I’m still getting through my Top 10 Films of 2015 list, but while I’m doing that, I’ve also been putting together this list of my favorite television episodes of the year. This post is getting big (over 1500 words and I still haven’t written 3 of them, so I decided to break it up into two separate posts. Here’s 10-6 and be on the lookout for 5-1, which should be up by the end of the week.
10. “Safe Space” – South Park
I love what South Park did this season, playing the long game with its storyline to tell these huge (for them) arcs that ultimately culminate in everyone solving their problems with guns. Along the way, they tackle everything from gentrification to news disguised as ads to Caitlyn Jenner to making the Internet safe for everyone.
I’m a pretty empathetic person and sure, I don’t think anyone should have to feel threatened in any sort of environment, including the social space, but I also cringe at any think piece you can find on Jezebel or Upworthy or Buzzfeed that’s title ends with “And That is Not Okay”. South Park has spent the better part of the last decade and a half of their series run calling people out on their shit and when it’s an obvious target, people applaud it. You can’t have it both ways. In “Safe Space”, South Park takes PC Culture to task as they personify Reality as a mustachioed stranger that spouts cold, hard truths about the world and the Internet, specifically. And then, they hang him, because that’s what South Park would do.
9. “Leslie and Ron” and “One Last Ride” – Parks and Recreation
I’m cheating a little bit here, but the entire final season of Parks and Recreation was essentially the same love letter to the characters that fans of the show had grown to love over the past decade, so I chose to highlight the two best episodes that perfectly encapsulates what the show meant, both in its final season and overall.
“Leslie and Ron” is perfectly set up by the time jump from the previous season and by the episodes leading up to it. When we leap in time, we find out that Leslie and Ron, two completely different people that brought out the best in each other, have ceased their friendship. It isn’t until the fourth episode of the season that we find out what it was all about: Ron being left behind in the Parks Department as all his friends had moved on. It’s such a sweet moment between the two, whose relationship was the axis of the entire series. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman’s chemistry is better than most television couples in history, and it’s a bittersweet episode that has the relationship repaired, but we’re still aware that our time with them is fleeting.
As for “One Last Ride”, the hour-long finale perfectly treats each and every character, as we see into each character’s future. Even Garry gets an ending that he deserves, after years of taking the brunt of everyone’s jabs. Each character gets their own moments in the finale, each of which is perfectly in line with the rest of the series. The touching tribute to Harris Wittels at the end just confirms the bittersweet moment of moving on from the best sitcom of its time.
8. “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov” – Mr. Robot
In the bleak summer TV schedule, Mr. Robot stood out as the very best that television had to offer during the hottest months of the year. And it all started with the very first scene, which perfectly sums up the ride we eventually take. The whole season was a phenomenal ride, but the pilot is such a fantastic, tight piece of work that had such a unique voice and such a fun story to tell that it hits you completely by surprise. At the center is a wonderfully manic performance by Rami Malek that deserves attention come awards season. If you haven’t watched this show yet, take a look at the opening scene. If you aren’t immediately hooked, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
7. “Charlie Work” – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Back when it first aired, this episode of the most underrated comedy on television inspired a 5 For Friday regarding the best episodes in the series run. I specifically mentioned Charlie Day’s performance as being Emmy-worthy, and I still feel that way, but as I predicted, he’s gotten no recognition. The show itself has never been recognized, due most likely to its crass nature, but the work on this episode is some of the best filmmaking in sitcoms in recent memory.
“Charlie Work” is shot almost in one single take, as Charlie tries to get the bar in shape before (and during) a health inspection. This has him juggling the less-than-stellar shape of the bar, as well as the off-the-wall personalities of the rest of the gang. Running back and forth throughout the bar, Charlie has to manage Frank flushing his shoes down the toilet, Dennis’s convoluted plan to get free airline miles, and Dee’s lame attempt at making a joke stool. It’s fast-paced, funny, and the joke stool payoff at the end is perfect.
6. “Loplop” – Fargo
Easily the best show of 2015, Fargo was so consistently good this year that it was hard to find a standout episode. There were a handful of episodes throughout the second season that could have been considered the best of the year, but “Loplop”, to me, has some of the best character moments that makes this just a hair better than the others.
“Loplop” picks up where the previous episode left off, as Peggy and Ed are on the run with Dodd as their prisoner. What make this episode rise to the top above the others in this season are the performances of both Kirsten Dunst and Jeffrey Donovan. Kirsten Dunst should be showered with accolades for her performance in this series; she was incredible. Jeffrey Donovan does a great job with eye-acting in this one, as he’s trapped in a chair for a majority of the runtime. As he’s trapped with a woman that has obviously lost it, he does a great job at being scared out of his wits.