Stranger Things best of

Six years! I’ve been doing this silly article for six years! (I take 11 month breaks in-between articles so it’s not that impressive.) It remains one of my favorite things to do because every time I get a new article in my inbox I am surprised and entertained by all the different things that my friends have picked up on. Also—as seen by the other article this week—I see a ton of TV, but every year people bring up shows that I don’t watch that now I suddenly want to. So enjoy and find something great to watch!

American Crime – “Episode 8”

(Season Two, Episode 8)

American Crime best of

By Dennis Sullivan

American Crime is an anthology that dissects how the a single crime impacts, corrupts, and alters the lives of so many people- including some that aren’t even involved in the situation. The second season focuses on a sexual assault that comes to light after a series of photographs get passed around a high school. As the school strives to maintain their code of conduct, the lives of the affected individuals begin to spiral out of control. Then the lives of people not even involved begin to spiral. However, the show really shines when addressing the societal and personal factors that make it difficult to reach an easy resolution. Racism, homophobia, power struggles, self-acceptance, media manipulation, hacking, self-preservation, and revenge all intertwine on a daily basis to constantly change the flow of the case.

The most complicated theme of all is truth- what actually happened that night. There are two possibilities: (1) there was an assault; or (2) he wanted to have sex. As the show progresses, the viewer is challenged to figure out who they believe is telling the truth. For me, I think that both individuals wholeheartedly believe they are telling the truth, which is impossible given the circumstances of the event. The truth is an odd subject and tends to come in shades of gray, while the American justice system is a strictly black and white institution. This is a discussion I am seeing happen constantly in America today, as so many people live in ways which directly contradict one another and yet they both may be equally correct and incorrect. It is difficult to understand the “other side” and, as the show suggests, miscommunications and assumptions serve only to polarize each side.

At a certain point, the truth of the original event becomes irrelevant. This is especially true in Episode 8, which brings in a documentary feel into the episode. The episode looks at the aftermath of a school shooting by interviewing real people that have survived a school shooting, those that have been bullied, and the loved ones of those lost to those two events. It is and emotionally powerful episode that does a masterful job of dealing with such sensitive issues.

 

Dennis’ Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
2) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
3) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4)
4) Black Mirror, “Nosedive” (Season Three, Episode 1)
5) Transparent, “To Sardines and Back” (Season Three, Episode 3)
6) American Crime, “Episode 8” (Season Two, Episode 8)
7) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!” (Season One, Episode 15)
8) Orange is the New Black, “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again” (Season Four, Episode 13)
9) Barracuda, “Episode 3” (Season One, Episode 3)
10) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!” (Season Two, Episode 9)

 

Archer – “Deadly Velvet”

(Season Seven, Episodes 9 & 10)

Archer best of

By Ken Jones

The last few seasons of Archer have been met with mixed reviews. People criticize the show for going too far from its roots, taking a plunging dive into bizarre situation after bizarre situation. I, however, cannot but help love this show. Archer is stylistically reminiscent of Mad Men, with a James Bond-esque structure, and the quotability of Arrested Development.

The latest season sees our hateable band of misfits banned from espionage, creating a high-profile private detective agency in Los Angeles. And by high-profile, I mean they may find themselves working for the same people a few times.

In the two-part finale, “Deadly Velvet”, the gang is employed to protect aging, yet foxy, actress Veronica Deane on the set of her ex-husband’s latest movie, which has experienced a series of mysterious “accidents”. Yadda yadda Archer wants to do unmentionable things to Veronica yadda yadda Lana is jealous yadda yadda murder, you get it. I would talk about the first episode, but the accidents on the set gave me flashbacks to the times I was nearly horribly injured on sets or in the field. I still have nightmares of clinging onto the front of a boat as it sped away through the swamp from a swarm of severely annoyed wasps. Spoiler alert: I didn’t die!

All you should need to know is that there is a scene with lawyer Patton Oswalt, angry detective J.K. Simmons, and dumb but nice detective Keegan-Michael Key. Article over! What? More? Fine. There’s also robots. Or cyborgs. Or what’s the difference? Not that you deserve more, there is also a discussion of California law devoid of jokes for about 30 seconds. Wait, never mind, forget that. It’s the thought that counts, right?

“Deadly Velvet: Part II” is certainly not the funniest episode of the series, but in true Archer fashion it leaves on a cliffhanger that doesn’t give you any idea where the next season is going. I, literally as figuratively can get, have no idea what season 8 will look like. There are some easy options for them to “get back to normal”, but the show’s willingness to shake everything up leaves me unconvinced they will take the easy road. While some people are taking to the internet to have “The Reichenbach Fall”-esque discussions, I will patiently await the return of one of my favorite shows. I mean, no one is watching this show for its plot, right? Oh no, there are people who are super concerned about the plot of Archer aren’t there. Eat an entire bucket of di—

 

Ken’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
2) Black Mirror, “Nosedive” (Season Three, Episode 1)
3) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
4) Sherlock, “The Abominable Bride” (Winter Special)
5) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season One, Episode 5)
6) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
7) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season One, Episode 1)
8) Archer, “Deadly Velvet: Part 2” (Season Seven, Episode 10)
9) Black Mirror, “Men Against Fire” (Season Three, Episode 5)
10) Black Mirror, “Playtest” (Season Three, Episode 2)

 

Ash vs. the Evil Dead – “The Morgue”

(Season Two, Episode 2)

Ash vs Evil Dead best of

By Aaron Wittwer

As Ash Williams is being pulled into a corpse’s anus by a deadite, lamprey-like, large intestine; you have to wonder how it is possible that things have gone so, so right. How likely is it that an iconic, 35 year-old film trilogy could be revived as a 30-minute, episodic TV series with the same actor in lead, and not be terrible? This is a show that should not exist. It should not have been made. It’s the sort of show that should exist only in tantalizing rumor. The same sort of rumor we’ve heard for the past 20 years about a possible 4th Evil Dead film. The sort of rumor that any jaded consumer of popular media would dismiss out of hand. So how did we get here? A second season, no less? And a morgue scene that is at once beautiful, grotesque, and the one of greatest things to be put on television…maybe ever?

Bruce Campbell, of course, is a huge factor. He may be nearly 60, but he’s still as willing as ever to commit physically even if this means pratt-falling on deadite diarrhea or putting his head inside of a vivisected stomach, inches above a pierced corpse penis, while screaming in panic, “Oh God, I’m in the butt! I’m in the butt!” This is what Sam Raimi does best, and the fact that it’s not Sam Raimi behind the camera anymore makes it all the more impressive that the current crew is able to so acutely tap into the tone and style that made the original films so uniquely memorable.

However, the show doesn’t just rely on the fans’ nostalgia for the old series. The morgue scene may fit perfectly with the world, but it’s also not like anything the series has ever done. Like the films, the show excels at being unpredictable and surprising while still maintaining a plot and characters that we care about. Kelly, Pablo and Ruby don’t seem like they get too much to do this episode, but their scenes prove to be crucial place-setting for the rest of the season. Kelly spends her time beating up an overly aggressive local Sherriff who will play an integral part in the story to come. Meanwhile Ruby and Pablo get a moment alone for some uneasy and distrustful bonding, which leads to the introduction of the season’s big bad Baal.

In this way, since the show’s beginning, my initial fear that half hour episodes would feel rushed have long been put to rest. The efficiency and surprising subtlety with which this show moves the plot along is an extraordinary feat worthy of praise. There’s barely room to breathe from episode to episode; hardly any time is ever wasted and the manic energy level remains consistently faithful to the films. You’re never more than ten minutes away from a gloriously festive shower of blood and viscera. Even in this episode we get a second, entirely complimentary, deadite dismemberment sequence complete with chainsaw slinging, one liner spewing mayhem, culminating, of course, in a typically joyous decapitation

It’s a must-watch for all fans of horror, comedy, horror-comedy, and butthole monsters.

 

Aaron’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2015 (Not including “The Morgue”)

1) Westworld, “The Adversary” (Season One, Episode 6)

2) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)

3) Quarry, “Seldom Realized” (Season One, Episode 4)

4) The Tick, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode One)

5) Narcos, “Al Fin Cayo!” (Season Two, Episode 10)

6) Lovesick, “Abigail: Part 2” (Season Two, Episode 8)

7) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)

8) Catastrophe, “Episode 4” (Season Two, Episode 4)

9) Preacher, “Sundowner” (Season One, Episode 6)

10) The Last Man on Earth, “The Open-Ended Nature of Unwitnessed Deaths” (Season Three, Episode 6)

 

Atlanta – “The Club”

(Season One, Episode 8)

Atlanta best of

 

By Brandon Lugar

Gambino is a mastermind.

When Childish Gambino rapped that line in one of his songs, most would skip past it thinking it’s just another clever line in a song. Yet, that line could be the most accurate in all of music. Yes, I said all of music. Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, does it all. He is a comedic writer, actor, stand-up comic, rapper, and all around just creative genius. So, when I heard he was creating his own show, Atlanta, I knew I had to watch every episode live.

Atlanta might be the best show I’ve seen on television in a long time. It’s a dramatic show that follows the struggles of Ern (Donald Glover) who becomes his cousin’s rap manager. The show is not a comedy, but you can’t help but laughing at a lot of the scenes because life can be so awkwardly funny. It seems like everything goes wrong to Ern who is just a single father who’s trying to make enough money for his daughter and for him to live. We also get to follow the progressions of Paper Boi, Ern’s cousin, and a bunch of the other people in Ern’s life.

My favorite episode of this season is hard to choose because I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite would be “The Club.” In this episode Paper Boi makes a club appearance in order to make some money. He gets frustrated as no one wants to party with him in his section. Meanwhile, Ern tries to collect the payment from the club manager who is very slippery and keeps avoiding making the payment. This episode shows how dumb people are at clubs. It also lets you know that Ern hates shots, which having him say multiple times does make you chuckle and as a college student, I have repeated his line of “I hate shots” every time someone pours one in front of me. This episode has you experiencing the life of a club from someone who doesn’t want to be there.

If you aren’t watching this show, get online and start watching it now. It is also available on iTunes.

 

Brandon’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Atlanta, “The Club” (Season One, Episode 8)
2) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
3) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)
4) Silicon Valley, “Bachmanity Insanity” (Season Three, Episode 6)
5) Atlanta, “Juneteenth” (Season One, Episode 9)
6) Atlanta, “Nobody Beets the Biebs” (Season One, Episode 5)
7) Last Chance U, “It is What It Is” (Season One, Episode 6)
8) Atlanta, “The Big Bang” (Season One, Episode 1)
9) Silicon Valley, “The Uptick” (Season Three, Episode 10)
10) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)

 

BoJack Horseman – “Fish Out of Water”

(Season Three, Episode 4)

BoJack Horseman best of

By Austin Lugar

When you’re in a funk, one of the first things people say is to change your environment. BoJack Horseman has always been about a horse who is severely depressed. At first he centered it around his failure as an actor as a sitcom has-been. In the incredible Season Three, he is confronted with success and he still feels terrible. He is on the soulless Oscar campaign of a performance that doesn’t even resemble the work he put into it. Yet, pretty much the only thing pushing him forward is the hope that maybe this award will make him feel anything.

In the series’ highest achievement so far, the show showed as aspect of its universe never before seen. The show has always lived in a strange world with anthropomorphized animals who exist alongside humans. The main characters of the show include a horse, a dog and a cat for the series takes place primarily in Hollywoo. In “Fish Out of Water”, BoJack’s Secretariat film is playing at the Pacific Ocean Film Festival and he has to go to an underwater world.

In order to survive in a land with no oxygen, a large helmet is added to BoJack’s iconic sweater and jacket get-up. The helmet not only keeps the air in, it also keeps the sound in. For almost the entire episode, BoJack is completely silent (and completely sober). This causes him not only to confront his own sadness, it also makes him even more aware about the lack of connections in his life.

The two people that are important to him in this episode are this baby seahorse who he finds and tries to get back to his family, in a wonderful Chaplin-esque quest. The other is the director of Secretariat who he treated poorly and has ruined their relationship. As BoJack keeps trying to give her a letter of apology, his surroundings constantly stop his attempts. The fate of the bus, the nature of water and the past of what he’s done.

While the past is up in question, the new relationship with the child takes precedent. BoJack has always been an irresponsible narcissist and, it’s true, that having to care for a child is familiar territory. Unlike half-baked romantic comedies, watching BoJack struggle to keep this child safe feels tremendous because we have seen him fail so hard in the past. When BoJack was a TV star, he played a sitcom father to three children, all of which grew up to have horrible lives. Season Three emotionally explores his greatest failure of how Sarah Lynn grew up and “Fish Out of Water” serves as a step towards forgiveness.

Silent episodes have been done before in television to great success, but none captured the beauty of silence. BoJack Horseman is a comedy—did I mention this is a comedy?—that deserves to be viewed multiple times based on the density of jokes they hide in a frame. The puns, the repetition, the absurdity all add up to a textured universe that is filled with things that BoJack rarely recognizes. (Props on him though for being the only one to see the truth of Vincent Adultman.) Not being able to see what is right in front of him, created the awe-inspiring moment when he discovers he can swim. Before this triumphant moment, everybody was walking on the ocean floor like the gravity that is in Spongebob Squarepants. For a horse who almost never experiences joy, BoJack has this moment where he gets to fly.

At the end, as it always does, BoJack Horseman ends the story on a note of melancholy and responsibility. Even when you are in the ocean, communication is never impossible. You cannot blame your surroundings for your shortcomings, you must also look inward. Every episode as BoJack becomes more aware of these faults, there is the uncertainty of if it will lead to any sort of inner peace for the character. For this moment though, it felt like BoJack believed he was closest to being the best version of himself.

 

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4)
2) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
3) The Grinder, “Grinder vs. Grinder” (Season One, Episode 13)
4) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Veep, “Kissing Your Sister” (Season Five, Episode 9)
6) Black-ish, “Hope” (Season Two, Episode 16)
7) High Maintenance, “Grandpa” (Season Seven, Episode 3)
8) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
9) Outlander, “Through a Glass, Darkly” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10) Documentary Now!, “Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid” (Season Two, Episodes 6 & 7)

Runner Ups: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” American Crime Story, “B.A.N.” Atlanta, “The Wedding” The Detour, “The Bunker” Documentary Now!, “Battle of the Three Armies” Galavant, “The Winds of Winter” Game of Thrones, “Episode 10”, Horace and Pete, “Chapter Forty-Six” Jane the Virgin, “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again” Orange is the New Black, and “Punchline” Take My Wife.

 

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – “Abominations”

(Season Two, Episode 4)

Legends of Tomorrow best of

By Josh West

It’s that time again! Austin has asked for his friends and colleagues to write about television! When I put it that way it almost sounds like something normal people do. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how there are so many great new shows like Westworld and The Good Place. Every time I hear about these cool new shows, I think it would fun to start something new. Then my good friends at The CW distract me with something shiny, or someone’s butt, or a new superhero/villain and I am right back CWTV.com because I’m a millennial who doesn’t watch TV on TV; I watch it on my computer.

One recent episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow caught my eye and I immediately thought about this article. “Abominations” caught my eye at first because it started with a time pirate who had accidentally travelled back to 1863 Louisiana and introduced a virus that caused people to become zombies! I was hooked. But the zombie plot was a very small part of the episode and it soon got into some deeper stuff. This episode focused primarily on Jax and Amaya, our two African-American team members. Throughout the episode they come face-to-face with what it was like to be a slave during this time in American history. At the beginning of the episode Jax tried very hard to play the mission by the book. When they see a slave woman being whipped by her master, he tells Amaya (she’s pretty new to the team at this point) that they can’t interfere because they might alter time. Jax, needing to find some Confederate battle plans for General Grant, passes himself off as another slave at a cotillion. In a room full of racist white southerners, Jax makes a mistake by “taking a woman by the hand and speaking to her directly.” This gets Jax locked up in the barn with the other slaves. He tries to understand why they don’t run away, or fight back. The slaves talk about how if they tried to escape and were caught, they would be maimed, castrated, or mauled by dogs. They also talked about how their owners want them to submit and there is no way they will.

Amaya infiltrates the party, putting on a southern belle accent and sure enough, some racist white guy wants to teach her “how to speak to (her) betters.” He takes her to the barn where she knocks him out and unchains Jax and the slaves. Jax tells her they need to release the slaves and make sure they get to safety. Amaya asks about the timeline and Jax says the way slaves are treated is way worse than any time aberration they could create.

There’s a bunch of other scenes that deal with Confederate zombies, and the two science nerds on the team having to fight the zombie version of the strongest member of the team. It was all very silly. But at the end of the episode, Jax and Professor Stein talk. (Sidenote: Jax and Professor Stein fuse together to make Firestorm, this also means that they have a mental connection. Not that they can hear each other’s thoughts, but they can tell how the other one is feeling. Think of it as like that whole twins thing but a little bit stronger.) Stein asks how Jax is doing, saying that he just saw the worst of humanity and that he cannot fathom what Jax is going through. This final scene was really powerful. The weight of the situation could be felt between the two actors. My words can’t do it justice.

I don’t usually care about historical TV shows or episodes, but this episode was great. I haven’t seen another show cover slavery and the Civil War like this episode did. It was not pretty, nor did they try to make everything ok. Legends of Tomorrow is usually the goofy, light-hearted, team up show for The CW, but having an episode like this that, where they didn’t try to make such a serious topic goofy, really stood out to me. Also, how they fixed the zombie problem was pretty ridiculous.

 

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) The Flash, “Invasion!” (Season Three, Episode 8); Arrow, “Invasion!” (Season Five, Episode 8); DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Invasion!” (Season Two, Episode 7)
2) Supergirl, “Changing” (Season Two, Episode 6)
3) The Flash, “Killer Frost” (Season Three, Episode 7)
4) The Flash, “The Race of His Life” (Season Two, Episode 23)
5) Steven Universe, “Beach City Drift” (Season Three, Episode 11)
6) The Walking Dead, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (Season Seven, Episode 1)
7) Supergirl, “The Adventures of Supergirl” (Season Two, Episode 1)
8) The Walking Dead, “The Cell” (Season Seven, Episode 3)
9) Scream Queens, “Loving the D” (Season Two, Episode 9)
10) Steven Universe, “Kindergarten Kid” (Season Four, Episode 1)

 

The Fall – “Their Solitary Way”

(Season Three, Episode 6)

The Fall best of

By Sidney DeLeonardo

The following review contains major spoilers about the end of the series.

The final episode of Allan Cubitt’s The Fall brought together all the missing pieces and lose ends of the series. All that needed to be explained was finally explained. The methodical, sometimes almost painfully slow pacing, especially of the first two episodes of series three paid off. The conclusion could have been no other than what we have been given. Cubitt has endeavored to give voice to all the women victimized by Paul Spector. This has been his stated intent from the beginning, to tell a story about violence against women without glamorizing the violence and without leaving the victims voiceless. Walking the line between exploitation and grit is challenging, but Cubitt has done a splendid job. The final episode of the show has been the culmination of that intent. The graphic depiction of Paul’s final acts of violence, against Stella Gibson and himself, were powerful and grueling to watch. Gillian Anderson tweeted a photo during filming of her face covered in bruises so I knew Stella be would be attacked. It was just a matter of when and by whom. The when could not have been more surprising. The who was sort of a forgone conclusion. Paul’s desire to attack Stella was boiling beneath the surface since he first saw her talking about him on the news. Knowing did not prepare me for the surprise and brutality of Paul’s attack on Stella. Throughout the series Stella has been unafraid in the face of thugs blocking her car in a dark lonely street and unintimidated by pushy journalists. She has appeared virtually invulnerable to the stresses of the case, and unmatched in her ability to think in a crisis. In their final showdown she is no different. Even after the attack she shows no weakness beyond the inevitable.

Stella sits in the interrogation room across from Spector and his lawyer with an impermeable expression. She is a warrior waiting for battle, but unaware that the battle will turn physical. Stella quoted Margaret Atwood early in the series. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them”. Stella does not laugh at Paul, but she purposefully pushes his buttons, drawing him out of his comfort zone, and challenging his sense of self. Her intention is to break his cool exterior and expose his penchant for violence. She is sure in her knowledge of his character that he will not keep up his charade when pressed. His response to her subtle challenges of his narrative is a physical assault so brutal, expert, and quick that he does some serious damage before anyone in the interrogation room can restrain him. Had they been alone he would have killed her.

This scene plays out similarly to Stella’s previous interrogation of Paul and their only other direct communication, a phone call at the end of the first season. Paul begins each conversation by explaining his behavior. He is the center of attention, powerful and in control as he talks about his “projects” (what he calls the women he stalks and murders) and what motivates them. His words deny the humanity of his victims. It is not about them, but about the enigma of the why of his actions. That is what fascinates so many of us. It is perhaps why we watch programs about killers. The Fall does not dwell on Paul’s motivations and Stella is anything but fascinated. It is not why he does what he does, but the all too human cost of his actions that motivates Stella and that ultimately propels the narrative of The Fall. Stella takes away the allure of the enigma. She strips him of his power and control over the conversation, leaving him angry, vulnerable, and exposed. This shift in power is also a shift of perspective, allowing us to remember Paul’s victims. He has killed more women than previously expected. He has stalked and dehumanized countless more. Yes, Paul had a tragic childhood. His pain is real. His pain is deep. Paul speaks eloquently about his personal brand of nihilism, but the darkness of his worldview does not make it correct. He sees his violations and his murders as art. He keeps beautiful and artistic records of his crimes. Through Stella’s continued challenging of Paul and his violent response to her challenges, we are reminded that cruelty does not justify art. That human beings are more important than creative expression. Spector is the extreme manifestation of many artists; Polanski, Picasso, Hemmingway, Allen, Gauguin, etc., who have breached limits of ethical behavior in the name of their art. Spector is Bertolucci and Brando traumatizing Maria Schneider for the sake of verisimilitude. This is a thinly veiled attempt to disguise, in Stella’s words “misogyny, age old violence against women” and pure sadism, as art. Paul sees his actions as excusable because his worldview is better, his art is better, and his needs are more important. The Fall never portrays Paul as the embodiment of evil. He is worthy of empathy, but he is not to be admired. His actions are not justifiable.

Too often violence, especially sexual violence, is glamorized and eroticized. When Paul attacks Stella we do not see a strong man, we see a man out of control. We see him punch her hard in the face more than once. We see her fall to the ground. We see him kick her with all his force repeatedly in the ribs. It is gut wrenching. We see that that moment of dominance was worth more to him than ever getting to see his children again. Was worth more than any sort of leniency a judge might have given him. We see that giving into his darkest desires was not the freeing experience Paul claims, but a reckless abandon into mental illness. Paul’s later suicide confirms that he chose death the first time he set out to kill another person.

Series three, especially this episode, has given us more insight into Stella than the first two. Previously we have only known her through her decisive and calculated actions. This series she has been more emotional. We have seen the effect the case has had on her, but she is powerful in her emotions. Her emotional responses to Paul’s most difficult to understand victims help the audience see them more clearly. When Paul’s wife, Sally Ann attempts to kill herself and her children, Stella does not blame her, but blames the justice system’s insistence on prosecuting Sally Ann for her ignorance. Her outrage over the justice system’s lack of empathy for Sally Ann reminds us all that Sally Ann is more than just the witless spouse of a crazed man. Stella’s ability to connect with the much misunderstood and underexplored Katie Benedetto finally made sense of that character and gave us long-awaited information regarding Stella’s own mysterious background. The advice she gives Katie made sense of Katie’s self-destructive refusal to give up her love and obsession for Paul. Where Paul’s emotions debilitate and strangle him, Stella’s give her strength. Strength to act and strength of purpose.

The series fittingly ends where it began. We first saw Stella cleaning her bathroom. This is the only time we see her doing something so mundane until the end. We leave Stella back at home in London. This time she is sorting through a stack of mail, accumulated over her extended tenure in Belfast, and having a much deserved glass of wine. Stella’s victory is bittersweet or maybe just bitter. She caught the killer, but in death he slipped from her grasp. She did not get the justice she so deeply wanted for the families of his victims. He chose to end things on his terms. She got to him, but he got to her too. A stalemate at best. What lasting effects the trauma of the case will have on Stella are unclear. I believe she will make sense of things, continue to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, and enjoy further one night stands with attractive young men she picks up wherever she sees fit.

 

Sidney’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Better Things, “Future Fever” (Season One, Episode 5)
2) Sensitive Skin, “Episode 201” (Season Two, Episode 1)
3) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
4) Orange is the New Black, “The Animals” (Season Four, Episode 12)
5) The Affair, “302” (Season Three, Episode 2)
6) UnReal, “Ambush” (Season Two, Episode 7)
7) Fleabag, “Episode 6” (Season One, Episode 6)
8) The X-Files, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (Season Ten, Episode 3)
9) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Fall” (Season One, Episode 4)
10) The Exorcist, “Father of Lies” (Season One, Episode 7)

 

Fleabag – “Episode 4”

(Season One, Episode 4)

Fleabag best of

By J.C. Pankratz

It’s nearly impossible to single out an episode from Fleabag–the six-episode series makes use of every piquant, hilarious, and heartbreaking second it has at its disposal. In short, Fleabag, who talks to the audience just as much as anyone she’s onscreen with, is a thirty-year-old woman coping with her best friend’s death in any way she can, whether it be sex, drinking, or just denial. It’s grief, plain and simple, at its most accurate and all-encompassing.

The series’ fourth episode, where Fleabag and her sister are whisked away to a silent retreat for the weekend, is the opposite of calm. The relationship between the two is the best and most complicated on the show, and this episode lets us see it from all angles. From gag-worthy antics (see: Fleabag, going through her sister’s bags like a bloodhound in search of a vibrator) to a sisterly who’s-on-first style rendition of finishing each other’s sentences that ends in a roadside nervous breakdown, the episode succinctly displays how wretchedly well they know each other. There’s a wonderful moment where Fleabag badgers her into revealing what’s been bothering her for the entire weekend by threatening to scream–and gets a breath of it out before her sister reveals all. The timing is so perfect as to be genetic.

It wouldn’t be Fleabag if every moment of human connection wasn’t immediately made bittersweet by tragedy–when Fleabag crawls into bed, her sister grabs her hand and Fleabag shares a small, genuine smile with us. When she wakes up and her sister is gone, it sends her into a spiral. We watch Fleabag secret herself in an empty classroom, pull a forbidden cellphone out of her yoga pants, and call her best friend’s voicemail. She deadpans at us after, “Somebody should really disconnect that.” At the end of the day, Fleabag is always alone.

 

J.C.’s Top Five Episodes of the Year

1) I Love Dick, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
2) The Crown, “Windsor” (Season One, Episode 3)
3) Transparent, Judith Light’s performance
4) The 2016 Summer Olympics
5) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)

 

Game of Thrones – “Battle of the Bastards”

(Season Six, Episode 9)

Game of Thrones best of

By Michelle Manzo

I had quite a debate between two Game of Thrones episodes to top my list. “Battle of the Bastards” was the episode we had all been waiting for. It was the epic battle we hoped for with the death we’ve been fantasizing for years. I questioned if Thrones would ever manage to top it. Then, the next week came “The Winds of Winter.” I am fairly certain I re-watched the opening sequence of “The Winds of Winter” about 65 times because I think it is a goddamn masterpiece. Anyway, as good as “The Winds of Winter” was, I maintain that “Battle of the Bastards” was a better episode overall, which is why it tops my list and why I chose to write about it.

I was utterly terrified going into “Bastards”. Any Thrones viewer knows that there are no happy endings on this show. Getting your hopes up is a huge mistake, because it will inevitably end with you sobbing on your couch. Damn though, I just couldn’t help but get my hopes up that Ramsay Bolton was going to end up super dead. I mean, surely they weren’t going to kill Jon Snow AGAIN. And they didn’t. Goddammit, they did everything we hoped for and more.

Let’s talk about this battle. First of all, zig-zag Rickon, zig-zag. RIP. After Jon Snow did the stupid thing we knew he was all going to do, all we could do was sit on the edge of our seats while an epic, gruesome battle took place before us. Can we discuss how epic this shot is?

Battle of the Bastards best of

That’s just a beautiful piece of filmmaking. The entire battle was an immersive, gut-wrenching experience. You could never quite figure out what was going on, and that’s the point. I can think of few movies (LET ALONE TV SHOWS) that have shown what these battles must have truly been like. Also, that ending. Way to be a great brother Jon Snow and leave the murdering to your sister. Clearly, Sansa deserve this moment, and damn was it fucked up.

Not to mention, all of this followed a pretty epic scene in Meereen too. How often do dragons destroy a fleet of ships and Ramsay Bolton gets his face eaten off in the same episode? What a time to be alive.

 

Michelle’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
2) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
3) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Fall” (Season Eight, Episode 4) (DO NOT JUDGE ME I HAVE BEEN WAITING LIKE A DECADE FOR THIS)
4) The Crown, “Hyde Park Corner” (Season One, Episode 2)
5) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)
6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub” (Season One, Episode 7)
7) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Winter” (Season Eight, Episode 1)
8) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)
9) Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Forty-Four” (Season Two, Episode 22)

 

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – “Winter”

(Season Eight, Episode 1)

Gilmore Girls best of

By Daron McGrady

ALL THE FEELINGS!!! Any long time viewer of Gilmore Girls will know what I mean. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It filled me up with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. This show hit me particularly hard because like many people my age, I grew up watching these characters. It’s difficult to describe what exactly makes this show so loveable to someone who has never seen it. On the surface level, its unique, rapid-fire dialogue, chock full of pop culture references, is a big part of its charm. However, what makes the show really wonderful is the relationships between all of the characters. It explores so many different types of relationships that all feel genuine and relatable. The biggest one it examines is the mother-daughter dynamic, which couldn’t be more different between Lorelai & Rory and Emily & Lorelai. It also looks at romantic relationships, work relationships, friendships and community relationships. It was so nice to see a lot of familiar faces come back for A Year in the Life in brief cameos. Everyone from Miss Patty to the town troubadour have their moments in the new series.

The show is broken up into four hour and a half long episodes named after the four seasons. I contemplated writing about the last episode “Fall” due to those four last words but the first episode is really where they set up all the important arcs for the season. “Winter” immediately draws you back into the world of Star’s Hollow you remember with a chorus of quotations from the original show as the opening credits roll, including one from the late Richard Gilmore. Edward Herrmann, who portrayed Richard in the original show, died from brain cancer when the show was off the air, making the depiction of his character’s funeral in this episode absolutely heart wrenching.

The scene that stuck with me the most from the entire season comes right after the funeral when Emily and Lorelai get into the worst fight of all of Gilmore Girls history. Emily is really the star of this scene. Heartbroken after the loss of her husband and upset by Lorelai’s behavior, she unleashes all of her pain on her daughter, critiquing her entire character. Even though Emily is vicious and a little unfair, I can’t help but feel for her. Especially when she asks “What did we do to you that filled you with such contempt? Love you? Support you? Love Rory? Support Rory?”. While their relationship has always been strained, Emily has also always loved her daughter and tried to do the best she could for her.

There are a lot of other fantastic subplots in this episode including Petal the Pig, Tayor’s sewer system campaign, Luke’s wifi lie, surrogacy, Rory’s book on Naomi (aka River Song to the Whovians out there), the ööö-ber business, Rory’s fling with Logan, Emily de-cluttering her life, the pop-up chefs, Michel’s baby issues, stress tap dancing and the bigger than life portrait. All of these come together balancing pure comedy with heartfelt content. I don’t often cry when watching TV shows or movies but watching this episode I was a mess. Yet somehow, it was still hilarious.

I was hesitant to watch this new season thinking it might not live up to the previous seasons, but it did. It included everything about the original show that made it great. For long time fans, it referenced so many running jokes from the original show and followed up on so many rotating characters. While the short season format didn’t leave as much room for all the little endearing moments, it didn’t hinder them either.

 

Daron’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) The Fall, “Their Solitary Way” (Season Three, Episode 6)
2) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
3) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: The Monster” (Season One, Episode 6)
5) Girls, “Hello Kitty” (Season Five, Episode 7)
6) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Fall” (Season Eight, Episode 4)
7) Outlander, “Dragonfly in Amber” (Season Two, Episode 13)
8) The Night Manager, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)
9) The X-Files, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (Season Ten, Episode 3)
10) Masterchef Junior, “The Finale” (Season Four, Episode 12)

 

Gravity Falls – “Weirdmageddon Part 3”

(Season Two, Episode 20)

Gravity Falls best of

By Keith Jackson

 

My wife and I got into Gravity Falls at seemingly the most inopportune time.

We first saw it on TV in our hotel room at–where else–Disney World. Neither of us knew too much about it. Why would we? It’s a Disney XD show. We’re not exactly their demographic. But the episode we saw had great artwork, animation, engaging plot, a unique sense of humor, and a guest voice by Patton Oswalt as an evil mini-golf ball creature. When we got back home, we binged the entire series up to that point. It was fantastic. Paraphrasing Grunkle Stan, the great uncle of the twin protagonists, states in one episode: “I’ll have you know that [Gravity Falls] has a big mystery element, and a lot of humor that goes over kids’ heads!”

I liken it to The Simpsons in a way: a large cast of assorted characters that makes you feel familiarity within this remote, fictional Oregon town, with plenty of witty humor. Where it differs is there isn’t a “reset” after the craziness in an episode: the show is pretty serialized, which means there are some real stakes involved. There’s an amazing lore and air of mystique. Time travel gets involved, extra-dimensional beings, all sorts of bizarre happenings. The show’s main villain, which you really get a sense of foreboding from as the seasons go on, is pretty dark: there’s some pretty legit malicious talk of killing children. In a Disney show!

Anyway, so, we binge-watch every episode available, a few more new episodes go by (taking several months for just a handful of episodes to air)… and the creator, Alex Hirsch, announces it’s ending. What? We finally get into this show, which is by all accounts at its peak, and it’s ending? Well, turns out there’s a reason for its brevity. And it’s a great, poignant one. It’s amazing it’s able to end on its terms, and Hirsch clearly intends the show has a defined beginning and end. I wasn’t prepared for the ride those last episodes would take us on, culminating in 2016’s sole episode and the series finale: “Weirdmageddon Part 3”.

A major theme of the first two parts of Weirdmageddon is the bond between the siblings in the show (Dipper/Mabel, Stan/Ford, voiced by Jason Ritter, Kristen Schaal, Hirsch, and J.K. Simmons respectively) and how that bond is broken. An argument leads to Mabel retreating and being caught by the big bad, Bill Cipher (Hirsch again), who recently finally achieved his goal of gaining physical form. Dipper goes to save her, but the “prison” Bill puts Mabel in is actually everything Mabel wants, refusing to grow up and not acknowledging her brother might choose not to go back home to California instead staying with Ford. Later in Part 3, Stan and Ford–who have been at odds ever since the latter was introduced to the series–still can’t get along, Stan bitter after Ford doesn’t thank him for rescuing him in an earlier episode. They can’t get over their minor quibbles as well as their major resentments. In both of these cases, the emotional stakes of the characters are strong, and you really understand the hurt feelings and troubled introspection involved. But all of this must be hashed out in order to prevent Bill from escaping Gravity Falls and releasing his dimension to the rest of the world.

However, the theme of the whole series is evident in the conclusion, and the aforementioned brevity of the show. The series takes place over the course of one summer leading up to Mabel and Dipper’s 13th birthday. It’s fleeting, as summer vacations were back in grade school. The adventures have to come to an end and you have to go back to regular life. The protagonists are growing up, will eventually lead their own lives, and the events in Gravity Falls will just be a thing of the past. Just as the series exists, in our world, as something especially unique and memorable.

(And not mentioned enough in this is how funny the show is. It’s not a bunch of G-rated fart jokes or whatever you’d expect from an animated Disney TV show; it’s nuanced, well-written, still silly, something all its own. When Stan says that about jokes that go over kids’ heads, it’s not because it’s secretly raunchy, but more… for example, Dipper is going to get into a fight, Grunkle Stan tells Dipper to “bonk him over the head” as it’s “nature’s snooze button.” Then Mabel responds, “Boys. Why don’t you learn how to hate each other in secret? Like girls do!

How do you really describe humor, except to say: watch the entire series to see what I mean! Feel free to start with “The Golf War”, like we did, to get a sampling before starting from the beginning.)

 

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Billy on the Street, “Immigrant, or Real American? With Jon Hamm!” (Season Five, Episode 1)
2) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)
3) Gravity Falls, “Weirdmageddon Part 3” (Season Two, Episode 20)
4) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Proposal for a Border Wall Between US and Mexico” (Season Three, Episode 6)
5) Great Performances, “Hamilton’s America”
6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)
7) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Multi-Level Marketing” (Season Three, Episode 29)
8) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
9) Veep, “Inauguration” (Season Five, Episode 10)
10) Grease Live!

 

Happy Valley – “Episode 6”

(Season Two, Episode 6)

Happy Valley best of

By Jackie Jones

“What a shit week!”

In the television series Happy Valley, Sarah Lancashire plays the tough but tender Sergeant Catherine Cawood of the West Yorkshire Police. Catherine lives with her sister Clare (a recovering addict) and her grandson Ryan (whose mother, Catherine’s daughter, committed suicide and whose father, Tommy, is in prison for murder). This season sees Catherine trying to move on from the harrowing events that occurred 18 months earlier, just as a new serial killer begins to make his rounds. Poor broad can’t catch a break.

In another part of town, police detective John Wadsworth is facing blackmail from a woman with whom he had previously had an affair. Not able to see any way out, he sort of stumbles his way into killing her. As a detective assigned to the string of serial killings, he hopes that by staging his murder like the others he will be able to hide his guilt and get off scotch free. Unfortunately for him, and for the women of West Yorkshire, his cover-up provokes the serial killer to strike again.

As Catherine is investigating a human trafficking ring along with the recent murders, it comes to her attention that a female teacher in Ryan’s school is attempting to instill a positive image in Ryan’s head of his father on behalf of Tommy. This is an especially upsetting bit of information, because after Tommy poured gasoline on Ryan 18 months earlier and tried to set himself and Ryan on fire, he has been prohibited from having any contact with him. Oh, around that time he had also murdered a police officer, kidnapped and raped a young woman, and then almost beat Catherine to death. Come on, really? She can’t get just one little break?

In the season finale, as you would expect, everything comes to a head. For some lives are shattered, for others they are ended.

It does my heart good to see so many incredible women involved in this series. Creator/writer Sally Wainwright delivers tense and horrific situations, along with a little shot of clever humor to break tension very briefly before the next tense and horrific situation. Every episode I feel either my heart or my jaw drop, followed quickly by a hard chuckle.

Please watch this show. Do it. The acting is impressively strong, but ultimately it’s the writing that will knock you flat on your ass.

 

I’m afraid I spent most of my year catching up on older television series and having my socks knocked off by David Attenborough, so I don’t have much of a top ten.

Jackie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Happy Valley, “Episode 6” (Season Two, Episode 6)
2) Sherlock, “The Abominable Bride”
3) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season 1, Episode 1)
4) Happy Valley, “Episode 1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
5) Happy Valley, “Episode 3” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6) Stranger Things, “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street” (Season 1, Episode 2)
7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Three: Holly Jolly” (Season 1, Episode 3)
8) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season 1, Episode 5)
9) Penny Dreadful, “The Blessed Dark” (Season 3, Episode 8)
10) Penny Dreadful, “A Blade of Grass” (Season 3, Episode 4)

 

The Hollow Crown – “Richard III”

(Season Two, Episode 3)

Hollow Crown best of

By Tara Olivero

I had high hopes going into this season of The Hollow Crown after the first trilogy which took on the Henriad and pulled it off brilliantly. A lifetime fan of both Shakespearean plays and, in general, BBC productions, I’d be a sucker for whatever they chose to do next, I’m sure. For this second season, they dove right into the War of the Roses and finished out by bravely tackling the deeply, delightfully dark Richard III; in the end, the series comes out victorious, thankfully unlike the doomed king himself.

Richard’s first and probably most famous monologue – “Now is the winter of our discontent” – opens the episode, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Richard giving the monologue directly to the viewers, in a room darkened with shadows, his CGI’d hunchback prominently displayed as the camera circles where he crouches almost protectively over his chessboard. His Richard is like House of Cards’ Frank Underwood; he makes direct eye contact with the camera at key moments, not shying away from the sinister details of his plans. He clarifies: “I am determined to prove a villain,” his mouth cocked just slightly in a sly smile that seems to draw us in as his compatriots, though we never asked to be.

In all honesty, the series builds towards this culmination for the first two episodes of the series, with Richard being given the opportunity to provide these darkly foreboding audience asides throughout. He was always lurking in the background of the action, distanced and subdued. But in this third episode, the directors give Cumberbatch free reign to fully embrace the straight-up evilness of the character; his Richard makes it clear that the drawn-out drama surrounding the English crown has a new star player, and it’s him. In the last look he gives the camera before the title sequence begins to roll, he embodies pure power – and if I’m being honest, I was more than a little frightened. Everything was as it should be.

But the two standout stars of the episode, other than Cumberbatch himself, are the lighting and the brilliant foreshadowing and motifs throughout.

The lighting is, simply put, stunningly executed. From overhead lighting that casts just the right shadows on Cumberbatch’s face to highlight his uncannily sharp facial structure and light him up like a living skull, to the musty yellow tint and eerie edge lighting that lingers in the scenes where the nobility first begin to crumble under the weight of Richard’s persuasive pressure – the lighting should honestly be considered a character in itself. I revelled in the lighting direction for the full length of this episode.

Certain repeated motifs also earned my utmost appreciation, especially since images are another aspect of the play that shift with each production and reinvention of the story. A familiar image of Richard in front of his chessboard, ever-debating which move to play next, highlights his gleeful villainy and the idea that he treats murder as lightly as taking a pawn in a game. I haven’t seen many other productions of Richard III on stage or screen, but I can’t imagine that’s an unfamiliar concept to play with. However, a moment that stood out more strongly – and one that appears in a number of these political-discussions-over-chess scenes – is the tapping of Richard’s fingers on the table. Duh-DUM, duh-DUM, duh-DUM. It’s the rhythm of iambic pentameter, Richard’s own heartbeat, and later, more obviously, the sound of a horse’s gallop, a smart piece of foreshadowing that anyone who’s familiar with Richard’s famous end would be impressed with (“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”). His tapping gets faster and more insistent, and with even more dramatic close-ups, the closer Richard moves towards his ultimate fate.

In terms of cinematic ingenuity, the motif of reflections, especially in mirrors, echoes through the episode even more impressively. One thematic element that recurs in the text is the idea of characters telling, or being told, hints about the future. The play even starts with the current king, Edward, hearing a prophecy about who will murder his heirs, which he interprets completely incorrectly. Prophecies and curses for the future continue to surround Richard throughout his rise to the throne. When the previously banished Queen Margaret, widow of the murdered Henry VI from the previous episode, slinks into the court to give her own warnings, she brings with her a small mirror that fits in the palm of her hand. As the audience, we get brief flashes of both the past and the future as she uses the mirror to show the powerful-for-now members of the court what fate has in store for them. Hint: nothing good.

Sophie Okonedo, whose Margaret in the previous two episodes of the series was a character of stunning strength and force in both politics and physical battle, is reminiscent of one of the Scottish play’s Weird Sisters in this scene, her previously regal attire now drab and torn to shreds, her now-greyed hair in disarray. In fact, visually, her character seems to have reversed roles with Richard himself, whose long hair and dingy clothes have been trimmed and cleaned up sharply as he catapults himself closer to the throne. It’s now Richard in control, with Margaret isolated and ostracized.

But with her mirror, she once again rests power back, even if just for a moment. The repetition of cracked mirrors and reflections throughout the episode draw attention to how Richard’s carefully crafted facade begins to crumble more and more. His monologues to the camera grow unhinged, his eye contact frantic and the camera angles increasingly slanted. Like the broken mirror, Richard falls to pieces beautifully.

Queen Margaret’s mirror shows up again later in the episode as Richard is again given hints about what is to come for him as consequence to his villainy. In the end, after Richard is stabbed to death in a gruesome yet well-deserved murder on the battlefield, Okonedo’s Margaret is there, her mirror in hand.

It’s a stunningly crafted episode and easily my favorite two hours of television in 2016. Even if you haven’t read or seen the play before, it’s worth at least one viewing. Skip the War of the Roses if you need to. This final episode is what really shines.

 

Tara’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) The Hollow Crown, “Richard III” (Season Two, Episode 3)
2) Stranger Things, “Episode One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
3) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
4) Westworld, “The Original” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” (Season One, Episode 11)
6) The Crown, “Smoke and Mirrors” (Season One, Episode 5)
7) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!” (Season Two, Episode 13)
8) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Winter” (Season One, Episode 1)
9) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Moment of Truth” (Season One, Episode 1)
10) Supergirl, “Medusa” (Season Two, Episode 8)

 

Insecure – “Broken as Fuck”

(Season One, Episode 8)

Insecure best of

By Claudia Johnson

If you haven’t seen Insecure or have heard of Issa Rae then you are missing out on one this year’s best shows. The creator of the web series “Awkward Black Girl” was finally given the opportunity to bring black women to the forefront in a thought provoking dramatic comedy. Throughout the series issues like being the token black person at a non-profit, being “too black” at work and the double standards of men sexual experimentation, are just a few of the topics tackled in the eight episode season. The main story throughout the series is Issa’s (character shares same name as show creator) relationship with her boyfriend Lawrence, which hangs in the balance during the season finale.

Relationships can be hard when expectations, unrealistic or not, aren’t met and there is an unwillingness to walk away from a situation that is no longer desirable. In the beginning of the series, Issa hates her job and feels stuck in her long term relationship where she supports her unemployed boyfriend. Lawrence feels hopeless in his pursuit of his dream career but clearly loves his girlfriend. As the series progresses Issa and Lawrence are tempted to go outside of the relationship. Lawrence stays faithful, Issa does not. And just when you think things are looking up, Issa’s hard work at her job pays off and she finally is satisfied with her role at the non-profit and Lawrence has a great job at a tech company, everything goes to hell in a hand basket when Lawrence finds out about the other guy.

Up until the ending of the season finale the audience are left wondering, will Issa and Lawrence patch things up? Issa struggles with the ramifications of her decision. While at her friends birthday weekend getaway she hides that Lawrence left her. On the flip side of the coin Lawrence is with his friends and they are encouraging him to enjoy his new single status. (It was actually a pretty funny scene. A bunch of guys talking about relationships surrounded by strippers.) Other characters have their storylines and plot, like Molly and her “inability to keep a man”.

I won’t give away the ending. It is too amazing to be spoiled in my half-way decent explanation on why this show is a must watch. I will say that it has spawned internet memes of Lawrence that are pretty funny. Watch Insecure. It’s great.

 

Claudia’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Atlanta, “B.A.N.” (Season One, Episode 7)
2) Insecure, “Real as Fuck” (Season One, Episode 7)
3) Chewing Gum, “Tolley Road” (Season One, Episode 6)
4) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Decline of the Newspapers in the United States” (Season Three, Episode
5) Black-ish, “40 Acres and a Vote” (Season Three, Episode 20)
6) New Girl, “Landing Gear” (Season Five, Episode 22)
7) Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Forty-Four” (Season Two, Episode 22)
8) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Manifest” (Season One, Episode 7)
9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Six: The Monster” (Season One, Episode 6)
10) Queen Sugar, “Where With All” (Season One, Episode 8)

Lady Dynamite – “Mein Ramp”

(Season One, Episode 11)

Lady Dynamite best of

By Leigh Montano

I’ve struggled with mental illness the majority of my life. My first panic attack happened when I was 6 years old and is the reason why, still to this day, I can’t watch Rocko’s Modern Life.

I’ve often found comfort in television shows, comedies mostly. I go through various phases in my life, that time where I would only watch M*A*S*H, that time where I watched SNL reruns that were older than I was and then that summer where I watched all the comedy specials. So many comedy specials.

One that I loved and watched every time it came on was Maria Bamford’s half hour special that she did for Comedy Central sometime in the early 2000s. Something about this tiny blond woman with the funny voices appealed to me. She was a little manic and a little kooky but I just felt connected to her somehow. When I heard she was putting out a Netflix show, I was pleasantly surprised and excited.

You guys, I fucking love this show.

Every year when Austin asks me which show I want to write about, I pick a show I really love and enjoy but recognize that it might not be the best show of the year. I tend to pick shows that are fun or funny or just delightfully charming.

Lady Dynamite might be the most important show that came out this year.

I knew that Maria Bamford had had issues with mental health and that’s why she took a step back from comedy for a while. I had no idea that her show would be about her rise and fall in comedy because of mental health. This show so plainly speaks about mental health, how it affects people in different ways, what things that might seem normal actually aren’t and just how much society as a whole ignores or makes fun of it.

This show never asks you to pity Maria. This is more or less a dramatic reenactment of events that happened in her life. It puts out situations that might not be unique to Maria and allows the audience to see these situations that they might not ever think were an issue. More often than not, I found myself feeling relieved while watching Lady Dynamite which is an odd emotion to feel while watching a show, I must admit. But I was relieved because for once I saw someone who was like me and no one was making fun of her and we weren’t being asked to pity her.

The episode that I felt perfectly encapsulates the craziness that is mental illness is the penultimate “Mein Ramp.” Maria is suddenly a mascot of sorts for a child terrorist group in Africa, like ya do. Her bumbling manager fakes a pregnancy for Maria, Maria is being overwhelmed by memories of her former manager overworking her and then Maria eventually ruining a friendship she’s had since childhood because she accidentally hooks up her male counselor and her friend’s husband. All of this culminates when Maria’s boyfriend tries to cheer her up in a very well-meaning way and she explodes at him.

This episode has happened to me. Not the child terrorist groups or fake pregnancies or ruining friendships by setting up husbands and male counselors. But the emotional explosion aimed at people who are just trying to help out. It’s nothing that they’ve done but just the tiny straw on an already overburdened camel. Numerous times I’ve had to apologize to friends and family members and boyfriends because I had a minor emotional breakdown over something that most people would think is benign.

At one point in this episode, Karen Grisham – Agent, tells Maria that everyone in Hollywood is crazy. She convinces Maria to get off of her meds because it’s affecting her job. This scene resonated so much with me. I’ve been that person that has been told, “Oh Leigh, everyone has anxiety. You’re fine.” I’ve overheard coworkers discuss how “bad their anxiety” is and then I laugh because it’s not true. Until you’ve had a panic attack because oatmeal exists, don’t come at me telling me you know what I’m feeling.

And that’s one of the many reasons why I love Lady Dynamite. It never says, “We know what you’re going through. It’ll be okay.” It’s just putting forth these situations and showing that life gets crazy and overwhelming and it’s a challenge if you struggle with mental illness. Instead of saying, “it gets better!” Lady Dynamite says, “Isn’t this shit crazy?! Here’s someone else who has struggled! It wasn’t easy! It still isn’t easy!”

I’ve watched and rewatched this shows many times since its release on Netflix this year and each time I finish it, I feel like I’ve just had a really good therapy session.

 

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Lady Dynamite, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
2) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” (Season One, Episode 3)
3) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
4) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4)
5) Stranger Things, “Chapter Four: The Body” (Season One, Episode 4)
6) Lady Dynamite, “Mein Ramp” (Season One, Episode 11)
7) Lady Dynamite, “Jack and Diane” (Season One, Episode 4)
8) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)
9) Marvel’s Daredevil, “Bang” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Goes to Her Happy Place!” (Season Two, Episode 10)

Honorable mentions: “That Went Well”, BoJack Horseman; “RuCo’s Empire”, RuPaul’s Drag Race; “Pilot”, The Grand Tour

 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – “Scientific Research and Science Journalism”

(Season Three, Episode 11)

Last Week Tonight best of

By Rachael Clark

John Oliver and his show have become my new favorite obsession over this past year. Ever since I got HBO, I have seen every episode at least twice. The way the show goes into so much detail about certain topics while also using humor to help with touchy subjects in a very effective way. It also doesn’t hurt that I feel like I agree with him on many subjects. And for some reason, it also very endearing to see him make fun of himself every episode, but not in a demeaning way. Every episode this season has been great, however, the one episode that sticks out from the rest is “Scientific Research and Science Journalism.” This episode John Oliver addresses our culture’s massive misuse and abuse of what we consider to be a statistically significant groundbreaking new study.

If you watch the news at all, even for 5 minutes, there will probably be a segment talking about some new study that has surfaced, important ones of course. You know, studies that say hugging your dog is bad for your dog, or drinking a glass of red wine is just as good as spending an hour at the gym (seriously?). The question is, why are scientists even researching these issues and why are they getting published? Oliver suggests the real problem here is scientists are constantly under so much pressure to continuously publish new findings. In addition, they are competing with other scientists who are under the same scrutiny. All the researchers must be the first to discover something that is not only new, but also different from other studies. The best thing about John Oliver’s segment is, he constantly keeps asking questions, trying to do more than scratch the surface of the problem. He goes on to ask, how do these scientists keep finding so many new revelations? The answer is P-hacking.

P-hacking is basically data fishing; it is when there is a big data set and researchers play with many variables in the data set until they find something statistically significant so it can be published. Thanks to p-hacking there is a study that says there is a correlation between eating raw tomatoes and Judaism. (This seems important.) But John Oliver goes on to say p-hacking isn’t necessarily bad, but the best studies have a replication study. Any scientists can have a good sample size, have a control group, conduct a thorough test, and get statistically significant findings. But the best way to prove these findings is to have another researcher conduct the same study again to see if they attain the same results. Unfortunately, replication studies are hardly ever done because they are rarely funded, they do not get published, and no one wants to do them.

One of the final subjects John Oliver touches on about scientific studies is that when these studies are done, they need to also address clarifiers for how their study was conducted. For example, a new study found that if you drink champagne three times a week, it will help prevent dementia. What they didn’t tell you is that this study was performed on rats. Now, it is common for many scientific studies to be done on rats, it can be useful. However, these are also many studies that have shown a treatment that worked for lab rats did not work on humans. Another clarification that needs to be addressed is if the study was company funded. If a study is done to show the importance of water when driving, the researchers need to address that the study was funded by a water company. Because a study has a small sample size, it was company funded, or it was done on rats, doesn’t make it bad, but it provides more context for the reader.

I realize this has become more of a rant about what we consider a valid scientific study, than about Last Week with John Oliver. (As someone who loves research and playing with data, this subject is near and dear to my heart.) But I hope this has shown you how much detail this show goes into on a subject every week, and they let the audience know there is still so much more to these topics than they can address in a half hour segment. The John Oliver team will spend months on a topic before they do a piece about it to make sure they have the facts and know how they want to address the subject. This show does not take lightly the impact they have, and more importantly, they want to explain it in a way people understand.

“Science is imperfect but very important. Provide sourcing and context with it.” – John Oliver

 

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)
2) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
3) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Manifest” (Season One, Episode 7)
4) Insecure, “Insecure as Fuck” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Halloween IV” (Season Four, Episode 9)
6) Veep, “C**tgate” (Season Five, Episode 6)
7) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
8) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Scientific Research and Science Journalism” (Season Three, Episode 11)
9) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season One, Episode 5)
10) Bob’s Burgers, “Flu-ouise” (Season Seven, Episode 1)

 

The Magicians – “The Writing Room”

(Season One, Episode 9)

The Magicians best of

By Alan Gordon

Adaptation is tricky. I learned that early in life, when I first read The Wizard of Oz at age 7 or 8 after many annual television showings of the movie. Wait? There’s a Good Witch of the North? The slippers are silver? IT WASN’T A DREAM?

It was a profound lesson. Books can be changed when they’re made into movies. I saw how a number of problems were solved. The Good Witch of the North wasn’t that interesting, and Glinda was a cool enough character that bringing her in early was an improvement. But I liked the book’s reality version better, especially when I got into the sequels. [We’ll leave the discovery of Baum’s extreme racism for another time.]

My second lesson was the 1968 movie of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, another of my favorite books. The darkness of Ian Fleming’s writing and plotting in his only children’s book appealed to me. Then I saw the movie, and felt, at age 9, horrified and betrayed. They had tried to make it into Mary Poppins, complete with Dick Van Dyke and a treacly Sherman Brothers score with their patented cutesy nonsense word [“a fantasmagorical machine.” Please.] Disneyfication became a thing — would they get it right or not? Sometimes yes [loved both of The Rescuers movies]; sometimes no [The Black Cauldron was an abomination and I’m still waiting for someone to do that magnificent series justice.]

Which brings me to The Magicians. Not the best new series this year — I give that honor to The Expanse — but one that presented a fascinating exercise in adaptation: A series that vastly improves on, let’s face it, a mediocre set of books.

There was, for me, a good precedent. The Dexter books are terrible, but with a great premise and, for the first chapter anyway, an interesting narrative voice. The Showtime series, at least for the first three seasons, was some of the best written, acted and directed television I have ever seen. [My son and I continue to debate as recently as yesterday whether Season 4, with a new show-runner and Lithgow, was great or jumped the shark.]

I came to Lev Grossman’s trilogy after the third book came out to high praise from the New York Times Book Review. I was grossly disappointed. The premises were derivative — a magic school [à la Hogwarts], a mystical land accessed randomly [à la Narnia], and the major innovations were A: it was a college, so they could have sex [and frequently did]; and B: Fillory, the Narnia clone, was first encountered in a series of fantasy books that turned out to be [gasp!] real, so it was all very meta.

The writing was clunky. Most of the characters were under-developed; some would disappear for vast stretches of narrative and come back suddenly, requiring several chapters of back-story; each plot had a group of magicians gathering for a plan, which then goes horribly wrong, so that the rhythm became extremely repetitive by the third book. [Rowling started breaking her patterns with her third book, which is why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains the best in that series.]

There were good moments and ideas scattered about. Mayakovsky, the banned Antarctic madman, was a great character, but the series failed for me.

Yet when they announced the ScyFy version, I checked it out. And it was much, much better.

Of necessity, they jettisoned the back-story technique. As a result, Julia, who had failed to get into Brakebills Academy, became a viable character with an interesting parallel plotline as she pursued knowledge through the magic underground. Penny, who should have been a fleshed-out character given his ultimate importance but was a barely there, nerd with a complete lack of social skills, became the fascinating, dangerously vulnerable bad boy of the group. [Both were brought fully to life by Stella Maeve and the riveting Arjun Gupta.]

The overall plotline made the Beast, the bad guy, more of an immediate threat, while introducing a [spoiler]time-loop element that justified and explained many puzzles when it was ultimately revealed. The writers also inserted a great deal of character-specific humor. The throwaway lines were funnier than most sit-coms, and the series-within-a-series allowed the characters to poke fun at themselves and each other. And at Lev Grossman himself: In the final episode, lead Quentin Coldwater [who has the best hair, said my enraptured wife], is writing his own addition to the Fillory series. In voiceover, he says at one point, “You’re probably a little confused, so I’m going to do that thing I hate where the book rewinds and fills in all the blanks.” The only failure in the plotting was the unnecessary betrayal and cliff-hanger at the season ending. It felt dictated more by the necessity of continuing for season 2 than any consistent intent of the characters.

Okay, let’s get to episode 9, “The Writing Room,” a perfect example of why the books sucked and the series is so much better. In the first book, they don’t bother figuring out how to get to Fillory because they don’t need to. The Beast appeared once, killed someone, then vanished for the rest of the three or four years they spent there. No tension whatsoever. When they do decide to go, it’s because Penny shows up out of nowhere after a long narrative absence, and has a magic button that he bought on the black market with no real effort. A magic button. It takes them all to Fillory, because it’s that easy. No journey, no quest, no sacrifice necessary.

In episode 9, the quest for the button is tied into the exploration of the Beast’s past, which is intimately connected to the author of the Fillory series. To learn more, the group, which is not at all a cohesive, co-operative unit, must travel to the author’s house in England, now a landmark with a tour guide. And, as it turns out, haunted.

The haunting is essential, and the sudden shifts into spookiness are handled in unpredictable ways, as they should be. What could have been clichéd is grounded in psychosexual tragedy, and none of the participants escapes unscathed. Children are left behind.

And there are still sharp moments of humor. Hale Appleman, who infuses Elliot’s gay, faux preppie character with deep melancholia, at one point refers to the terrifying ghostly housekeeper as Mrs. Danvers, and the beauty is that we’re expected to know who that is without further explanation. [If you don’t, read/see Rebecca. Another adaptation to discuss.]

So, irritating season denouement notwithstanding, I’m good for another one. You should be able to see the first one still.

And skip the books.

 

Alan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) The Magicians, “The Writing Room” (Season One, Episode 9)
2) The Expanse, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1) The best simultaneous development of the world, the characters, and plot I’ve seen in a long time.
3) Penny Dreadful, “A Blade of Grass” (Season Three, Episode 4) Terrible, pointless, disappointing final season, except for one superb episode with three great actors in two rooms, one of them padded. The room, I mean, not the actors.
4) Roadies, “The City Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken” (Season One, Episode 4) Two simultaneous quests. One to remove a curse, one to trace a bassist on a binge.
5) iZombie, “Pour a Little Sugar, Zombie” (Season Two, Episode 16) The entire season was a writing clinic on how to keep multiple season-long plotlines simmering simultaneously. A couple came to a boil in this one.
6) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I’m Going to the Beach with Josh and His Friends!” (Season One, Episode 9) The best comedy comes from pain. Boy, was this one painful.
7) Marvel’s Jessica Jones, “AKA WWJD” (Season One, Episode 8) I’m counting this series because I didn’t see it until 2016. The most compelling of three Netflix Marvel series, and a lot is owed to David Tenannt’s creepy, obsessive Kilgrave. In this episode, they play house. [Editor’s note: this episode will not be counted towards the Best of 2016 totals at the bottom.]
8) Dancing with the Stars, “Semi-Finals” (Season Twenty-Three, Episode 10) Yeah, I picked Laurie Hernandez to win, too, but the unexpected brilliance of race-car driver James Hinchcliffe made the season, along with the choreography of his partner Sharna Burgess. Hinchcliffe has enough charisma, talent, humor and charm to star in a movie. This episode has the tango that starts with a blind-fold and ends with a handstand. Shout-outs to Lindsay Arnold and Gleb Savchenko for their creativity as well.
9) Designated Survivor, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1) Don’t know if they can maintain it, but damn good opening.
10) Nashville, “Maybe You’ll Appreciate Me Someday” (Season Four, Episode 21) Maybe the last episode. [Editor’s note: it’s not.]

 

Marvel’s Daredevil – “New York’s Finest”

(Season Two, Episode 3)

Daredevil best of

By Alex Leachman

I initially approached Netflix’s Mavel’s Daredevil with a lot of caution and low expectations. This sounds ridiculous, but it was tough to forget the scars left behind by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. After some convincing from close friends, I started the series about a week after the second season premiered. I blew through both seasons and my expectations were beaten down with a billy club. Marvel’s Daredevil gave me everything I wanted from a superhero show: action and story-telling.

“New York’s Finest” highlights both of those aspects. Most of the episode takes place on the roof of a building where Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) has Daredevil chained to a chimney. The episode explores their vastly different philosophies on how to treat the same problem. Daredevil hands criminals over to the police and lets the judicial system take care of them. Everyone deserves a shot at a second chance and redemption. The Punisher, in his words, puts them down for good. The criminals have had their chance and the Punisher is their ultimate executioner. The acting from Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal is tremendous. Their dynamic is flawless. The Punisher is confident and Daredevil is unwavering. Their clash of morals doesn’t come off as one-sided; neither one is the clear victor.

The episode’s final ten minutes showcases what Daredevil does best: action. In one of the best scenes in the series, Daredevil fights his way through a building of pissed off biker gang members. The scene encapsulates Daredevil’s brutal determination and resilience. The scene is unbelievably choreographed and edited. Every movement and action is purposeful. The genuine fight scenes between Daredevil and his enemies was one of the aspects of the show that kept me hooked early on. It was such a shock compared to other MCU productions.

Marvel’s Daredevil isn’t flashy or over produced. The characters and scenes have life that is often forgotten in other superhero films and shows. Marvel’s made their mark in the film industry and now they’re taking over television as well.

 

Alex’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Marvel’s Daredevil, “New York’s Finest” (Season 2, Episode 3)

2) Westworld, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (Season 1, Episode 9)

3) Star Wars Rebels, “Twilight of the Apprentice” (Season 2, Episode 20)

4) Marvel’s Daredevil, “Penny and Dime” (Season 2, Episode 4)

5) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season 1, Episode 8)

6) Silicon Valley, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” (Season 3, Episode 3)

7) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season 1, Episode 1)

8) This is Us, “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

9) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Donald Trump” (Season 3, Episode 3)

10) ESPN’s 30 for 30, “Fantastic Lies” (Season 3, Episode 7)

 

The Night Manager – “Episode 1”

(Season One, Episode 1)

Night Manager best of

By Pedro Aubry

Spoilers for the first episode of The Night Mangaer.

Today I’m talking about The Night Manager, or James Bond: The Miniseries.

Like any good Bond film, there’s an intro that gives you some action, just a taste, and this episode starts wonderfully. Bam, you’re hit with a picture of Hugh Laurie as Mr. Richard “Dickey” Roper, CEO of Iron Last. It’s a good picture, he’s got a great smile and he’s holding up a child refugee. You see him giving a televised speech and he seems like a nice guy, well spoken, lively eyes, great smile.

Then cut to Cairo, Egypt, January 2011, during the revolution. Now we have a Jonathan Pine navigating through protesters in the streets, pretty chill about the whole thing, even the machine-gun fire and occasional bomb. Mr. Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is a night manager at the Nefertiti hotel, so he gets to stay up all night and be all charming and pretty and polite and charming and cute and Tom Hiddleston and charming to all the guests, including the mistress, Sophie, of some playboy ass who’s bad news.

Long story short, the mistress steals records of her man purchasing things like warplanes, napalm and nerve gas via illegal arms trade facilitated by none other than Mr. Roper, who has her killed, and Mr. Pine doesn’t like it (he kinda grew attached to the young lady).

Back in London, a woman named Angela Burr (Olivia Colmen), who works for the International Enforcement Agency, gets ahold of those records and goes back on the hunt to bring Richard Roper down. She really hates him. Like a lot. So she’s gung ho about this. She even tried to warn Sophie to get her out but was a bit too late.

Anywho, Mr. Pine moves to Switzerland to be a night manager at some hotel in the middle of nowhere, and guess what – Mr. Roper drops in with his lackeys and Mr. Pine remembers him (it’s now been four years since Cairo). He gets some info and cell phone chips and numbers from the lackeys and sends it all to Angela Burr. She likes what she sees, and recruits Mr. Pine to go undercover and insert himself into Roper’s crew. Lucky for Mr. Pine, Mr. Roper saw something special in him at the hotel.

Oh wait, I was comparing this to James Bond.

So yeah, all that intro stuff is just like a good Bond intro, a somewhat self-contained story that introduces still helps set the stage for the adventure to come. Lucky for us, we get a little bit of a reboot here. And I’m not talking a Blonde Bond who has feelings and things and almost quits and shacks up permanently with the girl (forget that goddam mistake that was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). It’s close, but still even more refreshing. Mr. Pine is absolutely charming because he just is. No superspy training, always gets the girl, with a silly sense of humor. This man genuinely is and likes being charming, he loves his job, he loves wearing a suit, and he’s just got your basic Army background (I guess some training is a necessity). He just naturally starts spying it up all over because he feels a necessity to.

He has feelings. And looks. And decides to take a graveyard shift gig in Egypt. Who the hell is this guy?

He’s the fucking Night Manager.

Now the villain of the show (we don’t get too much of him yet), he’s also awesome as can be. Hugh Laurie definitely had fun with this, and this is by far the most realistic and believable portrayal of a Bond villain I’ve ever seen. No gimmicks, no elaborate map room, no cheesy whatevers that those bad guys seem to be fond of, well minus his fortress castle he lives in and his being surrounded by henchmen 24/7, but that’s fine. You can tell this man is sharp as a tack and has an insight and ability to read people that is yet another refreshing aspect of this miniseries. Everything feels new and shiny, but it’s not. It’s as if they distilled down all the essentials of what makes a good espionage action thriller and threw out the bullshit, leaving room to embellish and fully develop some truly human characters.

I chose the first episode because I don’t wanna give anything away on this amazing six-part series. Every minute of the whole show exactly spot on, never lacking or forced. You can tell there was excruciating attention to detail in every shot. The scenery is always beautiful. The performances are just right. This show will be stuck in my head for quite a while.

 

Pedro’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) The Night Manager, “Episode 6” (Season One, Episode 6)
2) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
3) The Night Manager, “Episode 5” (Season One, Episode 5)
4) The Night Manager, “Episode 2” (Season One, Episode 2)
5) The Fall, “Their Solitary Way” (Season Three, Episode 6)
6) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)
7) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
8) The Fall, “Silence and Suffering” (Season Three, Episode 1)
9) The Detour, “The Wedding” (Season One, Episode 6)
10) The Detour, “The Road” (Season One, Episode 7)

 

Person of Interest – “The Day the World Went Away”

(Season Five, Episode 10)

Person of Interest best of

By Nick Rogers

“I’d listen to the words he’d say, but in his voice I heard decay.

The plastic face forced to portray all the insides left cold and gray.

There is a place that still remains. It eats the fear, it eats the pain.

The sweetest price he’ll have to pay the day the whole world went away.”

It was bound to happen. 2016 is when Peak TV defeated me.

I’ve seen none of The Night Manager. I’ve missed nearly all of Better Call Saul. (I know it aired in February. Don’t judge.) I’m an oh-fer on Orange is the New Black, a lollygagger on Marvel’s Luke Cage, a blank on Black Mirror and way outside Westworld.

Cultural conversations started, and ended, without me. However, I am conversant in a series overlooked — even by me once upon a time — because it languished on the lowest common denominator known as CBS.

Of all my retreats into Remedial TV, Person of Interest was my most rigorous. I bailed on it early in its initial run despite the pedigree of J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan and its promising premise: Human agents work to save people from harm, aided by an artificial intelligence known as the Machine that foresees everyday murders but doesn’t reveal whether the name it spits out is victim or perpetrator.

Too procedural, too pat, too pedestrian. For years, I had heard it developed into a superior, smart sci-fi series. Stick out that still-rough first season and you’ll see: Not only were the raves right, but Person of Interest, in its swan-song season, evolved into broadcast TV’s best drama.

Named for, and gloriously featuring, the Nine Inch Nails song “The Day the World Went Away” encompasses everything excellent about Person of Interest down to some of its free-TV expectations.

“World” offers the ne plus ultra of its many exploding-SUVs-tipping-end-over-end. It arrives after a badass Heat-homage street shootout (complete with Moby soundtrack), a mounted Gatling gun attack and a high-speed chase in which co-star Amy Acker sets cruise, steers with one foot and takes out said SUV via sunroof.

“If we’re just noise in the system, we might as well be a symphony,” Acker quips, referencing both Person’s reality-versus-simulation undertones and the quality of its action scenes.

(Side note: This scene also strengthens a sense of belonging that Acker and co-star Sarah Shahi’s characters unexpectedly uncover among this team of do-gooders. They’re antiheroes turned allies and as women who have otherwise made a cottage industry out of lone-wolf pride, they warm without sacrificing strength.)

But the episode’s greatest moments belong to Michael Emerson as Harold Finch. It opens on Harold addressing the Machine — now besieged by a rival system called Samaritan, which seeks to implement its own grim ideological order on the world by manipulating mankind like marionettes.

The Machine is not just Harold’s system, but his son. In the previous season, it previously addresses Harold as father … in a scene as moving as it is unnerving. (Believe me: Person advances well beyond case-of-the-week complacency.) The Machine has run millions of simulations on its efforts to fight Samaritan, few of them good.

“In any of these versions, the people I’ve roped into helping me, my friends … Will they get out alive? Is that a path we’re on?” Harold asks of an ersatz child he has killed in 40 previous incarnations, when it grew too intelligent and had extinction on its own mind. Again, the cold open of a CBS show concerns the morality of a man imploring mercy from a sentient entity he has murdered many times over.

By “World’s” end, Harold will watch two frenemies (who have been with the series since the first season) selflessly lay down their lives for him while he’s dragged away powerless, unable to help.

It leads so beautifully into an unleashing of the scoundrel we’ve always suspected simmered beneath the surface of this otherwise meek mastermind. Emerson could have gone full Benjamin Linus earlier, but the showrunners preserved it for the perfect moment. Once his intuition to retaliate — by unleashing the full power of the Machine, which he has long restrained — kicks in … well, behold the best monologue on network TV in years.

Trent Reznor’s dissonant guitar crunch takes over. The Machine reveals its new form with unexpected firmware upgrades. The burbles of a new world brew. Chaos foments and two gods, the Machine and Samaritan, are ready to battle to the death.

I’m behind on TV, but I’m up on Person of Interest. The tradeoff was worth it.

 

Nick’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016 (Besides “The Day the World Went Away”)

1) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4)
2) American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, “The Race Card” (Season One, Episode 5)
3) Mr. Robot, “eps2.4m4ster-s1ave.aes” (Season Two, Episode 6)
4) Veep, “Inauguration” (Season Five, Episode 10)
5) The Americans, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” (Season Four, Episode 8)
6) Atlanta, “The Streisand Effect” (Season One, Episode 4)
7) Halt and Catch Fire, “Yerba Buena” (Season Three, Episode 5)
8) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?” (Season Two, Episode 4)
9) The Detour, “The B&B” (Season One, Episode 5)
10) Baskets, “Sugar Pie” (Season One, Episode 8)

 

Poldark – “Episode 7”

(Season Two, Episode 7)

Poldark best of

By Larry D. Sweazy

Poldark is unapologetically melodramatic. Set in the Eighteenth century in Cornwall, England, the westernmost section of Great Britain, the land is rugged and the seaside spans with deep cliffs offering wide views and loads of opportunity to show off beautiful, barren scenery. The landscape is a major character in this TV series.   The people live off the land and toil in the local copper and tin mines to scrap out a meager living, so they are fierce, hardworking and just as rugged as the landscape. The aristocracy also exists in Cornwall with landed gentry, old money, and new, upstart money, all culminating into a fascinating view of the British class system.

Based on the novels by Winston Graham, this is the second Poldark TV series. The first one was a major hit in 1970s Great Britain, and the lead actor, Robin Ellis, in that series, also has a small part in this series. I appreciate the loyalty. Both series have merit, but I wasn’t aware of the first until I watched the first season of this one on PBS.   If you are unfamiliar with the Poldark story, there are a few things you need to know.   Ross Poldark was a captain in the British army and was wounded in battle in Virginia during the Revolutionary War. He bears a scar on his face from the fight. On his return home, Poldark has found that his father has died in absence, left a huge debt, and his former sweetheart, Elizabeth, who thought he had died in the battle, is now engaged to be married to his cousin, Frances.   Poldark then rebounds for his scullery maid, Demelaza, a red-haired, fiery tempered lass who has no social skills, and must learn quickly to fit in, setting up a love triangle that promises to continue well into the series.

There are great scenes of Ross Poldark riding his black horse along the cliffs, adding to his brooding, swashbuckling image. He is a gentleman with a soft heart for the working people, and Demelaza, though uneducated, is his match temperament and heart, and also is anointed with a healthy dose of feminism to offset the prejudices and misery of the time.

This is a series that is episodic and should be watched from the start so that you’re up to speed. Honestly, it reminds me a little of Dark Shadows, the gothic melodrama that I used to rush home to watch after school when I was kid. Poldark has the same penchant for mood, music, and melodrama, that I am hardwired to love.

So, to the episode. It is the culmination of that love triangle I mentioned earlier, and the rest of the series will always be about the consequences of this episode. There’s betrayal, redemption, and passion that could be as mushy and cruel as an afternoon soap opera, but the production values, the writing, and the acting rise above potboiler status. Honestly, I don’t want to ruin the episode for you if you haven’t watched the series from the start. No spoiler alerts here.

If you want some escapist melodrama done a grand scale, then all of the Poldark episodes are for you, not just Episode 7 of Season Two, though it is the one I enjoyed the most.

 

Larry’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Poldark, “Episode 7” (Season Two, Episode 7)
2) Grantchester, “Episode 2.1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
3) Grantchester, “Episode 2.6” (Season Two, Episode 6)
4) The Durrells of Corfu, “Episode 1.1” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Hinterland, “Episode 2.1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
6) Outlander, “Through a Glass Darkly” (Season Two, Episode 1)
7) The Durrells of Corfu, “Episode 1.5” (Season One, Episode 5)
8) The Crown, “Wolferton Splash” (Season One, Episode 1)
9) Poldark, “Episode 1” (Season Two, Episode 1)
10) Hinterland, “Epsiode 2.2” (Season Two, Episode 2)

 

Rectify – “All I’m Sayin’”

(Season Four, Episode 8)

Rectify best of

By Sarah Staudt

Rectify is the best show on television that no one is watching. Relegated to the Sundance channel, only the deepest of television nerds – y’know, people like Austin! – have even heard of it. And it’s a damn shame, because this is the show that made me cry and made me think the most of anything I saw this year.

For those not in the know, the premise of Rectify revolves around Daniel Holden, a man who spent 19 years on Georgia’s death row for the brutal rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Hanna. Thanks to the efforts of exoneration lawyers, DNA results show that Daniel never raped Hanna, and he is released. That’s episode one. The rest of the four seasons of the show covers the next six months of Daniel’s life – his very rocky reintegration into his small hometown, the emotional turmoil of his sister, mother, stepfather, and stepbrothers, and the town at large. Solving the murder itself is almost a B-plot; the emotional journey of the characters take center stage. Seriously, watch this show. The first three seasons are on Netflix. You have no excuse. And if you haven’t, STOP READING, cause I’m literally talking about the finale, and this is not something you want spoiled.

Spoilers begin for the series finale of Rectify.           

Season Four of Rectify asked the question, how do we move on? If Daniel’s risk-averse guilty plea at the end of Season Three is about the horrible nature of the compromises we make in life, Season Four is about waking up in the morning and still having to go through life. I was apprehensive about this season, and about the finale, because of the general trend of prestige television these days. I was pretty sure Rectify was going to end up being just as nihilist as everything else on TV. The murder wouldn’t be solved, Tawney and Teddy would remain deeply unhappy, Amantha would never get justice or peace, and Daniel, ultimately, would flounder and fail without his support network. The choice to do the opposite is brave and beautiful.

In the end, nihilism is “new” on TV, and it’s easy to see why so much prestige television embraces it. Prestige television fears the Saturday morning special vibe of everyone hugging at the end of the episode. It wants to show the full complication of life as it is. It wants to do something new, and challenging, and different. That presents a problem for finales, when the conclusion “yes, everything really does suck this bad” is likely to be unsatisfying. And the so trend for finales tends to be that either everyone is miserable or everything is left unsolved and uncertain. Jesse screaming in his car as he speeds away from Walt at the end of Breaking Bad is the ultimate example of this.

I thought that was the way Rectify was going. The choice to do the opposite, to provide a genuinely hopeful portrait of what it actually takes to move forward, get closure and justice, and be happy in the face of incredible odds, is more honest that anything I’ve seen on television. Everyone in this season works so damn hard at their own happiness. John, the lawyer, sacrifices his whole career seeking justice for Daniel, and in the end, he actually friggin’ wins, and the crime is solved, and there is an obvious path forward where Daniel is truly exonerated and free. Amantha figures out how to live and find her own purpose in her life, and lets go of her own preconceived notions about what happiness looks like to find love. Teddy and Tawney work so, so, hard at their marriage, and then Teddy is willing to make the painful but necessary choice to let Tawney go (though the finale leaves unclear whether they got back together or simply remained friends – regardless, they are clearly in a good place). Both Janet and Ted Sr. do real hard work about what they want in their lives, and Janet, in particular, finally makes peace with Hanna’s mom, in one of the most gut wrenching scenes of the series. And Daniel does some of the hardest work of all, brutally confronting his own trauma in therapy, reliving the worst parts of his life in an effort to suck the poison from those wounds, while also getting out of bed every day, going to work, dealing with roommates and being triggered and retraumatized, finding and losing love, and daring to actually dream about a new life for himself. It’s such hard work, and the show makes us feel that, and feel these characters bravery for doing that work.

The finale is a hint that waking up every single day and doing that incredibly hard, painful emotional work is worth it. That there is something more to be done in the face of the injustice of the world than resign yourself or settle. That we are all entitled to justice and happiness, and it can be achieved. Watching the Holden family hold hands as they pack up the tire store, watching the first hints that Daniel truly will be exonerated in the eyes of the public, is no Sunday afternoon special. It’s a scene that’s rarely seen on television – the moment in life where you realize that all that hard emotional work, the stuff that nearly made you crawl into a ball and give up, the therapy, the sleepless nights, the fights, the risks you took and hard decisions you made, sometimes work out. Sometimes you get a brief, beautiful moment of hope. The final shot, realizing that Daniel is dreaming of a life, a real life, where he can be happy, and free, and in love, in the sun, is so beautiful in that it seems truly achievable.

And now I’m crying again. Damn this show is good. Thank you, Rectify, for picking a narrative about what we really have to do in the face of the shitty injustice of the world – wake up, work, be honest with our loved ones and ourselves, and choose to live.

 

Sarah’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Rectify, “All I’m Sayin’” (Season Four, Episode 8)
2) Rectify, “Pineapples in Paradise” (Season Four, Episode 5)
3) O.J. Made in America, “Part 4” (Season One, Episode 4)
4) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
5) You’re the Worst, “Twenty-Two” (Season Three, Episode 5)
6) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)
8) Better Things, “Only Women Bleed” (Season One, Episode 10)
9) The Night Of, “The Season of the Witch” (Season One, Episode 5)
10) You’re the Worst, “The Last Sunday Funday” (Season Three, Episode 6)

 

Saturday Night Live — “Dave Chappelle / A Tribe Called Quest”

(Season Forty-Two, Episode 6)

Saturday Night Live best of

By Sara Rust

The episode began with a dark stage and Kate McKinnon at a piano.

As the lyrics from ‘Hallelujah’ filled the speakers, an era was ended. Leonard Cohen had died and Hillary had lost the election. The Saturday Night Live openings had been upbeat and enthusiastic in the previous weeks but it was obvious the games were ending. Then Dave Chappelle, the man himself, walks out on stage. Suddenly everything is put in perspective. We’re reminded that no matter what, we still have comedy. We still have the ability to make sense of the world through laughter. Then Chris Rock and A Tribe Called Quest appeared and the world blew up.

Okay, so maybe it didn’t blow up, but Tyrone Biggum did lose his head. The crack saved him, no worries. The Weekend Update was Trump heavy but they hit home with the female minorities montage that lasted all of 3 seconds. Ruth Bader Ginsburg kind of made an appearance. Then a couple of failed sketches brought the mood down to a point that only a Kate McKinnon/ Dave Chappelle makeout session could save.

The best way to get past a sad time is to watch something completely different from what is making you sad and that’s exactly what SNL provided. Sure there was a lot of talk about Trump but it was made in a way that made you feel like everyone was in a club and everything was going to be ok. Just like in the SNL episode following 9/11, we as a nation are asking, “Is it ok to be funny?”

 

Sara’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Fall” (Season Eight, Episode 4)
2) Designated Survivor, “The Oath” (Season One, Episode 10)
3) Broad City, “Burning Bridges” (Season Three, Episode 8)
4) Superstore, “Labor” (Season One, Episode 11)
5) Modern Family, “Promposal” (Season Seven, Episode 20)
6) American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” (Season One, Episode 6)
7) The Crown, “Smoke and Mirrors” (Season One, Episode 5)
8) The Good Place, “Most Improved Player” (Season One, Episode 8)
9) This is Us, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)
10) South Park, “Member Berries” (Season Twenty, Episode 1)

 

Star Wars Rebels – “The Honorable Ones”

(Season Two, Episode 17)

Star Wars Rebels best of

By Robbie Mehling

Whether it’s the two attacks on the Death Star, the battle above Coruscant, or the invasion of Hoth, many of favorite Star Wars moments involve large spectacles – massive battles, CGI, and explosions. It’s what the franchise is largely known for. Yet, Star Wars is so exceptionally good at the personal moments such as Luke’s confrontation with his father in Return of the Jedi or any of the tender moments between Han and Leia. It is in that vein that Star Wars Rebels’ “The Honorable Ones” has become one of my favorite television episodes for the year. It may not feature the most original plot but it is one that, I believe, lends itself exceedingly well to a Star Wars narrative. Two people (one rebel, one imperial) must rely on each other to help themselves survive in an inhospitable environment.

“The Honorable Ones” brings development to two characters who didn’t really get a much in the first season, and in fact, turning two characters that I had not particularly cared for into two of my favorite characters not only in show but in all of the Star Wars media. Kallus (David Oyelowo), an imperial security bureau agent, and Zeb (Steve Blum), a rebel, have a history together and they loathe each other. So it was wonderful seeing them have to cooperate. Furthermore, this episode wonderfully hints at storylines and mysteries found in the Star Wars comics and novels. It also sets up some major storylines that are happening now in the third season.

Much of Star Wars Rebels is hit or miss and full of mediocre episodes, but when it’s on like in “The Honorable Ones,” it is some of the best storytelling on television.

 

Robbie’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Star Wars Rebels, “The Honorable Ones” (Season Two, Episode 17)
2) Star Wars Rebels, “Twilight of the Apprentice” (Season Two, Episodes 22 & 23)
3) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10)
4) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
5) Star Wars Rebels, “An Inside Man” (Season Three, Episode 10)
6) Westworld, “Contrapasso” (Season One, Episode 5)
7) Westworld, “The Original” (Season One, Episode 1)
8) Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man” (Season Six, Episode 7)
9) Survivor, “Million Dollar Gamble” (Season Thirty-Three, Episodes 10 & 11)
10) Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, “Fall” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

 

Steven Universe – “Mr. Greg”

(Season Three, Episode 8)

Steven Universe best of

By Jonathan Williams

Many of my favorite children’s authors each understood an essential truth about writing to a young audience.  Begging the reader’s patience, I will ask Maurice Sendak to put it in his own words:

“Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious — and what is too often overlooked — is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.”

Rebecca Sugar, showrunner of Steven Universe, understands this truth as well.  “Mr. Greg” may not be the best episode of TV this year, but it ably and achingly illustrates why Steven Universe is one of the best kids’ shows of the past decade.

That’s a heavy introduction for what’s billed as the show’s first “musical” episode.  Every few episodes, Steven Universe sneaks a song into its fleet 11 minute run-times, but “Mr. Greg” contains no fewer than seven.  Five are delightful: a ridiculous TV commercial, a carefree ditty about the joys of the simple life, a hard-rock paean to a fictitious megalopolis, a Busby Berkeley-style silver screen classic all top hats and tails, and the episode’s contented reprise (note that the episode resolves its conflict and its chord progression — these musicians are so sneaky with their cues!).

But two songs in the middle just wrench the heart right out of your chest.  Here, some plot synopsis might help:

Steven, our show’s plucky young protagonist, lives with three foster moms (who happen to be rebel alien provocateurs formerly led by his late mother, Rose) and is visited often by his loving but supremely un-together dad, Greg.  Greg has just come into some money from an old song that ended up being licensed for a burger advertisement.  To celebrate, Steven and Greg leave the show’s sleepy setting of Beach City for the bright lights of Empire City.  Steven insists that one of his guardians, Pearl, join them.  Pearl, you see, has carried around a sadness since S1E01 that we gradually learn is her love for Rose: a love that matured over centuries, a romantic love that might not have been reciprocated in kind, and a love that was squeezed out first by Rose’s own love for Greg, and then quite finally by Rose’s death.  Pearl now has the task of safeguarding Steven, the living embodiment of all that her life isn’t.  Steven is a young lad of 13, but he (like many children) can sense what he cannot define, and it is central to his character that when he sees someone hurting, be they friend or enemy, he tries to draw the thorn from the lion’s paw.  However laudable, his instinctive actions are not always met with success.

And indeed, the inherent awkwardness of this road trip can only be pushed aside so long.  Caught up in the middle of a musical number (a giddily diagetic song and dance, with hotel busboys requiring cold hard cash to pirouette for our protags), Greg extends his hand for Pearl to dance with him — which becomes all too much for her.  She leaves them, and comes back to the vacation penthouse only when father and son are fast asleep.  And so, this:

And its denouement,

Leaving aside all of the wonderful visual details — Pearl’s gender bending (paying homage here to Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria), the show’s continuing exploration of same-sex love, the rose symbolism in both videos, etc. — it is the unflinching recognition of sadness that makes Steven Universe more trustworthy in its treatment of happiness.  Nobody is necessarily at fault here — there was no struggle of good versus evil, no villains or heroes, in a show full of both.  Rose loved Greg, and Rose died, and both events hurt Pearl terribly.  This episode offers Pearl a better relationship with Greg, but doesn’t seek to “fix” her (as confirmed by subsequent episodes, Pearl’s grief and anguish are hardly lessened by these events).  I submit to you, the reader, that this humane treatment of grief, jealousy, and despair is of more use to a child than a show that either pretends these emotions do not exist, demonizes anyone who displays them, or suggests that they should be banished completely through 11 minutes of effort.

I feel like I could write a separate write-up about this episode that explored completely different themes, but if there’s one thing that Steven Universe has to teach adults, it is the virtue of concise plotting and scripting.  That’s why it sticks to simple themes, like…

Life and death and love and birth // and peace and war on the planet Earth.

 

Jonathan’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Steven Universe, “Last One Out of Beach City” (Season Four, Episode 6)
2) The Grinder, “Grinder vs. Grinder” (Season One, Episode 13)
3) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Bureau” (Season Three, Episode 22)
4) Star Wars Rebels, “The Honorable Ones” (Season Two, Episode 17)
5) Marvel’s Daredevil, “New York’s Finest” (Season Two, Episode 3)
6) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Manifest” (Season One, Episode 7)
7) Supergirl, “The Adventures of Supergirl” (Season Two, Episode 1)
8) DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Destiny” (Season One, Episode 15)
9) The Flash, “Welcome to Earth-2” (Season Two, Episode 13)
10) Arrow, “Invasion!” (Season Five, Episode 8)

 

Stranger Things – “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”

(Season One, Episode 1)

Stranger Things best of

By Ray Martindale

Ok, so when Austin asked me what I wanted to write about for his annual article, he knew he really didn’t need to ask. “STRANGER THINGS!” I shouted. Apparently, many who were posed the same question shared that enthusiasm, and there IS a reason for that… it’s AMAZING!

Stranger Things was the out-of-nowhere hit show produced & introduced to little fanfare by Netflix this year. Its seemingly quiet introduction to the world sits in direct contrast to the way in which it was received. That is to say our pop-culture went bananas for it! Netflix, recognizing this, quickly started publicizing the hell out of it. The cast was on late-night talk shows, online publications & featured prominently in interviews & web apps on social media everywhere. It was truly a meteoric rise in popularity.

So, with that said and by the rules, I must pick a single episode to review. It was a hard decision, but I’ve decided I want to talk about the pilot episode, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”.

One of many reasons Stranger Things really connected with me is it plays on my pre-disposition to homage in filmmaking. That is to say, I enjoy when artists pay respect to the stories/creators who have in some cases pioneered a specific genre or way of storytelling. Storytellers do this by incorporating various styles, images, lighting, shots and music that symbolize our culture’s general sub-conscience representation of what constitutes a specific genre.

A quick example of what I am talking about is basically every Quentin Tarantino movie ever made. He possess a great talent for plucking out that obscure Sergio Leone inspired music track to go along with that extreme close-up shot of the gunfighters eyes, right before we cut to the wide of all three people firing at the same time as the clock strikes high-noon. Those ingredients are what we all subconsciously expect of the Western genre. When we don’t have those ingredients it’s just not as effective, not quite as good or attractive. We may not even be able to put a finger on why, but for some reason it just doesn’t ring true.

The Duffer Brothers, creators of Stranger Things, seem to be keenly aware of this because every corner of the frame is soaked in reinforcement of the 80’s & that era’s style of horror. The fantastic opening title sequence oozes with its imperfection & simplicity. Film grain, smudges & scratches can be seen littered across the very Terminator-style opening credits. The font used and music playing are straight out of a nightmare written by Stephen King & directed by John Carpenter. There are movie posters of Evil Dead and The Thing on bedroom walls & Classic Coke commercials play on TV as the cast plays Dungeons & Dragons in mom’s basement. At every turn the movie attempts to immerse you in a time where you weren’t quite so self-assured, not quite so practical, a time when you believed there were still secrets in this world & danger under the bed.

The primary cast, Mike, Lucas, Dustin & Will, is made up of four child actors whose chemistry is undeniably charming. They represent the misfits, the nerdy kids who would never make the football team but who are very interested in science & A.V. Club. They are the classic archetype so many beloved films attempt to imbue their all-child casts with. (Stand By Me, E.T., The Goonies, Super 8, etc.)

After the opening concludes and the kids race to there respective homes on a moonlit bike ride over the sweeping hills of fictional Hawkins, Indiana. (a la E.T., The Goonies) they become separated. One of the young characters, Will Byers (played by Noah Shnapp), quickly becomes aware of the fact that he’s being followed. This feeling intensifies as he arrives home to find shadows lurking outside his front door & something terrifying attempting to get inside. I won’t go further into the plot here, but suffice it to say Will vanishes & it is up to his young friends to discover the secrets that led to his disappearance.

It’s here that the game of D&D in the show’s opening begins to show its importance. It not only introduces us to each character’s role within the group, but becomes a fundamental metaphor for the way the story unfolds & the actions the characters take over the course of the series.

Following Will’s disappearance, the show begins to shift its focus to the adult characters in the series. Primarily Sherriff Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour) and Will’s mother Joyce Byers (played by Winona Ryder.) These two actors bring incredible realism & empathy to their characters & are truly superb in their respective roles.

Sherriff Jim Hopper is written like every great Stephen King-eque small town Sherriff. (‘Salems Lot, Super 8, Needful Things) He’s an intelligent and honorable, yet flawed man w/a tragic past. He’s grouchy and rough around the edges, yet unmistakably kind and compassionate for those around him. He secretly copes with his past tragedies with the abuse of drugs and alcohol. All the while maintaining the illusion of a well-put-together Sherriff by day. David Harbour portrays this archetype beautifully as he begins to put the first pieces of the mystery together in the morning after Will’s disappearance. The subtle nuance of his wit and the clever yet understated way in which we see the character working out the details of what actually happened to Will is quite convincing.

Joyce Byers is an excellently crafted, powerful and driven character. She symbolizes so many mothers I knew growing up who were working two jobs and raising a family with no help from a father who had long since left the picture. She relies, perhaps a bit too much, on her oldest son Jonathan (played by Charlie Heaton) to make sure the household runs smoothly and her youngest Will is being looked after. When she awakes in the morning to discover Will did not return home the night before she becomes naturally upset & concerned over his whereabouts before calling Mike’s mother and eventually visiting the Sherriff’s office.

Winona Ryder’s performance is equally mesmerizing. She portrays the character honestly and passionately, truly bringing home to roost the fears of adults everywhere at the prospect of their child being abducted. As the story progresses and it becomes clear to Joyce that something unnatural has happened to her child, Ms. Ryder’s performance reaches new heights as she desperately tries to maintain her wits and deal with the raw emotions that come from being so certain about this strange truth while surrounded by disbelievers.

The closing moments of the show feature Mike, Dustin & Lucas searching frantically for there friend during a driving rainstorm in the towns local woods. The snapping of twigs and rustle of bushes can be heard as the boys fearfully and frantically shine their flashlights around in a desperate attempt to discover the source of the sounds. It is here we are introduced to Eleven: the shows primary protagonist and other-worldly little girl. I won’t spoil the details of the characters unusual behavior. However, just know she becomes an integral part of the story and a key tool in unraveling the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Will Byers.

All and all, this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in some time. It’s smart, (mostly) perfectly written, and is headlined by a cast of extremely talented actors who bring gritty realism and honesty to a story that blurs the lines between fantasy and horror.

If you enjoy storytellers and genre visionaries like Stephen King, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Tom Savini & Steven Spielberg, you will no-doubt become quickly engrossed in the story. It’s a narrative filled with action, adventure, horror, mystery, suspense and fantasy all wrapped up in a cozy blanket of nostalgia that dares you not to binge watch the entire series.

Simply put, I love it.

 

Ray’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
2) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season One, Episode 5)
3) Marvel’s Luke Cage, “Step in the Arena” (Season One, Episode 4)
4) Stranger Things, “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly” (Season One, Episode 3)
5) Better Call Saul, “Nailed” (Season Two, Episode 9)
6) Better Call Saul, “Switch” (Season Two, Episode 1)
7) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season One, Episode 1)
8) Silicon Valley, “The Empty Chair” (Season Three, Episode 5)
9) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9)
10) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5)

 

This is Us – “Pilgrim Rick”

(Season One, Episode 8)

This is Us best of

By Victoria Disque

In a sea of suspicious robots and telepathic children, true crime and fictional murders, This is Us has been a welcome and refreshing addition to my TV line-up this year. What was originally promoted as a look into the lives of random 30-somethings connected by a shared birthday, then threw audiences for a loop when it was revealed that the characters were actually related and being viewed decades apart. What This is Us does, and does well, is balance realistic and often heartbreaking drama with an almost unrealistically perfect family fantasy. Milo Ventimiglia is a standout as Jack, the Pearson family patriarch. Every word out of Jack’s mouth might as well be an acceptance speech for the World’s Best Father award. While I’ve never seen a better performance from Mandy Moore, and while Randall’s storyline with his biological father is probably the show’s best, Jack is the glue that binds everything.

Case in point: in “Pilgrim Rick,” we learn that year after year, the grown Pearson children recreate the Thanksgiving they shared with their parents when they were nine-years-old. In 1987, after a flat tire leaves them stranded, the family hikes 3.4 miles to the nearest gas station, only to find that their tire won’t be fixed that night. The family buys cold hotdogs and checks into a nearby motel, where the furnace is broken and the front desk worker, Rick, bizarrely insists that he is an actual pilgrim. Sensing his wife and children are in for a miserably hot and disappointing night, Jack salvages the situation by stealing Pilgrim Rick’s hat and a copy of Police Academy 3, and creates a picnic of cheese dogs roasted in the open flame of the broken furnace. By the time the parents and children are drifting off to sleep in a small full sized bed, 9-year-old Randall flips his earlier opinion of never wanting to celebrate the holiday when he’s grown to wanting this exact Thanksgiving every year. Moral of the story? There is no bad situation Jack can’t fix.

 

Victoria’s Top 10 Episodes of 2016

1) Westworld, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (Season One, Episode 9)
2) This is Us, “Pilgrim Rick” (Season One, Episode 8)
3) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season One, Episode 5)
4) American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” (Season One, Episode 6)
5) Silicon Valley, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” (Season Three, Episode 3)
6) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4)
7) How to Get Away with Murder, “Who’s Dead?” (Season Three, Episode 9)
8) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “Donald Trump” (Season Three, Episode 3)
9) Jane the Virgin, “Chapter Forty-Four” (Season Two, Episode 22)
10) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season One, Episode 1)

 

Westworld – “Tompe L’Oeil”

(Season One, Episode 7)

Westworld best of

By Ryan Lugar

The review reveals a plot twist that occurs in Episode 7.

Westworld is weird. It started off with such a bang of mystery, and flat lined on the audience hard. The mystique of this new world and stories vanished once we realized the hosts get killed and raped each day, wake up the next day with no memory of it, and then do it all over again. The classic rinse and repeat. A love story between hosts doesn’t matter because the story has already been told before. So, after the initial episode and flare vanished, the stories that were deemed important to the show moving forward were found outside the park’s narratives with Ford, Bernard, Teresa, and the rest of the staff. In short, Ford seemed evil, Bernard always trying to see both sides of the spectrum, and Teresa being straight business.

“Tompe L’Oeil” is the episode that resurected the fans from the dead and gave us life back into the season. FINALLY, the plot twist we’ve been waiting for and feel like we deserve.

Teresa is trying to push Ford out because she and the board of directors of the park feel that his time to retire is now and they need to commercialize the park more. Ford, aka Hanibal Lector, sees things differently. He doesn’t want to leave and wants to push his new, crazy narrative forward without letting the board (and audience) know what the narrative even is! As a fan of the show, and probably a board member in the show, this can be quite frustrating. Only getting glimpes of what is to come. However, it’s this montra that makes Westworld so addicting so we don’t care and keep asking for more.

Teresa and Charlotte (over-confident board member) set up a showing of a host that is malfunctioning and put the blame on both Bernard and Ford. Bernard, as the Head Engineer, is fired on the spot and the board tells Ford that it’s his time to retire. So Ford (LET’S NOT FORGET THIS IS HANNIBAL LECTOR), calmly takes this huge news, slitters at them, and him and Bernard exit. At this point, the board is estatic. They did it! Not only did they get full engineering control by having Bernard fired, they successfully forced Ford to step down. It’s a two-fer!! But it was easy, too easy…

At the end of the episode Bernard takes Teresa to Sector 17, a hidden lab in the park’s grounds. He thinks this is something new he discovered and wants to show his lover/co-worker/ex-co-worker Teresa. This is when shit hits the fan.

BOOM! Teresa finds blueprints revealing that Bernard is actually a freakin’ host!

BOOM! Ford (HANNIBAL LECTOR) comes out of nowhere, slittering as he enters, and informs Teresa that he has no plans of stepping down and that she can shove it up her ass.

BOOM! Bernard, under the control of Ford, murders Teresa!

What?!?!?

After five boring episodes they drop this bombshell on us in the last ten minutes of the episode. I repeat, WHAT?!?! Not only is this a huge turning point in the show’s (not park’s) narrative, it makes us question everything we’ve ever seen while watching the show. Who is a host? Who is real? It’s revelations like this that make fans go back and rewatch episodes to see what they missed in plain sight. And it was this twist that gave the rest of the season life because you no longer know who is a human and who is a host. And if someone is a host and not a human, who is to say they’re not real? This huge plot twist made those five boring episodes fully worth it and showed us that we aren’t as smart as the show, even if Reddit thinks it is.

 

P.S. PSA: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEORIZING AND BEING A TELEVISION SHOW DETECTIVE. Exposing every small detail of the show doesn’t make you smart; it makes you a jackass for the simple weekly observer who enjoys the element of surprise and doesn’t spend every waking moment trying to find hidden meanings behind mundane dialogue in the show. This show created a whole new orb of television show detectives, and I can’t wait for Season Two when shit gets real (SAMURAI ROBOTS) and those detectives go back to spoiling a different show.

 

Ryan’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) Atlanta, “Nobody Beets the Biebs” (Season One, Episode 5)
2) You’re the Worst, “Twenty-Two” (Season Three, Episode 5)
3) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9) (Bullshit ending)
4) Vice Principals, “A Trusty Steed” (Season One, Episode 2)
5) Atlanta, “Juneteenth” (Season One, Episode 9)
6) South Park, “Wieners Out” (Season Twenty, Episode 4)
7) Westworld, “Trompe L’Oeil” (Season One, Episode 7)
8) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8)
9) Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man” (Season Six, Episode 7)
10) Saturday Night Live, “Dave Chappelle / A Tribe Called Quest” (Season Forty-Two, Episode 6)

 

The X-Files – “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”

(Season Ten, Episode 3)

X-Files best of

By Samantha Tilmans

So often, the fans of a show have a love so strong they can bring it back to life. Firefly still hasn’t gotten the series that its fans want, but it did get Serenity. Gilmore Girls came back for a few episodes on Netflix this year. Next year, Twin Peaks will have its first new episodes after 26 years – 25 if you count the movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated revivals was that of The X-Files this year. The last time we saw FBI Special Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), they were in the 2008 film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe and, before that, The X-Files series finale in 2002, which ended after nine seasons.

We get so wrapped up in the idea that we can revive a show, we don’t consider whether we should.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE The X-Files. When the first of the six new episodes aired on January 24, I was there on my couch wearing an X-Files shirt, drinking out of my “I Want to Believe” mug, with a piece of art depicting Dana Scully hanging over my television. Yet, four of those six new episodes really let me down for a myriad of reasons, including Islamophobia, regurgitating a monster-of-the-week from a good older episode, and the mythology making no sense. But in the muck that was, mostly, the X-Files 2016 limited series, there was one shining jewel: “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.”

The episode revolves around Mulder realizing that, in the years that have passed, there are less mysteries to investigate than there used to be, and that maybe his life’s work has been a waste. Scully drags him out on a case where a strange creature is reported to have killed several people in the woods of Oregon. Reflection – and weirdness – follows.

David Duchovny, as Mulder, gets in some good comedic bits, one of my favorites being an instance where he apparently doesn’t know how to use a smartphone’s camera. He’s goofy but he also looks tired – he’s a man coping with change. Gillian Anderson is a delight and even though she isn’t onscreen as much as Duchovny, she gets some great lines of dialogue this episode and gets to be funny, which is seems rare for her character, and I love it. It looks like she enjoyed herself while filming it. The supporting cast includes the wonderful and goofy Rhys Darby as Guy Mann – a.k.a. the titular “Were-Monster,” celebrity “X-Phile” Kumail Nanjiani as an animal control officer who needs to reevaluate his life, and in the cold open we get Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker reprising their roles as stoners previously seen in two other X-Files episodes, “Quagmire” and “War of the Coprophages.”

“Were-Monster” has greatness in its DNA – it’s written and directed by Darin Morgan, who is also the writer responsible for some of The X-Files’ best episodes, including the previously mentioned “War of the Coprophages,” “Humbug” – one of my favorites, and the Emmy-winning “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” His episodes tend to play with storytelling, include unreliable narrators, provide a reflection of society/humanity, and usually make Mulder look like a doofus. There’s no exception to that here.

A huge theme of The X-Files as a series is venturing into the unknown – mostly in the form of isolated small towns and in the creeping of civilization into the wilderness, and what lurks there, ready to bite back. In the case of “Were-Monster”, it’s heavily represented in Mulder and Scully’s seedy motel with its creepy manager, the isolated truck stop by a large cornfield, and the forest where stoners go to get high. Morgan has fun with this trope as well, having Guy Mann/The Were-Monster become a part of civilization against his will, and have the ability to voice his experience, where in most cases of X-Files episodes, the antagonist-of-the-week does not speak and leaves a trail of bodies in its wake. It’s an interesting change to the formula, and makes it a lot of fun. The episode is also a commentary on what it means to be a modern human – our daily routines and habits, our society’s push to conform, our relationships with our pets. Guy Mann doesn’t know or understand it, and to an extent, do we? Are we more or less monsters than what is lurking in the darkness?

I would say “Were-Monster” is an episode any non-fan of The X-Files could watch and enjoy. There’s plenty of Scooby-Doo-esque visual gags, physical comedy, and witty dialogue. There’s no mythology to worry about, just a simple, silly, monster-of-the-week episode. However, I personally wouldn’t make this an introductory episode to new viewers, because this episode feels like it’s for the fans. There are little tributes to the late director Kim Manners and assistant director Jack Hardy, there’s a gag involving Mulder’s character traits, references to Moby Dick, and there’s a joke about the theory that Scully is immortal. It’s a love letter to the series and its fans. For me, it was like being welcomed again by the outstretched arms of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, as if maybe that original series finale and that second movie never happened. It’s the X-Files at its best.

All in all, “Were-Monster” is a reflection on the series itself. Time has passed, technology has updated, and Mulder is despairing at the mysteries that have been solved in his absence. He feels obsolete. He wants to believe there’s still more out there to be found, and though he gets what he is looking for in Guy Mann/the Were-Monster, it doesn’t change that the rest of the world has moved on. We, the audience, have grown up. Mulder and Scully have aged, too. There’s several references in the episode that we, like Mulder, should let go – almost as if saying this whole revival probably shouldn’t have happened… but I’m still glad it did, if only for “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.”

 

Samantha’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) The X-Files, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (Season Ten, Episode 3)
2) Stranger Things, “Chapter Three: Holly Jolly” (Season One, Episode 3)
3) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4)
4) Bob’s Burgers, “The Last Gingerbread House on the Left” (Season Seven, Episode 7)
5) Gravity Falls, “Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back the Falls” (Season Two, Episode 20) Can I tell you how sad I am that Gravity Falls is over? And that it’s probably a good thing this was the only episode to air in 2016, otherwise I don’t know which episode I would choose for this list?
6) Broad City, “Two Chainz” (Season Three, Episode 1)
7) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1)
8) BoJack Horseman, “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” (Season Three, Episode 6)
9) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Kidnaps Gretchen!” (Season Two, Episode 4)
10) Orange is the New Black, “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again” (Season Four, Episode 13)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “House Mouses,” Halloween IV,” and “Monster in the Closet,”
  • Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down”
  • Bob’s Burgers, “House of 1000 Bounces” and “Stand By Gene”
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Goes Roller Skating!” and “Kimmy Meets a Drunk Lady!”
  • Lady Dynamite, “Jack and Diane”
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Where is Josh’s Friend?”
  • Orphan Black, “The Collapse of Nature”

 

You’re the Worst – “The Inherent, Unsullied Qualitative Value of Anything”

(Season Three, Episode 11)

You're the Worst best of

By Molly Raker

Warning: My review won’t be as smart and funny as this show and it will spoil things about the show. [Editor’s note: Molly did a good job!]

How have I not watch this show until this year? What was I thinking? If you have the same questions I highly recommend going to Hulu and FX Now and watching all three seasons RIGHT NOW. I binged the first two seasons before the third season started and it was the best decision of my life (not really but close).

SPOILER ALERT!

In Season Three, we hit some lows in all the character relationships and it all comes to a turning point in Episode 11, which is my favorite of this year (Westworld and Game of Thrones can take their special effects and shove it). I’ll take smart and funny storytelling over mystery and violence any day but anyway, on to the episode and why I loved it.

This episode is the aftermath of Jimmy’s tree house epiphany, an abo-bo and a career opportunity – all three of these affect the characters romantic relationships, which come to light in this episode. What I love most about this episode is the camera work, after the opening credits roll (and a commercial break) we are on a journey through a “continuous shot” through a wedding. We follow the servers and stop by our characters once they pass. I loved this daring technique – for a comedy- as camera cuts help with comedic relief, as we saw in the opening in the episode, but by doing this we feel the raw emotion everyone is going through which is important for this episode.

In this episode, we see Jimmy evaluate everything in his life to ensure he wasn’t just enjoying it because his father would disagree or had an influence. From his clothes, décor and even Gretchen. So Jimmy creates a secret pro/con list about her and of course, she needs to get her hands on it. What she thought might help her, the revelation from both their con list is a gut-wrenching scene. The expression on both those faces is perfect and makes really feel what they are feeling. Jimmy has the best facial expression (he’s my favorite). We also see some parallel shots from the pilot. We see Gretchen and Jimmy in similar attire and positions as in the pilot when they are leaving another wedding. That event led to relationship but could this lead to their downfall. I love it when a show pays close attention to the details to tell a story.

As for the supporting characters, Lindsay is finally going to make the step she should’ve done when she met Paul. Edgar is seeing some success but unfortunately doesn’t have the support system he needs with a girlfriend. These are two characters who always have the best lines (mainly Lindsay) and they are both finally trying to grow up.

The name of the show is You’re the Worst so there is going to be some bad decisions and scenarios. The show handles them very well; they have reasoning behind every decision and don’t gloss it over. We saw this last season and we saw it this season with the abortion and more on PTSD. The handling of the abortion was heartbreaking (for Paul) but you understood why she was doing it. This has been a popular subject area in shows that I watched (Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin). Let’s just hope this spilt from Paul sticks but he deserves better.

All in all the show is called You’re the Worst but there’s nothing awful about this show.

The episode was just missing some prepared wedding heckles.

 

Molly’s Top 10 TV Episodes of 2016

1) You’re the Worst, “The Inherent, Unsullied Qualitative Value of Anything” (Season Three, Episode 11)
2) Veep, “Kissing Your Sister” (Season Five, Episode 9)
3) Catastrophe, “Episode Three” (Season Two, Episode 3)
4) Westworld, “The Well Tempered Clavier” (Season One, Episode 9)
5) Atlanta, “The Streisand Effect” (Season One, Episode 4)
6) Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man” (Season Six, Episode 7)
7) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “Paula Needs to Get Over Josh!” (Season One, Episode 18)
8) Outlander, “Faith” (Season Two, Episode 7)
9) Difficult People, “Hashtag Cats” (Season Two, Episode 8)
10) The Crown, “Wolferton Splash” (Season One, Episode 1)

 

 

The Group’s Top 10 List

Battle of the Bastards best of

Using a simple point system where a person’s #1 pick gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on, here are the Top 10 Episodes of 2016 that received the most points from the 30 Top 10 lists

1) Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season Six, Episode 9) 73 points
2) Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Season One, Episode 1) 55 points
3) Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (Season Three, Episode 4) 52 points
4) Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season Six, Episode 10) 50 points
5) BoJack Horseman, “Fish Out of Water” (Season Three, Episode 4) 43 points
6) Game of Thrones, “The Door” (Season Six, Episode 5) 42 points
7) Stranger Things, “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Season One, Episode 8) 37 points
8) Stranger Things, “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Season One, Episode 5) 28 points
9) Westworld, “The Original” (Season One, Episode 1) 26 points
10) The Night Of, “The Beach” (Season One, Episode 1) 20 points, tie
10) Stranger Things, “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly” (Season One, Episode 3) 20 points, tie

 

  • 102 different shows were on a Top 10 list. (20 more than last year)
  • 32 of those shows first premired in 2016. (5 more than last year)
  • 195 different episodes were on a Top 10 list. (4 more than last year)
  • “Battle of the Bastards” was on 12 different Top 10 lists.
  • All 8 episodes of Stranger Things were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/6 episodes of Black Mirror were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/6 episodes of The Night Manager were on a Top 10 list.
  • 6/10 episodes of Atlanta were on a Top 10 list.
  • 5/10 episodes of Westworld were on a Top 10 list.
  • 3/6 episodes of Happy Valley were on a Top 10 list.
  • 2/4 episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/10 episodes of The Crown were on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/10 episodes of Game of Thrones were on a Top 10 list.
  • 2/6 episodes of Catastrophe were on a Top 10 list.