. A montage of all the characters throughout the series played under the credits. As each person came on the screen memories of their role and how great the show was flooded my mind. The very last moment is with Andy Whitfield, who played Spartacus in the first season before he died of cancer, yelling “I am Spartacus”.

Claudia’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Game of Thrones – “And Now His Watch Is Ended” (Season Three, Episode 4)
  2. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  3. Game of Thrones – “Kissed By Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)
  4. Psych – “Right Turn or Left For The Dead” (Season Seven, Episode 8)
  5. Orange is the New Black – “Can’t Fix Crazy” (Season One, Episode 13)
  6. Orange is the New Black – “Fool Me Once” (Season One, Episode 12)
  7. The Americans – “Trust Me” (Season One, Episode 6)
  8. The Real Husbands of Hollywood – “Auf Wiedersehen, Mitches” (Season One, Episode 6)
  9. Spartacus – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10)
  10. American Horror Story: Asylum – “The Name Game” (Season Two, Episode 10)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

“Parasitica” (Season One, Episode 23)

 TMNT

By Josh West

There is a mixed bag when it comes to reviews of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are those who like it, and then there are those who:

– don’t like it because of the animation style

– don’t like it because the turtles are too childish

– don’t like it because its too goofy

– don’t like it because its not dark enough

The people who don’t like it are looking at it from a logical, critical point of view. What everyone needs to do is look at it thought my eyes, the eyes of 8 year old me who loves everything ninja, turtle, mutant, and teenage. Every time I watch an episode of this show I am taken back to when I was a child. I laugh at all of the stupid jokes, I gasp at all the shocking moments, and I get scared for my favorite ninja team whenever it looks like they are about to lose. Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not the most groundbreaking, prettiest funniest, or darkest Ninja Turtles adaptation but it is MY ninja turtles.

The episode I have chosen is called “Parasitica” from season one. In this episode a mutated wasp stings Leo during a fight. After killing the wasp, the team finds its egg and decides to bring it back to the lair. While sitting around watching a hilarious in-show spoof of Star Trek the Animated Series, Leo decides he needs to wipe out the egg before anything bad happens. Just when he is about to take it out, his eye glaze over and he stops. Raph has the same idea later, but Leo begins fighting Raph protecting the egg. Leo bites him and Raph’s eyes also glaze over. Donnie hears the two fighting and investigates. The duo team up to fight Donnie. In the middle of the skirmish Donnie gets bit. Realizing his limited time, Donatello turns to his only hope, Michelangelo and tells him how to create a cure. Donnie glazes over and Mikey now has to fight off his brothers and also try create the cure. Mikey gets bit and passes out. I won’t tell you how this one ends. I will however say that the writers totally make me love Michelangelo more and more each episode.

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16)
  3. The Walking Dead – “Too Far Gone” (Season Four, Episode 8)
  4. Pokémon Origins – “Cubone” (Season One, Episode 2)
  5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “Mutagen Man Unleashed” (Season Two, Episode 4)
  6. How I Met Your Mother – “The Final Page Part 1” (Season Nine, Episode 11)
  7. How I Met Your Mother – “The Final Page Part 2” (Season Nine, Episode 12)
  8. Doctor Who – “Nightmare in Silver” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
  9. Orange is the New Black – “Moscow Mule” (Season One, Episode 8)
  10. Girls – “Boys” (Season Two, Episode 6)

 Top of the Lake

“Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)

 Top of the Lake

By J.C. Pankratz

In the first scene of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, we watch a twelve-year-old walk with slow and terrible purpose into an ice-cold lake. We cannot stop her, and after learning why she tried–she’s pregnant and cannot reveal the father–we know she’s out of choices.

Top of the Lake perfectly captures the constant back-and-forth of the helplessness and rage of a community held tight by men’s violence towards women. The seven episode miniseries pulls you headlong into the dark, guarded world of the small town of Lake Top during the investigation of the statutory rape and kidnapping of a pregnant twelve-year-old named Tui. Gorgeous shots of the New Zealand landscape in soft, watery blues and grays blanket the terse drama with a still, quiet calm, but it only serves as a stark foil to the town’s shocking, pain-filled history.

Elizabeth Moss shines as a detective and prodigal daughter returning to her hometown–first to find Tui’s rapist, and then to find Tui herself after she disappears. Her search unearths not only her own past but turns the entire town on its gritty head. There’s nothing left to hide and nowhere is safe. By the end of the series, we realize the sloping mountains and deep lakes are no longer beautiful terraforms, but the bars of the wretched cage Lake Top is for those who live there.

J.C.’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Masters of Sex – “Catherine” (Season One, Episode 5)
  2. Game of Thrones – “Kissed by Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)
  3. Archer – “Live and Let Dine” (Season Four, Episode 7)
  4. Top of the Lake – “Episode 1” and “Episode 5” (Season One, Episodes 1/5)
  5. Breaking Bad – “Blood Money” (Season Five, Episode 9)
  6. Moone Boy – “Dark Side of the Moone” (Season One, Episode 4)
  7. Orange is the New Black – “Bora Bora Bora” (Season One, Episode 10)
  8. Broadchurch – “Episode 5” (Season One, Episode 5)
  9. Community – “Basic Human Anatomy” (Season Four, Episode 11)
  10. Hannibal – “Rôti” (Season One, Episode 11)

Veep

“Running” (Season Two, Episode 9)

 Veep

By Rachael Clark

Never has a show made me laugh out loud as much as this episode of Veep. What makes this show great is that the entire ensemble is brilliant. The chemistry between everyone seems effortless that you wonder how much of the show is scripted and adlibbed. This episode revolves around Vice President Selina Meyer accidentally running into a glass door giving her cuts all over her face. Her depression medication is mixed with some “Saint Johns” medicine causes her to get a nice high. While barricaded in a hotel room, her team has to figure out how to present a doped up vice president mixed with messed up face to the public.

The witty comebacks and complete lack of interest of anybody else in the room except their own is a great combination for satirical comedy. Where else are you going hear, “Knock, knock, J-rock the clock, I’m here to boom service. As a senior white house official, I am commandeering the situation.” Or, “There are going to be difficult choices to make, like ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ choices except for more important because they’re going to be about me.” They are all incredibly smart people, but sometimes make stupid decisions for their own good and it ends up biting them in the ass later, which makes for great television.

The only selfless person in the show is Gary, Selina’s assistant/bag man, who really stands out in this episode. His adoration for Selina is creepy and he probably knows too much about her personal life. Tony Hale’s portrayal of Gary is wonderful. He makes Gary one of the most pathetic people you have ever seen and you wonder how he even stumbled upon this job in the first place. His awkwardness with every other character only adds to each scene.

Even though each one of these people are pretty deplorable, except for Sue the awesome secretary, you want to see each one of them succeed and you can’t wait to hear what snarky comeback they have stored ready for use. The end of the episode takes a pretty interesting turn, especially for a show that is titled, Veep. I’ll leave it at that!

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  2. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castmere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  3. Orphan Black – “Variations Under Domestication” (Season One, Episode 6)
  4. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15)
  5. Orange is the New Black – “The Chickening” (Season One, Episode 5)
  6. Parks and Recreation – “Jerry’s Retirement” (Season Five, Episode 20)
  7. Veep – “Running” (Season Two, Episode 9)
  8. Game of Thrones – “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (Season Three, Episode 7)
  9. 30 Rock – “Last Lunch” (Season Seven, Episode 13)
  10. American Horror Story: Asylum – “Madness Ends” (Season Two, Episode 13)

Vice

“The Hermit Kingdom” (Season One, Episode 10)

 Vice

By Dennis Sullivan

I guess we should have seen this coming. I mean, c’mon. This year ends in the number 13 for crying out loud. Of course it was going to be unlucky and ridiculous for a number of our favorite beloved characters. It may have not been a great year for the Starks, Whites, or Drapers, but their misery was our entertainment. Viewers have been rewarded with absolutely amazing storylines, superb acting and jaw-dropping moments that stick with you long after the show ends. However, the show that continuously shocked and challenged me the most this year wasn’t written by a top-notch staff. In fact, it wasn’t written at all.

It was Vice, a documentary series on HBO that proved once again that the truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. Already a popular online magazine and multi-media company, I was ecstatic to learn that Vice and HBO were teaming up. Their website already has a slew of successful videos from throughout the world exploring everything from lesser known subcultures to dangerous political climates and warzones. Their new show is no exception. Each week, Vice took viewers to different locations around the world to explore the absurdity of the human condition. Topics ranged from the motivations behind child suicide bombers in Afghanistan to the insanity of dating in modern day China thanks to the one-child policy to the lives of Nigerian Oil Pirates.

Vice correspondents get involved with their stories at times, like when they snuck out of North Korea with some defectors or when they trained to participate in Senegal’s national sport: Laamb Wrestling. They toured with Filipino politicians constantly under the threat of assassination, explored the reasons behind Chicago’s increased violence in an area colloquially known as Chiraq, and spent time hanging out along the most dangerous border in the world. However, the most fascinating journey is the one that made international headlines. It’s called “Basketball Diplomacy.”

So here’s the story: The Harlem Globetrotters and Vice went to North Korea to play a friendly game of basketball with North Korea’s top team for, what I can only assume is, Kim Jong-Un’s amusement. The team awkwardly tours the country before meeting up at a stadium, doing a schoolyard style draft pick that mixes the two teams, and then play ball. Also, Dennis Rodman is there, chilling next to Dear Leader himself. Turns out Jong-Un is a huge Bulls fan. Rodman gives a speech resembling something diplomatic, but is still wince-worthy. After the game, the teams change and they find themselves whisked away to an unknown location where Kim Jong-Un is waiting to meet and eat with them. So the Harlem Globetrotters, Dennis Rodman, and the Vice team become the first Americans to meet with the dictator. Yup. They’re as close to ambassadors as the United States has.

It’s a plot so ridiculous that any written TV show would be heavily accused of jumping the shark. It’s a ridiculous albeit fascinating story. You can see the looks of bewilderment on the correspondents’ faces and experience the zaniness alongside them. Each episode of Vice feels like your friends from the bar grabbed a camera crew and went on an adventure that challenges perceptions of normalcy and justice in today’s growing global society. It is a refreshing change of pace to realize a show depicting reality doesn’t have lower the bar for televised standards, but can actually raise it.

Top 10 TV Episodes of 2013

  1. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castmere” (Season Three, Episode 9)
  2. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14)
  3. Vice – “The Hermit Kingdom” (Season One, Episode 10)
  4. The IT Crowd – “The Internet is Coming” (Season Five, Episode 1)
  5. The League – “Rafi and Dirty Randy” (Season Four, Episode 4)
  6. Orange is the New Black – “Bora Bora Bora” (Season One, Episode 10)
  7. Black Mirror – “White Bear” (Season Two, Episode 2)
  8. Scandal – “Nobody Likes Babies” (Season Two, Episode 13)
  9. Rectify – “Always There” (Season One, Episode 1)
  10. Mad Men – “In Care Of” (Season Six, Episode 13)

Special shout outs to “Gas Station/Caricature Artist” (Nathan for You), “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll” (The Bridge), “Shutdown” (Veep), “A Goon’s Dead in a Weary World” (30 Rock), “Camille” (The Returned), “The Gang Saves the Day” (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), South Park’sGame of Thrones” 3-part parody, and every episode of House of Cards.

 

 

The Walking Dead

“This Sorrowful Life” (Season Three, Episode 15)

 Walking Dead

By Tim Irwin

I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here; I watch very few recurring shows on television, and those I do watch I tend to watch a year or two behind new broadcasts. For instance, I’m only caught up on The Walking Dead through Season Three, meaning that for the purposes of this I am not permitted to include the best episode of Season Three, “Killer Within”, and have not yet seen any of Season Four. Thanks to Netflix, however, I’ve also seen House of Cards and the newest season of Arrested Development. This year, too, I was introduced to Hannibal thanks to the strong recommendations of some friends, and have managed to watch the entire first season.

I’ve loved The Walking Dead since the second half of the second season (I only kept watching after the mediocre first season and poor first half of the second season because I love the atmosphere and setting of the show). Season Three is continuously enjoyable, however, and the aforementioned Episode 4 contains one of the most brutal moments I’ve seen in a television show. The last couple of episodes are very fun, and even though the actual finale doesn’t contain much in the way of a climax, the darkest side of The Governor finally appears and Rick’s gang rallies together in a meaningful way. One of my favorite episodes, however, is Episode 5, “This Sorrowful Life.”

In this penultimate episode of Season 3, Rick’s occasional wishy-washiness has severe consequences regarding Michonne’s fate. Merle decides to take matters into his own hands, as viewers will have expected him to do; this time, however, there are surprising motives behind his actions. Merle and Daryl’s relationship plays out in emotionally satisfying ways, leading to perhaps the second saddest moments of the season. And, as a result of Merle’s actions, Rick decides to finally change the way he deals with his gang. All of it leads to the somewhat climactic events of the season finale, and I’m curious where the show will go in Season Four. “This Sorrowful Life” stands out in a television season that has been the one I most enjoy bingeing on.

  1. Hannibal – “Fromage” (Season One, Episode 8)
  2. House of Cards – “Chapter 11” (Season One, Episode 11)
  3. Hannibal – “Savoureux” (Season One, Episode 13)
  4. The Walking Dead – “This Sorrowful Life” (Season Three, Episode 15)
  5. Hannibal – “Relevés” (Season One, Episode 12)
  6. The Walking Dead – “Welcome to the Tombs” (Season Three, Episode 16)
  7. Arrested Development – “Blockheads” (Season Four, Episode 15)
  8. Hannibal – “Buffet Froid” (Season One, Episode 10)
  9. The Walking Dead – “Clear” (Season Three, Episode 12)
  10. House of Cards – “Chapter 13” (Season One, Episode 13)

 

The Group’s Top 10 List

Using a simple point system where a person’s #1 pick gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on, here are the ten episodes of 2013 that received the most points from these 23 Top 10 lists.

Ozymadias

  1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season Five, Episode 14) (133 points)
  2. Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 15) (74 points)
  3. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere” (Season Three, Episode 9) (71 points)
  4. Breaking Bad – “Felina” (Season Five, Episode 16) (51 points)
  5. Doctor Who – “The Name of the Doctor” (Season Seven, Episode 14) (35 points)
  6. Game of Thrones – “Kissed by Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5 points) (30 points)
  7. Spartacus: War of the Damned – “Victory” (Season Three, Episode 10) (30 points.
  8. Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (Season Five, Episode 15) (26 points)
  9. Hannibal – “Savoureux” (Season One, Episode 13) (19 points)
  10. Justified – “Decoy” (Season Four, Episode 10) (18 points)

 

  • 65 different shows were mentioned on a Top 10 list.
  • 136 different episodes were mentioned in a Top 10 list.
  • “Ozymandias” was on 15 out of the 23 Top 10 lists.
  • Seven different series finales were on a Top 10 list.
  • All eight episodes of Breaking Bad Season Five Part Two were on a Top 10 list.
  • 7/10 episodes of Game of Thrones Season Three were on a Top 10 list.
  • 2/3 episodes of Black Mirror Season Two were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/6 episodes of Rectify Season One were on a Top 10 list.
  • 5/9 episodes of Doctor Who Season Seven were on a Top 10 list.
  • 5/10 episodes of Orphan Black Season One were on a Top 10 list.
  • 7/13 episodes of Orange is the New Black Season One were on a Top 10 list.
  • 6/13 episodes of Hannibal Season One were on a Top 10 list.