Part 1 of the best episodes of television this year included gems from How to Get Away with Murder, Louie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and more. Here are the next ten:
25. “You Go To My Head” (Mozart in the Jungle)
I wouldn’t say that Mozart in the Jungle is a great show—it’s barely even a good show, but it has its moments of brilliance. In this beautifully meandering episode, we get both style and a healthy dose of substance, full of elongated tracking shots around a beautiful mansion of rich, pretty people and musicians that allows us to get to know the main characters more. It’s a quiet fever dream and a mesmerizing hangout episode.
24. “Total Rickall” (Rick & Morty)
In what could have been a flimsy Family Guy cutaway parody, this crafty installment constructs a divisive narrative full of comical potential and succeeds on being one of the show’s most brilliant conceits. A shapeshifting parasite that implants hallmark memories in their hosts and takes home with the Smith family, posing as loving family members and friends. Things get bizarre and hilariously ludicrous, as we meet absurd character after absurd character. And Mr. Poopybutthole makes a lasting impression as well. Definitely one of the funniest episodes of the very funny second season.
23. “Person to Person” (Mad Men)
The long awaited series finale of Mad Men shoulders the burden of closing one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen. No one knew what to expect given the usual elusive unpredictability of the show and what comes is balance. In this bittersweet end, there is both hope and cynicism Somehow both transcend each other. Don Draper and other main characters appear to come to rather agreeable conclusions, actualizing themselves in one way or another. But the last two minutes of the finale might give one pause (in the best way) questioning history and the future in a meditative nature.
22. “Sit-In” (Girls)
The show’s fourth season didn’t have many standalone winners in its ten episode run. The season works better as a whole piece except for its fifth episode, in which Hannah returns home to New York only to find that the world has continued to spin without her. Adam’s got a new girlfriend and Hannah isn’t dealing well to say the least. It culminates in what turns out to be one of the more emotionally naked episodes of Girls ever produced.
21. “Mee-Maw” (Transparent)
Traumas of the past continue to haunt the Pfefferman family when Colton’s adoptive family visits Josh and Raquel. A surprising family secret throws everyone off of their happy family façade and the dysfunction reaches an all-time high. We get to see that Josh, while often annoying and privileged, is a victim himself in various ways. Elsewhere, Ali continues to jump into the identity of being a radical feminist lesbian crossing boundaries as a way to explore. As much as the Pfeffermans try to correct the past, they end up making bigger mistakes that end up hurting other people.
20. “Nightcomers” (Penny Dreadful)
Flashback episodes can easily feel like afterthoughts of exposition, but this hour is a meditative exploration of the show’s rich mythology. It also fills in the necessary pieces to the season’s dramatic arc by revealing more of Vanessa’s dark past. In this episode we meet her witchy mentor, a gifted cantankerous woman called Cut-Wife played wonderfully by Patti LuPone. Here is some of the show’s best writing—there are long stretches of lyrical dialogue that becomes profound dark poetry. The same can be said for the settings, characterizations and more. Eva Green and Patti LuPone are an impressive onscreen duo.
19. “Knockoffs” (Broad City)
Ilana’s mother comes to visit while Abbi is off on a first date with her neighbor crush, Jeremy. Simple enough, until the episode turns into an adventure in search for knockoff designer handbags and an eccentric sex positive exploration. The show’s natural pomposity for absurdist storytelling is pushed and somehow the episode still ends up being one of the most grounded and precious, expanding on the meaningful bond between Abbi and Ilana—they propel one another here more than ever. It also doesn’t hurt that this is the most laugh-out loud episode of the year!
18. “The Comet” (Adventure Time)
Under the goofy, colorful aesthetic of Adventure Time is a philosophical darkness that is beyond the thinking of most serious drama shows. The second part of the season six finale brings the season’s “Comet” arc to a satisfying conclusion. How does one merge their intentions with the universe? Finn the Human tries, dissecting past mistakes and regrets to find clarity—but there is none. All of this existential contemplation in under twelve minutes. This adventure is one of the show’s most important and iconic.
17. “eps1.7_wh1ter0se.m4v” (Mr. Robot)
The deconstruction of the corporate predator, EvilCorp twists into an even more stimulating and thrilling experience. We don’t know what we think we know and that lack of knowledge ends up being especially scarring for protagonist, Elliot. The hour challenges our faith in almost everything that came before it, revealing Elliot to be a more fractured hero than once thought. This show is interested in playing the long game, which is fun and compelling, but even more than that this is a show interested in making the viewer question their position and awareness in this great perilous scheme of things. That’s a tricky things to pull off. This episode does it! Seriously, carry on with caution.
16. “Trust No B*tch” (Orange is the New Black)
There is a lot going on in the third season finale; every theme of the season (faith, motherhood, and exploitation) culminate with a euphoric final ten minutes that end up being one of OITNB’s best moments thus far. There is a glimpse of freedom—a necessary calm before the upcoming storm Season 4 will be. As Piper Chapman continues her path to absurd villainy, Black Cindy finds a profound connection in Judaism and other relationships come together as well. Here is the show at its most optimistic and forgiving, even if some of the women have made terrible decisions. But as the episode title insists, we can’t fully trust this new optimism. Not for long.