Best Of 2018: Our Favorite Episodes

Picking the best episodes from a year during Peak TV is kind of like putting together a (very long) mixtape for a friend. As on a good mixtape where you strive to pick one song to share from a beloved artist, leaving out classics you wish you could fit in, there are many examples among the greatest shows where there are other perfectly valid choices we’re sad to omit (“Jeremy Bearimy” pops to mind — we mean it broke Chidi to the point he was putting marshmallow peeps in chili). In any case, here’s roughly ten episodes of top television that we hope will seduce you to fall madly in love with us!

Check out Our Favorite Characters of 2018 here!

Forever — “Andre and Sarah

episodesforeverLast year we thought the worst that could happen in death was eternal torture in the Bad Place (especially a neighborhood masquerading as the Good Place–nobody likes that much frozen yogurt!) but now we know worse things can happen. We can be physically tied to a dull, suburban neighborhood and a partner that makes us miserable. And so “Andre and Sarah” looks like a bottle episode, but it’s really the catalyst Maya Rudolph’s June is looking for: just outside their non-descript cul-de-sac is a nice house that’s often for sale, bringing together two fun, attractive, earnest realtors. They fall in love, marry other people, and continue their affair over the course of several decades. They ascend in their careers and they promise each other, often, that they’re going to break up with their spouse tomorrow… but they don’t, and Sarah dies, and Andre finds out when he pops in on her open house. And goddamn, Alan Yang, I didn’t know I could cry so much as I did when Andre realized he “missed his chance.” (And you know who else missed their chance at award season, special guest stars Hong Chau and Jason Mitchell!) – Katherine M. Hill

The Handmaid’s Tale — “Smart Power

episodeshandmaidsSeason two of the horrific dystopian series finds many of its characters at a crossroads in “Smart Power.” This episode is so pivotal because it sets the blessed stage for the rest of the season. While on a diplomatic trip in Canada, Serena is presented with a choice to run away from it all and escape to Hawaii, but instead of taking her freedom she stays committed to Gilead and the oppression in which she plays a huge part. Serena continues to be an intriguing character because she is so darn perplexing! How can she honestly condone this type of life? Nick has smuggled the letters June hid and gives them to her husband to share with world. And Moira is there rebelling! Back in Gilead, June is forced to make the necessary alliances to ensure the safety of her future child. The storm is just beginning. – Navani Otero

The Good Place — “Janet(s)

episodesgoodplaceNot a robot, not a woman, and not even whatever it was she was supposed to be in the first place, Janet has been the centrifugal force that binds together the complex TGP universe, but it’s a testament to the acting chops of D’arcy Carden that this high-concept mid-season finale (absent of four of its main players) did not wither away to gimmick or to silly imitations. In “Janet(s),” Jason, Tahani, Chidi, and Eleanor, in desperation, are fatally zapped into hiding, inside Janet, and based on the lovably arcane logic of this universe, they must all take the form of Janet for it to work. Not only does Carden brilliantly embody the personality of all the other four — including when Eleanor is pretending to be Jason and vice versa (“I’m Arizona shrimp horny”) — but the writers effortlessly manage to move the story forward, while satisfying legion shippers, with a brilliant whirlwind of a scene where Chidi is impelled to kiss a glitching Eleanor in order to save her essential being. And we don’t even have time to get into Stephen Merchant guesting as a possible nod to his TV roots as a functionary/middle manager in the Accountancy Department of the Afterlife. – Jason Thurston

Brooklyn Nine-Nine — “The Negotiation

episodesbrooklyn99It starts with a hostage negotiation at a jewelry store. Jake Peralta is requested by name to be the official negotiator. Jake heads to the scene and immediately discovers that Doug Judy is behind this hostage situation! Gotta love Doug Judy. What follows is a wild adventure of Jake and Judy. Jake decides to trust Doug Judy, again. Doug Judy betrays that trust, again. There are diamonds, drug dealers, karaoke and (French Grey) Le Creuset pots! It’s a delight of an episode, full of adventure, intrigue, tension and humor. It’s the perfectly contained episode that begins with the joyful surprise of Doug Judy and ends with a loving gesture that wraps it all up with a bow. – Fiona Wiedermann

Big Mouth — “The Planned Parenthood

episodesbigmouthFed up with the government’s plan to gut Planned Parenthood, the creators and writers of Big Mouth met with the president of PP’s Los Angeles branch before writing several storylines where the middle schoolers battle sexual maturation. In a Bachelor-style skit, a teenager gives her rose (ew) to the pull-out method, only to get yanked into a more rational choice by her mother. Another battles an imaginary STI that was inspired by horror films but reminiscent of Black Hole by Charles Burns. Most significant though, is the touching, hilarious story of one mother’s abortion, set to Dee-lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.” Without Planned Parenthood, it argues, there wouldn’t be a series main character and the life she lives now. It’s good to know that Netflix’s raunchiest series is on the side of reason (and Nathan Fillion). – Katherine M. Hill

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “I’m Not The Person I Used To Be

episodescrazyexThat its centerpiece and the winking episode title revolves around us as the audience accepting an audacious conceit, while it does make the installment’s success that much more impressive, is not the reason it makes the list. This is a mid-season finale of a show whose writing, half thanks to the focus and direction of knowing the series itself is hurtling to its end, is firing on all cylinders; it’s a slice of a character-driven program, one which revels in its talented ensemble, employing most of its universe — even Father Bruh — in a story equal parts farce and melodrama. It’s the day of West Covina High School reunion, and the meta game is on point — Valencia and Greg are both back for “the rest of the season/series … of holidays.” There’s a tale of true love mocked by fate — and Hector’s incompetence (the 10-year is two years late), Josh learns about the world beyond his coolness bubble, and Rebecca meets Greg, who is both figuratively and literally a new person as Skyler Astin has replaced Santino Fontana in the role and of course they make mention of it … many times. It shouldn’t be effective, or affecting, but because it’s this show, it is. – Jason Thurston

Bob’s Burgers – “Better Off Sled

episodesbobsburgIt’s a snow day for the Belcher kids, and they’ve planned, not unreasonably, to enjoy their snowy afternoon on one of Seymour’s Bay’s better hills, only to have Logan (freaking Logan, ugh!) ruin their fun. Eventually we need Louise’s sociopathy to defeat her nemesis, but it’s the middle act of their war that made this episode standout: Regular-Size Rudy’s cousin, Mandy, steps in shame Logan with a series of snowballs. Logan has more than one nemesis, and it’s every female athlete in high school, who have had it uptohere with his bullshit. It’s not just that everyone knows a Logan, it’s that everyone wants to see Logan and his goons take down by the teenage girls staffing the lacrosse, softball, and basketball teams. – Katherine M. Hill

Escape at Dannemora — “Part 6

episodesdannemoraIn the first five episodes of the true-life prison escape mini-series, we meet the players and a remarkable thing happens: we grow to like these flawed individuals whose fates are intertwined. Even grisly murderer and obvious master manipulator Richard Matt seems sympathetic in all of Benicio del Toro’s diffident, brooding glory. Of course, it’s not remarkable at all; it’s how we are wired and how drama works. And when the deadly hammer that is “Part 6” comes down, it does so with all the fury. “Part 6” is all flashback as it takes us back to each of the inmate’s crimes, reminding us of the brutality and evil embodying each of the escapees, while stripping any element of a non-muck-filled past for Tilly. Even lovable dope Lyle “What About King’s Wok? King’s Wok, Tilly?” Mitchell isn’t let off the hook as we learn the meet was very much not-cute as he and the very married Tilly copulate (and it ain’t sex or making love, it’s copulation) in the bushes in full view of everyone. Ben Stiller may have just made his bones as a director with this terrifying, and necessary, hour-long reminder as we barrel towards that final “tragedy” that these souls for whom we have grown to have affection are not good people, not by a long shot. – Jason Thurston

Atlanta — “Teddy Perkins

episodesatlantaSuch an important episode and not JUST because it’s Darius-centric, although that might have been enough for me. “Teddy Perkins” takes the Robbin’ Season theme to the next level with the super dark, commercial-free mini-movie centered around a character that reminds us of Michael Jackson. What happens to a music star who is robbed of their childhood? To someone who faces intense childhood trauma? It plays out like Get Out part 2 and for the first time, we see our hero Darius shaken up in the midst of it. It ends with him witnessing a murder-suicide. Besides a creepy but amazing performance by Donald Glover as Teddy, this episode reminds us why Atlanta is brilliant to begin — it highlights the most hilarious and most frightful aspects of everyday life. – Navani Otero

Bojack Horseman — “Free Churro

episodesbojackWhat is this, a bottle episode? To lampshade the klunkiness of that reference, it’s weirdly fitting by its own right in that any element of Mr. Peanut Butter is absent from this episode. So is every other main character, and any sense of comfortable dialogue or normal timing. Set at Beatrice Horseman’s funeral, in what plays like a Christopher Durang play, Bojack awkwardly riffs on his mother’s death, uses her coffin as a virtual sideman, pops pills, complains about food and service (yet honeydew somehow fails to come up), pops pills, breaks down, builds back up, and is mainly Bojack at his rawest. It’s almost an aside that both of Bojack’s parents, two people who at one point, at least on the surface yearned for greater truth in life, died meaninglessly in a state of abject confusion. “There are no happy endings, because there’s always more show … until there isn’t.” And when the gut-punch twist lands, while I don’t want to reveal it on the off-chance someone reading this still hasn’t seen it, let’s just say it re-enforces that main theme in a manner just as powerful as the previous year’s “Stupid Piece of Shit” powerfully where I have to stifle the waterworks as I type this and will probably afterwards stare into the middle distance for five minutes or so. – Jason Thurston

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