Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Favourite TV Shows 2010 - Favourite Episodes 10-1

So here we are, my list of my 10(11) favourite episodes of television from 2010. Ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours, these were, in my opinion the finest episodes that the medium of television produced between 1/1/2010 and 31/12/2010.

10. Sons of Anarchy - 'NS'
Despite the unevenness of the third season of Sons of Anarchy the finale was an absolutely superb way to end the season. 'NS' was a culmination of three seasons worth of story-lines, most notably all the drama involving Stahl and Jimmy O'Phelan. Yes the central drama to the show surrounding Clay and Jax still remains but the outside forces which had plagued the show for three years were wiped out in one tremendously suspenseful episode. When the club finds out that Jax has turned snitch you being to legitimately wonder how on earth SAMCRO is going to get out of it and then the double bluff is revealed. Maybe it was a little too neat an end, with SAMCRO ultimately taking very little fallout (beyond the 14 months in prison) but this episode makes the list purely for the scene where Opie shoots a weeping Stahl in the back of the head to avenge his dead wife Donna. Beautiful scene and a perfect way to end a season which was plagued by disappointments.

9. Adventure Time - 'What is Life?'
'What is Life?' was the first episode of Adventure Time that I ever watched and from that a magical friendship was born. Think Spongebob Squarepants but instead of being underwater it's set in a post apocalyptic world where quite literally ANYTHING can happen. The world of Adventure Time is wonderfully surreal and despite what could just be a funny concept the characters are legitimately well written and relate-able. 'What is Life?' focuses on Finn the Human trying to out prank his friend Jake the Dog by building a Never Ending Pie Throwing Robot (NEPTR for short) and here things go off the walls. What kind of kids show would have a robot where only one of his wheels works causing him to go round in circles and then ask his master 'Why do you forsake me?'. Or the pies which contain boysenberry....and poison. Or the balloons who fulfill their BLOOD OATH, cheer and then happily float up to the mesosphere in order TO DIE. Yes Adventure Time has enough jokes for adults to appreciate it but it's also wonderfully colourful so that kids don't get bored. Whilst there are many other episodes of Adventure Time I'd recommend to people ('The Eyes' is fantastic, as is 'Tree Trunks') 'What is Life?' is a fantastic place to start.

8. Parks & Recreation - 'Sweetums'
There were many episodes that I could have chosen from the second half of Parks & Recreation's second season such as 'Telethon', 'Freddy Spaghetti' and 'Park Safety' but I went with 'Sweetums' for two reasons. One being the fact that we got an amazing public forum, where once more we get to spend time with the amazingly insanely stupid residents of Pawnee (hell and Ron's face when he looks under his chair expecting to find a prize is golden as well) but the second reason is of course DJ ROOMBA. This ingenious idea takes an already great episode and raises it to amazing levels. It might not be a very Ron heavy episode, but it's an episode that uses all of the ensemble well, which lead to some of the very best episodes of Parks & Recreation. It's also helpful that we get to see the entire Parks department suffering from a sugar rush, because sometimes people being stupid is just funny dammit!

7. Terriers - 'Change Partners'
Whilst the pilot episode of Terriers was fantastic, it took until 'Change Partners' for me to realise was going to be something special. The episode starts quite low key with Hank looking for a bank loan to pay for his new house which then spins off into him being offered a job into looking into the bank manager's wife and whether or not she is cheating on him. And this is where the episode kind of gets fucked up. Particular needs to be made of Olivia Williams' fantastic guest role as the wife and playing her exasperation at the weird fetish her husband has of making her live out this faux-lifestyle of infidelity. By the end of the episode we realise that Olivia Williams' character Miriam has never actually been unfaithful but is driven to actually sleep with Hank by the end of the episode. This sets off the chain of events causing the bank manager to commit suicide and Hank to, instead of helping, forging his signature so that he can pay for his house. It's a fantastically dark moment and one that could have made the lead character seem unlikable but Donal Logue's performance just makes him so damn likable as Hank. Then as a cap to an already fantastic episode, we end with a shadowy figure crawling into Hank's attic whilst he's not looking. Utterly gripping stuff.

6. Doctor Who - 'The Time of Angels'/'Flesh and Stone'
Steven Moffat might just be my favourite TV writer currently still making TV shows. Whilst I quite often find the standalone episodes of Doctor Who to be somewhat lacking, a Steven Moffat script is almost always guaranteed to be fantastic. and the same can be said of this two-parter. Whilst maybe not scaling the same heights as 2007's fantastic episode 'Blink', 'The Time of Angels' and 'Flesh and Stone' serve as a fantastic reminder that the Weeping Angels are probably the best creature that Doctor Who has introduced since it came back in 2005. Along with the Weeping Angels, Moffat also brings back another of his fantastic creations with River Song from his own 2008 two-parter. Over the course 90 minutes Moffat slowly ratchets up the tension and questions and whilst some were disappointment I thought it was fantastic. With story beats that wouldn't pay-off until 'The Big Bang', Moffat showed all the writers of Doctor Who how to conceive a two part story and that he is quite definitely a genius that everyone should pay attention to.

5. Party Down - 'Steve Guttenberg's Birthday'
Party Down ran for two terrific seasons and this episode might just be it's crowing achievement. Maybe it's just because I've always been fascinated by the work that goes into screen writing but Martin Starr and Christopher Mintz-Plasse working together on an horrific screenplay was a fantastic idea. The two completely different read througha were hysterical in their own ways. From the over the top scientific vocabulary that littered the first draft to Henry's amazing overacting during the second, there was almost always something to love about this episode. And that's discounting how weirdly lovable Steve Guttenberg's house is. Filled with crazy memorabilia, thousands of DVDs, a home cinema, a fountain filled entirely with water from a iceburg and of course the picture of a guy fucking a porcupine. Party Down shall be missed, but I'm glad that it lasted long enough to give us the comic genius of this episode.

4. Lost - 'The End'
I've written far too much about Lost over the years so I'm going to make this a short one. Have all the issues with the final season you want. Have all the issues with the final 20 minutes as you wish. But those first two hours of the Lost finale were pretty incredible. Everything that came to represent Lost over it's six years came crashing together in one hell of a satisfying way to way to send of the Island in style. From the sentimentally moments of bringing back nearly every single significant character that appeared over those six years, to Jack Bender's fantastic direction or Michael Giacchino's award worthy score. 'The End' was a microcosm of pretty much everything that made Lost so great. Maybe the trip into theology at the end rubbed people the wrong way, but it was an apt ending to a show which was so much about the characters and their relationships. It might not be the best finale for a TV show ever, but it's a damn good one.

3. Community - 'Modern Warfare'
During it's first season was a very funny show about about the lives of a group of people who went to a Community college. Occasionally it would dip into meta references of the larger plot at hand (mostly given to the audience by Abed) but I don't think anyone expected something as amazing as this. In it's first season on the air Community brought to the table a pantheon level episode of television. Something that will through the ages as one of the greatest episodes of television ever. 'Modern Warfare' was a quite literally a perfect pastiche of so many fantastic action movies. With overt references to films such as 'Die Hard', '28 Days Later', 'The Matrix', 'Hard Boiled', 'Scarface' and 'The Warriors' this episode was a smorgus board of geeky references. It managed to nail the cheesy lines of dialogue ("Check mate bitches" whilst shooting a member of the chess club in the back) and overall feel of action movies with aplomb (thanks to the sterling work of director Justin Lin). 'Modern Warfare' is an episode for the ages, and the fact that it's only number 3 on my list shows just how strong the remaining episodes truly were.

2. Breaking Bad - 'One Minute'
Another series which could have had so many different episodes on this list, from 'Fly', 'Half Measures' and 'Full Measures', Breaking Bad Season 3 was one of the best seasons of television that I have ever seen. But if everything I saw on television over the last 12 months stuck me it was the titular One Minute of this episode. I have never been so tense whilst watching a television series than when I was watching Hank fight for his life against the cousins. Not only did it come as a surprise that such a big moment was coming so early in the season but also the fact that there is legitimately no way to know who is going to make it out of the shoot out alive. Of course one scene does not a great episode make, but the ever brilliant Aaron Paul gave one of his best monologues on the show to date (a feat in itself) and Dean Norris proved that he was more than ready to take on the increased role that was being demanded of him. Topped off by fantastic direction by Michelle MacLaren and beautiful cinematography by Michael Slovis and you have yet another pantheon episode of television.

1. Mad Men - 'The Suitcase'
Despite Breaking Bad having the (marginally) better season, it wasn't going to go down without a fight. 'The Suitcase' is the kind of episode that only a serialised show can do. Working off of three and a half years worth storylines and plot threads, 'The Suitcase' ties everything together seamlessly within one night of the lives of Don Draper and Peggy Olson. Anger is vented, truths are revealed and tears are shed. With quite possibly the performance of both Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss' lives, 'The Suitcase' is a absolutely stunning episode. After the death of Don Draper's closest friend, the only person in the world who the knows the whole truth behind Dick Whitman, he has no one left to turn apart from Peggy, the girl who all those years ago thought that she would have to sleep with her boss as a natural part of her job. The only man who knows the whole truth about her own hidden pregnancy, the man who gave her such a high placing job in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Almost four years worth of angst came rushing out over the course of one 40 minute episode and it's amazing in the level of catharsis it is able to give. Maybe Mad Men reached its peak in this episode, but it's not a peak that much else on television will ever be able to reach.

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