Heya Moguls! After we recorded the podcast “Are We In The Golden Age of Television?” (which you can find here) I started thinking about some of the specific episodes of TV in the last decade or so that just blew my pants off.
I wanted to take a moment to dig deep into JUST A FEW of the many episodes that I think have made TV compelling over these last few years. What made them stand out? Why should you watch them? Why did I buy pants that blow off? Do I not own a belt?
Granted, I know it’s hard to just dive in to an episode of a show without any context at all, (so some of these might be a little odd if you know nothing about the series) but I hope you take this list as a few friendly recommendations to put on your “binge watch” list …at least until you at least get to the episodes presented.
Rescue Me – Season 3: Episode 1 ‘Devil’
Not a lot of people talk about Rescue Me, but the series contains some of the most compelling TV moments I’ve ever seen. With all of its comedy and snark, there are some very human and majorly dark character moments throughout.
Up to this point we’ve just seen two seasons of Dennis Leary’s character Tommy Gavin (who is one of the only survivors of 9/11 in his firehouse) deal with some major blows, including separation from his wife and the death of his young son by a hit and run accident. Tommy suspects that his wife, Janet, has been sleeping with someone else, and his alcoholism is rearing its ugly head en force. There is also a $50 bet going on between the firefighters on who can go the longest without smoking, which is making everyone overly tense.
Things start to mount on Tommy’s shoulders to the point where most of the people in his life are suspecting that he is having a nervous breakdown and starting to go a little insane. He’s even starting to hallucinate and have conversations with people long dead.
The end piece of the episode shows Tommy run in to a burning building and save a little girl who is about the same age as his dead son. He gets there in time to save her and then he passes her off to another fireman.
After the fire is put out, Tommy sees the EMTs pulling a blanket up over the face of the little girl. “I was just talking to her,” he says. Knowing that another blow could send him completely over the edge he runs over to her. Then this scene happens:
BTW, the man in bed with his wife? His younger brother Johnny who’s been trying to get them to stop fighting. Watching this setup for season three, we know Tommy is a ticking time bomb, and 5 more sticks of C4 just got added to the mix.
Lost – Season 4: Episode 5 ‘The Constant’
The obvious choice for LOST would have been The Pilot episode. It was one of the most effective pilots in history and it played out like a feature film. However, I feel like if you’re picking a note for note payoff for a multi-season character arc …this is one of the best in recent memory.
There is absolutely no way for me to sum up this episode without writing a 40 page summary of all the stuff that has happened on LOST up to this point, so I will just recommend you watch the show and experience it for yourself.
Desmond is my favorite character on the show, and this is his moment to shine. It’s a smart take on time travel, the universe they have created for the show and the romance between Desmond and Penny. Reportedly, the writers took twice the time expected to develop the episode’s script because there was a huge concern about creating a temporal paradox when dealing with time travel.
How do you make an episode with time travel without ruining everything you’ve set up to this point? Well here it is.
The end scene with the phone call had me crying like a little girl.
Speaking of Time Travel…
Doctor Who – Series 3: Episode 10 ‘Blink’
Is Doctor Who dramatic television, you ask? It can be. This episode is the perfect gateway episode for anyone who as been dragging their feet on seeing the more ‘modern’ Doctor Who series. A lot of people tend to stay away from the new batch since they still have the image in their mind of the really ‘cheesy’ episodes from the 70’s and 80’s.
Funny thing is, the Doctor doesn’t even really star in the episode at all. It centers around a girl named Sally who has to help the Doctor get ‘unstuck’ in time in the 1960’s. It’s a great introduction to a world where there is a Time Traveler secretly mucking about trying to save the planet, and how it can effect the lives of normal people.
One of the greatest things about this episode to me though, is the introduction of one of the creepiest types of villain in Sci-Fi, “The Weeping Angels.” The Doctor explains that they are beings “almost as old as the universe” and when they are not being observed by another being, they can move very quickly and silently. However, when they are being observed, they become “quantum-locked”, occupying a single position in space and becoming stone. In this state, they are frozen and difficult to destroy. Every time you take your eyes off of them, they get closer to you, even when you blink.
If you are on the fence of about the “New Whos” please just give this episode a shot and see if it compels you. Their take on time travel is both smart and fun. If you like sci-fi, you’ll probably dig this show!
Game of Thrones – Season 3: Episode 9 ‘The Rains of Castemere’
Are you watching Game of Thrones? Well you should.
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of fantasy, it’s heart is in characters, relationships and the corruption of power.
I’m not going to ruin this episode for anyone, even though I know most of the people who care enough about it already know what happens.
Not knowing anything about the books or what was coming ahead of time lead to one of the most shocking moments in television for me. As a matter of fact, my wife and I were watching it in bed and the final scene of the episode made us both sit straight up and gasp. I don’t think that had ever happened before.
“They didn’t just…” “Yes they did.”
Upon a few reviewings, the episode is so perfectly wrapped around this moment and you begin to see that it has subtle foreshadowing in episodes before it that one would never catch the first time around. Brilliant writing, brilliant filming and Michelle Fairley gives one of the best and most heartbreaking performances I’ve ever seen.
Breaking Bad – Season 5: Episode 16 ‘Felina’
Good God, Breaking Bad.
I really can’t say much about this without it sounding hollow, but it is one of the (IF NOT THE) best dramatic TV show ever made.
I chose the final episode (over 5 seasons of perfection) because I remember thinking at the beginning of the final season that I can’t imagine a way possible for this show to have a perfectly satisfying ending. I couldn’t wrap my head around a way that they could craft a worthy enough cap on such a great series without leaving us feeling hollow or a little gypped, but DAMMIT they pulled it off SO …PERFECTLY.
It was the most satisfying ending to a TV show that I have ever been so invested in. If you have not started the wonderful decent into binge watching Breaking Bad, stop reading this article now and go do it. Vince Gilligan is a genius and I will watch anything he does at this point.
Here are a few more goodins…
True Detective – Season 1: Episode 1 ‘The Long Bright Dark ‘ – THIS is how you start a show without having to rely on anything other than character. No flashy special effects, no gimmicks, just a straight up detective story that has you hooked by the time the credits roll. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it.
The Walking Dead – Season 2: Episode 7 ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’ – This show takes a lot of heat. I know a lot of people that dismiss it because they do not like zombies, but this show about character moments. Up to this point in the show, one of the main characters has gone missing since the season 2 premiere. Shane and Rick are fighting over which direction to take the group, everything is up in the air. The episode ends with one of the biggest television gut punches ever.
House of Cards – Season 2: Episode 1 – Kevin Spacey absolutely rules this show. If you haven’t caught any of these episodes, (even if you do not care about politics, I certainly do not) please do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s awesome. In the same vein of the Game of Thrones episode listed above, this episode has a major “Did they just…” “Yes they did.” moment.
What do you think, Moguls? What are some of your favorite TV episodes in the last decade or so?