As all our shows go home for their winter breaks (with 60 pounds of laundry for mom!), it’s time to embark on our annual year-end coverage!
We kick off our celebration of all things 2014 with part one of our Top 20 TV Moments. Trust us when we tell you that this has been a 12-month discussion; we’ve been analyzing and re-analyzing our picks since this year was even a thing.
A few disclaimers:
1. These moments are presented in no particular order. Feel free to rank in the comments, but we’re not doing the dirty work for you.
2. Spoilers obviously present. If you are phobic, you might want to scroll down and take a look at the tags to keep yourself safe.
That said, here are half of our favorite TV moments from this jam-packed year. Remember – there are ten more coming. So you can’t yell at us for leaving anything out. Yet.
1) Sherlock kisses Molly – Sherlock
Watching any episode of Sherlock is a heady experience. They are few and they are precious. When I watch one for the first time, I’m caught between a desperate need for the adventure’s conclusion and “DON’T FORGET ONE MOMENT OF THIS, SAGE.” It’s a thin line to walk.
After two years of the waiting game, season three opened with an escape sequence of Bond-ian proportions. And the cherry on top of the whole sexy spy act was the moment that Sherlock Holmes crashed through a glass window like a damn hero and reminded Molly Hooper why she keeps on dealing with his nonsense.
It is a genuine, pearl-clutching moment and, as Kim just said to me, “pure fanservice.” Up until this point, this swashbuckling, bodice-ripping Holmes only existed in fan fiction. And then Benedict Cumberbatch is on our TV screens (laptop screens, for those of us who are crap at waiting) ruffling his Sherlock locks (Just keep the curls for ONE hiatus, BC. We’re begging you.) and taking Molly’s face in his hands to give her something to remember him by. It was barely January and the first entry on this list was locked down like a cell block.
I maintain that this moment is canon, even if the rest of Anderson’s action-fantasy is not. My reasons for this are four-fold. Firstly: Molly Hooper deserves this. I want so much to believe that Sherlock acknowledged her sacrifice; she had more to lose than anyone. Secondly, they’re suuuuuper weird around each other the rest of the season, especially when the conversation comes down to love and sex. Something totally went down. Next, we find Molly in Sherlock’s mind palace in “The Last Vow.” She’s vital to him. And finally: I ship it and I want this and this is about me.
Irregardless of the reality of the situation, this was good, panty-droppin’ stuff. I’ll leave you with Louise Brealey’s thoughts on the matter, because she sees us.
And maybe she is us.
2) Pierce Hawthorne’s Last Will and Testament – Community
Season Five of Community was a mixed bag creatively, especially in the back half of the season after Donald Glover left the show. Maybe it is because the show blew its wad on the one-two punch of “Cooperative Polygraphy” and “Geothermal Escapism” because those two episodes were perfect send-offs for two of the Original Greendale Seven, Pierce Hawthorne and Troy Barnes. The final scene of “Cooperative Polygraphy” is the perfect mix of sweet and sour that is oh so Community that I am going to just paste all of the dialogue here.
Mr. Stone: Britta Perry Do you know that you hate yourself more than you should and that your passion inspired me?
Abed: That’s true. She didn’t know.
Mr. Stone: To Miss Perry, I leave my iPod Nano filled with music to take life less seriously by.
Shirley: Oh, that’s nice.
Mr. Stone: I also leave you this liquid nitrogen cooled cylinder of my hyper-virile sperm in case your lesbian lifestyle one day wears out and you wish to raise an army of geniuses. Shirley?
Mr. Stone: Did you know that you are not only a credit to your race and gender, but to our species, and that I was intimidated by your strength of character and business acumen? To Shirley Bennett, I leave my spacious timeshare in Florida, where she can take What’s-his-name and however many children she has now. I also leave you a cylinder of my sperm. Annie Edison. Did you know that you were always my favorite?
Annie: You mentioned it once, but…
Mr. Stone: I leave you this tiara, which you once refused to accept. It’s the same tiara I used to wear when my mother would verbally assault me for not being a little girl. Also sperm. Jeff Winger, did you know you’re gay?
Mr. Stone: Agree to disagree. To you, I leave this bottle of fine scotch so that you’re less tempted to drink this cylinder of even finer sperm. Abed Nadir, did you know that you are insane and nothing that you said ever made any sense to me?
Mr. Stone: Here’s your sperm. Troy Barnes, did you know that you possess the greatest gift life can give: The heart of a hero. And that it’s up to you not to waste it like I did?
Troy: I think.
Mr. Stone: To Troy, I leave the obligatory sperm.
Troy: Maybe it’s because everyone else got one, and because it’s an old man’s semen, but, um, I’m kind of disappointed.
Mr. Stone: In addition, I am prepared to leave Troy Barnes my remaining shares in the Hawthorne Wipes company, currently valued at $14.3 million. On one condition. You must first sail my boat, the Childish Tycoon, by yourself around the entire world.
Mr. Stone: When I was 23, my father asked me to do the same thing to earn my adulthood and his fortune. Of course I cheated and floated off the coast of Belize for a year doing coke with John Denver. I always regretted it. I’d like to give you a chance to do what I never did…Become your own man.
The INSTANT Britta was given the iPod nano, I started sobbing and cursing Dan Harmon’s brilliance because of the above image, hilariously from one of the most loathed episodes of Community, season one’s “The Art of Discourse”. It’s a little serendipitous that Chevy Chase left the show in 2014 (hell, it’s serendipitous the show was still even AIRING in 2014) and while I doubt that this moment was planned from season one, the fact that the writers added in this callback shows JUST how much attention they pay to the rich history of the show (and that makes me angry when they DON’T pay attention like when they create a brother for Annie Edison out of NOWHERE. I digress). The whole scene was a love letter to the fans of the show, between the iPod, Annie’s Tiara, and Pierce getting one more “Gay” dig in at Jeff. But most of all what this scene did is exemplify that Pierce, though he may have been a bastard and he may have been bad at showing it, truly loved and respected his study group friends. They were his family and he loved them and at the end of the day, he wanted to be sure they knew that. The gifts he gave to them all proved that he knew all of them better than they thought he did…and that he believed in them. And finding people who believe in you and love you FOR your weirdness? That’s what Community is all about, my friends.
3) Diamond Dan Dances for Mindy – The Mindy Project
For most of the year, Danny and Mindy’s first kiss on the airplane had a solid slot locked down on this list. On September 16th, everything changed. Sage and I were at a screening of Gillian Anderson’s A Streetcar Named Desire the night of the season three premiere of The Mindy Project. When we emerged emotionally exhausted from the screening, both of us had multiple (spoiler-free) text messages from friends making sure we were alive. I rushed home as fast as the MTA would carry me and immediately queued up “We’re A Couple Now, Haters”. When it was revealed that Danny Castellano had a stripper past, I immediately started saying Hail Mindys that we would get to see Chris Messina show off his moves (as we all knew he had them, thanks to “Christmas Party Sex Trap”). And in the last minutes of the episode, my prayers were answered and I curled up on the couch making dying animal noises at my television screen. “What did I do to deserve this wonderous moment,” I wailed at my TV. “I must have been very very good this year.” And then I promptly texted Sage to check to see if she was conscious. (She was. Barely.)
Danny Castellano dancing to “American Woman” for his girlfriend is important for many reasons, not just for the fact that these gifs exist on the internet to cheer you up on a dreary day from here to eternity. (Seriously…having a shit day? Stare at these gifs for a while.) Diamond Dan is important because in a culture where it’s usually the woman doing the sexy striptease (Magic Mike aside), Mindy Kaling flipped the script and had the MAN be the one being blatantly objectified, while the woman greedily watches. As Sage pointed out in her recap of this episode, the fact that both Danny and Mindy are DEAD SERIOUS in this scene is what makes it so special. Mindy is not hooting and hollering like so many women tend to be portrayed as doing in a male stripper situation. Danny is not doing some half-assed version of his routine as a joke. He does the routine full-out, never taking his eyes off her. In his seriousness, he makes it known that he completely trusts Mindy with his past. He also makes it known that this is a seduction to please HER and that there are going to be some SERIOUS sexytimes to follow.
He IS like a thirsty camel at a desert oasis, after all.
— Kim (and I am sure you won’t mind one more gif so here you go. I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST.)
4) Clara Gets a Phone Call – Doctor Who
It took us about 30 seconds to accept the Twelfth as our Doctor and savior, but Clara Oswald needed just a bit more time. “Deep Breath” did a fabulous job of transitioning a companion from a familiar, cuddly Doctor to his more dangerous and less knowable regeneration. And we can argue over the rules and what we consider to be the breaking of them, but that won’t make this surprise cameo by Matt Smith any less powerful.
My heart aches for anyone who was spoiled for this scene. I myself was sitting in the dark among a few thousand Whovians (annnnnnd Peter and Jenna and Moffat, thank you very much) at the Ziegfeld screening when Eleven called Clara from Trenzalore. I promptly burst into tears.
Clara: Hello? Hello?
Eleven: It’s me.
Clara: Yes, it’s you. Who’s this?
Eleven: It’s me Clara. The Doctor.
Clara: What do you mean “The Doctor”?
Eleven: I’m phoning you from Trenzalore, from before I changed. It’s all still to happen to me. It’s coming. Oh, it’s coming. Not long now. I can…feel it.
Clara: Why? Why did you do this?
Eleven: Because I think it’s gonna be a whopper. And I think you might be scared. And however scared you are, Clara, the man you are with right now, the man I hope you are with, believe me, he is more scared than can imagine right now, and he needs you. Is that The Doctor?
Twelve: Is that the Doctor?
Eleven: He sounds old. Please tell me I didn’t get old. I was young. Oh. Is he gray?
Eleven: Clara, please, hey, for me. Help him. Go on. And don’t be afraid. Goodbye Clara. Miss ya.
Most of the criticism that this scene was met with accused it of being gimmicky – a shortcut to full companion/audience acceptance of Twelve. For me, it was a proper goodbye to Eleven, since “Time of the Doctor” was a sloppy travesty.
Moreover, I don’t think that the call left the writers or the actors off the hook. If anything, Matt’s appearance highlighted the stark differences between Eleven and Twelve. “Miss ya,” Eleven says, with so much emotion in his voice that it hurts to hear it, right before Twelve reacts to Clara’s hug like she’s crawling with cooties. These are different men, and we’re going to deal with that. You better believe we’re gonna deal with that.
“Deep Breath” is a suspenseful debut in need of an emotional center. This scene brought us a welcome quiet moment for the Doctor and his companion to take stock and get back on the same page. And all three stars acted the hell out of it. Matt with his weary cheerfulness; Jenna putting on her brave face because she knows it’s the right thing to do; and Peter infusing this thorny Doctor with heart wrenching vulnerability. (“Please…just see me.”) Things for Clara and Twelve wouldn’t be easy from this point on, but at least she finally saw the person standing right in front of her.
5) Parks and Recreation flashes forward
What a relief, to trust a show so implicitly.
A time jump is an audacious move, particularly for a show like Parks – never one to lean on a gimmick. But this one felt like a gift to fans. It’s almost like a 13-episode epilogue for Pawnee, where we can peek into the futures of our beloved friends. It’s going to be a gorgeous send-off and NBC should be ashamed of burning it off.
6) Daryl and Beth on the Porch – The Walking Dead
The back half of season four of The Walking Dead featured several episodes that were intimate character studies as Rick’s band of survivors splintered into tiny groups following The Governor’s final assault on the prison. We had Rick, Carl, and Michonne together. We had Carol, Tyreese, Judith, Lizzie, and Mika in one group. Glenn and Maggie were separated, both with groups of newcomers. But there was no combination more fascinating than the combination of Daryl Dixon and Beth Greene…mainly because they were the two characters you could never imagine EVER forming a strong bond. “Still” is an exquisitely paced, quiet, and thoughtful episode. To anyone who says this episode bored them, I say….do you not like character development? Do you simply watch this show for all the Walker Killing and the gross-outs? (Probably.)
Beth and Daryl are polar opposites on the personality spectrum. He is gruff and taciturn. She is talkative and openly emotional. He is perceived as strong and she is perceived as weak. Beth spends most of the episode pushing Daryl’s buttons and trying to get him to admit that he cares about everything that has happened to them and all that they have lost. She acts out with a new “FUCK EVERYTHING” attitude as she goes on a quest for alcohol and shows a new spark that we hadn’t seen in her before. Daryl spends most of the episode barely tolerating her presence and then taunting her (“What do you want from me, girl?”). Daryl is SO broken and the whole episode he is trying to keep Beth at arm’s length BECAUSE she is breaking him down. He’s so desperately trying to keep up his walls around her and he just can’t do it. When Daryl finally breaks down and admits his guilt over Herschel’s death (“Maybe I could have done something.”) and Beth immediately hugs him from behind, my heart BROKE for these two lost souls finding comfort in each other. Then, just when I thought my pain couldn’t get any worse, they had a heart to heart on the porch and Daryl opened up about his past like he never had to anyone before.
Beth: I wish I could just… change.
Daryl: You did.
Beth: Not enough. Not like you. It’s like you were made for how things are now.
Daryl: I’m just used to it, things being ugly. Growing up in a place like this.
Beth: Well, you got away from it.
Daryl: I didn’t.
Beth: You did.
Daryl: Maybe you got to keep on reminding me sometimes.
Beth: No. You can’t depend on anybody for anything, right? I’ll be gone someday.
Beth: I will. You’re gonna be the last man standing. You are. You’re gonna miss me so bad when I’m gone, Daryl Dixon.
Daryl: You ain’t a happy drunk at all.
Beth:Yeah, I’m happy. I’m just not blind. You got to stay who you are, not who you were. Places like this, you have to put it away.
Daryl: What if you can’t?
Beth: You have to. Or it kills you.
Daryl: Here. We should go inside.
Beth: (grins up at him) We should burn it down.
That’s what made Beth Greene SO WONDERFUL, you guys. She sat there on that porch with Daryl Dixon, bathed in moonlight like an angel, and just listened to him talk about his shitty childhood. She talked about HER lost dreams and laughed at herself for believing in happy endings. Then she told Daryl that he was more than he was more than his past. She told him that they were going to burn his shitty childhood to the ground and then defiantly (and joyfully) gave the burning house the finger and made him do the same thing. Everything about “Still” is beautiful, but ESPECIALLY that conversation on the porch where Daryl finally looks at Beth as an equal and not a burden. She is a ray of sunshine and goodness in a dark and hopeless world. We should have known then that she was too good to live.
Naturally, all of this character development went to shit in the midseason finale for Season 5. But we won’t talk about that right now.
7) Henry Parrish is the Horseman of War and Ichabod’s Son – Sleepy Hollow
Our love affair with Sleepy Hollow progressed like any other: curiosity became attachment, which became a slightly unhealthy preoccupation. Sleepy hasn’t exactly recaptured the magic of its near-perfect first season yet. They’ll get there. It’s their own fault. The totally bananas season finale crushed, leaving some big shoes for a tricky sophomore season to fill.
At Sleepy‘s New York Comic Con panel this year, producer Len Wiseman asked thousands of Sleepy Heads if they’d seen this twist coming. Not one person raised her hand. We had been lulled into a false sense of security by John Noble’s sweet, grandfatherly ways and cozy shawl-collar sweaters. That’ll teach us to trust our eyes and emotions in this town.
Henry: Do you know the etymology of the word ‘apocalypse’?
Ichabod: To disclose or reveal.
Henry: That time has come.
Us: OH, SHIT.
Aside from that little matter of Victor Garber chewing on glass, the reveal of Henry Parrish as Jeremy Crane and the Horseman of War was the biggest shock of the episode. And John Noble earned his spot as a season two series regular in his Bond villain monologue, wherein he reveals his evil plot to the parents who “abandoned” him. (“This is our first family spat!”) He and his step-daddy Moloch trap Abbie in purgatory in a creepy dollhouse, hand Katrina over to Abraham, and bury Ichabod alive. Season ends and we settle in for a comfy nine month hiatus. Cruel.
8) Will Gardner Dies – The Good Wife
On March 23rd, 2014 I was huddled in front of my TV watching the penultimate episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead when episode 15 of the 5th season of The Good Wife (“Dramatics, Your Honor”) started airing late, thanks to a March Madness overrun. Normally, I would tune into The Good Wife on my DVR after I finished watching whatever AMC drama was currently airing in the same time slot. That night, however, since it had started late and my Queen Gillian Anderson was starring on the ill-fated drama Crisis the following hour, I decided to postpone TGW until the episode was done recording on the DVR.
Halfway though Crisis (seriously, how dull was that show), Twitter EXPLODED with people reacting to shit going down on The Good Wife. Thankfully, the tweets were spoiler-free, mainly just consisting of expletives and exclamation points and #TheGoodWife. I am not talking about my normal group of Twitter Overreactors (HI GUYS! ILYSM), I’m talking about TV Critics losing their shit. And when Ryan McGee and Alan Sepinwall lose their shit, I know it’s a BIG EFFING DEAL. I threw my phone across the room as if it were a hot potato, slammed my computer shut, and immediately pressed play on the episode.
And then in the last act of the episode, I watched in horror as Will Gardner, the show’s leading man, was caught in the crossfire when his client (played by Hunter Parrish) grabbed a deputy’s gun and shot up the courtroom. THERE WAS NO WAY HE WAS DEAD THOUGH, RIGHT? This wasn’t even February sweeps!!! And did I mention Josh Charles is the leading man of the show and YOU JUST DON’T DO THIS? AND HOW DID NO ONE KNOW ABOUT THIS?
Well, The Good Wife did it, proving once again that it is one of the boldest and unsung dramas on television. Kalinda and Diane went to the hospital, thinking Will was in surgery…only to find that he was DOA. What made Will’s death all the more tragic was the fact that he and Alicia had been at odds all season (that’s an understatement, they hated each other) and “Dramatics, Your Honor” hinted at a chance of a resolution for them. And now…that resolution would never come. Will and Alicia could never quite get their timing right and Alicia’s grief over losing Will rippled through the rest of the season.
The most impressive thing about this episode is that NO ONE saw it coming…which is a damn miracle in this day and age where the details of an actor’s contract negotiations are reported on like the weather forecast. I don’t know how the team at The Good Wife managed to keep this one quiet (it does help that Josh Charles returned to direct episodes, so he was still on set). Bravo to them for setting the new standard when it comes to killing a character off.
9) “Fight” – Masters of Sex
“I can’t tell who’s winning.”
“Well, that can change from moment to moment.”
Masters of Sex does a lot well (pain, heartbreak, heartbreak, pain, gorgeous period wardrobe, boob envy, etc.), but its ace in the hole is the chemistry between its two leads. So it’s no surprise that the strongest episode of its second season was a bottle episode, consisting almost entirely of Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan in a hotel room alone together, just acting their faces off.
The hotel tryst is bookended by scenes concerning one of Bill’s current patients, a woman who has given birth to a physically ambiguously gendered child. The father, “a bully,” decides that no son of his will be “ambiguously” masculine (or not “hung to his satisfaction,” in Bill’s words.) and so chooses to ignore the results of the child’s chemical gender test. Bill, who can barely muster empathy for his own child and its mother, lets himself again be destroyed by the will of an obstinate father.
It’s chemistry like Caplan and Sheen’s that can make even the daddy issues of a rich, educated white man feel compelling – no easy feat. In “Fight,” Bill and Virginia continue their
personal participation in the study affair at a hotel where they’re known only as Dr. and Mrs. Francis Holden. Realities bleed together as they do their best to hold the door closed against the insistent outside world. Throughout the course of the night, Bill and Virginia move organically from deeply intimate sex to bittersweet banter to therapy session and then back again. Or, as Gini will write it up: “The two acts of intercourse mutually satisfying. One masturbatory act. Role-playing throughout. Am I forgetting anything?”
A televised boxing match provides the backdrop for the non-couple’s drama. It’s a little on-the-nose, but that’s easily forgiven when coupled with on-point dialogue and measured performances.The match is a springboard for revelations about Bill’s son-of-a-bitch father (See Sheen’s face when Gini asks, “Isn’t that what every man wants, a son?”) and the delicate illusion of Bill and Virginia’s relationship. (“I’ve never seen you so much as glance at the Sports page.” “Well, we don’t have breakfast together, do we?”) And it serves as a handy metaphor for relationships of all kinds: boxers and lovers need to learn how to get close enough to strike a blow while still protecting themselves. (“When you invite a punch, you’re saying you can take it.”)
Masters excels in giving us characters whose fragility is constant and human. They can break barriers, strive for long overdue equality, and change the face of sexual research, but they’re still constantly at the mercy of their own insecurities and shortcomings. We’re talking the best kind of exquisite tragedy. Bring on season three.
10) Tyrion Takes the Stand – Game of Thrones
If I can be honest with you guys, Game of Thrones tends to be hit or miss with me. There are times when I find it unbearably dull (did we really need the penultimate episode of this past season to be one long battle with no dialogue that was essentially a rip-off of The Battle of Helm’s Deep?) (Also, while Kit Harrington is very pretty, I find myself caring very little about Jon Snow.). There are times when I find it incredibly riveting (The Red Wedding (which made this list last year) and the Purple Wedding and the execution of Ned Stark are all examples of this). I am rarely more glued to Game of Thrones than when Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is on the screen. Tyrion is by FAR the most compelling character of the series and there’s a reason Dinklage has an Emmy for the role.
Tyrion’s major story in season four revolved around him being imprisoned and subsequently put on trial for Joffrey’s murder (which he is innocent of). Tyrion knows from the moment Cersei and Tywin turn on him that he’s fucked. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t do it, it only matters that everyone in his family (save for Jamie) hates him. They’ve been looking for a reason to execute him basically since he was born a dwarf and now they have it. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see Tyrion realize JUST how fucked he is when his lover Shae turns on him on the stand. He has nothing left, so he delivers a BLISTERING “confession” spewing forth a lifetime’s worth of crimes because why the hell not? He’s dammed anyway. Dinklage delivers this speech with such an unrestrained furor that had he not been up against Aaron Paul for the final season of Breaking Bad, this episode would have brought him home Emmy number two.
And that’s our first ten moments! Moments 11 through 20 will be coming in the next week! Till then, discuss these two moments here and share your hopes for the next ten!