Another year has passed and again, Head Over Feels has spent most of it parked in front of a screen of some kind. Regrets are for wimps.
Since 2015 began, we’ve been bookmarking all the television events that have made us weep, cheer, and clutch our pearls like the innocent flowers that we are. And as we get ready to welcome all the entertainment 2016 has to offer, the time has come to pay tribute to 20 unforgettable moments from this year in TV.
1) The White Party – Empire
Empire never does anything small, so I’d figured that Jamal’s eventual coming out wouldn’t be a quiet affair. And yet, how could I have been prepared for his barrier-smashing performance at the label’s annual White Party in “The Lyon’s Roar”? Empire drew praise and jeers in its first season for its portrayal of homophobia in black culture and the unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the mainstream music industry. I’m not qualified to offer comment on the show’s socio-political responsibilities in these areas, but I can tell you about the impact this storyline had on me as an individual viewer.
First of all, the scene is visually stunning, from the mansion setting to the fabulous achromatic costuming. (To Most Handsome Young Man nominee Jussie Smollett, who looks quite delicious, as per usual.) Empire has this great tradition of closing up the distance between musicians and audiences, so that every performance scene looks like a house party instead of a concert. I love that I can hear the guests singing along to the track. I love that I can read the reactions on individual faces when Jamal changes his shitty-ass dad’s lyric to “this the kind of song that makes a man love a man.” I love Jamal’s joyful defiance, and the way he turns directly to Lucious to look him in the face while he stands up and claims his own identity. And Cookie loves it too. The mother/son relationship between these two was the heart of season one to me, and she is incandescent with pride in this scene. Remember that Lucious wrote this song for Cookie. With their marriage in the shitter (because Lucious is a GARBAGE PERSON), Jamal gives “You’re So Beautiful” welcome new meaning for the person who never stopped telling him it was okay to be who he was. He gave the world a show. And the world didn’t end. –Sage
2) Peggy and Stan Are in Love – Mad Men
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Mad Men would give us such an overtly romantic ending for my queen Peggy Olson. I had ALWAYS shipped Peggy and Stan but I had made my peace that it was never going to happen on the show. No one got to be happy on Mad Men! EVER. So imagine my surprise and delight when Peggy and Stan finally figured their shit out in “Person to Person”. I watched the finale in the wee hours of the morning after I came home from a two-show day and I started screaming at 3 AM when Stan confessed his love in the most perfectly Stan and Peggy way…over the phone. Their phone calls were one of the hallmarks of their relationship over the course of the series, so it was only fitting that it happened this way.
Peggy: I mean, I’m going to stay.
Stan: Good, because I didn’t want you to leave.
Peggy: Then why didn’t you just say that?
Stan: Because every time I’m face to face with you, I want to strangle you. And then I miss you when I go away. And I miss you and I call you on the phone and I get the person I want to talk to.
Peggy: That’s not true.
Stan: Yeah, well, I don’t know what it is, but when I’m standing in front of you, I bring out something terrible. I think about how you came into my life and how you drove me crazy and now I– I don’t even know what to do with myself because all I want to do is be with you.
Peggy: What? What did you just say?
Stan: I want to be with you. I’m in love with you.
Stan: I love you, Peggy.
Peggy: Oh, my God. That’s what I thought you said.
My heart dropped when it seemed that Peggy was about to reject Stan. Because of course she wasn’t in love with him, right? I mean we all knew she was in love with him, but did SHE? Watching her figure out that she was in love with him was a MARVEL. What a performance by Elisabeth Moss. She goes from disbelief to confusion to sudden realization in a matter of moments and it’s beautiful.
Peggy: I– I– I don’t know what to say. Whew. I feel like I can’t breathe almost. I mean, I don’t even think about you. Uh I mean, I do all the time, because you’re there. (touches her heart) And you’re here. And you make everything okay. You always do. No matter what. I mean, I must be. Because you’re always right. I can’t believe this. I think I’m in love with you, too. I really do. Stan? Are you there? (silence) Stan?
ME: OH NO STAN DID YOU REALLY HANG UP HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME SHOW? Cue Stan appearing in Peggy’s doorway, out of breath because he SPRINTED to her office as soon as he realized where this was going. Is this Mad Men or my favorite romantic comedy?
Stan: What were you saying?
Peggy: I love you.
All my tears. –Kim
3) The Diner Fight – Agent Carter
4) “You’re a stone cold bitch.” – The Mindy Project
5) Stevie Wonder Carpool Karaoke – The Late Late Show
Anyone worth hanging out with knows how to properly jam in the car.
Maybe I’ve seen American Graffiti too many times, but isn’t there a beautiful sense of freedom that comes with being behind the wheel of a car? The Late Late Show‘s Carpool Karaoke series leverages the comforting familiarity of the road trip singalong, a “the stars, they’re just like us!” sense of bonding, and host James Corden’s authentic fangirling and driver’s seat chair-dancing. From the very first edition of this sketch (with a totally game Mariah Carey, thank you), it’s been a favorite of our blog and the bit with the most viral traction. Knowing us, you perhaps you expected to see One Direction’s Carpool Karaoke on this list. But even a choreographed performance of morning wood anthem “No Control” couldn’t quite steal the slot from Stevie Wonder. Because he is Stevie Wonder, as James’s wife confirmed firsthand.
A late night host has every opportunity I’ve ever dreamed of to make lasting memories with cool celebrities. But I think even James would admit that it’s going to be real hard to top sitting in a car with Stevie Wonder and listening to him sing “I just called to say James loves you…” to the woman he married. (When James cries, I cry.) The 10+ minute bit includes James and Stevie harmonizing on the artist’s ridiculous catalog (“Superstition,” “Isn’t She Lovely?” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”…you know, those hack jobs), but it’s James’s “indulgent” request and his heart-melting reaction that put this Carpool Karaoke on the top of a very entertaining heap. –Sage
6) Clara and The Doctor Say Goodbye – Doctor Who
I’m about to momentarily borrow our friend Graeme Burk’s penchant for describing Doctor Who concepts with just one word. When I think about the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, the word that pushes in front of all the others is respect. The Doctor treated Clara like his equal, especially in Series 9. And even when he was painstakingly breaking out of his confession dial or making a frantic getaway from the Time Lords because of how that power sharing threw off time and space, I don’t think he could really bring himself to regret it. But I’m getting off-topic.
7) Cisco “Dies” at the Hands of Wells – The Flash
The Flash went balls to the wall in Season One. While its sister show Arrow languished in the world of perpetually setting up spin-offs, allowing its own identity to get lost (guys, we’ve spent a SEASON AND A HALF setting up Legends of Tomorrow), The Flash burst out of the gate with CONFIDENCE and tightly paced storytelling. Episode 15, which on a different show would just be a filler episode, saving the good stuff for sweeps, was INSANE. It could have served as a season finale, it was that insane. Barry and Iris kissed. Iris found out Barry’s secret. Barry tried to create a barrier between a tsunami and Central City and ran so fast he traveled in time. WHAT IS THIS SHOW?
But the kicker of “Out of Time” is the “death” of fan-favorite Cisco Ramon at the hands of his mentor Harrison Wells. The entire season had been building up to the reveal of Wells’ secret agenda, having teased that he was not a good guy in the pilot. Joe West had his sights set on Wells, but Cisco and Caitlin had adamantly refused to believe in those suspicions. So of course it had to be Cisco, the pure and perfect cinnamon roll, who discovered his secret. Not only was Wells the Reverse Flash, he wasn’t even Harrison Wells but Eobard Thawne, a man from the future, dead set on killing Barry Allen. Carlos Valdez’s HORROR as he confronts Wells/Thawne is beautiful and the way Tom Cavanagh plays the scene with cold matter-of-factness is positively chilling. Apparently, Cisco wasn’t supposed to cry as he worked out the secret and realized that he was in deep shit. That was ALL Carlos and it’s amazing. The way his voice breaks when he says “I can help you” is devastating. And then Wells looks at him coldly. “You’re smart, Cisco. But you’re not that smart. Do you know how hard it has been to keep all of this from you, especially from you? Because the truth is, I’ve grown quite fond of you. And in many ways, you have shown me what it’s like to have a son. Forgive me, but to me, you’ve been dead for centuries.” BOOM SUPER FAST KNIFE HAND IN THE CHEST. Cue me screaming. Sure, it was all undone when Barry time-traveled, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the moment. If anything, it kept me more on the edge of my seat for the rest of the season. Protect Cisco Ramon. At all costs. –Kim
8) Derek Dies – Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy is NOTORIOUS for killing beloved characters off in spectacular fashion (never forget that George was literally thrown under a bus). Given that he had a reduced episode count in Season 11, it was clear that Patrick Dempsey was done with Grey’s, so really, I should have seen this coming. I just never thought that Shonda Rhimes would have the stones to kill off Doctor McDreamy.
The night “How to Save a Life” aired, I was doing a show and made the mistake of checking Twitter on the way home. While I wasn’t spoiled outright, I saw that shit had gone down on Grey’s and almost threw my phone across the train to avoid details. As soon as I got home, I watched the episode with trepidation because I knew…I just KNEW that this was the end. I watched in horror as Derek, finally reunited with Meredith and rededicated to their marriage, took a mountain road on the way to the airport and narrowly avoided getting in an accident. I held my breath as he heroically saved all the passengers (including Parenthood‘s Sydney, proving EVERYTHING is her fault). I swore out loud when Derek dropped his signature line, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives”. And I burst into tears when after all his heroics, Derek got back in his car, looked at his phone, and was T-Boned by a semi-truck. Surely…SURELY this wasn’t happening, right? This wasn’t the way Derek was going to go. Except it was. Derek was taken to a bumblefuck hospital not equipped to handle his injuries and he died there when the on-call Doctor misdiagnosed his head trauma. He never woke up. A tearful Meredith arrived just in time to turn off the machines and hold his hand as he breathed his last breath. Naturally, because Shonda is a cruel mistress, this death scene was scored to an acoustic version of “Chasing Cars”. That ended me. I had a meltdown on social media. I swore I would never watch Grey’s Anatomy again. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME? HOW DO YOU KILL OFF DEREK SHEPHERD?
Of course, here we are, halfway through Season 12, and I am still watching. And you know what? Despite the emotional trauma of his death, it was what the show needed. It has provided a WEALTH of story and the strange thing is…I don’t miss him. YOU WIN, SHONDA RHIMES. –Kim
9) Joe and Jenny Kiss – Sleepy Hollow
ILU, Sleepy Hollow fandom, but I need you to process this reality check: Ichabbie is a slow burn ship. That’s been written into the show since the very beginning, being that Ichabod Crane had a wife. The show planned to Mulder and Scully that ‘ish (length of “will-they, won’t-they” to be determined by network renewals), so tweeting the writers about making them kiss isn’t going to scratch your itch. My recommendations? A) Read some fic; B) write some fic (then send it to me, please); and C) get your ya-yas from Joey Corbin and Jennifer Mills, the hottest demon/Wendigo couple in upstate New York.
August Corbin’s son isn’t back in Sleepy Hollow for five minutes before he plants himself firmly at the side of the Jenny Mills. His given reason for tagging along on Jenny’s adventures is that he wants to learn about his father’s secret life and to honor him by finishing what he started. It’s just a bonus that his demon-hunting teacher happens to be very cute and very into him.
The build between Joe and Jenny is steady and satisfying to watch. They slam pickle backs, hang out in Jenny’s trailer, run double-cons on seedy treasure seekers, and flirt mercilessly in the sparring ring. The relationship becomes very close very quickly, but Zach Appelman was very adamant when we talked to him at New York Comic Con that his character and Jenny did not grow up together. (i.e. No brother/sister creepiness.) All Joey needs to make his move is a push from meddling maiden aunt, Ichabod Crane. And the moment is perfect, if a little heavy on the clichés. (I do love a good hurt/comfort fic, myself.) Joe tenderly takes Jenny’s blood to see what they can learn about her illness, mere inches separating them. And then he lightly jokes about something he feels dead seriously about: he’s not going anywhere, and she can count on that.
Joe: It’s gonna be a little footnote when you tell people the story about what happened here years from now.
Jenny: Oh, yeah? Who am I gonna tell?
Joe: Well, let’s see, I don’t know. I mean… Abbie’ll be running the FBI, so she’s gonna be kind of tough to reach. And Crane will be a college professor, but he’s only gonna keep office hours, like, once a week, so…
Jenny: What does he teach?
Joe: Modern cinema. (she laughs) Hm. So I guess that leaves me.
Jenny: I guess it does.
Of course, everything goes to hell immediately after these two finally make out. But here’s hoping that the second half of season three will bring us the continued adventures of Joenny, including them getting some. Lord knows they deserve it. –Sage
10) Stephen Colbert’s Tribute To Jon Stewart – The Daily Show
The only thing I love more than close and demonstrably affectionate friendships between adult men is watching adult men looking uncomfortable with the sincerity directed their way. Jon Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show was a parade of past and current correspondents wishing him well – your standard tribute show. But it was Stephen Colbert’s job to plow through Jon’s polite embarrassment and emotional barriers on behalf of their colleagues and really drive home their admiration and gratitude. Who better? (“It’ll be quick, if you just hold still!”) Jon can’t do anything but cringe down at his desk while Stephen thanks him for being an example of how to “do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect,” proving that the best work comes from a place of humility. (THIS IS KILLING HIM.) The Stewart/Colbert Comedy Central reign is over, but it’ll be looked back on as a tag-team that changed comedy and news forever. –Sage
There are 10 more of our picks for 2015’s best TV moments coming later this week! For now, let us know what you think of Part One in the comments.