TV networks got a major wakeup call in 2013 thanks to the emergence of Netflix as a legitimate force. However, many are still hesitate to the cut the traditional cord, leaving broadcast and cable channels a limited window to prove they are still in control of their own destiny.
Over 2013, the networks gave it their best shot and even if they had to borrow some shows from across the pond, they produced some truly shocking and stunning moments. Here’s a look back at the ten episodes that reminded audiences the true power of television.
1. Breaking Bad – Ozymandias
Aired: September 15, 2013
Truthfully, all eight of “Breaking Bad’s” final episodes could have made this countdown, but the one that stood out the most was “Ozymandias.” This was the episode when things got real for the characters and the fans. Viewers knew not everybody was going to make it out of this show alive and the first major domino fell in this episode. When “Bad” wins its second consecutive Best Drama Emmy in September, chances are this is the episode that wins it for them.
2. Game Of Thrones – The Rains of Castamere
Aired: June 2, 2013
The beauty of “Game of Thrones” is that the franchise’s fans get it! They understand the value in not spoiling the books for viewers of the HBO TV show and every season, the show’s next to last episode packs a huge punch. In season one, fans were reeling by the loss of a MAJOR character, in season two, they were treated to the epic battle of Blackwater and this year they were invited to “The Red Wedding.” Next to “Breaking Bad,” no other series on TV this year came close to the stunning game changing sequence at the conclusion of “Castamere.” It’s worth catching up on the entire series for this episode alone. Winter is coming back in 2014 and we know “The Purple Wedding,” may make for just as fascinating TV.
3. The Walking Dead – Clear
Aired: March 3, 2013
For a show that has seen so much success, it’s hard to believe the number of behind-the-scenes changes that have impacted it over the years. Currently in its fourth season and on its third showrunner, the series needed stability and that came courtesy of Scott Gimple. However prior to his promotion, Gimple wrote “Clear,” the episode which reunited audiences with fan favorite Lennie James as Morgan, who we hadn’t seen since the pilot. With Morgan’s mental status deteriorating stemming from the loss of his son, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) quickly saw what could be his future and got his own mind back in order. Now that the sun has set on “Low Winter Sun,” maybe “Walking” fans will get their holiday wish; more Morgan in 2014.
4. The Good Wife – Hitting The Fan
Aired: October 27, 2013
For a show that many has suggested could have easily been on its way out, “The Good Wife” proved it is not ready to rest their case just yet. With strong episode after strong episode, the series is forcing its way back into the award season mix. In this new age of TV where Netflix and cable have begun to steal the spotlight from the broadcast networks, “Good Wife” represents what’s left of the old regime. While the Screen Actors Guild snubbed the show this year, the Golden Globes paid attention and with an episode like “Hitting The Fan,” Emmy voters will probably be keyed in on the series as well, especially considering each of the show’s first four seasons has produced a Emmy winning performance.
5. House of Cards – Pilot/Chapter 1
Aired: February 1, 2013
With Kevin Spacey as the lead and David Fincher as its first director, there was virtually no way “House of Cards” wasn’t going to be a solid series. It wasn’t hard for audiences to be hooked from the first episode with the pedigree associated with the drama. However the other big reason the show was a big deal is because it didn’t air on a traditional network and really helped to cement Netflix was a legitimate threat to the old television model. With 9 Emmy nominations (many of those stemming from the pilot), Netflx sent a major shock to the system of its rivals and that’s what comes from quality storytelling.
6. Scandal – White Hat Back On
Aired: May 16, 2013
Even creator Shondra Rhimes said this year that “Scandal” has a finite number of episodes. Producers chew through so much plot in one single episode that they will eventually run out of story. Yet we hope that’s a while off because it’s ben one hell of a ride! The season two finale “White Hat Back On” seems like it’s ready to clean up all the major loose ends and then it drops one last shock on its audiences before fading to black…and it’s a big one. For those people who haven’t quite figured out what “Scandal” is about, “White Hat” is the perfect example. However as the show’s only in its third season (and season one is just 7 episodes), you’d be a doing yourself a disservice not to watch from the beginning.
7. Downton Abbey – A Journey To The Highlands/ Season 3 Finale
Aired: February 18, 2013 (US)
The third season of “Downton Abbey” gave audiences a full range of emotions to experience, but the finale’s final sequence left viewers on both sides of the pond in stunned silence. The second major exit by a series regular in a handful of episodes was only so much for audiences to bear and the outcry was huge, but that’s what makes “Downton” so good; it’s not just about “rich people’s problems” and because of that fans can connect with these skilfully designed characters. That and Dame Maggie Smith steals every scene she’s in as the Dawagger.
8. The Killing – Six Minutes
Aired: July 28, 2013
Say what you want about “The Killing,” but season 3 of the AMC turned Netflix series supplied one of TV’s most powerful hours of storytelling. In the show’s penultimate episode, convicted killer Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard) is set to hang for his crimes, but audiences soon become acutely aware he may actually be innocent. The entire hour features series leads Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, working to try and hold off Seward’s execution, only to ultimately come up short. It’s an emotional episode that audiences were certainly talking about it the next day.
9. Justified – Decoy
Aired: March 19, 2013
The beauty of a show like “Justified” is that it gives below the radar actors a chance to shine. Look no further than the show’s lead Timothy Olyphant to prove that point, but its supporting ensemble and sizable guest star roster can really further nail that point home as well. This year Jim Beaver was given the chance to shine as Sheriff Shelby Parlow, but as viewers learned towards the end of the season, that name was just an alias. With everyone after Parlow’s alter ego, it was up to Raylan Givens and team to get him out of town alive. Between Beaver’s performance, showrunner Graham Yost’s usual blend of humor and action and the return of fan favorite Patton Oswald as newcomer Constable Bob, it all came together for one awesome episode.
10. Broadchurch – Finale
Aired: September 25, 2013 (USA)
As with “Breaking Bad,” “Broadchurch” could really be seen as an eight episode mini-series, but if you have to single out an episode, it would probably be the premiere or finale. For this case the finale gets the nod because its ending was unexpected and not your usual run of the miller capper. Whether or not FOX keeps the same twist for its version (entitled “Gracepoint”), it is still worth taking the ride that is the BBC version. The murder mystery is as entertaining as it is emotional and was among 2013’s best events.