Best of 2018 episodes is always one of the hardest categories to write about but simultaneously my absolute favorite. The best part of it is remembering the very first time I watch the episode and think, “Yup, I need to talk about this for year-end reviews.” But it’s interesting because I was a little stumped this year. I didn’t want to repeat episodes from shows and I wanted a wide variety. We can thank Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place for making my choices so hard with a ton of amazing episodes. Oh how I adore the comedies on TV right now.
For more end-of-the-year reviews, check out our Top 10 Performers, 10 Characters, and 10 Relationships.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t know how Katie (Nerdy Girl Notes) would cover this show weekly because I could never find the right words. And I especially can’t find the words for “Start.” The final episode of The Americans needs to be seen by every single TV enthusiast in the world. I can understand that the genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in all honesty, at times, it was even too heavy for me, but I’m grateful to know that I’ve seen the best thing on TV. (This sentence was not meant to rhyme, but we’re sticking to it.) “Start” was the perfect conclusion. It’s the best TV episode period.
It wrapped the series up in the most finely crafted bow I’ve ever seen, tying loose ends so wondrously not many before it have mastered. It gave its audience some of the most haunting images to hold onto and I’m sure, without even trying, rendering many of us utterly speechless. Maybe eight years from now when I’m less distraught over “They’ll remember us. They’re not kids anymore.” I’ll be able to talk about just how encompassing “Start” was, but today’s not that day. Or maybe when I’ve finally gotten Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s meticulously somber expressions and the stoic, yet crumbling physicality out of my mind, I’ll be able to talk about it more. But for now, let this just serve as my plea to get you all to watch The Americans because it’s truly unmatched. There are no words that could rightfully encapsulate the magnitude of this finale’s greatness.
2. “Fifty-Three Percent”, “Blue Valentime”, “Collateral Damage”, “Dream House”
If it weren’t for The Americans, the four-part story told by Black-ish would’ve most certainly take taken the crown for number one episode of the year. “Blue Valentime” had the year’s best TV directing I’ve seen, and I’m still too floored to form proper words for what just how evocative it was. (Also, it’s not cheating when all the episodes go together. Don’t at me.) Altogether, the episodes told the story of what it truly means when marriages fall apart, and the importance of fighting for them when they’re worthy.
They gave Dre and Bow the chances to grow as individuals, and as a couple, the challenges did a beautiful job of molding them into better versions of themselves — redesigning their spirits like they did with the kitchen. The episodes painted an incandescent picture of compromise using powerful and competitive metaphors to reiterate the fact that home isn’t a house it’s the people in it. Home is love, and love deserves to be fought for. Love requires growth and understanding. It requires time. It requires revisiting. It requires learning. And it demands to be paid attention to. And to hit us with these gorgeous lessons through a Thanksgiving day Turkey analysis was so very creative.
3. “God Bless Gay”
This is the first time a reality show is featured in our Best of 2018 Episodes category for Marvelous Geeks because there’s no way I could skip talking about the absolute wreck Queer Eye’s “God Bless Gay” resorted me to. Homosexuality is a controversial topic to discuss in Christian churches so when the Fab Five went to visit a small church in Gay, Georgia, I was a little nervous that the LGBTQ community would once again be subjected to unkindness, ridicule, and the very opposite of what God represents, hate.
As a devout Christian woman who wants Christ’s love showcased to all, “God Bless Gay” was everything. The exploration of Mama Tammaye’s beliefs and the immense adoration in her heart towards the boys had me sniffling from beginning to end. We forget that judgement isn’t our right or Godly, but that never stops the Christian church from shunning the LGBTQ community and thereby, forcing children of God away from Him. Décor expert Bobby Burke says so himself when he expresses how deeply his church has broken him. But thankfully, Mama Tammaye’s adoring spirit allows the boys to not only feel at ease around her, but it helps her very own son feel inspired to come back to church. And that’s the point, that’s working alongside the Holy Spirit we so desperately want, we want God to work through us, but instead of helping everyone see how adoring Christ truly is, we condemn them. “God Bless Gay” does what Christians often ignore in the Holy Bible — it reminds us that above all things, the greatest is love. People like Mama Tammaye remind exiled children of God that they’re special, they’re loved, and that God hasn’t turned their backs on them even when the community does.
There are a number of reasons why Brooklyn Nine-Nine is my favorite show on TV right now, and I was torn massively between this episode, “Jake and Amy,” and “The Box,” but the reality is, I don’t think I can write about their friendships enough. I’m not strong enough. “99” beautifully encapsulates what makes the series so unique and it does with raw, human moments that I firmly believe could melt even Scrooge’s heart. When the team learns that Holt’s been the one sabotaging his own interview for commissioner, he finally reveals the deal he made to get Jake and Rosa out of prison, essentially solidifying that he is “Daptain.”
In every sense of the word, “99” showcased that the precinct is home. It gave Amy the platform to show off her organizational skills fiercely under “The Final Countdown,” it gave Jake the platform to not only geek over Die Hard sets, but learn how loved he truly is, it gave Rosa the platform to come out and feel good about it, it gave Terry mints, and it give Holt hope in the fact that he wouldn’t deal with the aftermath of the deal alone. And it did so in an episode that had me laughing out loud from beginning to end. Jake’s “take my picture with it” is a mood. I’d definitely do the same if someone ever let me near the Brooklyn Nine-Nine set.
The Good Place
The Soul Squad has made it to the Good Place. I repeat, the Soul Squad has made it to the Good Place. “Janet(s)” was comedic genius on a whole new level giving D’Arcy Carden some fine opportunities to show off just how gifted she truly is. I mean seriously, that must’ve been one of the most exhausting and simultaneously rewarding days for her as an actress because all the praise she’s getting is massively deserved. “Janet(s)” was not only a remarkable display of the brilliance Carden’s got up her sleeves, but it was the stunning showcase of just far Michael and the Soul Squad have come. It then revealed that the algorithm is bullshirt and it’s up to our misfits to fix everything. It’s up to Michael. And with the team he’s got on his side, I imagine that carefully crafting the Good Place will be a true work of art this time.
6. “ Sherlock Holmes”
Timeless’ second season was full of enamoring episodes, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget how “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” made me feel, and a surprising fact to no one, I still don’t have the right words for the episode. But I’ll leave you with a few words from the episode’s full length review. “Good lord, once again, I’m floored in a position where words aren’t coming easily because it was a marvelously powerful showcase of the sexism in America — not American history, for it’s still present today. And that powerful exhibition was filled with performances so raw, so captivating, it was impossible to even blink out of the fear that something would be missed.
Whether it was Abigail Spencer’s cry when Lucy called out to President Wilson, Sokolovic’s panic and aching vulnerability as she crumbled through the passes, or the cries of all the women in that scene who were being violently beaten by men, this is a scene that’s bound to be remembered for a long, long time. The scene did what history lessons often don’t do, which is showcasing the radical hatred that’s within men who view women as property. It gave us darkness that network television often averts from, and for that alone, this show deserves to remain on air longer because it’s telling the stories we all need to hear. It’s taking the risks that are viable and necessary in a world where people often live in oblivion to the hatred, racism, and sexism that’s taking place.”
7. “All Alone”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had a number of good episodes, and single standing moments, but the jet packed finale is one I still can’t stop thinking about. So much took place that requires analyzing, and for that reason, I need season three stat. But first things first, Midge is going on tour with Shy Baldwin. I don’t think it’s fully sunken in for me, how about you guys? Season two brought a lot out — it demanded its characters examine their lives closely and, in the process, it illuminated some remarkably complex emotions the viewers could ponder on, too. The reality is that we can’t have it all without a proper balance, and sometimes, chasing one thing entirely means having to let go of others. In the words of Ron Swanson: “Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” And that’s exactly where Midge is at during the finale, if she wants to succeed in comedy, temporarily, she needs to give it her all.
Do I think she’ll actually be alone forever? No, but Lenny Bruce’s entire performance and the revelation it brought for Midge showcased a dark side of fame that isn’t brought to light as often. It also shined light on the darkness that’s in Lenny Bruce’s life, which I imagine the show will dive further into during later season. And ultimately, the most heartbreaking of all, it reiterated the fact that the people who make us laugh the hardest, often have the most darkness in their hearts. They’re the loneliest. They’re the saddest. Things are about to change a lot in the world of Mrs. Maisel and co., but if you ask me, I really do think it’ll be their year.
8. “Engram Pattersky”
Before I say anything else, I need to mention how much I already miss this show. And I also need to mention that my unrealistic expectations for happy endings always involve never moving. (I told you guys. I’m a sap.) But this finale was everything I could’ve expected from New Girl and truthfully, the biggest disappointment is that we won’t get a spinoff starring Ruth. Is she anyone else’s new favorite TV child because oh my goodness that sass — if only I were that cool at her age. “Engram Pattersky” was as ridiculous as I expected a New Girl finale to b,e but it tied things up with a bow so uneven, held together by messy glue, (Elmer’s brand probably.) that I’m satisfied. And mainly, it was the final game of “True American”, which resorted me into a blubbering mess, especially when we got a glimpse of the game featuring their kids in the future. This is the kind of garbage I’m always here to watch, and it reminded us of what the show’s always been about — a group of ridiculous souls who’ll never stop calling each other out while loving them to bits at the same time.
9. “Chapter Three”
A Discovery of Witches
The first season of every show has that one episode that pulls you straight from your heartstrings and throws you into a seemingly never-ending garbage can of emotions. And that’s exactly what the third episode of A Discovery of Witches did. I was pretty into the show by the Pilot, but I knew I was in trouble the second episode three finished. I even wrote about it. Whether it was the first, real dinner, the witch wind, or their first real kiss, the nameless episode was a gorgeous work of art — poignant, hopeful, and gut wrenching. The second Diana received the pictures of her parents’ dead bodies, the war between creatures began, and the second Matthew realized that he can’t help but protect her, the stakes grew even higher.
But above all, the episode defined intimacy profoundly: “Matthew dropping to his knees as an immaculate effort to comfort Diana in a position of overwhelming uniformity showcased his very intentions with her beautifully. Intimacy is more than a physical touch or in this case, a breathtaking first kiss. Intimacy is the choice to share oneself with another — mind, body, and soul. Intimacy is the exhibition of complete and utter vulnerability, gorgeously validating that Diana has, in every way, captivated Matthew to his core — awakening the disposition to love that’s long been dead inside of him. Intimacy is a man with great strength and in this case, a threatening reputation, revealing himself in the form of pure humility in front of a woman he’d risk everything for. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her and the physical showcase of malleability brought his heart to life impeccably.” (And that, my friends was a tiny little excerpt from the article I wrote while residing happily in this Bishmont dumpster. That’s the ship name, right?
10. “A Life in the Day“
The Magicians is an unexplainably special show — it’s charming, it’s smart, it’s hysterical, it’s musically ridiculous, and it’s beautiful. If you’re new to Marvelous Geeks then you probably don’t know how much I adore a great montage, and if you aren’t new, then I’m sure you’re anything but surprised. The Magicians did something so fascinating with this episode by telling us a story only the audience and two other people will ever fully understand. It gave us a poetic tragedy that needed no further explanation, it only needed to be seen. It was a story that demanded to be seen and a story that demanded to be told. And while time kept moving, it simultaneously stood still beautifully allowing the audience to see just how special the bond between Eliot and Quentin is. It gave us colors and melancholy. It gave us puzzles and completion. It gave us something truly marvelous, and set a great deal in motion.
What were your favorite episodes of the year? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out TV Examined’s lists as well.
I was doing fine reading this, but then you had to mention that final New Girl True American game, and I got all emotional thinking about it all over again. And “God Bless Gay”?! That was actually the first Queer Eye episode I watched, and then I immediately watched ALL THE THINGS because how can you watch that and not immediately need to spend the rest of your life immersed in such a kind and transformative world?
And in answer to your question about how I could write about The Americans every week, it was the perfect test of the fact that I’m going to have to accept that some thing you’ll never be able to find the right words for, but you have to push through. That show changed me in a way no other show has before. It made me a better writer even as it terrified me to write about it because it was so brilliant. I always think of the quote “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more” when I think of that show. Sometimes it’s just so hard to find the words, but you found them beautifully here. <3
The Knightley quote is me in a nutshell! And truly, you’ve done an astounding job with that show, you were meant to write about it, and we were meant to read it, and what an amazing gift its been. The world needed your insight to The Americans, and I’m so glad that it made you a better writer. I loved the episode’s more after reading what you’d highlight about it.
I’ve only watched 3 episodes of Queer Eye because I’m hoarding it for whenever I need a good, hopeful cry but I had to tell you how much I appreciated everything you wrote about “God Bless Gay”. You talk about your faith so beautifully and genuinely and I really love it. I grew up in a Christian school that was very judgmental and mean-spirited and you never fail to remind me that that’s not an attitude that’s true of all Christians.
On a less serious note, I’m very intrigued by everything you wrote about “A Life in the Day” and it nudged The Magicians up my list.
Thank you, my sweet friend. Reading things like this will always break my heart. I know so many people who’ve been broken by Christians and it kills me because we’re supposed to be the people who lift others up and show unconditional love. I’m so sorry for your experiences and I’m happy to be a reminder that love is the foundation of the faith.
And definitely watch The Magicians. I’m always so surprised with this show, it’s ridiculous, it’s powerful, and honestly nothing this year has surprised me more than it.