Deaths! Interrogations! Plane crashes! Breakups! Weddings! Catfights! Sex dreams! TV had it all this year. From Desperate Housewives' fitting farewell to Fringe's powerful flash-forward, 2012 served up some remarkable hours of television, and we've assembled the top 25 episodes. Which ones made the cut? Tune in all week to see the full list.
What were the best TV shows of 2012?
Here are our top five episodes. (Catch up with Episodes 25-21, Episodes 20-16, Episodes 15-11 and Episodes 10-6, or browse the full list here.)
5. "Give Me the Blame/Finishing the Hat," Desperate Housewives
Sure, Wisteria Lane's final two hours contains lots of filler — Julie gives birth! Renee gets married! Bree is acquitted of murder! But there are also several memorable moments, both heartwarming (Tom and Lynette finally get back together) and heartbreaking (the beloved Mrs. McCluskey dies). Her death, set to the tune of Johnny Mathis' "Wonderful! Wonderful!", leads to a truly unforgettable send-off for both Karen and the show, when her spirit is shown joining the many others who occupy Wisteria Lane from beyond the grave, including Mary Alice and, most recently, Mike. Rest in peace, indeed.
4. "The Debate," Parks and Recreation
Leslie Knope might have beaten Bobby Newport in the election, but when it comes to "The Debate," everyone wins. That's because Leslie isn't the only person to go all in. Whether it's pursuing an ex-girlfriend or acting out the film Babe, Leslie's friends display an unwavering commitment to their goals. And though guest star Brad Leland ups the episode's quirk factor as a gun advocate, "The Debate" ends with a speech from Leslie so impassioned that even her rival Bobby exclaims: "Holy sh--, Leslie, that was awesome." And for once, we gotta agree with Bobby.
3. "Dead Freight," Breaking Bad
From the outset of Walt, Jesse, Mike and Todd's meth train heist, there's the portentous feeling that something is going to go terribly wrong. So when the artfully shot, painstakingly gripping caper is successfully executed, they (and we) briefly think they're in the clear. But before the adrenaline subsides, the drama delivers its most paralyzing and harrowing gut punch to date: Todd shoots a young boy who witnesses the whole thing. And you thought Gus' half-face was shocking.
2. "The Other Woman," Mad Men
Mad Men takes its upsetting portrayal of gender politics to a new level, as the show's three female protagonists make life-changing decisions. Peggy takes a job as chief copywriter for a rival firm while Megan tells Don that she would choose their marriage over her acting aspirations. But the biggest watercooler moment is when Joan agrees to sleep with a prospective client in order to land the lucrative Jaguar account for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The striking juxtaposition of Don's attempts to talk her out of the arrangement and of Joan doing the deed is simply heartbreaking.
1. "Q & A," Homeland
Homeland subverts viewers' expectations at every turn, so it makes sense that we get this high-quality showdown between Carrie and Brody not at the end of Season 2, but a mere five hours into it. Despite being in the custody of CIA agents who have seen his suicide tape, Brody insists (even after getting a knife jabbed through his hand!) that he never went through with his plan to blow up the vice president. Enter Carrie, who systematically takes Brody the Terrorist apart and rebuilds him as Brody the CIA Double Agent who confesses to everything and agrees to help the Company dismantle Abu Nazir's U.S. terrorist cell. By appealing to Brody's innate, paternal instinct (not to mention his feelings for her), Carrie undoes in one conversation what Abu Nazir spent years doing. It's a master class in the art of interrogation and, in the hands of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, a master class of acting.
What were your favorite episodes this year?