“New York’s Finest” – Daredevil
Daredevil and The Punisher finally meet face-to-face. Awesomeness ensues.
“The Panic in Central Park” – Girls
Focusing solely on Marnie’s late night encounter with her ex Charlie, this episode is a heartbreaking build up of hopes and dreams, and immediate crash landings.
“B.A.N.” – Atlanta
This is a show where it’s hard to pick just one, but “B.A.N.”, which offers a change from the formula is an easy choice. But seriously, there are so many great moments from so many other episodes that you should just do yourself a favor and watch the full season.
5. “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” – Stranger Things
To me, I think Stranger Things is better than the sum of its parts, if we’re strictly discussing individual episodes. There are iconic moments in the eight-episode arc, like the van flip or Eleven’s trip to the Upside Down, but it’s hard to pinpoint one episode that stands above the rest. For this reason, I went with the pilot, as it does such a great job setting up everything we’re in for during the following few hours. The show itself is one of my favorites of the year and this episode hooked me from the get-go.
4. “Battle of the Bastards” – Game of Thrones
After a season of what could only be described as “filler” (save for a few episodes), season six of Game of Thrones set out to set every fan’s mind at ease by plowing through a whole lot of fan service in just 10 episodes. One of these moments was “The Battle of the Bastards”, the long-awaited showdown between Ramsay Bolton and Jon Snow.
This episode redefined what can be done on a television show and helped satisfy the bloodlust of anyone that really wanted to see Ramsay get his comeuppance. There were some other highlight episodes of the season (“The Door” still resonates as being one of the most heartbreaking episodes), but I have to give it to what can only be described as an epic episode.
3. “The Original” – Westworld
I guess Westworld was polarizing. I thought it was excellent from start to finish, and enjoyed the fan theories that were basically formed with each passing episode. Westworld is very similar to Stranger Things in that, to me, there wasn’t a clear-cut “best episode”, but once again, the pilot achieved everything it needed to in order to perfectly set up the rest of the story. Even moreso, once you watch the full season, you realize that everything is laid out in the first episode. I think this type of filmmaking tends to turn people off, as it asks the audience to stick with a puzzle that will slowly gain more pieces, but for me, it was exciting. It became a weekly discussion at work, one that made it mandatory to watch on Sunday or be forced to avoid spoilers until you did.
2. “Part One: The Beach” – The Night Of
This is the third pilot on this list, but for a slightly different reason. The Night Of had a fantastic first episode, but failed to live up to that first hour. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a well-made miniseries, but one that just fell short of great. That first episode, though? It’s probably the best pilot I’ve seen in a long time, as we get to see Naz before and after that fateful few hours he can’t recall. While the overall point of the show seemed to get lost in the ether, and maybe the ending wound up a little too convenient, that first episode is a taut set-up that promised to be one of the greatest procedurals ever conceived.
1. “San Junipero” – Black Mirror
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
It almost feels like a cheat to pick “San Junipero” as my favorite episode of this season of Black Mirror, let alone my favorite episode of any show of 2016. “San Junipero” is the closest thing Black Mirror offers as a happy ending, but I just can’t deny how much this episode connected with me on an emotional level.
The story revolves around San Junipero, a party town celebrating the height of the 1980s and two “tourists” that connect with each other, Kelly and Yorkie. Early on, we realize that not everything is as it seems, and eventually, we realize that San Junipero isn’t real; it’s a virtual world, and even more, it’s a virtual world that has replaced Heaven as a tangible afterlife. The “lifers” are those that have passed already, having uploaded their consciousness to the cloud. But for tourists like Kelly and Yorkie, it’s a chance to recapture a youth that they either never got to experience or one that they left 50 years in the past.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis have undeniable chemistry in the lead roles and it’s because of this chemistry that the episode is so effective. On top of that, there are some deeper moments of reflection of existence that are truly poignant, as these two characters try to come to terms with an afterlife that is real, but fabricated, as well as an afterlife that may or may not exist. It’s touching and heartfelt and asks truly wonderful questions about our fragile existence.