This is really tough, guys. I mean, not only did over 400 scripted TV series air/stream this year, a lot of them were really, really good. And I watched probably too many.
I’d like to state that this list is far from comprehensive—I haven’t seen everything, obviously (notably, I am only one episode into season 2 of Transparent, which I’ve heard is sublime, and You’re the Worst, which I have seen so much praise for recently, is still on my to-watch list). There are also some phenomenal shows that I enjoyed immensely as a whole (Rectify, as usual) but there was no single episode that really stood out in my mind this year.
So, here goes my best attempt at singling out the episodes of television that have for whatever reason stood out the most in my mind in 2015. I thought about ranking them but quickly became overwhelmed, so instead they are in no particular order. I would also like to give a shout-out to two episodes I watched very recently and adored that didn’t quite make this list, perhaps because their late entry made it impossible to overcome others I’ve been thinking about all year- the pilot of Jessica Jones and the “Mornings” episode of Master of None.
With no further ado…
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt– “Kimmy Goes to School”
So, Kimmy Schmidt might be my favorite new show of 2015. I even dressed up as her for Halloween. Because I loved it so much, it almost had what I’m going to call the Rectify problem where it was difficult for me to pick a single episode out of a season I loved as a whole. So ultimately I went with the hilarious “Pinot Noir” episode because it has become the most referenced in my daily life. Red wine will never be the same.
Hannibal– “The Wrath of the Lamb”
This year, there were two series finales I still haven’t been able to bring myself to delete from my DVR. They are both on this list, and this is one of them. There truly isn’t another show quite like Hannibal. Season three was certainly an adventure—at times gorgeously incomprehensible, at times thrilling, almost always terrifying. The end scene of this episode marks the only time I can remember this year that I immediately rewound to watch something again, and the episode also spawned my favorite gif of the year (seen below). I miss it desperately.
Jane the Virgin– “Chapter Twenty-Two”
This show quietly became one of my favorite things on the air this year. I could go on all day about how funny, smart, genuine, and full of heart it is, and this episode was an insane, chock-full of plot developments end to a phenomenal first season. I think I experienced every emotion in the book during this hour of television, and season two has completely lived up to everything it promised so far.
Looking– “Looking for a Plot”
Talk about a show that really came into its own in its second season. After a kind of meandering, uneventful, uneven start, Looking really figured out exactly what to zero in on for season two, which made its ultimate cancellation (although we will get one final TV movie-length wrap-up) even more disappointing. It was never better than in this episode, which brought Doris and Dom back to their hometown for a funeral with an awkward-as-ever Patrick (coming off a drunken Halloween spectacle in the previous episode that is definitely in my top 5 most cringeworthy TV moments of the year) as the third wheel.
The Americans– “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”
For a while this winter/spring, the two shows I was incessantly telling people to watch were Looking and The Americans. This show is absolutely one of the best dramas on television, featuring some of the smartest writing out there and two phenomenal lead performances that are not recognized nearly as often as they should be. While this episode didn’t feature any dead bodies being stuffed into suitcases, it featured the quietest, possibly most disturbing death on the show to date, along with a lot of forced self-examination for our main characters. Keri Russell should win all of the awards for her performance in this episode. Do yourselves a favor and watch this show, people.
The Mindy Project– “When Mindy Met Danny”
Until last week, I was planning to include the wacky season 4 premiere “When I was Sleeping,” which marked the Hulu debut of the show, on this list. But, after an impressive run of episodes and a few choices that made me almost doubt where things were going, the show knocked it out of the park with their best work yet in the midseason finale. I can’t say much without spoiling things, but it is an emotional wallop of an episode that defies expectation at every turn in a way that is ultimately so true to the characters we have come to know. I will never hear Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” the same way again.
Parks and Recreation– “Leslie and Ron”
There is definitely a version of this list that just consists of all the episodes from Parks and Rec‘s perfect final season, but I limited myself to choosing just two. This instant classic stuck Leslie and Ron, who opened season 7 not speaking after a mysterious falling out during the show’s three year time jump, in a locked office to work out their issues. And it’s perfect. As is Leslie’s horribly butchered version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
Mad Men– “Person to Person”
While the final season of Mad Men never achieved the heights the series reached with “The Suitcase” or “The Other Woman,” I found it to be a very solid and satisfying effort. When this finale ended, I turned off my TV and just sat for a while, attempting to absorb it all. I immediately realized why a lot of people probably wouldn’t like the finale- I completely understand seeing Peggy and Stan’s ending as trite, for example. But ultimately, I liked it. All of the characters and all of the relationships got to have their moment. Poor Betty, though.
BoJack Horseman– “Escape from LA”
I almost feel weird including this one on the list because I actually found it rather upsetting, but upset is a visceral emotion, and I chose these episodes largely because they made me feel some sort of visceral emotion. While this is certainly not my favorite episode of BoJack, which I marathoned all of this year, it is definitely its most provocative. In the episode, BoJack leaves Hollywoo to spend some time with his ex-flame Charlotte (voiced by Olivia Wilde) and her family in New Mexico, and the show (and BoJack) goes to a darker place than ever before.
Parks and Recreation– “One Last Ride”
Yes, this is the second series finale from this year that remains on my DVR. Sure, it may not have reinvented the wheel in terms of a series finale format (we can’t all be Six Feet Under, although the world would be a sadder and more brilliant place if we could), but it serviced every character in an emotional, poignant way and ended on a note that was just vague enough to keep people talking. My world is a little less bright without the denizens of Pawnee in it every week.
What were your favorite TV episodes this year?