My Personal Top 20 Episodes

Category: , By Rev/Views

Inspired by yesterdays somewhat debatable list of the top 100 episodes from TV Guide, I spent yesterday figuring out what were the top twenty episodes I've watched. The criteria for the episodes is fairly simple, each episode has to be memorable enough to have left a mark one way or another, additionally there can only be one entry per show - to stop personal favourites with many amazing episodes dominating the list.

The first ten will just be shows, episode titles and a single sentence comment, but the top ten have a little more in depth discussion into the "Why".

20. That 70s show - "It's a Wonderful Life"
A fun little episode which tributes Scrooge and will always hold a warm place in my DVD collection, I'm sure others will disagree with this one being here.

19. The West Wing - "Two Catherdrals"

Have to agree with TV Guide here, it's stupendous.

18. Damages - "Because I Know Patty"

The first season comes to a head with an amazing set of revelations.

Seinfeld - "The Chicken Roaster"
Yes "The Contest" is the absolute classic Seinfeld, but Jerry and Kramer switching personalities in "The Chicken Roaster" does it for me.

16. Boston Legal - "Guantanamo by the Bay"

A wonderful return introduction for my favourite character and just one of the greatest fourth wall breaking moments of the show.

15. The Office - "Weight Loss"

Just when it looks like the show is going to be predictable and split Jim and Pam part, Jim proposes and she accepts.

Battlestar Galactica - "Crossroads - Part 1 and 2."

Makes up for the terrible episodes which occured in season three with an epic game changing two parter.

13. Doctor Who - "Blink"

Just about the best Doctor Who episode of all time, and it hardly features him at all.

12. Futurama - "The Devils Hands are Idle Playthings"

A moving and poignent close to the show's run (at the time), all the stops are pulled out and the last moments are emotionally charged.

11. Arrested Development - Mr. F

One of my favourite musical stings appears in this episode, an episode which mixes it's own comedy with a spy spoof perfectly

Now for the top ten.

10. The 4400 - "The Marked"

Many of the entries on this list are either season finales, first episodes of the season or pilot episodes. This is because many shows save their big moments or their game changing elements for the start or end of a season. But The 4400 provided it's biggest moment partway through the fourth season, revealing huge game changing facts which rocked the show and cast a new light on where things were going.

The terrible future which The 4400 were abducted and then returned to stop apparently has it's own champions, a group of people known only as 'The Marked' who are identified by a single mark behind their left ear. As Tom and Diana investigate into this supposed conspiracy things begin to unfold. Huge things which stand to change everything.

The only unfortunate thing about this episode is the cancellation of The 4400, which meant that things couldn't be brought to full closure, but it's still an amazing episode and holds up well.

9. Lost - "Pilot"

I may have lost (ha ha!) interest in the show until it ends and it's out on DVD, but Lost's first episode remains one of the most enticing and interesting moments on television. Filled with jaw dropping moments, mystery, interesting characters (Jack is not one of those by the way) and a genuine "did that just happen?" moment where a survivor is sucked through the engine of the crashed plane; the two part Pilot delivered many intense questions and mysteries - I just don't agree with the way the show carried on after the first season.

8. How I Met Your Mother - "Game Night"

When the arrival of a tape from one of Barney's ex-girlfriends peaks interest and curiosity Barney refuses to share the story with them until each of the gang shares their most embarrassing moment first. Their stories are all hilarious and entertaining, but the truth behind Barney's tape is one of the definitive "Barney Moments" and is delivered with great aplomb by the ever wonderful Neil Patrick Harris.

7. Supernatural - "Mystery Spot"

There were quite a few episodes fighting it out where Supernatural was concerned; the black and white "Monster Movie" is just awesome quality and a stylistic tribute to the b-movie genre of old, "Ghostfacers" puts a great spin on the whole show and returns the quite brilliant ghostfacers to the screen with a documentary filmed from their point of view, "A Very Supernatural Christmas" gives us the 'anti-Santa' and "Hollywood Babylon" gives a great light-hearted tribute to Hollywood and the Evil Dead in a wonderfully self aware episode.

But it's "Mystery Spot" with it's spin on 'Groundhog Day' which takes the prize. Sam ends up living the same day over and over; a day where no matter what he tries to do, Dean gets killed. Jared and Jensen clearly had a great deal of fun filming this episode and the tribute to and affection for the Bill Murray classic is palpable here. But Supernatural often delivers amazing stand alone episodes.

6. Firefly - "Objects in Space"

"Objects in Space" was very nearly the closing moments for Firefly and would have remained so if Serenity had not been released. Even on the re-watch it's a poignant and heartfelt investigation into the relationship the crew have with young River Tam. It's also got one of the most memorable villains of the show present in it - the disturbed bounty hunter Early; who's mix of wit, danger and sheer insanity make for a great show.

"Out of Gas" is another episode which very nearly took the prize; it's a potent and emotional look at how the ship and crew came together, while Mal and Serenity are slowly dying. But "Objects in Space" takes the prize for the mystery, joy and poignancy of the episode.

5. Homicide - "Three Men and Adena"

TV Guide had the admirable and excellent "Subway" as their Homicide episode of choice, but for me it's the first season episode "Three Men and Adena" which just pips it for that prize. Even though it's only the fifth episode of the show, Three Men and Adena paints a dark, complicated and at times difficult to watch picture. The desperation and determination of Pembleton and Bayliss as they push hard to find out who killed Adena Watkins and get a confession is a powerful mix. Many of the best episodes in Homicide are the more bleak ones and honorable mentions here go to "Subway", "Fallen Heroes", "Sniper" and "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"; but in Three Men takes the prize here for me.

4. The Dead Zone - "Precipitate"

I'm not usually a huge fan of stand alone episodes, and The Dead Zone's format of "Apocalypse episodes at the beginning and end of each season, stand alone in between" at times did make me want to skip over some of the episodes. But the second season episode Precipitate completely bucked this trend, providing one of the most memorable and amazing episodes of the show.

Johnny is given a life saving transfusion of blood, blood from six different donors. As Johnny's psychic gift is triggered by touch he's continuously given glimpses from the lives of these people, but (much like Quantum Leap) he's seeing their lives with he (Johnny) in the position they are in. Eventually he realises that one of the six is going to die and he travels to try and save whomever it is from their fate.

It's an episode which brings out the essence of The Dead Zone; Johnny is a man who seems to come into people's lives, save them from a fate only he can see, and then leave them always better off for his presence. Precipitate nails that concept completely and delivers an amazing final moment. If The Dead Zone had managed to deliver more episodes at this level it would have probably had a chance to close out its storyline with a seventh and final season.

3. The Wire - "Final Grades"

An episode also picked by TV Guide, Final Grades closes out the best season of The Wire with some powerful moments. The Wire's fourth season performs an exceptionally clever and difficult achievement, as it manages to introduce and base a large section of the season around four brand new characters and also keep it interesting. Final Grades brings all the stories and events of the season, along with many stories from earlier seasons, and brings them to a head.

It's definitely a better episode than the series finale -30-: which is an admirable creation , but suffers because of a few weaker points and inaccessible settings introduced in the final season. Final Grades has none of this baggage and remains the stronger entity as a consequence. Season three's finale "Mission Accomplished" was also a contender for this spot.

2. The Shield - "Pilot", "Of Mice and Lem", "Possible Kill Screen" & "Family Meeting"

I know I'm cheating here, but I just couldn't figure out which one of these episodes should be the one making it onto the list. Pilot is an amazing episode which trots out a show which appears to be one thing before taking a dramatic turn in the closing moments and revealing a whole new show. In hindsight this impact would have been greater if the events of the pilot episode had happened about six episodes in, but it's still a real jaw dropper. Of Mice and Lem is the single most devastating episode of the show, bringing to a head the events of the entire fifth season with just heartbreaking frankness. While Possible Kill Screen (the ante penultimate episode) and Family Meeting (The final episode) are filled with Earth shattering moments which bring seven seasons to a head and reveal who pays the price and for what.

1. Six Feet Under - "Everyone's Waiting"

Another episode I agree with TV Guide about, but I rate it much higher than they did. At times I found the final season of Six Feet Under a little hard to watch, I realised once the show lost the character I most identified with that I was drifting a little when watching. But the final episode brought everything back together with a crash and then the most bittersweet ending any show has ever managed to achieve. It's a finale that remains entirely true to the concept and visuals of the show, and has so much emotional impact you'd have to be made out of cheese to not be at least a little moved by it.

Agree? Disagree? Got a list of your own? I'd love to hear it.


5 comments so far.

  1. Dan 18 June 2009 at 14:44
    I wouldn't be able to compile a list like that. I'd just choose the five best episodes of my two favourite shows and they'd take up the Top 10!

    Have to say, totally disagree with you about Lost. Loved season 1, fantastic pilot (as you say), but everything since has been excellent for different reasons. It could have been a six-year long version of Cast Away-meets Gilligan's Island (and that may have been very good, too), but instead it's branched off into compelling mystery and sci-fi. I have no problem with the direction it's taken, really.

    A lot of people who condemn it just gave up too early when it DARED to become something that couldn't be easily pigeon-holed, or else had no staying power and wanted immediate answers. But it's a mystery show, silly. It NEEDS questions, not answers, and the answers DO come (with great regularity post-season 2, actually.)

    Anyway, not getting at you, just went off on one. Great list; but I'm not aware of most of those episodes. We swim in different circles.
  2. Aaron 18 June 2009 at 15:57
    Nice list, I'm tempted to write my own over the weekend. The Shield would definitely take up a few episodes in the list if it wasn't limited to one episode per show.
    Spot on with The Wire fourth season finale, it was one of the most powerful episodes of TV I've seen. It provoked a genuine emotional response that left me thinking about it for a good while afterwards.
  3. Rev/Views 19 June 2009 at 00:13
    @Dan: Yup I know we have a somewhat narrow intersection in shows we watch/have watched - still like reading about what you've seen.

    I'm somewhat surprised you haven't seen too many of the episodes I've listed here. Quite a few of them are from shows I think might be "in your pool" so to speak.

    About Lost; I think you know I didn't crack until season 3, where I got somewhat tired. But I shall be returning to Lost once I can get it all on DVD and watch the complete run in marathon sitting. It's not the sci-fi which irks me, it's the mysteries. Then again Twin Peaks mildly annoys me for similar reasons (it's still an amazing show mind you).

    Aye, The Shield has so many amazing episodes - it's easier to try and count the duff ones. I think the number is close to zero.

    And I still occasionally think about the end of The Wire's fourth season. It along with the episodes from Homicide, The Shield and Six Feet Under I mentioned here haunt me somewhat.

    In general:
    It was damn hard limiting myself to one episode per season and as you can see I still totally cheated where The Shield is concerned. But I can't distinguish between those four episodes for various reasons, they're four of the biggest moments in the show imo.
  4. Anonymous 21 June 2009 at 14:12
    You've got me thinking about my favourite episodes now and might compile a list myself. A lot of thinking to be had, might take a while.
  5. Rev/Views 21 June 2009 at 15:40
    I look forward to reading it! I adore top lists because it exposes you to things which you may not have seen before.

    Without the "Top 10 Halloween Episodes" for example, I would never have watched How I Met Your Mother.

    And the idea of life without seeing that show is a little empty.

Something to say?