This is the fourth year writing these silly TV articles and they are some of my favorite things to work on every year. In the previous one, it’s just me ranting about a ton of great shows. This one is easily more fascinating each and every time. Why? It’s because my friends are fascinating.

Critic polls always are a great way to look at a year of art but they are limited by the fact they all are critics. That is what their perspective is. TV is a medium that everybody watches and has an opinion on. Since there are so many installments of a show and so much time is devoted towards the story and characters, everyone is a little bit of a critic as they decide whether they should keep going or not.

Every year I’ve increased the number of people I have writing in this because I’m greedy. I want to read more and more thoughts about what is exciting my friends. So this year I do have some excellent film critics, but I also have lawyers and news producers and video editors and actors and directors and students and marketing experts. I have people who work at a film festival. I have people who work in Spain. I have people who work in sports, in advertising, in publishing and for colleges and nursing homes. I have writers who write about cowboys and skeletons and fools. What connects them all—besides their regret about having me as a friend—is their love for art.

So without further ado, here are everyone’s Top Episodes of 2014!

 

The Americans – “Echo”

(Season Two, Episode 13)

By Nick Rogers

Editor’s note: There are spoilers for the dramatic reveal featured at the end of the second season in the second paragraph. If you don’t wish to be spoiled skip ahead.

The second-season finale of The Americans — cable’s best current series never nominated for a meaningful Emmy — climaxes with a long reveal. Perhaps it’s a tad too long for the usual badge-of-honor believability of the show, which follows Philip and Elizabeth, married undercover KGB agents undermining 1980s America from inside and played by the astonishingly versatile Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.

Jared, a mortally wounded teen whom we thought cruelly orphaned by a rogue element, reveals that he killed his KGB-operative parents. He retaliated for their rejection of his decision to become a second-generation spy, made after a lithe, comely female KGB agent lured him. Later, we learn this insidious KGB initiative has its sights set on Philip and Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, Paige.

This atypical rush of exposition hardly matters when it so beautifully crystallizes the (sometimes overly) slow burn of themes that dominated the season’s other two best episodes: “Behind the Red Door,” in which Elizabeth demands Philip make love to her like his married alter ego “Clark” to destructive ends; and “New Car,” in which America’s unfettered confidence wilts Philip’s own greener-grass curiosity about iconic American culture.

It’s easy for Philip and Elizabeth to be themselves seduced by sexual health, a sense of supremacy and their comparative ease of life in America. So subsidized by suburbia was their confidence in the first season that they actually fell in love, much to their surprise. But the second-season focus on their parenting showed just how vulnerable softening the edges of their sharpened ideals has made them.

“Echo’s” closing moments suggest three horrifying possibilities. The first is the ultimate worry of any parent, let alone one using children as cover: Will the worst of us manifest itself in them? The second is the idea that their Russian handlers know Paige better than they do, that the KGB suspected Paige’s rebellious streak, so well developed over the last two seasons, would need an outlet — a violent one.

Finally, the episode’s closing scene pulls the rug out from under Philip and Elizabeth’s reconnection. When she says, “She’s our daughter,” it’s not a rejoinder to Russia. It rejects Philip’s insistence that Paige be shielded from Russian influence. “Is that so horrible?” she asks, “To be like us?” As he sits for dinner, Philip barely recognizes the woman with whom he’s come to share much more than a mission.

While driving a larger wedge between Philip and Elizabeth, “Echo” also exhibits all of the series’ enjoyable surface pleasures. There are the pornstache-and-ponytail disguises, perfect 1980s music cues (Twilight Zone here) and lively wit (“If I had to hear any more about nonviolent resistance, I was going to punch her in the face”). Then, a total command of the B-plot (a stern Fed’s longstanding affair with a KGB seductress undone less by patriotism than by male pride), enough to keep the C-plot juicy (as “Clark’s” wife’s new gun foreshadows discovery of his deception), and a judicious body count that hits home (four onscreen and another strongly inferred).

It may seem an easy, well-traveled out for a third season of The Americans to follow Paige into her family’s treacherous tradecraft. But there’s every confidence it will do so with a unique, unsettling and unforgettable deconstruction of identity and ideology that makes it one of TV’s boldest endeavors.

 

Nick’s Top 11* TV Episodes of 2014 (besides “Echo”)

1) True Detective, “Form and Void” (Season One, Episode Eight)
2) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode Three)
3) The Leftovers, “Guest” (Season One, Episode Six)
4) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21 and 22)
5) Homeland, “There’s Something Else Going On” (Season Four, Episode Nine)
6) Review, “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes” (Season One, Episode Three)
7) Hannibal, “Takiawase” (Season Two, Episode Four)
8) Mad Men, “The Strategy” (Season Seven, Episode Six)
9) Louie, “So Did the Fat Lady” (Season Four, Episode Three)
10) Arrow, “Seeing Red” (Season Two, Episode 20)

11) Veep, “Crate” (Season Three, Episode Nine)

* Cut me a break for stretching the format. TV was so good this year, I could have easily done a 20-episode list.

Additional 2014 TV Awards from Nick Rogers

MOST IMPROVED SERIES: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

MOST UNEXPECTEDLY VIBRANT NOSTALGIA: “24: Live Another Day”

MOST MERCILESSLY CUT DOWN JUST AS IT GOT INTERESTING: “Legit”

STRONGEST START, OK-EST FINISH TO A PRESTIGE SERIES: “Fargo”

MOST DISAPPOINTING RELATIVE TO ITS PAST GREATNESS: “Justified”

BEST NEW BROADCAST SERIES: “The Flash”

BEST NEW CABLE SERIES: “Review”

BEST NEW PAY-CABLE SERIES: “The Leftovers”

WORST EPISODE OF A SHOW I LOVE: Arrow, “Guilty” (Season Three, Episode Six)

FIVE SHOWS I WISH I’D SEEN THIS YEAR: “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Knick,” “Nathan For You,” “Rectify,” “Transparent”

 

Arrow – “The Brave and the Bold”

(Season Three, Episode 8)

Arrow

By Evan Dossey

Arrow isn’t just an example of a superhero show that gets it right, it’s an example of one that has worked extremely hard to do so. The first season was fairly average for superheroes on network television; while filled with famous characters and scenarios, it still reeked of CW-standard plotting and a very questionable approach to violence. Season Two, however, almost immediately launched the show into a new trajectory. Oliver Queen (Steven Amell) was now doing his best to be a hero, rather than a murderous vigilante. His supporting cast was bolstered by the Canary (Caity Lotz) and Roy Harper (Colton Hayes), and a larger for his eyes in the sky, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Arrow went from a straightforward revenge fantasy to a full-fledged superhero team-up show each week, and it did wonders for the show’s overall storytelling, which was given a more serialized approach thanks to the appearance of season-long villain Deathstroke (Manu Bennet). Season Two also saw the introduction of Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, whose performance earned him a spinoff in the form of The Flash.

Thanks to the Season Two course-correct, Season Three has taken the characters to interesting new places. After the death of one of their number, most of the Arrow team has been scrambling to figure out where they fit as heroes in a new, more dangerous world. Roy deals with the fallout of mistakes he can’t remember; Felicity and Oliver wonder if they can have normal lives outside of their mission; Diggle welcomes a child. Season Three also introduces a new villain in the form of Ra’s Al Guhl (Andy Poon), better known as a chief antagonist of Batman, here performing most of his signature moves on a slightly less A-List hero.

In “The Brave and the Bold,” Ollie & Co. receive a little help from the cast of The Flash, who show up in Starling City to help track down a killer. While a cross-over may seem an odd pick for best episode, it’s a credit to writers Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg that it functions as a perfect piece of the Arrow Season Three narrative. It’s a breather, a moment for team Arrow to look at themselves through the eyes of a lighter, more happy-go-lucky outlook on life. Season Three of Arrow has been a lot of soul-searching, and working alongside The Flash allows Oliver Queen to find a bit of himself again, to remember what he stands for. In the meantime, the snappy dialog allows the characters to poke fun at each other’s respective universes, a classic staple of the superhero cross-over.

 

Evan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Arrow, “The Braev and the Bold” (Season Three, Episode 8)

2) Doctor Who, “Dark Water” (Season Eight, Episode 11)

3) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4)

4) Adventure Time, “Wake Up” (Season Six, Episode 1)

5) The Flash, “Flash vs. Arrow (Season One, Episode

6) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

7) Hannibal, “Tome-Wan” (Season Two, Episode 12)

8) Mad Men, “Waterloo” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

9) Adventure Time, “Little Brother” (Season Six, Episode 11)

10) Arrow, “Suicide Squad” (Season Two, Episode 16)

 

Black Mirror – “White Christmas)

(2014 Christmas Special)

Black Mirror

By Austin Lugar

I was so happy when Black Mirror appeared on Netflix this month. It’s one of the best shows on the air but it was so underseen by Americans because it was only available through DirectTV or by…magic. It is a dark anthology show that examines the way we use technology. The criticism isn’t on the technology itself but our relationship to it. Thanks to the nature of the anthology, it can be any kind of show in any episode. In the six previous it has ranged from unnerving realism of the modern day to science-fiction dystopia set in the far future.

“White Christmas” is somewhere between those times. In their first feature length episode, Black Mirror decided to go in a really bold direction. It begins in a small cabin isolate in a winter storm. Two men (Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall) appear to have been there for five years for an assignment but they never speak to each other. In the Christmas spirit, they decide to open up about what sent them to this punishing job. The stories they tell perfectly fit into the grim Black Mirror world where inventions seem fantastical but could easily be developed within the next five years.

So much of the show’s brilliance is the discovery process. Even though I figured out some of the twists a beat before the characters did, didn’t make them any less soul-crushing. I won’t say anything about the stories that are weaved together in this episode; I’ll just leave you with that confusing image I picked. The world they inhabit can easily turn from leisurely convenient to some of the most horrifying concepts I could ever imagine within a few seconds.

I was bummed there wasn’t a full season of the show this year but if Charlie Brooker needed that time to craft a script so perfectly structured with so much to analyze and shock and (I’m using the word again) horrify, by all means take as long as you want. This is perhaps my favorite episode of Black Mirror because of how deeply it affected me. An episode has power if it changes the way you look at what you didn’t notice has crept into your life and you’re not sure what to do about it.

Merry Christmas!

 

Austin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014 

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

2) Black Mirror, “White Christmas” (2014 Christmas Special)

3) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two , Episode 4)

4) The Leftovers, “Guest” (Season One, Episode 6)

5) Masters of Sex, “Fight” (Season Two, Episode 3)

6) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5)

7) Mad Men, “Waterloo” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

8) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 4)

9) Nathan For You, “Dumb Starbucks” (Season Two, Episode 5)

10) Inside No. 9, “A Quiet Night In” (Season One, Episode 2)

 

Honorable Mentions – The Americans’s “Echo”, Bob’s Burgers’ “The Equestranauts”, Doctor Who’s “Listen”, Fargo’s “A Fox, A Rabbit and a Cabbage”, Girls’ “Dead Inside”, The Good Wife’s “The Last Call”, Hannibal’s “Mukozuke”, hitRECord on TV’s “Re: One”, The Leftovers’ “Two Boats and a Helicopter”, Mad Men’s “The Strategy”, Orange is the New Black’s “We Have Manners. We’re Polite.”, Outlander’s “The Wedding”, Rectify’s “Unhinged”, Rev.’s “Episode 6”, Review’s “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes”, Ricky and Morty’s “Rixty Minutes” and Sherlock’s “The Sign of Three”

 

BoJack Horseman – “Later”

(Season One, Episode 12)

BoJack Horseman

By Dennis Sullivan

I’m going to get the easiest joke out of the way first. BoJack Horseman, who is half-man and half-horse, could have easily have been played by Sarah Jessica Parker.

And now that that’s out of the way, BoJack Horseman is a seriously great piece of television. Netflix once again produced something refreshingly original that far surpassed expectations. I tried watching the show once, but couldn’t get past the first episode. Luckily, I gave it a second shot and ended up binge-watching the entire show in a weekend. While the show seems like another generic Adult Swim cartoon in which animals act like humans, it quickly becomes so much more. The show dives into the deep, dark waters of depression for a serious moment before switching gears to some hilarious slapstick comedy. They walk a fine a line between too much and not enough, but they walk the line beautifully.

And the magic doesn’t stop with BoJack. This world is filled with a literally colorful cast of characters, many of which also get fleshed/furred/scaled out into more than just one-dimensional beings. The writing is witty. The plot is intriguing. And the gags are laugh out loud funny. If you haven’t checked it out yet, get prepared for greatness.

It was difficult to select just one episode of BoJack. The show is similar to other Netflix shows in that it was created for binging purposes. Jokes and storylines are set up in early episodes and have great payoffs in later on, but BoJack adds another layer to this mix. The show follows the progression of BoJack’s ghostwriter learning about his life. Just like their early interviews, the season begins light and not very emotionally deep. However, as the ghostwriter bonds with BoJack, they begin to explore complex elements of his personality and the show starts to tug at the heart strings. The humor is not lost at all, but it makes for a much more rewarding experience. This is why I selected the finale of the show. It’s just as good as the rest of the episodes, but this one is an epilogue of sorts where the conflict from the season is addressed (and just like real life, not easily resolved) and sets up Season Two beautifully. It succeeds as a finale because it leaves the viewer wanting more. And I cannot wait for Season Two.

 

Dennis’ Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All Life” (Season One, Episode 5)

2) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13)

3) Inside No. 9, “A Quiet Night In” (Season One, Episode 2)

4) Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper” (Season Four, Episode 8)

5) BoJack Horseman, “Later” (Season One, Episode 12)

6) Fargo, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9)

7) Nathan For You, “Dumb Starbucks” (Season Two, Episode 5)

8) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5)

9) The Colbert Report, “Grimmy” (Episode 1447)

10) Top Gear, “Burma Special” (Season Twenty-One, Episodes 6/7)

 

Broad City – “The Lockout”

(Season One, Episode 4)

Broad City

By Rachael Clark

Broad City is one of those series where I ended up watching the entire season in one day. Every episode was fantastic and quirky, but the one that had me laughing out loud until the very end was “The Lockout.” Abbi and Ilana are locked out each other’s apartments and find themselves homeless for the day all while trying to get Abbi cleaned up and ready for her first art gallery show. They attempted to get into Ilana’s apartment thanks to a creepy locksmith, but they felt so uncomfortable with him knowing where she lived, Ilana gave him a fake name and had him open her neighbor’s apartment instead of hers. Of course timing is everything and within two minutes of them inside the apartment, the neighbors return home and spray mace in Abbi and Ilana’s faces. The rest of the episode they are running all over New York City with spray-maced faces and comedically large bags from Beth, Bath, and Beyond. (Ilana wants to turn her room into a walk-in closet, but then she realizes she would be closeted. HA!) Towards the end of the episode we discover that Abbi’s first art show is in a (vegan) sandwich shop. She considers it an art show because, “after 8 so many people put their laptops away, it can be considered an art gallery.” Just another day in the life of Abbi and Ilana.

This is a show about two confident young women who are enjoying and exploring life with each other. Abbi and Ilana are drastically different people and you wonder how they ever became friends. They have different personalities, styles, outlooks on life, and whatever else you can imagine. As a viewer you come to realize they understand and complement each other so well. They are the most important people in each other’s lives at this time and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

FYI Season Two starts in a month and I cannot wait!

 

Rachael’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men” (Season Four, Episode 6)

2) Orange is the New Black, “You Also Have a Pizza” (Season Two, Episode 6)

3) Broad City, “The Lockout” (Season One, Episode 4)

4) Veep, “Debate” (Season Three, Episode 8)

5) Community, “Geothermal Escapism” (Season Five, Episode 5)

6) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 4)

7) Doctor Who, “Deep Breath” (Season Eight, Episode 1)

8) The Legend of Korra, “Enter the Void” (Season Three, Episode 12)

9) Bob’s Burgers, “Turkey in a Can” (Season Four, Episode 5)

10) Parks and Recreation, “Doppelgangers” (Season Six, Episode 4)

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Mole”

(Season Two, Episode 5)

Brooklyn Nine Nine

By Molly Raker

A lot of people want to punch Andy Samberg in the face. This is the common response I get when I tell people I watch Brooklyn Nine Nine to then I respond with it’s hilarious and Andy’s character gets punched in the face. Will that make you watch it? This show also offers so many other fantastic actors and characters; this show introduced me to Chelsea Peretti and her awesome dance moves.

This “office” comedy started its run in 2013 and had a rocky start but then coming into 2014 it hit its stride and then even come back stronger with its second season. It gave us one of my favorites “will they won’t they” relationship and a great game called Kwazy Cupcakes. They have running plots, like the Halloween prank, the Pontiac bandit and Giggle Pig. It was hard to pick one episode because each episode as they all bring it, (especially the second season) but I had to go with ‘The Mole’ as this clearly showcases the comedic genius of Andy and Andre as most of the episode they’re stuck in a room, which is a occurring theme for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Let’s for one second talk about the location, Brooklyn, where I live and love living. Conveniently the outside shot of the police building is in the neighborhood I live in Park Slope and another coincidence is Pawnee is based on a town I went to college. I’m predicting he makes his new TV show in Wisconsin, where I was born because he is obviously basing his location off my life

Essentially, who doesn’t love a dead pan Andre Bruaghner, also did I mention it won two Golden Globes, those mean a lot, well for this one show it does!

 

Molly’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Broad City, “Apartment Hunters” (Season One, Episode 9)

2) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

3) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Mole” (Season Two, Episode 5)

4) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

5) Fargo, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9)

6) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Good Men” (Season Four, Episode 6)

7) The Leftovers, “Cairo” (Season One, Episode 8)

8) Veep, “Clovis” (Season Three, Episode 4)

9) Doctor Who , “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

10) Mad Men, “The Runaways” (Season Seven, Episode 5)

Honorable Mentions

  • Parks and Recreation, “Filibuster” (Season Six, Episode 6)
  • The Affair, “7”, (Season One, Episode 7)
  • House of Cards, “Chapter 14” (Season Two, Episode 1)
  • Broad City, “The Lockout” (Season One, Episode 4)
  • Silicon Valley, “Optimal Tip to Tip Efficiency”

 

The Chair – “Movin’ On”

(Season One, Episode 6)

The Chair

By Ken Jones

Did you create the monster, or is it always there?

My favorite documentaries are ones that seem unassuming from the outside, but take dark turns as the story progresses. The ones that no one knew how dark they would be when they started planning it. The Chair is ten episodes of such unassuming darkness. As a former grunt in the filmmaking world, I have a certain love of watching other people go through the hell that is making films. I was already sold on watching people struggle making a film with very little money, but I had no idea for the wild ride I was getting into.

The Chair follows two first time directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, making a feature length movie based on the same source material. The director with the most popular movie gets $250,000. Will Shane win because of his built-in Youtube fanbase of 12 year old girls? Or will Anna win with her expertise in the film world, with things like story and characters? The suspense is killing me.

The Chair is split up into the normal production cycle: pre-production, production, and post-production. Episode 5 is the start of production, but Episode 6 is when I knew this show is something that will stick with me my entire life. The first four episodes build up a strong worry about how either movie will end up, but Episode 5 is strangely positive. But Episode 6 makes it clear everyone is doomed and this show will never get a Season Two (but maybe it will?). The episode also poses some fascinating questions. Is Zachary Quinto a robot? Is Shane Dawson in love with Youtube semi-celebrity and Richmond from The IT Crowd impersonating Drew Monson? Who on the show could eat the most pumpkin pies? Does Chris Moore daydream of making out with Pittsburgh? Like the whole city, not just the people. I’m afraid to say too much about this show because it is something that just needs to be experienced so all the absurd characters, who are somehow real people, are understood. Just watch it already.

 

Ken’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Black Mirror, “White Christmas” (2014 Christmas Special)

2) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men” (Season Four, Episode 6)

4) Doctor Who, “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

5) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 4)

6) Rick and Morty, “Ricksy Business” (Season One, Episode 11)

7) Bob’s Burgers, “The Equestranauts” (Season Four, Episode 17)

8) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up: Part 2” (Season Six, Episode 22)

9) Archer, “Archer Vice: Arrival/Departure” (Season Five, Episode 13)

10) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2)

 

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – “Standing Up in the Milky Way”

(Season One, Episode 1)

Cosmos

By Ray Martindale

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a beautiful re-imagining of the original 1980 Cosmos. Cosmos ASTO traverses the origins of the universe and human existence. In the pilot “Standing Up in the Milky Way” the audience is told the story of Giordano Bruno, a Dominican monk in Naples, who defied the Roman Catholic Church by publishing some of the first books that presented the idea of an infinite universe with other worlds and stars.

Through spectacular computer generated effects and beautiful animation we are shown the immense age of the universe. In a particular sequence the host, Neal deGrasse Tyson, breaks down the age of the cosmos into something more easily understood. He compresses the 13.8 billion year old history of the cosmos into a single calendar year. It begins on January 1st with the Big Bang and ends with the entirety of recorded human history occupying only the last 14 seconds of December 31st of the same year.

If you are interested in adventure, sci-fi, religion, history, science, or just good simple storytelling, then I highly recommend checking out Cosmos.

 

Ray’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Cosmos, “Standing Up in the Milky Way” (Season One, Episode 1)

2) The Walking Dead, “The Grove” (Season Four, Episode 14)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Watchers of the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9)

4) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5)

5) Doctor Who, “Mummy on the Orient Express” (Season Eight, Episode 8)

6) Fargo, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” (Season One, Episode 1)

7) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

8) House of Cards, “Chapter 22” (Season Two, Episode 9)

9) Black Mirror, “White Christmas” (2014 Christmas Special)

10) Rick and Morty, “Rick Potion #9” (Season One, Episode 6)

 

Doctor Who – “Mummy on the Orient Express”

(Season Eight, Episode 8)

Doctor Who

By Kevin Brown

Editor’s note: Kevin discusses a major scene that happened in the episode previous to this one. It is a not a major spoiler, but a significant plot point in the season.

Sharing your thoughts on Doctor Who is like writing an academic paper.  Whovians need a certain degree of background information before they determine if your opinion means anything at all.  They need to know your philosophy (Time travel should have consistent rules) your politics (Ten>Eleven>Nine) and your credentials (not versed in the classics, but filling in gaps with Amazon Prime.)

Now that I’ve established my perspective going into the Capaldi Era and plugged my favorite online streaming service, I can safely revert to fanboy mode to say: “OMG Season 8 was totez the best season yet!”

Got that out of my system.  While I’d love to rant and rave about how brilliantly the season-long narrative addressed themes of agency, authority, modernity, and intellectual detachment, for the sake of time, I’m going to focus in the best British Imperial Mummy-drama we’ve seen all year (sorry, Timothy Dalton).

“Mummy on the Orient Express” builds off the previous episode’s rift between The Doctor and Clara to start us off with a uniquely somber tone.  The backdrop is this:

Clara is out.  Her relationship with Danny is getting serious and her frustration with the Twelfth Doctor’s cold exterior has become overwhelming.  Unlike other companions, who have either blindly accepted The Doctor’s detachment, or naively taken it upon themselves to fix him, Clara accepts that her Doctor has seen too many wars, extinctions, and empires rise and fall, to feel the emotional weight of every little disaster.  That being said, she knows that she can’t be like him, and more importantly, she doesn’t want to.  So this is one last trip for the books, their Good-bye Trip.

And what first appears to be a nostalgic vacation through 19th Century Europe, the camera zooms out to reveal this Orient Express is a bit more… interstellar.  Yes, this whole episode takes place on a space train, decorated with a suave post-Victorian aesthetic.  As with any proper depiction of English colonialism, writer Jamie Mathieson offers up some signature dry wit, flawed Darwinian ethics, and a scary-ass mummy.

In a season that conceived a handful of great new alien menaces, “The Foretold” is arguably the most developed and intriguing.  It’s a remnant of a technologically advanced world, outlived by its own war-like ideologies.  It’s a program that, in the course of a minute, terrifies its victims “out of phase” with their reality, so it can essentially kill them with fear.  But it’s protecting something super-duper important, which I won’t spoil.

I also won’t spoil how The Doctor takes control and saves the day, but in terms of plot construction, it’s one of the show’s more genius conclusions.  This isn’t another fuse-with-your-hand-for-an-extra-life or btw-the-sonic-screwdriver-could-always-do-this kind of endings.  It’s a thoughtful and cohesive ethical narrative, with a resolution so deceptively simple that the audience should feel guilty for having subconsciously written it off themselves.

But this episode is playing a much deeper mind-game with its audience.  As this e-Mummy terrorizes passengers to death and the HAL-like conductor, Gus, politely explains that they’re all expendable because Science rules, the Doctor winds up in an environment that thinks exactly like him, but to an extreme.

Individual human lives are inconceivably small in the grand scheme of things, and at the end of day, all that matters is that we learn something from every experience.  That’s been The Doctor’s implied outlook for a while now.  Do his job for a millennium and it would have to be, right?   This episode reminds us why that line of thought is ultimately problematic.

And while The Doctor’s humanist take on the value of human life leaves us feeling refreshed, we can’t help but wonder, was  this whole ordeal is just a theatrical statement to Clara?  He uses the Good-Bye Trip as an excuse to bring her into the middle of a deep-space research project, knowing the risk.  Even after he saves the day, we should all be a little weary of that.
But this season’s willingness to explore The Doctor’s flawed character is makes it shine above the others.  After the end of the world, the end of the universe, the end of time, and a few more of the most importantest events ever in all of time and space, we’re taking a break from the giant leaps of mankind to cultivate drama, once again, in the small steps of one man, and that man is Peter Capaldi, my new favorite Doctor.

 

Kevin’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4)

2) Fargo, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9)

3) Boardwalk Empire, “Friendless Child” (Season Five, Episode 7)

4) Doctor Who, “Mummy on the Orient Express” (Season Eight, Episode 8)

5) True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All Life” (Season One, Episode 5)

6) Transparent, “The Wilderness” (Season One, Episode 6)

7) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

8) Fargo, “Buridan’s Ass” (Season One, Episode 6)

9) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

10) The Honourable Woman, “The Paring Knife” (Season One, Episode 8)

Honorable Mentions: Rectify, “Running with the Bull”, Boardwalk Empire, “Devil You Know”

 

Face Off – “Scared Silly”

(Season Seven, Episode 9)

Face Off

By Alan Gordon

It’s easy to be a snob about reality shows. You say to people, “Oh, I would never watch one of those.” Then your internal hypocrisy monitor kicks in, and you quickly add, “Except for Dancing With The Stars, of course, but that’s more of a … and The Great American Sing-Off, because they’re so talented, and the arranging … and then there’s Face Off.”

Okay, those are the reality shows that I watch. Religiously. Addictively. In my defense, they are shows that reward actual talent and creativity, as opposed to amateur personalities ingratiating themselves with the masses.

Syfy’s Face Off is an elimination competition show for special effects make-up artists. Consider the skill set required: Drawing, sculpting, molding, familiarity with an abundance of different materials, costume design and execution, fabrication of weird props and accessories, all at the service of some underlying conceptualization to meet the weekly challenge. And that challenge itself might require additional complicating factors: A make-up that will function underwater or in black light. Or be able to withstand full-on medieval combat, or ballet, or acrobatics.

The contestants are by and large self-taught, working in low-budget regional indies, amusement parks, haunted houses and the like. They range across the spectra of race, gender, sexuality and so forth, but all have the same aspirations. And they can do stuff that we can’t under a three day deadline, which is insane. And sometimes produces insanity. What makes Face Off different from the other two shows? The voting is confined to the three professional judges [although one or two seasons brought in fan voting for the finales]. And the contestants support each other unlike any show that I’ve seen, jumping in to help someone carry a mold that weighs too much, or break open one that’s stuck. They all work in one big soundstage rigged as a fully-stocked lab, and we get to watch.

The format is relatively rigid. Host McKenzie Westmore presents the challenge [and the viewer drinking game is waiting for her to use the word “iconic.”]Then off to the races they go. But the presentation for Episode 8 of the last season, “Scared Silly,” was different. The eight remaining contestants were roused in the middle of the night and carted off to the soundstage, which was pitch black. We observed them under night-vision staggering around until a video monitor lit up with McKenzie’s face issuing the challenge: Scary clowns.

Okay. A cliché, big deal. But here’s where it soared into genius. Each of the contestants had completed a biographical survey before the season started which contained buried within it the question, “What was your childhood fear?” They now were read back the answers, and directed to incorporate that fear into their scary clown.

What could be more primal? Monsters under the bed, spiders, dark water, tornadoes, antique dolls … this is how design can rise into the realm of art.

The winner was a surprise. Sasha Glasser was one of the whiners, the ones you root for early elimination. In two earlier episodes involving team efforts, she complained about her partner taking charge and not letting her have any real input. In both of those episodes, the partner ended up being the one eliminated by the judges. Perhaps that was Sasha’s strategy. (I was reminded of an old Bob Balaban short, “Tex, the Passive-Aggressive Gunslinger.”) Sasha herself was eliminated, but then saved by the one-time use of a judges’ resurrection.

She took the most risks this episode, choosing to focus on the fear (antique dolls) rather than the clown. An aged, cracked, porcelain visage with hints of clown around the eyes, and superb attention to detail. The wig hair was punched through a mesh covering like you’d find on actual dolls of the period, a touch that had judge Glenn Hetrick exclaim, “Oh, oh, that’s fantastic.”

Others did well. Eventual contest winner Dina Cimarusti did her usual wonderful work, a birthday party clown impaled by his props by a tornado. [Said one judge, “I like the blood, I love the piece of skin coming off, and I adore the balloon animal.”] Constant second-place finisher Cig Neutron (yes) had a wet, slightly decomposed denizen of dark water (“So clearly reads as waterlogged corpse — it’s gorgeous!” I never get complimented like that.) And all of the clowns performed without anything flying off.

Sasha won — her only win, and she would be eliminated within two more episodes. But for that one moment, she was happy, and we liked her.

 

Alan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Face Off, “Scared Silly” (Season Seven, Episode 9)

2) Fargo, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” (Season One, Episode 1)

3) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, “Coverage of Ferguson and the Staten Island Non-Indictment”

4) Doctor Who, “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

5) Dancing with the Stars, “America’s Choice” (Season 19, Episode 9)

Let it be known that I called Alfonso Ribeiro as the winner before the season started, but there were actually four real contenders at the end, a first. And the fifth was my new hero, 76 year-old stoner and cancer survivor Tommy Chong, who was unexpectedly elegant and energetic. [See his tango.] But this episode feature the gimmick of adding a third dancer to each pair. Alfonso’s partner Witney “Buy an H” Carson turned a paso doble into, I guess, a paso treble with fellow young blonde Lindsay Arnold, choreographed to DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” They killed it.

6) Penny Dreadful, “Séance” (Season One, Episode 2)

Fun, stylish, creepy, and Eva Greene steals it

7) Nashville, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” (Season Two, Episode 13)

Hayden Panetierre’s Juliette, ordered to apologize, throws it in everyone’s face – via song.

8) Grey’s Anatomy, “Fear (of the Unknown)” (Season Ten, Episode 24)

Sandra Oh was always the best thing on this show. Her final episode.

9) Sleepy Hollow, “The Weeping Lady” (Season Two, Episode 5)

Another guilty pleasure. Occasional howlers in the writing, but the two leads have fantastic chemistry without any teasing romantic undertones, which is unusual.

10) Homeland, “Halfway to a Donut” (Season Four, Episode 8)

Yes, implausibilities abound in the plotting, but the series is so much stronger without Brody and the baby. This is the episode with Saul’s escape from captivity. Tense, surprising, authentic.

 

The Flash – “Going Rogue”

(Season One, Episode 4)

The Flash

By Sarah Staudt

The Flash is not just damn good TV, it’s some of the best superhero stuff to hit either the big or the small screen in years. And it’s revitalizing the whole idea of comics and comic book heroes as a form of media worth celebrating. By finally moving the tone and style of comic books to the screen, it’s celebrating the idea that superhero stories don’t have to be dark and brooding to be affecting.

For the past 20 years or so, our superheroes have been serious. Epic. Heavy. With the exception of some children’s TV shows (Young Justice) and maybe The Avengers, DC and Marvel have largely abandoned the lightheartedness of superheroes. Now, don’t get me wrong. Entries in this darker style of movies and TV have often reached far greater heights than their silly predecessors. Compare The Dark Knight to Tim Burton’s Batman and you have no comparison in terms of emotional depth. But still, we’re losing something in the entertainment value of comics and comic book stories. They’re not just vehicles for big scary battle scenes and stakes that include the destruction of the world. They’re stories about guys who dress up in ridiculous suits and run around saving people. They’re supposed to be FUN.

The Flash does this. While maintaining an emotional core and serious stakes, it still manages to make every episode a damn entertaining time. And “Going Rogue” is probably the most entertaining of the series so far.

The first scene of this episode encapsulates everything both fun and awesome about the show. Barry running between Operation, table tennis, and Chess testing his powers is a good gag, but it gets at a lightheartedness that neither Arrow nor any of the superhero movies to hit the big screen, really, have managed to achieve. Make no mistake, The stakes are high in this episode. The deadly weapon that can actually stop The Flash has been stolen, and there’s a real concern that The Flash is going to see his little career come to an end. The Flash is facing one of his most famous villains, and this guy is pretty scary in terms of his random killing count. In the end, he uses The Flash’s goodness against him, giving him the classic superhero choice between a train full of people and letting him go. And Barry makes the choice we all know he’s going to make.

I can’t say enough about the finale of the episode. Again, The Flash is at its best with silliness with a heart. The STAR labs vacuum cleaner dressed up as a cold gun is a deeply stupid idea, but it’s the kind of thing that would work in comic books, so why shouldn’t it work here? And it gets at that emotional core: Cisco and Felicity and Caitlin coming together to help Barry even though they can’t really help as puny non-super humans, but knowing they have to try. And it pays off. This is a show that rewards creativity, humor, and good intentions from its characters. In a sea of superheroes with dark pasts, brooding presents, and lonely futures, The Flash gives us something a little more fun.

 

Sarah’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) You’re the Worst, “Fists and Feet and Stuff” (Season One, Episode 10)

2) The Leftovers, “Guest” (Season One, Episode 6)

3) The Flash, “Going Rogue” (Season One, Episode 4)

4) The Flash, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

5) You’re the Worst, “Drink Your Milk” (Season One, Episode 8)

6) The Mindy Project, “Caramel Princess Time” (Season Three, Episode 6)

7) Community, “Basic Story” (Season Five, Episode 12)

8) You’re the Worst, “Constant Horror and Bone Deep Dissatisfaction” (Season One, Episode 9)

9) Parks and Recreation, “Ann and Chris” (Season Six, Episode 13)

10) The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns” (Season One, Episode 10)

 

 

Game of Thrones – “Mockingbird”

(Season Four, Episode 7)

Game of Thrones

By Jim Huang

A mystery writer once said: “plot is character is motion.” In “Mockingbird,” there’s a lot of motion, but little of it is physical. The movement here is expressed in words, in telling details that are quintessential expressions of character, as pure as you’ll ever see in fiction. The words are both blunt and subtle; practically every line in this episode is memorable.

Arya and the Hound encounter a dying man. “Nothing could be worse than this,” Arya observes, adding, “nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing.” The dying man learns that Arya is from the north; he approves of how northerners used to live: “You give me, I give you. Fair. A balance. No balance anymore.”

This episode is all about characters seeking balance, trying to figure out how to live in a world where everything they know has been upended. The Hound ends the dying man’s suffering, showing Arya where the man’s heart is. “That’s how you kill someone.” A moment later, Arya has an opportunity to put that lesson to good use.

Others in this epic’s big cast are also at turning points:

  • At the Wall, Jon Snow urges the leadership of the Night’s Watch to seal the tunnel, but the leadership won’t change its ways.   The commander of the watch evokes tradition and heritage and duty, but, like Snow, we know that the world has changed.
  • In Mereen, Daenerys’ sellsword is restless. He says: “I only have two talents in this world, war and women…. Let me do what I do best.” What happens next – at night and in the morning after – shows us how Daenerys has grown in her role as a monarch.
  • The encounter between Brienne and Samwell over kidney pie is another succinct and lovely turning point. “You cannot give up on the gravy” seems like a comic line, but it’s as much an expression of determination as anything anyone else says in this episode.
  • Sansa tells Baelish that she’ll never see her home again. “A lot can happen between now and never,” he replies. “In a better world, one where love can overcome strength and duty, you might have been my child. But we don’t live in that world.” And then Baelish makes his move.

The central thread of the episode belongs to Tyrion, who is bargaining for his life. In the previous episode, Jamie made a deal with their father to save Tyrion’s life. But “it felt good to take that from him,” Tyrion says, explaining why he upended his father’s plan. “I couldn’t do it.” This decision sets up Tyrion’s search for a champion, someone who must fight for him. His first choice is his brother Jamie, but Jamie is no longer capable of that kind of fight.

Tyrion’s second choice is his sellsword Bronn. Their bargaining is delightful – sharp, funny and totally believable. Tyrion’s appeal to friendship isn’t going to work. Bronn is too pragmatic for that. (His explanation of how he intends to profit from Cersei’s bribe is just perfect: “Ladies fall from horses and snap their pretty necks all the time.”) Bronn is sorry that he won’t help Tyrion; Tyrion’s comeback demonstrates that he understands perfectly: “Why are you sorry, because you’re an evil bastard with no conscience and no heart? That’s what I liked about you in the first place.”

Tyrion’s third visitor is unexpected: Oberyn, who revels that the sibling dynamic that’s led to the brink of Tyrion’s death goes back to Tyrion’s birth. Oberyn also revels what he wants: justice. Tyrion is incredulous; “if you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place,” he says. But Oberyn explains why he is in fact in exactly the right place.

I haven’t tried to introduce these characters, haven’t set any of this in context. Game of Thrones is like that. It’s rich and complex, and you have to just let it wash over you. Likely what strikes you first about this show is visual – the places and the people, the violence and the sex. But it’s the words that make this episode work, the clear, concise and direct expression of compelling characters adrift in a world they struggle to understand.

Jim did not submit a Top 10 list.

 

Gotham – “Penguin’s Umbrella”

(Season One, Episode 7)

Gotham

By Adam Lord

Gotham is a show that shouldn’t be successful, and while the jury is still out on whether it is, “Penguin’s Umbrella” is definitive evidence that it could be. The series focuses on Jim Gordon as he tries to serve and protect Gotham while finding the killer of young Bruce Wayne’s parents. I can only imagine the pitch meeting for this show, “It’s about Batman, but Batman’s not in it! And, if you like that, we also have a show idea about the Kents BEFORE Superman crashes onto their farm.”

“Penguin’s Umbrella” is great because it changed the pace of the “Jim sees criminal, Jim finds criminal, Jim stops criminal,” routine. Prior to this, Gotham was essentially a trumped-up CSI with characters who are only noteworthy if you’re familiar with the Batman world. The episode is both a set up for the inevitable war that Penguin incessantly reminds you of in the “previously on Gotham” intro and a payoff as Jim’s dangerous secret comes to light.

The episode begins when Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) shows up at the police station just as Gordon is arrested for his murder—a murder he was supposed to commit per Carmine Falcone’s orders (mob boss) but didn’t. So now the mob wants to bring him in alive (not necessarily unharmed), his partner wants to kill him because he was also involved, and the entire police force wants nothing to do with him. He spends the episode enacting a daring plan to arrest the mayor and Falcone and I genuinely didn’t know if it would work.

A common theme in most Batman iterations is that Gotham is a bad city with some good people, and “Penguin’s Umbrella” was spectacular evidence of that. When the entire police force abandons him to be taken to Falcone by Victor Zsaaz (brilliantly introduced in this episode as a man dabbling in insanity), Gordon stands his ground and fights to show that there is still law and order in Gotham City. Only a few people join him after this, including his partner who says to Jim, “You’re still a douchebag. But you have the moral high ground. So I’m gonna back your play, whatever it is. I figure I’m doomed anyhow.”

Cobblepot deserves special mention in this episode as well when some of his dastardly plans are revealed. We learn how masterful a manipulator he is, so I’m most excited about how he progresses into The Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor plays him with a great mix of humor, malice, and charm that is always fun to watch. If nothing I’ve said before in this review inspires you to see this episode, watch it for Taylor’s performance.

Was “Penguin’s Umbrella” the best episode of the year? No. It’s not even my #1 pick and I would be surprised if it showed up on any of the other lists in this blog. But it deserves recognition for breaking the formula it established while remaining true to the story, focusing on a through-line versus an episodic “solve in an hour” case, and allowing us to see Gordon pushed to his limit as everyone around him betrays him. If Gotham is going to last long enough to see Batman in it, the writers need to make more episodes like “Penguin’s Umbrella.”

 

Adam’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) The Leftovers, “Two Boats and a Helicopter” (Season One, Episode 3)

2) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2)

4) Orphan Black Season Two. (I LOVE THIS SHOW)

5) South Park, “Grounded Vindaloop” (Season Eighteen, Episode 7)

6) Orange is the New Black, “It Was the Change” (Season Two, Episode 12)

7) Community, “Geothermal Escapism” (Season Five, Episode 5)

8) Gotham, “Penguin’s Umbrella” (Season One, Episode 7)

9) Key and Peele, “Scariest Movie Ever” (Season Four, Episode 6)

10) Nathan for You, “Dumb Starbucks” (Season Two, Episode 5)

 

11) 24: Live Another Day, “6:00PM to 7:00PM” (Season Nine, Episode 8)

 

Gravity Falls – “Scary-oke”

(Season Two, Episode 1)

Gravity Falls

By Toni L.P. Kelner

I could claim that the reason we watch so many cartoons in my house is that my oldest daughter is an animation major, and naturally she has to keep abreast of what’s going on in the field. In fact, I suspect that the opposite is true. My daughter was almost certainly drawn (har!) to animation because of the countless hours we’ve spent watching cartoons. Which leads me to the show I want to laud: Gravity Falls.

In case you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s about the Pine twins—the eternally curious Dipper and the inescapably cheerful Mabel—who are sent to spend the summer with their Great-Uncle Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Grunkle Stan is not the obvious choice for childcare. He puts the kids to work in his business, a tourist trap called The Mystery Shack, and pretty much ignores them. That’s all to the good, because with the very first episode, Dipper finds a long-hidden journal with clues to the many mysteries in town. Zombies? Gnomes? Dinosaurs? Forgotten American presidents? Ghosts? Living wax statues of Larry King? Merman? Time travel? Diminutive psychics? All here, but nobody but Dipper and Mabel—and sometimes their pals—seem to realize. And yeah, it’s a cartoon, so there are silly episodes with a boy band grown from a vat, but there’s also character growth and continuity and a story arc that is leading…somewhere.

All of that ties into the episode “Scary-oke,” the first episode in Season Two and my contribution to Top TV Episodes of 2014. At the end of Season One, the Pines defeated a dire enemy, so this season starts with them planning a big party to celebrate being back at the Mystery Shack. Government agents arrive, and for once Dipper thinks he’ll be able to prove that something is odd in town but they won’t believe his stories. So to convince them, he raises the dead. It turns out that zombies aren’t great at parties.

So we’ve got hilarity (zombies), horror (karaoke), action (fighting zombies), heart-warming family scenes (fighting zombies together), and a few more answers to the town’s secrets (no parenthetical spoilers on this one). All in half an hour! That’s what I call storytelling!

 

Toni’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Gravity Falls, “Scary-oke” (Season Two, Episode 1)

2) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Beginning of the End” (Season One, Episode 22)

3) The Flash, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

4) Doctor Who, “Time Heist” (Season Eight, Episode 5)

5) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “T.R.A.C.K.S.” (Season One, Episode 13)

6) The Flash, “The Man in the Yellow Suit” (Season One, Episode 9)

7) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Shadows” (Season Two, Episode 1)

8) Gravity Falls, “Society of the Blindeye” (Season Two, Episode 7)

9) Castle, “Under Fire” (Season Six, Episode 11)

10) The Big Bang Theory, “The Proton Transmogrification” (Season Seven, Episode 22)

 

 

Grimm – “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas”

(Season Four, Episode 7)

Grimm

By Nikki Phipps

Josh: I just thought my dad was kind of crazy, and getting crazier.

Juliette: If you thought he was crazy why’d you bring him to Nick?

Josh: He was dying. This was the only thing he wanted to do before he died. At that point you don’t care if it’s crazy. And then I met you guys and I realized that crazy is relative.

Grimm is one of those rare shows, at least for me, that is just as interesting and captivating in Season Four as it was in Season One. I find myself rooting for the characters and their happiness. Which, unfortunately for them, is frequently snatched away. The dialogue is clever and the storylines are engaging.

For those who aren’t familiar with this show, Portland, OR homicide detective Nick Burkhardt is a Grimm. A guardian who protects humanity from Wesen, creatures that history has made into myth. In “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” Nick and his partner Hank Griffin investigate a series of break-ins. In each case the victims report seeing three “hairy little beasts” who are more interested in annihilating Christmas decorations than in stealing anything. Nick and Hank discover that the creatures are actually Wesen boys who are undergoing a rare condition that happens during puberty. And the way to cure them? Fruitcake, of course. In all of history, this is the first time I’ve seen an actual use for fruitcake.

This episode incorporates some of the issues the characters have been facing this season, such as the attacks on newlyweds Monroe and Rosalee, the consequences of Nick losing and regaining his Grimm abilities, and Sergeant Wu’s growing suspicion of supernatural goings-on in Portland. But this episode also focused on Teresa Rubel, or “Trubel.” A dangerous young woman when she first arrived in town, with Nick’s help Trubel realized she is also a Grimm and is now eagerly learning everything she can under Nick’s tutelage. But Trubel puts her Grimm training on hold to leave town in order to help a friend. Josh, whose late father was a Grimm, is being targeted by criminal Wesen who think he has a Grimm artifact that his father kept hidden. Even though it means leaving the only home she’s ever know and the only family (Nick and girlfriend Juliette) she’s ever felt a part of, Trubel feels that she needs to help Josh return to his home.

For anyone seeking a show that combines complex storylines, mystery, fantasy, and mythology, look no further.

 

Nikki’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Grimm, “The Law of Sacrifice” (Season Three, Episode 18)

2) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode 3)

3) Almost Human, “Simon Says” (Season One, Episode 7)

4) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

5) Supernatural, “Mother’s Little Helper” (Season Nine, Episode 1)

6) Castle, “The Time of Our Lives” (Season Seven, Episode 6)

7) Supernatural, “First Blade” (Season Nine, Episode 11)

8) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Beginning of the End” (Season One, Episode 22)

9) Castle, “Under Fire” (Season Six, Episode 11

10) Suburgatory, “No, You Can’t Sit With Us” (Season Three, Episode 10)

 

Hannibal – “Mizumono”

(Season Two, Episode 13)

Hannibal

By Beau Thompson

Editor’s note: The following review discusses the shocking plot developments in the season finale.

It’s not too far of a stretch to say what can be said about the character Hannibal can also be said about the show. Both have a way of presenting macabre scenarios in (an almost unsettling) beautiful fashion; both are able to sprout in quick segments of unimaginable violence, and both show an unapologetic seriousness in their values. When a bloody Hannibal is caught trying to break into a door hiding a wounded Jack Crawford by Alana Bloom, a lesser crafter character would have tried desperately to make an excuse or chase Dr. Bloom like a mad man with a knife. But Hannibal, the character and the show, is better than that. When asked where Crawford is, Hannibal responds “In the pantry” with such an outline of obviousness that you’d think he was asked what room keeps food in storage. This is a villain, and a show, that absolutely confident in what they have set in motion.

For Hannibal the character, it is escaping the grasp of the police. For the show, it is pulling off one of the most intense, and fast paced episodes of television you will ever find. We know the showdown with Hannibal and Crawford was coming since the beginning of the season, but what we don’t expect is how the pacing never, and I mean, never lets up after that confrontation. Characters appear and are just as soon discarded in a blood bath ballad orchestrated by Hannibal. The surprises feel earned; the shocks genuine; the violence brutal. And knowing the show has taken enough liberties from its source material makes you wonder just who is coming back next season. Yet for all the physical violence that is displayed, it is the personal pain of Hannibal himself that is oddly felt the most, as he realizes the one connection he ever had with another human was not to be. That the show can make that the highlight while juggling all the other emotions and action moments reveals just how great this show has become.

The first season of Hannibal was a show that had no right to be as good as it was, yet it overcame the odds and delivered a refreshing new take on the characters of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Now, Season Two has taken that strong foundation and created an enthralling saga that has once again made the character and world of Hannibal Lector scary and compelling again. And this season finale has cemented how dangerous a world with Hannibal Lector is, even to the ones he loves.

 

Beau’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

2) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13)

3) Doctor Who, “Mummy on the Orient Express” (Season Eight, Episode 8)

4) Doctor Who, “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

5) Orange is the New Black, “It was the Change” (Season Two, Episode 12)

6) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

7) Mad Men, “The Monolith” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

8) Mad Men, “Waterloo” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

9) Doctor Who, “Kill the Moon” (Season Eight, Episode 7)

10) You’re the Worst, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

 

Hinterland – “Night Music”

(Season One, Episode 2)

Hinterland

By Larry D. Sweazy

Hinterland, is a strict police procedural set in the lovely, desolate, mountainous, beautifully lonely Aberystwyth, Wales. This series goes toe-to -toe with Wallender, set in Sweden, and The Killing, set in Copenhagen, when it comes to employing the landscape as an additional character. Add it to your Celtic Noir list of must see TV shows. But the subtle brilliance of this series doesn’t stop with the location. First off, each episode was shot twice, once in Welsh (Y Gwyll — translated: The Dusk), and once in English. I’ve only watched the English version, but I want to find the Welsh version and see if there is any difference, a reflection in the mirror that offers a little more depth in its native tongue. It’s an interesting idea, but must have been a grueling shoot for the actors and crew.

The series is only four episodes long, at two hours each, making it the perfect format for a weekend Netflix binge. I picked Night Music as my favorite, but all of the episodes are strong. It’s just that the “sins of the past” story structure has always appealed to me.

The main character, DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Tom Mathias could be the stereotypical brooding lead character in lesser hands, but is brilliantly portrayed by Richard Harrington. We know little about Mathias other than he is a recent transfer to the Aberystwyth department, and is deeply scarred. His silence speaks volumes. The scars are not quickly revealed, and the layers of his personality are exposed slowly, almost too slowly sometimes, to show a compassionate and dedicated cop who also has no aversion to working the system, or going around it, if he has to, to get the job done—delivering justice in a humane way.  Harrington is surrounded by an equally talented cast, Mali Harries (DI Mared Rhys), Hannah Daniel (DS Sian Owen), Alex Harries (DC Lloyd Ellis), and the creepy, hardnosed, Aneirin Hughes (Chief Superintendent Bran Prosser), who all have personal lives, but are slowly revealed as well. The focus here is the procedural, with character development built through the investigation. Backstory is tightly restrained and doesn’t get in the way of the plot or the mystery (which, as a minor complaint, the writers don’t always play fair with).

In Night Music, the team is called out to a lonely farm to investigate the death of sixty-nine year old Idris Williams, a recluse, who on the surface of things has had very little contact with the outside world, but had more than it first appeared (of course). The investigation twists and turns, unveiling a secret organization, greedy land developers, a secret love affair in the present—and the past—along with a deep betrayal, Nazi hate crimes at a long forgotten POW prison camp, and an enduring sadness that is palpable long after the episode ends. All in all, a fine mystery where there is not one gun in sight. Typical for British television viewers, but it might be a bit unsettling for Americans who are accustomed to criminals being captured with bullets and gunpowder instead of brains, a little brawn, and strategic thinking.

 

Larry’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Hinterland, “Night Music” (Season One, Episode 2)

2) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13)

3) Orange is the New Black, “Thirsty Bird” (Season Two, Episode 1)

4) Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)

5) Hinterland, “Devil’s Bridge” (Season One, Episode 1)

6) Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, “Episode 2” (Season One, Episode 2)

7) A Chef’s Life, “Blueberries and Boiling Over” (Season Two, Episode 1

8) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode 3)

9) Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, “Episode 3” (Season One, Episode 3)

10) Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, “Episode 4” (Season One, Episode 4)

 

House of Cards – “Chapter 14”

(Season Two, Episode 1)

House of Cards

By Tim Irwin

Editor’s note: Every plot twist in the series is mentioned.

This episode is the most striking piece of television I’ve seen in 2014. Season One did an admirable job setting up a plausible world, plausible characters, and actions and events that would not seem plausible if the world were not so neatly grounded in reality. But for all of the ridiculous and outrageous happenings in Season One, nothing prepared me for the start of Season Two. The first season sets up a love triangle among alternately despicable and sympathetic people – Frank and Claire, the twisted yet adorable power couple, and Zoe, the young, perky and intrepid reporter whose affair with Frank is nothing that shocks, or even barely perturbs, Claire.

Season One has its shocking moments, to be sure: Russo’s murder, the revelation of Frank’s past relationships. And Season Two has further shocking episodes, such as a random sexual encounter with Meechum, and the murder of my favorite character, Frank’s sincere right hand man Doug. Yet the first episode of the season stands out, as it contains one of the moments that has most genuinely shocked me in any television series I’ve seen. After two or three seasons most shows are reticent to kill off primary characters. LOST was able to get away with killing off characters through the first season, but after the primary three or four characters have been established it becomes almost impossible to get rid of them until closer to the series finale. This is what makes “Chapter 14” so enjoyable – a large part of what comprised the first season’s story is suddenly, brutally pushed in front of a train, simultaneously closing so many story opportunities while reminding the audience that with this show anything is possible.

 

Tim’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) House of Cards, “Chapter 14” (Season Two, Episode 1)

2) The Walking Dead, “The Grove” (Season Four, Episode 14)

3) House of Cards, “Chapter 26” (Season Two, Episode 13)

4) The Simpsons, “Simpsorama” (Season Twenty-Six, Episode 6)

5) Hannibal, “Shiizakana” (Season Two, Episode 9)

6) The Walking Dead, “Still” (Season Four, Episode 12)

7) Hannibal, “Kō No Mono” (Season Two, Episode 11)

8) House of Cards, “Chapter 15” (Season Two, Episode 2)

9) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

10) House of Cards, “Chapter 23” (Season Two, Episode 10)

 

Jane the Virgin – “Chapter Four”

(Season One, Episode 4)

Jane the Virgin

By Claudia Johnson

Are you looking for love triangles, unconventional means of baby making, baby daddies, unrealistic depictions of life, murder, mayhem and cover ups? Well then Jane the Virgin is a much watch for you.

Disclaimer: I will openly admit that I had no interest in ever watching Jane the Virgin because it just sounded awful, and that is coming from a person who has seen every season of and currently watching Bad Girls Club and Love and Hip Hop. But alas I have found the errors of my ways and am completely obsessed with this show.

Jane the Virgin centers around Jane Villanueva and the events following her being accidentally inseminated. And like the title suggests Jane is a virgin. She vowed to god and her grandmother from a young age to not have sex before marriage. There are many issues that come up with an accidental pregnancy. Deciding whether to keep the baby? In what ways could the baby derail your life? Will your fiancé be willing to raise a baby that is not biologically his? Is the baby daddy fit to raise the child? Who murdered the baby daddy’s best friend? The show is fabulous at being realistic and relatable in this situation, while also feeding into the crazy and being imaginative in its story.

Without giving too much away, there are two things that make this show worth watching. The first is the authenticity and genuine appreciation for culture. Some shows a find can make characters who embrace their culture too much of a caricature and offensive. I appreciate that the show shows a love for the characters Latino roots.

The second thing that the show does extremely well are the characters. My absolute favorite character in the show is the narrator. The unnamed and unseen male voice that gives us everything we need to know, sometimes with a little sass. He presents the story as if reading from a book. But he’s not the only one. There is Xiomara “Xo”, the eccentric and sexual mother, who had Jane at 16. Alba, Jane’s deeply religious and telenuvela obsessed grandmother, Rogelio, Jane’s father that she just learned she had and telenuvela super star. Then there are the lovers. Michael, her fiancé who is a detective and investigating cases related to a hotel run by Rafael, Jane’s employer and baby daddy. Along with a host of other characters some sweet and others downright sinful.

An episode that stands out the most to me is ‘Chapter Four’. Jane still doesn’t know who is father is, but her mother and grandmother are desperately trying to hide him from her, even though he desperately wants to meet her. He finds a way of meeting her, while still keeping anonymity (as much as a famous telenuvela star can have). Jane does discover who her father really is while trying on wedding dresses. She is heartbroken and crushed that her family could keep such a secret from her. At the same time Jane and Michael are have difficulties in their relationship, since she is dreaming about her baby daddy, Rafael. Michael is investigating the murder of Rafael’s best friend which makes for a very complicated relationship. Rafael decides he is through with his marriage to his wife Petra. But she isn’t so through with him. There is so much that goes on in this episode with main and side characters I cannot fit it all in this paragraph!

This show is a must watch for much needed comic relief from the everyday life. This show reminds us all that as crazy as life can seem sometimes nothing is as crazy as living life like a soap opera.

 

Claudia’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Bob’s Burgers, “Uncle Teddy” (Season Four Episode, 14)

2) Bob’s Burgers “The Equestranauts” (Season Four, Episode 17)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Waters on the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9)

4) Broad City, “The Lockout” (Season One, Episode 4)

5) Broad City, “Destionation: Wedding” (Season One, Episode 8)

6) Jane the Virgin “Chapter 4” (Season One, Episode 4)

7) The Flash, “Going Rogue” (Season One, Episode 4)

8) The Walking Dead, “Coda” (Season Five, Episode 8)

9) RuPaul’s Drag Race, “Drag Queens of Comedy” (Season Six, Episode 8)

10) Orange is the New Black, “You Also Have a Pizza” (Season Two, Episode 6)

 

The Leftovers – “Pilot”

(Season One, Episode 1)

The Leftovers

By Zach Bundy

LOST is in my top 3 TV shows of all time, and upon hearing the news of Damon Lindelof’s new endeavor The Leftovers I knew I would be instantly hooked. The Leftovers, based on the Tom Perrotta novel and co-created for HBO by Perrotta, follows a small group of people in the town of Mapleton, three years after the mysterious “Departure.” The event changed the world after 2% of the world’s population vanished without a trace. The pilot opens with a woman, clearly very stress with her days routine of errands, putting here crying baby in the car seat while talking on her phone. After a quick pan from the baby to the mother, the crying stops. The mother looks behind her to see an empty car seat, no baby. She exits her car and begins screaming for her baby, while another child is crying out for his father and a car crashes in the background… the baby, the father, and the driver of that car, gone.

What a way to start a show.

The rest of the pilot and series takes place three years after the event where 140 million people went missing. We meet Kevin Garvey, the chief of police, played by Justin Theroux, preparing for the third anniversary of the Departure. With a distant daughter, Margaret Qualley, and a stepson, Chris Zylka, on the other side of the country working with a self-proclaimed “healer” named Holy Wayne, Kevin has enough to worry about. But his main focus is what the Guilty Remnant might do at the anniversary parade. The GR is a chain smoking, mute cult dressed in all white, whose sole purpose is to remind people that the Departure did happen, despite peoples need to forget about it and return to their normal lives. Chief Garvey’s biggest problem with the Guilty Remnant is with their second in charge, his wife, Laurie, played by Amy Brenneman. Feeling lost, she joined the cult months after the Departure. Rounding out the cast of characters is Kevin’s father, and former police chief who communicates with mysterious invisible figures who know something about the Departure, played by Scott Glenn, the leader of the Guilty Remnant, played by Ann Dowd, a devout pastor of a failing church, played by Christopher Eccleston, and his sister, Nora, who lost a husband and both children in the Departure, played by Carrie Coon. The cast and crew are a brilliant combination for good storytelling.

In the end it is a Damon Lindelof production, so there will always be questions, but it is not about the answer to where did the 2% go and why (to which I don’t think we will ever get the answer). It is about the journey we take with these characters in a world where some have given up and others believe there is a purpose for this. This show has done one thing that a television show has never made me do… go out and buy the book so I can know what is next.

 

Zach’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) The Leftovers, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

2) The Leftovers, “The Garvey’s at Their Best” (Season One, Episode 9)

3) The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns” (Season One, Episode 10)

4) The Leftovers, “Cairo” (Season One, Episode

5) How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra” (Season Nine, Episode 14)

6) How I Met Your Mother, “Rally” (Season Nine, Episode 18)

7) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men” (Season Four, Episode 6)

9) Game of Thrones, “The Watchers of the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9)

10) Game of Thrones, “The Children” (Season Four, Episode 10)

 

Mad Men – “Waterloo”

(Season Seven, Episode 7)

Mad Men

By Abby Eddy

Editor’s note: Spoilers for the entire season including this finale are discussed.

Several reviews I read of Mad Men’s seventh season claimed that the episodes were “too slow-moving.” My response to those naysayers? You probably shouldn’t watch Mad Men at all. From the beginning, creator Matthew Weiner has always carefully crafted the storylines of each episode — meticulously building both character and plot points over time. It’s this strategic pacing that has made the show one of the greatest TV series of all time.

This season’s standout episode was “Waterloo,” which served as a halfway-season finale, thanks to a recurring theme that defined the episode and, as Mad Men comes to an end, the series itself: Some things change, but others will always remain the same.

1. Don and Peggy: At the beginning of the season, it seemed like they would never be able to repair their relationship. After Don has to work under Peggy’s direction, the tables turned and they finally begin to see each other as creative equals.

2. Roger and his ex-wife: Although they divorced, the couple came back together amidst their daughter’s disappearance into a cult. When he goes to rescue her, Roger realizes his wandering eye left a lasting impression on his daughter, and she has now turned into him.

3. Joan: Bob Benson proposes marriage, but Joan sees through his half-hearted offer. Now that she’s financially secure as an agency partner, she seems more empowered than ever to speak her mind and perhaps enjoys being on her own and free of companionship that would tie her down.

4. Roger and Don: It was disorienting to see Roger and Don so at odds earlier in the season. However, after the two decide to mend fences and work together, they’re able to cook up a multimillion-dollar deal to merge SC&P with McCann Erickson.

5. Don and Megan: “You don’t owe me anything.” These are Megan’s parting words to Don as he realizes their marriage — the second one he’s caused to crumble — is officially over.

And, true to form, Weiner didn’t fail to disappoint in the final scene to tide us over until next year. Just after Don and Roger convince the other partners to go through with the merger — and earn the partners millions of dollars — Don has a vision of Bert Cooper, the recently deceased co-founder of SC&P. As Don stands frozen in the SC&P, Bert croons a song-and-dance version of “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”

In chasing everything else, the characters of Mad Men have discovered just how expensive the cost. What may seem “slow” is the show’s greatness: Over several years, we have seen everyone pay for the lives they think they want in small, painful installments that make for fascinating long-form storytelling.

 

Abby’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014 (besides Waterloo)

1) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

2) Silicon Valley, “Third-Party Insourcing” (Season One, Episode 6)

3) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

4) Orphan Black, “Things Which Have Never Been Done” (Season Two, Episode 9)

5) Veep, “Special Relationship” (Season Three, Episode 7)

6) Girls, “Truth or Dare” (Season Three, Episode 2)

7) Welcome to Sweden, “Vänner/Fitting In” (Season One, Episode 5)

8) Homeland, “There’s Something Else Going On” (Season Four, Episode 9)

9) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Undercover” (Season Two, Episode 1)

10) BoJack Horseman, “One Trick Pony” (Season One, Episode 10)

 

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “What They Become”

(Season Two, Episode 10)

Agents of Shield

By Josh West

When Austin first asked me to do this kind of thing, I was used to writing about TV for classes in college. Now about two years later I’m good if I manage to tweet something that makes sense. Austin asked for a few paragraphs, he’s lucky if he gets a few coherent sentences from me! Now, on to my show.

I chose/was forced/whatever into picking an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from this year. While S.H.I.E.L.D. has many amazing moments throughout its short history so far, very few episodes stand out as being amazing overall. The season two “winter finale” which is really just a stupid way of saying “Hey! We’re not going to be on air for a couple of months!” was the most recent episode of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Continuing off of recent events from previous episodes, S.H.I.E.L.D. gives a conclusion to Season Two’s main overarching question. Between insane family reunions, outrageous stakes being raised, and unnecessary deaths, “What They Become” is full of action and resolution but ends with raising plenty of questions.  My favorite thing about S.H.I.E.L.D.  is that it answers the question “What happens in the real world between our favorite superheroes saving our tiny fragile planet?” Sure, at times you get bogged down in following rules and jumping through hoops to find out a tiny piece of information, but there are plenty of hints, nods, and jokes that reference either the comics, movies, or both.  “What They Become” not only does this, but it sets up for more characters from the comics to be introduced.

 

Josh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) The Flash, “The Flash is Born” (Season One, Episode 6)

2) The Flash, “Flash vs. Arrow” (Season One, Episode 8)

3) The Flash, “The Man in the Yellow Suit” (Season One, Episode 9)

4) Arrow, “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” (Season Three, Episode 5)

5) Arrow, “The Brave and the Bold” (Season Three, Episode 8)

6) Doctor Who, “Dark Water/Death in Heaven” (Season Eight, Episodes 11/12)
7) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two, Episode 4)

8) Selfie, “Here’s This Guy” (Season One, Episode 7)

9) Selfie, “Imperfect Harmony” (Season One, Episode 10)

10) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, “Mazes and Mutants” (Season Two, Episode 15)

 

Masters of Sex – “Fight”

(Season Two, Episode 3)

By J.C. Pankratz

In a season widely criticized for lacking a strong, central throughline, Master of Sex’s third episode, “Fight,” provided us an incredible moment of pure focus. In a simple, intense episode that could just as easily take place on the stage, the ever emotionally elusive Bill Masters and the indomitable Virginia Johnson explore what makes Masters of Sex so damn intriguing: the roles we play, the reasons we’re so desperate to play them, and the raw intimacy of giving them up. Having restarted their “research” together (read: an affair for science!), Bill and Virginia play married in a hotel room one night for the bell boy and the results are electrifying.

Set almost exclusively inside their hotel room one night and briefly interspersed with flashbacks from Bill’s day–a couple with an intersex child insisting Bill perform gender reassignment surgery–and a boxing match on TV, we’re presented with almost too many metaphors to manage…but somehow, it works. As Virginia and Bill slip deeper into their roleplaying as Mr. and Mrs., their discussions on “what makes a man” both unify the episode and cut through all Bill’s many defenses and layers. He comes clean–or as close to coming clean as Bill Masters is emotionally capable of–about the years of abuse from his father. We learn not only what Bill thinks makes a man, but what made Bill the strange, contradictory paragon he is. One particular line stings worse than a blow: Bill’s private rebellion against his father consisting of never raising his hands in retaliation, never giving him the honor of considering it a fight at all. Of course, it’s Virginia who reminds him of the true and of the obvious: that Bill was a boy, not a man, bearing the load in whatever way he could. And this cuts deeper than any reveal ever could.

This doesn’t even touch on the evolution of their sexual relationship, of their impossible way of navigating deep intimacy without acknowledging their utter devotion to one another, and the slapstick humor that somehow sneaks its way in there. An episode as detailed, perfect, and intently focused as a ship in a bottle.

 

J.C.’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Transparent, “Best New Girl” (Season One, Episode 8)

2) Masters of Sex, “Fight” (Season Two, Episode 3)

3) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two, Episode 4)

4) Hannibal, “Takiawase” (Season Two, Episode 4)

5) Broad City, “Last Supper(Season One, Episode 10)

6) Game of Thrones, “First of His Name” (Season Four, Episode 5)

7) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

8) Elementary, “Tremors” (Season Two, Episode 10)

9) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 4)

10) Bob’s Burgers, “Turkey in a Can” (Season Four, Episode 5)

 

The Mindy Project – “The Desert”

(Season Two, Episode 14)

The Mindy Project

By Leigh Montano

The Mindy Project is one of those shows that most people think, “Oh, yeah, that looked kinda funny but not really my cup of tea.” This makes me sad.

Yes, the character of Mindy Lahiri seems to be the girliest girl in the world, a stereotype of all the girls in high school that I couldn’t stand. The type that always knew when Jennifer Aniston’s birthday was but couldn’t tell you what homework we had last night. The ones that always wanted to talk about clothes and boys when all I wanted to do was sit in a corner and continue writing my terrible poetry. Needless to say, I was one of those hesitant people as well because ugh, gross. But then I watched an episode and I was hooked. Yes, she is a bit of a walking stereotype but she isn’t obnoxious. She’s relatable. One of the most difficult things I have found when watching television is finding characters I relate to. Only in the past few years has there been an upsurge in the awkward characters that aren’t the butt of all the jokes. *COUGHBIGBANGTHEORYCOUGH*

Mindy might seem, on the surface, like she knows what she’s doing but then there are moments when she admits that she didn’t know she needed to do her taxes or a sex tape she didn’t know she starred in is released. She’s that awkward person that we all are on the inside and shows us that you can have those stereotypical tendencies to be something but deep down, we all are public embarrassments who just want our RomCom ending.

Of the episodes from the past year that I have really enjoyed from The Mindy Project is “The Desert.” Danny and Mindy go to California and Danny confronts his father who wasn’t present for most of his childhood. The end of the episode has Mindy and Danny write an email to Mindy’s recently ex-boyfriend about why they should get back together. The episode ends with Mindy and Danny having a very stereotypical RomCom moment. It isn’t obnoxious. It isn’t forced. It feels real. Like all of those romantic comedies that you watch and go, “UGH, I just want that!” It isn’t one of those that at the end of the 90 minute movie, during the rolling credits you scoff and say, “Well, that would never happen.” Romantic comedies are a very delicate balance between suspension of disbelief and realistic encounters. No, we all probably aren’t going to end up waiting for Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building, but having a situation as simple and realistic as that makes movies like Sleepless in Seattle such a perfect representation of the RomCom genre.

What really makes a RomCom successful is the relatability with the characters. We’re not all perfect like Reese Witherspoon but we are all awkward like Mindy Lahiri. The Mindy Project takes the romantic aspect of the RomComs and combines it with a half hour sitcom format that works surprisingly well.

 

Leigh’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) True Detective, “Form and Void” (Season One, Episode 8)

2) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two, Episode 4)

3) Parks and Recreation, “Ann and Chris” (Season Six, Episode 13)

4) Community, “G.I. Jeff” (Season Five, Episode 11)

5) Orange is the New Black, “You Also Have a Pizza” (Season Two, Episode 6)

6) Bob’s Burgers, “The Equestranauts” (Season Four, Episode 17)

7) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Tactical Village” (Season One, Episode 19)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Children” (Season Four, Episode 10)

9) New Girl, “Cruise” (Season Three, Episode 23)

10) Marry Me, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

 

Nathan For You – “Daddy’s Watching / Party Planner”

(Season Two, Episode 6)

Nathan for You

By Greg Sorvig

PROLOGUE – AN IMAGINED CHRISTMAS EVE – December 25, 2014, 12:59 a.m.:

In my nightcap, I wait in silent torment as I count down the seconds, until…DING! DING! DING! A flash of light and I knew it to be true—Marley’s ghost was indeed real, just as this Ghost of Christmas Past in front of me now!

In its vibrant, yet ever-changing state, the phantom softly asked, “Do you remember?”

“Remember what, dear spirit?” I trembled and clenched the covers closer to my face.

“That just one Christmas ago you didn’t know that your favorite TV show existed?”

I sprung up out of bed so quick and forthright! My arms and legs outstretched so far that I must have appeared like the vibrant North Star that beckoned the mystics to follow from countries beyond. In that instant I was a changed man; Marley’s shackles shall not be my own!

“Come, good sprit! I have learned my lesson! Let us sit together with figgy pudding and watch Nathan for You!”

And we did just that.

—–

Granted I mostly catch TV via streaming services and DVR—and don’t keep up on the latest and greatest TV shows as I do movies—it’s no wonder that I hadn’t heard much about Nathan for You in all of 2013. However, in 2014 the stars seemed to align, as Nathan for You happened to be in the two extra recorded minutes after Drunk History and was simultaneously promoted for its big second season premiere on Hulu. (Note: Technically only two stars aligned, but it ended up being enough stars.)

Here’s how Nathan for You works: Comedian Nathan Fielder helps fledgling companies with sometimes helpful, sometimes hilariously dumb ideas to spice up their business. The humor initially lies within Nathan’s pitch to a company and how receptive or guarded the featured individual is to the proposal (examples: offering poo flavored ice cream, having a woman give birth in a taxi, rebranding a coffee shop as “Dumb Starbucks”). Post-proposal, comedy ensues based on the ongoing reaction of the featured individual, unsuspecting or awkward patrons/helpers, the sheer quality of Nathan’s implementation and Nathan’s witty reactions and comments throughout the whole process. Each episode weaves between a few projects.

Nathan for You is really the hidden camera show of all hidden camera shows. It is smart, effective and has a high rewatchability factor unlike any other show in recent memory. It’s an innovative comedic experiment that does all the right things, combining dry/deadpan humor and awkward situations that appeal to a wide range of folks from average Joes to sociologists with PhD’s.

As I told more people about the show and recommended one episode to get people on board, one episode rose above the rest: Season 2, Episode 6 – “Daddy’s Watching/Party Planner”.

The A.V. Club has a great, in-depth review of this episode, so I’ll simply entice you with three of my favorite highlights:

– Nathan disguised/bowling in a hijab, watching over a woman who is on a blind date

– A naked, overweight man laying in a giant hot dog bun as Nathan photographs him for a personal blackmail project

– Awkward, sparsely-attended party featuring a cringingly-unaware Bill Gates impersonator

Enjoy the episode and your new favorite show!

 

Greg’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Nathan For You, “Daddy’s Watching / Party Planner” (Season Two, Episode 6)

2) Game of Thrones, “The Children” (Season Four, Episode 10)

3) Boardwalk Empire, “Eldorado” (Season Five, Episode 8)

4) Nathan For You, “Taxi Service / Hot Dog Stand” (Season Two, Episode 7)

5) True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All Life” (Season One, Episode 5)

6) Nathan For You, “Toy Company / Movie Theatre” (Season Two, Episode 8)

7) Mad Men, “Waterloo” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

8) Fargo, “Buridan’s Ass” (Season One, Episode 6)

9) The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns” (Season One, Episode 10)

10) The Walking Dead, “Four Walls and a Roof” (Season Five, Episode 3)

 

Orange is the New Black – “We Have Manners. We’re Polite”

(Season Two, Episode 13)

Orange is the New Black

By Michelle Manzo

I was a fan of Orange is the New Black pretty much right away when it first premiered on Netflix last year, so I was obviously super excited when Season Two premiered over the summer. I’m the person that sat and watched it all in basically one sitting.

For better or worse, binge-watching makes it significantly more difficult to differentiate between particular episodes, but what struck me about Season Two of Orange is the New Black though is that the whole of the season was far greater than the sum of its parts. While each episode held its own, it’s hard for me to choose one that really stood out in a stellar season, so I went with the final episode where the whole story came crashing together.

Vee and Red’s feud came to an end and Vee’s ultimate “end” on the show proved to be one of my favorite parts of the season. Watching Rosa drive off with a smirk on her face saying “always so rude, that one,” pretty much made me want to clap and cheer (much to the confusion of my poor dogs).

Beyond that it seems like we finally get to see improvements for the prisoners with Caputo taking over for Natalie Figueroa in light of an embezzlement scheme. However, as the (rather dramatic) day progresses, the viewers (and prisoners) are left feeling a little less sure of the future. I can’t wait to see what this development means for the future of the show.

Overall, this episode helped a strong sophomore season end in fireworks. All I know now is that I can’t wait for Season Three!

 

Michelle’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

 

1) Doctor Who, “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4)

2) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men” (Season Four, Episode 6)

4) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode 3)

5) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

6) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Turn, Turn, Turn” (Season One, Episode 17

7) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2)

9) Community, “App Development and Condiments” (Season Five, Episode 8)

10) Parks and Recreation, “Ann and Chris” (Season Six, Episode 14)

 

Over the Garden Wall – “The Old Grist Mill”

(Season One, Episode 1)

Over the Garden Wall

By Aaron Wittwer

What is going on? Where did this come from? Why does it exist? How does it exist? It’s a cartoon miniseries for children. That’s not a thing. I mean it’s never been a thing before has it? And it’s not just some regular old, bright, simple cartoon either. Ohhhh-no. Over the Garden Wall is a strange mash-up of American folklore influences by way of Wind in the Willows with hints of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It’s a deliberately paced, mystery/adventure played out on painted-canvas backdrops with muted autumnal tones, and a soundtrack full of musical numbers fit for your great-grandmother’s Victrola, It’s ridiculous. An absurd notion, indeed. You don’t make atmospheric mood pieces for stupid children. They’re too stupid. They won’t get it.

Can we all just give Cartoon Network a standing ovation here for having faith in its audience’s ability to appreciate something that is both unique and intelligent? There’s no doubt that this is creator, Patrick McHale’s baby from start to finish, and major kudos to CN for giving him the freedom to bring it to life. This is the sort of show that makes you wish you had kids right now just so you could show it to them with the confidence that they’d be better people for it. But enough gushing…

As the show in its entirety is only about 100 minutes long, picking a single episode would be akin to choosing a favorite scene in a movie in that, though it may be a good scene, it works best when it’s placed within the whole. As such, perhaps the best episode to discuss here is the first one. This way we can avoid any major spoilers, while still getting at the heart and theme of work.

The dulcet tones of a singing frog underscore a short montage of the forthcoming, episodic vignettes: two children set a toy paddlewheel afloat on stream, a girl and her dog are startled by a bird taking flight, a set of wood figurines sit idly on the shelf, a young woman stands before a wall of bones. On first viewing these are without context, but, even so, serve well to establish a tone and pace for this world. We are then introduced, in media res, to a pair of brothers lost in the woods. Wirt, we learn, is lovelorn teen with a penchant for clarinet and poetry. His younger brother, Greg, serves as a foil for Wirt’s frequent cynicism. Greg is a joyful innocent full of optimistic naiveté. He wears an upside town tea pot on his head and has pants full of candy. Don’t worry. There is a reason.

After a brief encounter with a talking bluebird named Beatrice, with whom we will reconvene in episodes future, the brothers stumble on the titular “Old Grist Mill” where they meet a seemingly senile woodsman. He warns them of a darkness in the woods, a beast who feasts on lost souls. It’s a warning that will haunt the rest of this tale as it plays out in the next nine episodes. There’s humor though too, perhaps epitomized in this episode by Greg’s unflinching positivity. Even in the face of the abominable demondog that pursues Wirt and he though the mill, Greg finds time to compliment the monster’s “beautiful eyes”. However, behind the humor there’s always a shadow of ominous melancholy looming. Something awful awaits our heroes as they leave the Woodsman’s mill to continue their journey home through The Unknown.

This show is a marvel and a unique delight from start to finish. It’s no wonder it attracted such an impressive cast of talent including Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, John Cleese, Melanie Lynskey and Tim Curry among many others. There is absolutely no excuse for you not to start watching this right now. Hell, watch it twice. There are little, miss-able bits scattered throughout that serve to set the re-watchability value very high. The entire show is currently available to stream on the Cartoon Network website. I suggest you head there posthaste.

 

Aaron’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4)

2) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

3) Arrow, “The Climb” (Season Three, Episode 9)

4) Rick and Morty, “Close Encounters of the Rick Kind” (Season One, Episode 10)

5) Fargo, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9)

6) The Walking Dead, “No Sanctuary” (Season Five, Episode 1)

7) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” (Season Two, Episode 5)

8) Adventure Time, “Something Big” (Season Six, Episode 10)

9) The Affair, “9”, (Season One, Episode 9)

10) Silicon Valley, “Articles of Incorporation” (Season One, Episode 3)

 

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History – “Get Action (1858-1901)”

(Season One, Episode 1)

The Roosevelts

By Robbie Mehling

Amidst the glut of reality programming guised as history, it is always refreshing when something comes on and makes you say, “Huh, I didn’t know that before.”

Enter Ken Burns, who has produced some of the most compelling documentary series in the past many years, Baseball, The Civil War, and now, The Roosevelts. “Get Action” sets the stage; detailing the beginnings of the Roosevelts, focusing mostly on Teddy, leading up to his ascent to the Presidency.

Burns paints a picture of a life that seems to almost come out of a tall tale, rather than an actual history. Emotions rose and fell as Teddy fought with the Rough Riders and won elections and then lost his wife and mother in the same day. My favorite story Burns tells is when Theodore was Police Commissioner in New York City and was essentially, a real life Batman, fighting corrupt cops while wearing a cape. Burns proved once again with this episode (and the series as a whole) that non-fiction can be just as dramatic and compelling as any fictional narrative.

 

Robbie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9)

2) Doctor Who, “Time Heist” (Season Eight, Episode 5)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper” (Season Four, Episode 8)

4) Doctor Who, “Robots of Sherwood” (Season Eight, Episode 3)

5) Doctor Who, “Death in Heaven” (Season Eight, Episode 12)

6) Game of Thrones, “First of His Name” (Season Four, Episode 5)

7) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

8) House of Cards, “Chapter 15” (Season Two, Episode 2)

9) The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, “Get Action (1858-1901)” (Season One, Episode 1)

10) Parks and Recreation, “The Wall” (Season Six, Episode 15)

 

Sherlock – “The Empty Hearse”

(Season Three, Episode 1)

Sherlock

By Jackie Jones

Created/written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman as John Watson. Oh, holy shit.

This too-good-to-be-true BBC series is a modern update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective stories, and has proven to be easily the best Holmes adaptation I’ve ever seen. Cumberbatch and Freeman are both spectacularly entertaining as Holmes and Watson, and the rest of the cast are equally charming/talented. It’s really just…SO DAMN GOOD.

And how about that season three premiere, am I right? At the end of Season Two, Sherlock Holmes goes up against his archenemy, James Moriarty, and is ultimately forced to kill himself in front of his friend and partner John Watson. The Season Three premiere takes place two years later, and the threat of an underground terrorist organization forces Sherlock to come out of hiding and reveal that he had faked his death to fool his enemies and protect his friends.

Ok, I LOVED this episode. Sherlock’s ham-handed approach to revealing himself to Watson is endearing and horribly clumsy, and Watson’s reaction (a lovely mixture of shock, relief, and rage) is just perfect. One of the things I loved most about this episode is that we aren’t forced to overlook how dramatically Sherlock’s deception would have affected Watson. This is Sherlock’s most meaningful and important relationship, and in this episode we see not only how Watson processes the news, but also how Sherlock reacts to Watson’s reaction. And there’s still enough time for them to foil a terrorist plot!

This was an entirely satisfying and entertaining episode, and most certainly one of the best shows aired in 2014.

 

Jackie’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

2) Hannibal, “Yakimono” (Season Two, Episode 7)

3) Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, “The Endorsement” (Season One, Episode 7)

4) Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse” (Season Three, Episode 1)

5) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2)

6) Hannibal, “Tome-Wan” (Season Two, Episode 12)

7) House of Cards, “Chapter 17” (Season Two, Episode 4)

8) Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, “Bathroom Boys” (Season One, Episode 3)

9) House of Cards, “Chapter 26” (Season Two, Episode 13)

10) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13)

 

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – “Episode 1”

(Season One, Episode 1)

Tonight Show

By Victoria Disque

 

“Hey hey hey hey!” So began the first episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as well as a new era of late night television. In the years leading up to Fallon’s takeover of the most coveted of all talk shows, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (as well as The Late Show with David Letterman) had become increasingly stale. In the late 2000s, Leno and Letterman became stubborn in their roles, sticking with what worked for them as hosts and comedians, and never really trying anything new. In February of this year, Fallon became a welcome and refreshing change of pace. Finally, here was a host who was willing to bring the variety back to the variety show.

While Fallon’s new Tonight Show kicked off with a not-so-memorable monologue (he may have had one—or twelve—too many jokes about starting his new job), the show got off to an exciting and promising start with a hilarious bit featuring several special guests. You see, Fallon is the type of host (much like Jimmy Kimmel) who can get his celebrity guests to do anything: he conversed with Brad Pitt through yodels across midtown Manhattan; he convinced Morgan Freeman to end his interview by sucking helium out of a balloon; most impressively, he got Kevin Bacon to ramp up his entrance by reenacting two of his most famous scenes from Footloose.

In fact, on his very first episode in the Tonight Show chair, first guest Will Smith joined him for The Evolution of Hip Hop dancing, where the two men not only twerked and dougied, they pulled out the Carlton dance from Smith’s Fresh Prince days. So it was a not-so-surprising surprise when no less than fourteen mega-celebrities, including Robert de Niro, Tina Fey, Rudy Giuliani, and Joan Rivers came out from behind the curtain to each slap a $100 bill on Fallon’s desk (just before, he made a reference to a “buddy who said I’d never be the host of The Tonight Show” and that said buddy owed him a hundred bucks). The cherry on the gag went to Stephen Colbert, who dumped a bucket of $100 worth of pennies on Fallon’s desk, then proceeded to take a selfie with the new host.

With Kimmel having moved to the 11:35 timeslot, and Colbert preparing to take Letterman’s chair sometime next year, this has become such an exciting time for late night television. Each host has something different to bring to the game. For Fallon, that something is a goofy, rather than biting, wit as well as a much appreciated willingness to try new things in the name of comedy. Sure, he brought his most beloved bits over from his Late Night days, such as Thank You Notes, Hashtags, and Lip Sync Battles, but he’s also begun new Tonight Show traditions, like Lip Flip, Box of Lies, and Truth or Truth (if you haven’t seen his Truth or Truth showdown with Amy Schumer, do yourself a favor and YouTube it now). His sketch work is still prominent, with his most popular character right now being preteen drama queen Sara—with no ‘H’ because “H’s are EW!” and his Neil Young popping up from time to time to sing a cover of something like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” The beauty of the new Tonight Show is that when something works, it really works, and when it doesn’t, the writers try to improve it for next time or scrap it all together. Whatever your late night show preference is, one thing has become clear in 2014: it’s fun again to stand around the water cooler discussing the best parts of last night’s show.

 

Victoria’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

2) How I Met Your Mother, “How Your Mother Met Me” (Season Six, Episode 16)

3) The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode 70” (Season One, Episode 70)

4) The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode 55” (Season One, Episode 55)

5) Nathan For You, “Dumb Starbucks” (Season Two, Episode 5)

6) Parks and Recreation, “Ann and Chris,” (Season Six, Episode 14)

7) Nathan For You, “Souvenir Shop / E.L.A.I.F.F.” (Season Two, Episode 2)

8) The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “Episode 1” (Season One, Episode 1)

9) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two, Episode 4)

10) Scandal, “The Price of Free and Fair Elections” (Season Three, Episode 18

Minus the cringe worthy “I’m the scandal” line.

 

Top Gear –“Series 21, Episode 3”

(Season 21, Episode 3)

Top Gear

By Pedro Aubry

Now I’m a car fan. Huge fan. And so it makes sense that I like this show. But I have to say that I have never ever seen a show that is so specifically and blatantly geared (PUN!) to a specific audience where others who couldn’t give two shits about cars in general still love the show.

But this does it. The thing is the show is fairly formulaic, where they review an amazing car and they have a (usually British) celebrity drive a round of their track in a reasonably priced car, and for the rest, though they may change things a bit. The thing that everyone most likes is the main and longest storyline they create and portray (in case you didn’t know, this show is very, very highly edited). But it’s true, the meat of the story is always the deciding factor of whether I like the show a lot, and a lot, and a lot. Otherwise I simply just enjoy it. But this one has one of the best roadtrips I’ve ever seen and not wanting to give anything away, I really hope you give this show a shot, because as I’ve said before you truly don’t need to be a car fan to love the show, and you will probably like it anyways from their sheer production value and the sheer talent and chemistry amongst the announcers. Loving cars help, but it really is the weakest and least important (IMHO) part of the show if the main quest doesn’t catch your mind.

The car review portion this episode was fun, not because of how good the supercar was but how bad it was. The whole part is made to look like this car is the product of the gods…right up to the part it’s not. The meat, the most important and best part, the challenges…in this episode they have one that easily sits in my Top 10 of the entire show, maybe even Top Five.

It involves them going to the Crimean Peninsula in what is now Russia (interesting when now rewatching this episode), and all the challenges and cars are great. One thing is they use normal, small fairly cheap cars instead of crazy awesomness that only the super rich can experience, so the episode is interesting and applicable to the audience at large.

And for the challenges, the last one is the best, not only for the goal but how they go about trying to reach the goal. Very quickly, Hammond swerves, May turns his Check Engine Light on and Clarkson opens his driver’s side door. Enjoy!

 

Pedro’s Top 10 Episodes of 2013 (“and im not joking”)

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

2) Hannibal, “Tome-wan” (Season Two, Episode 12)

3) Hannibal, “Ko no Mono” (Season Two, Episode 11)

4) Hannibal, “Naka-Choko” (Season Two, Episode 10)

5) Hannibal, “Shiizakana” (Season Two, Episode 9)

6) Hannibal, “Su-zakana” (Season Two, Episode 8)

7) Hannibal, “Yakimono” (Season Two, Episode 7)

8) Hannibal, “Futamono” (Season Two, Episode 6)

9) Hannibal, “Mukozuke” (Season Two, Episode 5)

10) Hannibal, “Takiawase” (Season Two, Episode 4)

 

True Detective – “Who Goes There”

(Season One, Episode 4)

True Detective

By Eric Martindale

“Who Goes There,” the fourth episode of True Detective’s inaugural season is, in my opinion, easily the best episode on television last year. It was the episode when True Detective felt the most, well, true. The most obvious reason that people will point to is the final moments that featured a tracking shot that was well over two hours long. Okay, maybe a little less than that. And, I’ll admit it was a big part in why I chose it as well. It wasn’t, however, the fact that it was a tracking shot and tracking shots are cool. It was the artistic expression that each second of the final moments dripped with.

Director Cary Fukunaga, who won an Emmy for his work on this episode, conveyed a true since of danger that was more than palpable and really came to light because of the length of the shot. It was technically impressive for sure, what with the amount of extras, sets, fucking helicopters. But the peril that Rust (Matthew McConaughey) felt seemed so real that the shot, in the end, felt almost necessary to make the world feel true. Which, for me, was a problem that had existed through the first three episodes of the season.

In many ways I found the plot of True Detective pretentious and unrealistic. I understand that no television show, or any story-telling medium, has to exist in a reality. But True Detective presented its narrative in such a way that we were to be depressed by how fucked-up our world is. All the while asking us to pretend that serial killers sewing antlers to victims in our world, especially in conservative southern communities, is somewhat commonplace. Because, you know, they’re weird down there in Louisiana where they sleep with their sisters. Oh wait, that was a spoiler. Yeah…

However, “Who Goes There,” with tracking shot in tow, made the story so much more visceral. The world came alive and I was able to immerse myself and forget about the show’s negatives. Even prior to the ending to the episode, it was as if the show decided that in its fourth hour it was set goals for the rest of the season and by the time episode five had arrived I was hooked. Captivated, really. Because until that point, in spite of the fantastic acting by Woody Harrelson and McConaughey the show felt more like False Detective.

 

Eric’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13)

2) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4)

3) Mad Men, “Waterloo” (Season Seven, Episode 7)

4) Outlander, “The Garrison Commander” (Season One, Episode 5)

5) Hannibal, “Naka-Choco” (Season Two, Episode 10)

6) Mad Men, “The Monolith” (Season Seven, Episode 4)

7) Fargo, “A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper” (Season Four, Episode 8)

9) True Detective, “After You’ve Gone” (Season One, Episode 7)

10) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5)

 

Veep – “Crate / New Hampshire”

(Season Three, Episodes 9/10)

Veep

By Keith Jackson

I quickly fell in love with Veep. Much like Parks and Rec or my recommendation from last year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it contains an office of eclectic people each with their own characteristic strengths that make it nigh-impossible to rank above each other (however, Jonah does stand out many a time, be it his widely-announced drop-ins at the VP office or his later career ambitions/struggles). Again like P&R, these characters are engaged in the theatre of politics, and they’re no less incompetent despite being on a bigger stage.

One of the best examples of what makes Veep brilliant is this season’s finale. A favorite show of mine and many others is Arrested Development, a show that was canceled for several reasons, one of which being such a dense show that it was described as “hard to keep up with”. Network execs thought people wanted a sitcom they could have on, but not necessarily pay 100% attention to. I am so glad Veep is on HBO, because it is difficult to say if it would have the freedom to move at the speed it does elsewhere. Throughout the last two episodes of the season (aired as an hour-long finale), circumstances changed every ten seconds it seemed. Everyone is rushing and reacting to things both within their control and out of their control (like Gary’s nosebleeds). It’s a whirlwind of absurdity, but it’s just so much fun to witness.

 

Keith’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) Cosmos, “Standing Up in the Milky Way“ (Season One, Episode 1)

2) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode 3)

3) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2)

4) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 5)

5) Veep, “Crate / New Hampshire” (Season Three, Episodes 9/10)

6) Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper” (Season Four, Episode 8)

7) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22)

8) Veep, “The Choice” (Season Three, Episode 2)

9) Too Many Cooks, (One-off Comedy Special)

10) The Colbert Report, “Grimmy” (Episode 1447)

 

You’re the Worst – “Pilot”

(Season One, Episode 1)

You're the Worst

By Ryan Lugar

Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Love ensues. Magic in the air. White doves flying after each pass through a doorway. Mass consumptions of alcohol. Drugs consumed like candy. Self-centeredness. Control freaks. All for one and one for one. Jimmy. Gretchen.

You’re The Worst has taken a whole new swing to the genre of romantic comedy.   I would consider myself an expert in the field because one, I know more about romantic comedies than the almighty Austin Lugar, and two, I strongly believe Sweet Home Alabama is a perfect movie. However, You’re The Worst is not the shimmering love magic that occurred in Alabama. It is the horrific sense of being with someone in Los Angeles.

The start of this romantic comedy from hell laid down the ground rules of the show right from the get-go. The two lovebirds, Gretchen and Jimmy, are at a wedding and wrecking the entire thing. Jimmy has found a way to make the bride bawl her eyes out before her first dance and Gretchen is stealing gifts, both intoxicated. The romance gods worked their magic and Jimmy and Gretchen found each other outside while both trying to bail from the wedding.

This is where their love blossoms and they live happily ever after. Ok, that’s a lie. They have fun together and separate entirely. However, they remain in contact with each other even though they both are on to a new person. At the end of the night, they somehow end up “together” and it freaks the hell out of them. Their fear of any type of commitment and relationship scares the shit out of them. They don’t want to turn into the boyfriend-girlfriend mold, but the season would die after the pilot if they didn’t.

Jimmy and Gretchen are, don’t let the title of the show give it away, the worst. They care only for themselves and could give a rat’s ass less about what happens to whoever is around them. Jimmy’s roommate/cook/veteran Edgar served in Iraq and is battling an extreme case of PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder. Jimmy being the great “friend” that he is made sure his book sales was going fine before teasing Edgar about his serious problem. Edgar is Jimmy’s closest and only friend in the sense of the word. Lindsay has been Gretchen’s best friend for a long time and is currently battling the stress of being a married woman and also still having the sexual instincts of a whore. Gretchen does a great job in consoling her by abandonment and putting her problems first. Jimmy and Gretchen are ultimately two main characters who are almost self aware that they are the main characters of the show. They understand that Edgar and Lindsay are their sidekicks and are a means to an end of their problems. They’re the worst and deserved to be hated.

But damnit if they weren’t so great together. During the entire show you want them to fill that mold of the classic romantic comedy couple and be all lovey-dovey. They show glimpses of it and you want so badly for the glimpse to become a continuous emotion. That isn’t like them though. They are self-centered, terrible people who are afraid of commitment and growing up and they just so happen to be perfect for each other. There are times during the show where you just want to scream “JUST BE HAPPY TOGETHER!”

This relationship is a train wreck and it is impossible to turn away. Although they are terrible people doing terrible things, they both express such raw and deep emotion for each other that it’s impossible to not root for them. For every five bad things they do to one another or someone else, there is one moment of extreme bliss between the two. It’s this moment of a Sweet Home Alabama romantic bliss that makes the show great.

I would recommend this show to absolutely anybody because I think it’s an extremely relatable show. The fear of commitment and relationship struggles are something everyone has gone through, even if Gretchen and Jimmy take it to the extreme. Oh yeah, Gretchen is the publicist for a rapper who is pretty much the same person as Tyler, The Creator. How could you say no to that?!

 

Ryan’s Top 10 Episodes of 2014

1) You’re the Worst, “Constant Horror and Bone-Deep Dissatisfaction” (Season One, Episode 9)

2) You’re the Worst, “Pilot” (Season One, Episode 1)

3) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5)

4) South Park, “Go Fund Yourself” (Season Eighteen, Episode 1)

5) You’re the Worst, “Sunday Funday” (Season One, Episode 5)

6) Nathan for You, “Dumb Starbucks” (Season Two, Episode 5)

7) Nathan for You, “Liquor Store / Exterminator / Car Wash” (Season Two, Episode 4)

8) South Park, “The Cissy” (Season Eighteen, Episode 3)

9) Silicon Valley, “Optimal Tip-to-Tio Efficiency” (Season One, Episode 8)

10) Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9)

 

The Group’s Top 10 List

Using a simple point system where a person’s #1 pick gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on, here are the top 10 episodes of 2014 that received the most points from the 33 Top 10 lists.

1) Hannibal, “Mizumono” (Season Two, Episode 13) (64 points)

2) Sherlock, “The Sign of Three” (Season Three, Episode 2) (62 points)

3) True Detective, “Who Goes There” (Season One, Episode 4) (46 points)

4) Sherlock, “His Last Vow” (Season Three, Episode 3) (42 points)

5) Doctor Who, “Listen” (Season Eight, Episode 4) (34 points)

5) Game of Thrones, “The Laws of Gods and Men” (Season Four, Episode 6) (34 points)

6) Orange is the New Black, “A Whole Other Hole” (Season Two, Episode 4) (31 points)

6) Orange is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite” (Season Two, Episode 13” (31 points)

6) Parks and Recreation, “Moving Up” (Season Six, Episodes 21/22) (31 points)

7) Fargo, “A Fox, A Rabbit and a Cabbage” (Season One, Episode 9) (30 points)

8) Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall” (Season Four, Episode 9) (29 points)

9) Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose” (Season Four, Episode 2) (24 points)

9) The Leftovers, “Guest” (Season One, Episode 6) (24 points)

9) Rick and Morty, “Meeseeks and Destroy” (Season One, Episode 5) (24 points)

10) Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Season Five, Episode 5) (23 points)

10) Game of Thrones, “The Mountain and the Viper” (Season Four, Episode 8) (23 points)

  • 78 different shows were on a Top 10 list.
  • 25 of those shows first premiered in 2014.
  • 196 different episodes were on a Top 10 list.
  • Sherlock’s “The Sign of Three” was on 10 different Top 10 lists.
  • All three episodes of Sherlock Season Three was on a Top 10 list.
  • 10/13 episodes of Hannibal Season Two was on a Top 10 list.
  • 6/8 episodes of Nathan For You Season Two was on a Top 10 list.
  • 8/12 episodes of Doctor Who Season Eight was on a Top 10 list.
  • 5/8 episodes of The Flash Season One was on a Top 10 list.
  • 4/7 episodes of Mad Men Season Seven was on a Top 10 list.
  • 6/10 episodes of Game of Thrones Season Four was on a Top 10 list.
  • 6/10 episodes of The Leftovers Season One was on a Top 10 list.