Part 3 of the best in television this year included extraordinary episodes from some equally extraordinary television shows--favorites from Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and more! Here are the final five and my five favorite television masterpieces of the year:
5. “Felina” (Breaking Bad): A really satisfying end to a truly satisfying second half of the last season. This is the part where everything is set right…or as right as it could be. While most would insist “Ozymandias” to be the season’s best, there is something much more thematically satisfying to Walter White finally making some strides to right his wrongs--a strive that cannot be fully realized, but the attempt and eventual success is certainly enjoyable and pretty badass to watch play out. What is perhaps most fulfilling (besides some stellar final performances) is how it twists Walt’s inherent lust for power. The meth kingpin’s empire crumbled and in it looked as though the man himself crumbled; however, it turns out that Walt’s real significance is in his legend--his legacy--it is how he exacts revenge. It’s how he gets justice. It’s how he rights his wrongs. And ultimately, it’s how he succumbs to his end: The inevitable. It had to happen. But his legacy still lives on. What is impressive is that the finale--in all of its finite glory doesn’t need to impress or go out with a proverbial bang. The legend is the bang and “Felina” encompasses everything that made Breaking Bad one of the best shows ever to grace television. The grim artistry put to the screen by creator Vince Gilligan is one of the greats!
4. “Hitting the Fan” (The Good Wife): It is the episode everyone has been waiting for and it definitely doesn’t disappoint! The best episode of the series. I don’t see how the show can top this one and I assumed the same thing about Season 4’s “Red Team, Blue Team”! For me, The Good Wife had always been a series that was high on the totem pole--one to keep an eye out for, even though I was never a regular viewer. The fifth season built up to its most primal storytelling power. All hell breaks loose and it is astonishing to watch this rat-race war take place. Alicia and Cary’s meticulously planned play to leave Lockhart/Gardner is interrupted and as it would happen Will and Diane are up for the war. Everyone goes in cold-blooded lawyer mode and while some personal feelings fuel their fire, the real danger is finding that their own futures are at stake. This disloyalty cannot stand! The show might as well turned into one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones because it is quite thrilling--the audience is left excitingly bewildered wondering how they'll maneuver out of their latest obstacles. This is the episode that really turns the whole series on its head--from now on it’s Lockhart/Gardner vs. Florrick/Agos. All of the legal wrangling is excellent, but what is more involving is that the show doesn’t allow the audience to take sides. It’s just as close to perfect television as it can get.
3. “Meanwhile” (Futurama): The opening caption of this series finale is “Avenge Us”. Something about that is hilariously imperative, especially when concerning the episode's final point. Futurama is a cultural television classic for a lot of reasons, and it is befitting that the series would end (again) with a finale is conflictingly perfect. Much like the Breaking Bad finale, Futurama doesn’t make any major strides to “impress” per say, because its cult classic status is impressive enough. A general gist of the finale mostly revolves around the romantic relationship of Fry and Leela, both of whom get trapped in a warped ten-second time traveling ordeal that is as equally as alarming as it is hilarious. Somehow while watching, I did not know how to feel about some of the events happening on-screen. Is this really how they’re going to spend the last episode of Futurama? With this weird time loop that’s going to kill Fry over and over again? It’s a smart set-up for what comes by the end of the finale--a little twist of sorts concerning the time traveling ordeal that ties it all together, resulting in one of the most bittersweet episodes the show has produced (and it has produced quite a few). Why write a definite ending when the show's iconic history can repeat itself over and over again becoming an infinite series that never ends--a timeless show. There’s something universal about that--and therefore pretty damn brilliant.
2. “The National Anthem” (Black Mirror): A member of the royal family, Princess Susannah (pretty much analogous to Kate Middleton) is kidnapped and held hostage. Her freedom is guaranteed on one condition: The prime minister must have sex with a pig, live on national television. Yeah…and it happens! So what makes this horrifically simple and disgusting plot premise one of the best episodes of television in 2013? Besides being an unspeakably smart hook, it’s pitch black satire is disturbingly eye-opening and pitch perfect. Charlie Brooker understands satire more than anyone it seems, and his subject in this episode is the effect of celebrity, public image, the power of social media and society’s sick obsession with humiliation--public humiliation. At first the kidnapper’s demand is met with confusion and disgust, but once the princess apparently loses a finger, the situation becomes very real and the impossible demand becomes a reasonable exchange for the public celebrity figure’s safety. The chilling reality is awe-inspiring and while everyone is disgusted, they cannot look away from the entire situation at hand. Once the actual act is done--a visceral experience that is more felt (in brutal secondhand embarrassment) than seen--it is irreversible. Every event and twist leading up to it is organic and rational, which is confounding for such an insane story to unfold, but that is the genius of it. In the end the crime was perpetrated by an artist attempting to make some sort of statement--but no one cares about who the perpetrator is, they only care about what happened because of it. What’s weird is that even though the whole ordeal is an indisputable train wreck, it is a train wreck that unites a country.
1. “Agent of Change” (Enlightened): “I’m just a woman who’s over it. I’m tired of watching the world fall apart because of guys like you. I tried to take a little power back.” In 2013, Mike White brought the best television series to the small screen and it wasn’t really appreciated much at all, evident due to its cancellation. However, everything the show achieved is encompassed in its beyond amazing series finale. I’ve insisted before about the series that it is the most emotionally resonating experience on television, unlike anything else--it is televised art at its finest and most human. Mike White and Laura Dern tapped into something truly deserving of being called “special” and “extraordinary”…especially for a series that seems so ordinary on the outside. Beyond all of the series’ quandaries the root of it all comes down to “Who am I and what purpose do I have in this world?” The show’s protagonist and 2013’s best antihero (yep, better than Walter White!) is Amy Jellicoe and she’s been on a tear to do the right thing, for maybe some of the wrong reasons. However, this finale sees Amy finally become the hero she’s been trying to be through all of her tribulations. In a dramatic state of flux, the episode is a feel-good dramedy, an action-thriller, a heist film, and an ethereal political drama! That’s a lot to achieve in a half-hour. While much of this episode highlights a huge victory for Amy, it all comes from many surmounting screw-ups. There isn’t a forgettable moment in the entire finale and every performance has significant power--historical power--even if the rest of the television word doesn’t realize it yet. This series has a heart and a lively pulse unlike anything else on television in 2013. The finale highlights everything that makes the show the amazing thing that it is (was): The largely unseen masterpiece of 2013!
“Head” (American Horror Story: Coven)
“Covert War” (The Americans)
“Fifteen-Million Merits” (Black Mirror)
“The Old Ship of Zion” (Boardwalk Empire)
“Christmas in the Car” (Bob’s Burgers)
“Buried” (Breaking Bad)
“Episode 5” (Broadchurch)
“Higher Power” (Enlightened)
“The Ghost Is Seen” (Enlightened)
“And Now His Watch Has Ended” (Game of Thrones)
“The Climb” (Game of Thrones)
“On All Fours” (Girls)
“Red Team, Blue Team” (The Good Wife)
“Readiness is All” (Grey’s Anatomy)
“Perfect Storm” (Grey’s Anatomy)
“Six Minutes” (The Killing)
“A Tale of Two Cities” (Mad Men)
“News Night With Will McAvoy” (The Newsroom)
“Imaginary Enemies” (Orange Is the New Black)
“Tall Men With Feelings” (Orange Is the New Black)
“Nobody Likes Babies” (Scandal)
“Seven Fifty-Two” (Scandal)
“It’s Handled” (Scandal)
“Survival of the Fittest” (Shameless)
“Uprising” (Switched at Birth)
“F**k the Pain Away” (True Blood)
“Clear” (The Walking Dead)
2013 definitely began another golden age for television, that's for sure. What were your favorite episodes of television in past year? Don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment!
© Patrick Broadnax 2013