To pick just one episode from the impressive television outing in 2013 is near impossible. From network television to cable stations to newcomer Netflix, there was greatness across the entire TV landscape.
But there still were some episodes that surged above the rest in their quality, resonance and overall effectiveness. Here are my picks for the best television episodes of 2013; you can read other Zap2it picks here, here, here, here and here.
‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘The Rains of Castamere’
“Game of Thrones” was at its best in “The Rains of Castamere,” which was the episode showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been building up to since signing on to create this epic fantasy series. More than just providing shock value, “The Rains of Castamere” was a necessary reminder to viewers that this isn’t the average television show where the heroes always win. The deaths of Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark were brutal and horrifying, and portrayed with a grace that will have “Game of Thrones” end up standing among the greats.
‘Breaking Bad’ – ‘Ozymandias’
When it all comes down to it, “Ozymandias” is arguably the best “Breaking Bad” episode of the show’s entire run. It’s the climax of the entire series, with the final two episodes just resolving the show’s falling action. It shows Walt for both his worst and his best, as his guise of “Walter White” fades away to show that there’s only “Heisenberg” underneath. It’s the episode “Breaking Bad” had been building up to since its premiere, and it didn’t disappoint.
‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Clear’
“The Walking Dead” isn’t often described as beautiful or poetic, but that’s exactly what “Clear” was. As somewhat of a standalone episode in the show’s action-packed Season 3, “Clear” showed just how much the zombie apocalypse has altered the characters whose lives it’s touched. From the return of Morgan (Lennie James) to the short story of a man left for dead by Rick, Michonne and Carl, “Clear” is everything that “The Walking Dead” does best.
‘Orphan Black’ – ‘Variations Under Domestication’
You’ve probably heard something along these lines all year: “Blah blah blah, Tatiana Maslany is amazing in ‘Orphan Black.'” While that sentiment is one worth screaming from the rooftops, the 28-year-old Canadian actress never proves herself more than in “Variations Under Domestication.” Playing seven versions of the same character and making them completely unique and differentiated people is hard enough, but being completely convincing while playing one version of your character pretending to be a different one? That’s something else entirely, and something Maslany does with amazing success in this episode.
‘New Girl’ – ‘Cooler’
The culmination of Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick’s (Jake Johnson) sexual tension was arguably the best romantic payoff of the year. Keeping up that love story has provided an interesting challenge for the FOX comedy, but “Cooler” was completely authentic to the relationship between the two roommates. Because of that, the payoff when Nick finally grabs Jess and kisses her felt real to their characters — and worth the wait.
‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ – ‘The Name Game’
It’s easier to look back after a season of “American Horror Story” airs and decide what episode stood out most, which is why it’s hard to choose what the best installment thus far is from the superb (and currently airing) “American Horror Story: Coven.” For “Asylum,” it’s a different story. “The Name Game” is a combination of every crazy element of “American Horror Story” what works best, from allowing Jessica Lange‘s Sister Jude to have a song-and-dance sequence to the touching and sad ends of Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) and Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). All told, it was perfection.
‘Legit’ – ‘Pilot’
FXX’s critically loved but criminally underwatched dramedy started with a bang in its Season 1 premiere. Telling the mostly-true story of Jim Jefferies and his trip to Las Vegas to get his friend’s brother suffering from muscular dystrophy laid, the pilot was everything someone could want from a series. Jefferies and costars Dan Bakkedahl and DJ Qualls handled what could have been a touchy subject with care and grace and created the start of what went on to be a truly wonderful season.
What were your favorite TV episodes of 2013?