Best of 2016: Little Gems

There are always scenes I’ll find myself replaying — scenes that either broke me or have somehow fixed me. Scenes that may not be thematic masterpieces but rather little moments that set everything in motion. In this final installment of our Best of 2016 list, you’ll find the scenes that have left the biggest impact on me this year. The scenes that I’ve found myself wanting to talk about over and over and over again. The scenes that I considered the loveliest little gems.

And before we part ways until the new year, be sure to check out the incredible choices Nerdy Girl Notes and TV Examined have been writing about.

1. Lorelai’s best memory about Richard
“Fall” Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

I almost want to make the assumption that this is a moment that’s on everyone’s list. It’s unexpected, profound, and emotionally compelling. It struck to my core. Maybe it hit me so hard because I’ve experienced it, too. Maybe it’s because Lauren Graham has never been more brilliant as Lorelai Gilmore. And maybe it’s because no scene in Gilmore Girls history has ever been more vulnerable. As I watched this scene with some of my best friends, the tears in their eyes told me they understood the depth of what was happening. And for that, Graham deserves great praise because she sold the scene’s immense sadness perfectly. Lorelai and I don’t just share our ridiculous obsession with coffee and film, but we share a very similar experience. Although I’ve always had a closer relationship with my father than Lorelai did with Richard, there was a time in my life when a similar event ended in a 7/11 Slurpee and a great conversation with my now late father. And upon looking back at our memories, that’s one I remember most fondly.

There’s a lot to love about this scene, but what I find most amusing is the fact that Lorelai shares this experience with Emily because she knows she needs it. Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is allow ourselves to be transported to a time that hurts. And to share that pain in hopes that someone will find relief in it takes bravery. When you lose someone, visiting even the best memories can be painful — indescribably and profoundly painful. And Lorelai’s choice to finally tell her mother about the time spent with Richard was perfect. It was also a moment of incomparable growth. This was Lorelai Gilmore exhibiting just how profoundly she misses and loves her father. This was Lorelai Gilmore exhibiting just how lost she’s been. And this was Lorelai Gilmore exhibiting the great strength in honesty that her father embedded in her. Richard has always understood Lorelai a little more than Emily has and Richard has instilled in her a kind of comfort that’s always meant safety in the back of her mind. Whatever happened, this is a memory that’s healed Lorelai in a way nothing else would’ve.

2. “Still Pretty?”
“Chapter 7: The Bathtub” | Stranger Things

This is the one scene I feel like people don’t talk about enough. (Or I’m apparently not finding it? But it’s undoubtedly one of the Best of 2016 scenes we’ve watched.) After Eleven looks in the mirror without her wig and insecurities overwhelming her, she asks Mike if she’s still pretty, and without hesitation, he assures her that she is. Females with short hair simply aren’t told they’re pretty enough. Hair has been praised so often as a defining feature that cancer patients have said “it’s the most depressing part of chemotherapy.” And I can imagine considering I shamefully wept for hours after I cut my hair this summer. Was I still pretty? Would you believe me if I said people told me I looked better with long hair? And here’s the thing, I loved my hair, but I needed a change. I need a fresh start just because. And then I started to miss my hair because what if people are right? What if I am prettier? That’s why this scene is so incredibly important. Because I can imagine a little girl watching it and understanding the fact that though cancer has taken away their gorgeous princess hair, they’re still beautiful. They’re still so very pretty. And Eleven is the perfect representation of a badass princess.

As females, we have certain ideals embedded in us through society that force us to constantly question our appearance. And when El starts to believe she’s prettier with the wig, taking it off results in her questioning her beauty. And it’s beautiful to me that Mike is there to reassure her that she’s still pretty. It’s beautiful to me that Stranger Things has taken a little girl and stripped her of the ideals of society to showcase that it’s all too much. It’s okay to just be. This is the kind of scene that gorgeously represents the vitality of the human heart. Sure, it’s great to love our hair in its lengthy voluminous form, but it’s also important to be reminded of the fact that another way around is still pretty, too. And to see such a moment through the eyes of a little girl was profoundly captivating. The potency of showcasing such a moving scene was a brilliant move on behalf of the writers. And as young stars, Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard delivered the scene with such impeccable sincerity, it left me speechless. If you’re not watching Stranger Things, the perfection you’re missing out on cannot be explained through words. Do it.

3. Kate McKinnon performs Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
Saturday Night Live

I had no words for this moment the first time I watched it, and I still don’t have words for it almost two months later. Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton paid tribute to the late Leonard Cohen with his most compelling song was brilliant. Raw. Emotional. Poignant. And perhaps what made this an impeccable moment we needed to include here was because it was real. McKinnon, like a lot of us, was broken by the election results and this performance was perhaps McKinnon at her best — embodying a strong woman and reminding us all that the fight is never over. As long as we still sing praises and hold our heads up high, there’s no darkness that cannot be overcome. McKinnon as Clinton left her heart on stage and it left many of us covered in tears.

4. Killian and Emma’s underworld goodbye
“Firebird” | Once Upon A Time

Let’s put this on the seemingly endless list of Once Upon A Time scenes that’ll always make me cry. To be frank, I don’t know how I wrote through my tears when the episode actually aired because I can’t even get through the scene today. It was without a doubt one of their most poignantly potent scenes as a couple showcasing just how fiercely they’re devoted to one another. It was a scene that did the best job of illuminating how paralyzing and dark a world without the other truly is. So let’s just call it back to that episode’s review — the very words I said then, are the very words I still intend to say right now. And upon learning that Colin O’Donoghue actually improvised kissing Emma’s hand, I am in even more awe than ever. It’ll never fail to astound me how beautifully O’Donoghue and Morrison understand their characters. It’ll never fail to astound me how compassionate they are about bringing Killian and Emma to life perfectly.

“They have shared numerous kisses at this point, but we have never sobbed through any of them the way we did in “Firebird”. Distinguishing this kiss from the rest was the numbing and heartrending inability to let go. We can’t stress it enough, for the difficulty in the task is what ultimately showcases the most impeccable form of selflessness. And while it would have broken our hearts on its own, Killian’s choice to kiss her hand was the tip of the ice burg. The same hand, which once abandoned him on the beanstalk in “Tallahassee”, is now the hand he cannot bear to let go. And that inability to let go of one another was showcased with overwhelmingly poignant performances. O’Donoghue and Morrison bared it all in a way no two people on this series ever have. In what may have been their most evocatively intimate moment yet, the small gesture illuminated the colossal love that’s burning through Killian for Emma. And O’Donoghue made sure the audience could see that despite his collected demeanor, he’s not only deeply terrified of losing Emma, but he’s afraid of what lies ahead. The familiarity of her skin wasn’t something he was ready to let go of. You felt it in the kiss, but perhaps the most haunting moment is when he desperately tried to find her hand again as the elevator pulled her up. And it’s in that moment where Morrison and O’Donoghue were at their strongest. Gone was the unparalleled bliss in their eyes when they realized their love was indeed true, and as their bodies grew further from one another, the lost little boy and girl returned. O’Donoghue and Morrison conveyed palpable heartaches weaved with childlike brokenness and perplexity brilliantly. And in doing so, they were able to manifest a kind of colorable adoration that transcends all understanding — when such love is broken, the vulnerable situation they’re left in, for the first time in forever, seems bleak. They’re both individually strong and resourceful characters who’ve conquered a great deal, but together that strength made them braver, and of course, where there was bravery, there was hope. It’s easy to be in awe of such scenes because the sincere vulnerability the actors bring to the table is as breathtaking as it gets. O’Donoghue and Morrison exhibited the desperation to hold onto that hope they’ve tirelessly searched for, and in the most beautifully intimate way they bared it all for each other — with everything in them they made sure there was not a single doubt that their love is true. ”

5. Emma tells Henry he’s the real magic in her life. 
“Street Rats” | Once Upon A Time

As mentioned during our favorite relationships portion of our Best of 2016 reviews, Emma’s relationship with her son, Henry has always been a favorite of ours. And this year, this scene is the reason why. This profound, incredibly vulnerable moment where Henry’s reminded of the beautiful impact he’s had on his mother. When Henry states that he believes it’s all his fault that Emma’s doomed to a short life, she reassures him of the fact that because he came into her life, she now has actual magic. He is everything she could’ve wanted and more. He is the real source of magic — the little boy who grew up believing in a happy ending above all. The little boy who helped her believe from day one. And that belief has moved mountains in Emma. It’s lit a fire in her. It’s effortlessly brought her to her destiny and she’d change no part of it because knowing him has been the greatest gift of all.

6. Mike and Ginny’s phone call
“The Break” | Pitch

There’s a vulnerability that takes over us late at night in the moments right before we’re about to shut our eyes. And to share that vulnerability with someone inflicts in us an indescribable light — a captivating sense of ephemeral serenity. In Pitch’s fourth episode, Mike Lawson and Ginny Baker share a phone call that I’ve shamelessly replayed too many times to count. Perhaps it is the innocence in their conversation that floored me. Perhaps it’s the volumes their silence speaks. Sometimes, all a person needs is for someone to listen. Someone to talk t about anything and everything. There’s a sense of childlike wonder in their conversation that allows their state of mind to travel in the same frequency. Neither Ginny nor Mike are actually “good” as they speak to one another, but it’s easy to laugh and it’s easy to uplift. And perhaps that has something to do with the effortless connection they’ve formed. Perhaps, it is due to their lost, broken states. Nevertheless, for a moment, every little thing is okay. For a moment, they have each other.

7. Philip tells Elizabeth he loves her 
“Chloramphenicol” | The Americans

The Americans is such a captivating series, blink and you’ll miss too much. And in its fourth season especially, a lot went on in the series — far too many of these little gems to count, but I often find myself remembering this scene the most. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are undeniably strong as scene partners, and this was a scene that required a multitude of emotions from both parties. But most importantly, Rhys needed to sell Philip’s love for Elizabeth in a way that felt gut-wrenchingly promising. When Philip starts to understand that Elizabeth’s doubting his adoration, his expression changes drastically. The sheer disbelief and perplexity on Rhys’ face breaks me. The level of unbelief that forces him to question whether she’s crazy was compelling. And thereby, when Philip reassures Elizabeth that he loves her, you feel it. You believe it. He means every part of that adoration with every fiber of his being — through the good, the bad, and the ugly she’s the only one he’d ever want to come to.

8. Ginny’s breakdown
“Wear It” | Pitch

For what’s been a pretty crappy year, thankfully Mental Health awareness has continued to increase reminding anyone who’s listening that it’s okay. Pitch has done an astounding job of creating a character who is entirely relatable despite how different her everyday life may be from ours. And for the series to reveal that Ginny has panic attacks early on was a brilliant move. It not only gave Kylie Bunbury to showcase incredible strength as an actress, but it gave us the chance to feel even more deeply for Ginny than we already were. It doesn’t matter how much a person has because anxiety can affect anyone. And that’s essentially what I love most about this scene because so often people expect those who’ve seemingly got everything together to be completely stable at all times. But that breathless, horrifying, and unpredictable state needs to be exhibited more often in order to authenticate how terrorizing Mental Health disorders can actually be. Thereby, for all the little girls watching, this moment is a representation of the kind of darkness that though daunting, it’s conquerable. And to showcase the goodness in complete strangers cobbled with the support behind Ginny was a beautiful confirmation that no matter how bad, it’s good to share. It’s important to discuss these topics with those closest to us and it’s important to be an advocate for it.

9. Kevin shares a secret with his nieces
“The Game Plan” | This is Us

There are far too many beautiful moments in This is Us to choose from, but watching Kevin explain the significance of their positions in the world was perhaps the most unexpectedly poignant moment. And I loved that he was the one to deliver the message because the perplexity in his explanation enhanced the sincerity and depth the scene needed. Kevin’s painting was a beautiful mess that allowed the kids to see that though life is an unpredictable journey, as a family, they’re one. There are no differences between them, only love. And that love runs so deep that no matter where they are, they’re always one. They’ll always be together. Near or far, they’ll always be an us. And that explanation is the series in its entirety — an unpredictable journey where the changes only contribute to growth. To share this moment with his nieces and only his nieces layered Kevin’s character in a way he desperately needed. And it showcased the depth of adoration that truly runs through his confused, sometimes overdramatic, but always with the best intentions heart.

10. Jessica leaves Pearson Specter Litt
P.S.L. | Suits

Jessica’s departure from Suits was completely unexpected but it resulted in one of the most gorgeous scenes in the show’s history. As mentioned in our Best of 2016 characters, Jessica’s departure made her one of this year’s bravest characters. However, the sincerity in their final, shared drink broke me. After freeing an innocent man from death row, Jessica can finally embark on a journey in love. And to watch the team hold back tears as they attempted to convince her to stay was heartbreaking. When she asked them to let her go, you felt the pain in her voice. You felt the sadness. You felt the fear. And drinking to Pearson Specter Litt was the perfect depiction of the fact that no matter what the future holds, they’re a family. They’re a team. Today, tomorrow, and forever.

11. Matt’s speech while Henry and Elizabeth bring home Dmitri 
“Vartius” | Madam Secretary 

Madam Secretary is often filled with little moments that leave me in awe, but somehow, months later and I still can’t stop thinking about the montage that was featured in Vartius.” Dmitri wasn’t just a guest star with an intriguing story to tell — he became a part of the McCord family through their selfless desire to continue protecting him and his sister. And as Matt delivered his speech uttering the words “achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of — quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.”, everything came together beautifully like the final puzzle piece. I loved how easy it was for Henry and Elizabeth to come together in this moment as husband and wife doing something not as a duty, but as a generous desire because of how fervently they care. It’s not only what makes them one of my favorite on-screen married couples, but it’s what makes the entire series compelling. Moments like this perpetually etch their way into our hearts and leave us happily inspired for years to come.

12. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark reunite 
“Book of the Stranger” | Game of Thrones

From the moment the Stark children were separated, I and presumably many others waited impatiently for their reunion. A reunion that seemed to never come — a reunion that’d never be the same considering the horrors that met them along the way. But for the time being, two out of the four remaining was more than enough. And to be frank, it was seeing gifs of this scene plastered all over Tumblr that finally gave me the push to actually binge-watch Game of Thrones. Jon Snow and Sansa’s reunion even without the beautifully piercing melody could be felt in silence — the depth and sincerity and pure relief. And then to finally watch the moment in its entirety after seeing all the pain from the losses was a gift all on its own. In their embrace, you felt the poetic reassurance of momentary relief. The innate, heartbreaking joy and disbelief even as they hold one another broke me. It is the scene that demands its audience to remember the struggles the Stark family faced and it is the scene that demands its audience to feel deeply. And that’s what it did. It made me feel and break.

13. Snow and Charming create a spark
“Heartless” | Once Upon A Time

When Once Upon A Time writers gave us a new version of Snow and Charming’s meeting without altering their initial meeting in “Snow Falls,” I was thrilled. When Snow and Charming meet in “Heartless”, they’re gifted with a stranger’s kindness that permanently inspires them to see the bravery that is within. Once Upon A Time has frequently showed us that belief is an incredibly powerful weapon, and it evokes a kind of perpetual strength that’s been the key behind prosperity. As if we needed more reasons to be certain the Bandit and Shepard are soul mates. But in all seriousness, this moment served as the kind of happy, fairytale wonder that keeps us all grounded in a world of positivity. To create the kind of spark they did within that brief, magical encounter with a barrier between them was as pure and as breathtaking as can be. And from that day forward, without even realizing it, Snow and Charming believed in each other with a fervency that can do the imaginable.

14. Peggy comforts Jarvis
Monsters” | Agent Carter

In it’s second season, Agent Carter was filled with a plethora of little gems that strengthened the series as a whole and fortified the bonds that were previously established. Whether it was Daniel and Peggy’s teamwork, Ana’s kindness towards Peggy, or the birth of “jarvelous,”  Agent Carter’s second season has been special. But when Ana Jarvis is shot and in fatal condition, the quiet, brief moment where Peggy holds her friend’s hand in order to comfort him has stuck with me. There’s indescribable warmth that sparks with intertwined hands. And to showcase it in a gorgeously platonic moment is probably what has resonated with me. Friendships aren’t praised enough on television, and the politely sarcastic British partners in crime are deserving all sorts of revere. For a moment, every little thing will be alright because there’s a friend nearby who’ll be there through it all. Plus, the cinematography that went into this exquisite scene beautifully tethered art with friendship in a way that allowed the audience to feel the tender innocence between Peggy and Jarvis’ friendship.

15. Claire tells Jamie she’ll name their daughter after his father
“Dragonfly in Amber” | Outlander

There were legitimately too many gorgeously heartbreaking scenes in the Outlander finale, but this brief, hopeful little moment where Claire assures Jamie that their child will be named after his father was perfect. And I actually loved the fact that instead of a boy, it was a girl they named Brianna. For as much as the mystery behind their forever with their daughter remains bleak, it’s beautiful that in some way, shape or form Jamie knows. Whether he does in the present time doesn’t matter as much as the fact that for a moment, he understood his profound value in their child’s life — his family’s legacy would live on through her even though she’d be raised by another man.

16. Jay asks Erin to move in with him
“The Silos” | Chicago P.D.

It’s been a painfully difficult year for both Jay Halstead and Erin Lindsay, but taking their relationship to the next level helps. And this is the kind of scene that’s as beautiful as the future’s potential that lies in the retirement plan in Wisconsin. It’s actually possible now — fishing in Wisconsin. The context in which Jay asks Erin floored me. In a world where everything’s temporary, she’s the constant. She is the light. She is the strength. And choosing to finally take that step with her couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. On another note, what this scene represents is a partnership at its absolute finest. She doesn’t need to tell him everything, but she needs to know that he’s there through it all. Sometimes, Jay and Erin can’t talk about what they’ve been through, but often reassuring one another of the fact that they’re always ready to listen is what makes them so right for each other. And that understanding threaded with the immense adoration they share for one another strengthens them beautifully as a couple — as partners, on and off the field.

What were your Best of 2016 scenes this year?

And in case you missed it, be sure to check out the rest of our Year-End reviews starting from our tribute to Sundance’s Rectifythe Top 16 Performers, Top 16 Characters, and the Top 16 Relationships.

One comment

  1. I think this is my favorite of all your lists. I loved seeing the moments you chose and what they meant to you as a fan and as a person. Your love for these characters and their stories and the way they have touched and shaped you shines through in all of your writing and it puts a smile on my face, whether I watch the show you’re talking about or not. Really fantastic job, sweetie.

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