Torture! Clones! Betrayal! Sexting! And just sex! From touching series finales (farewell, 30 Rock and The Office!) to Game of Thrones' brutal Red Wedding, 2013 was brimming with fantastic hours of television. TVGuide.com has compiled the top 25 episodes. Which ones made the cut?
What were the best TV shows of 2013?
Here are Episodes 5-1. (Catch up with Episodes 25-21, Episodes 20-16 and Episodes 15-11 and Episodes 10-6 or check out the full list here.)
5. "Lesbian Request Denied," Orange Is the New Black
Yo, Litchfield inmates, I'm really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Sophia had one of the best backstories of all time! Seeing her tender, strained romance with her wife juxtaposed against her defiance in the face of losing her hormones has helped turn Sophia, a transgender woman, into the fan favorite she remains. And though Sophia, much like Piper, thought of herself as a victim of circumstance, this episode shatters that notion, highlighting the bad choices that landed both women in lockup. Watching Sophia and Piper react to these truths in their own ways is fascinating and often times heartbreaking, Luckily, we also have Crazy Eyes to keep things light with her rom-com-worthy grand gesture.
4. "Hogcock / Last Lunch," 30 Rock
"That's our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke's on you, because we got paid anyway." So says Tracy Jordan on TGS' final episode. Tina Fey's surreal brainchild signs off with its usual witty, self-referential jokes and sight gags, as Liz scrambles to put on one last TGS and Jack attempts to find his bliss (not "beautiful ladies in short-shorts"), which turns out to be the idea for clear dishwashers. But more notably, the comedy bids adieu with a pitch-perfect level of sentiment that doesn't betray its kooky core. In two warm, affecting heart-to-hearts, Liz gives Tracy the "hardcore truth" on "honest goodbyes" that sums up their relationship, and she cuts off Jack's earnest overture on his boat with a (platonic) "I love you too," as they finally acknowledge what they mean to each other. And since this is 30 Rock, it's all scored by Jenna's tongue-twisting, hilariously moving rendition of The Rural Juror's title song. The past seven years were the best days of our flerm.
3. "Hitting the Fan," The Good Wife
This aptly titled episode, in which Alicia and Cary are formally fired and thrown out of Lockhart/Gardner after the partners learn of their plan to start their own firm, blows up the show. Flawlessly shot, the opening 15 minutes is an edge-of-your-seat suspense ride, as a confused, angry Will (brilliantly portrayed by Josh Charles) won't be stopped until his former lover is removed from the premises, while Alicia and her fellow defectors amusingly hustle to poach Lockhart/Gardner's client list — right up to the second she is escorted out and tells Will that it "wasn't personal." "I don't give a damn," he coldly snaps. One needs to look no further than this hour for proof that CBS' critical darling can run with the best of cable giants like Breaking Bad and Mad Men when firing on all cylinders.
The best performances of 2013
2. "The Rains of Castamere," Game of Thrones
We are still haunted by what is better known as the Red Wedding episode, in which three of the Stark family (and their allies) are betrayed and slain by the duplicitous Walder Frey. And even though it's known that the penultimate episode of each season is pivotal, and fans of the books on which Thrones is based knew what to expect, all viewers still held on to the desperate hope that at least one of our heroes would get out alive. The timing, sets, lighting and direction all contribute to the tension, and much like matriarch Catelyn Stark (a stunning, heartbreaking performance by Michelle Fairley), we could only helplessly watch with the knowledge that we underestimated the mastermind behind the inexorable slaughter.
1. "Ozymandias," Breaking Bad
Vince Gilligan does not lie: "Ozymandias" is the series' best episode ever. All of Walter White's toxic scheming and ballooning hubris crescendo to this relentlessly intense, devastatingly harrowing hour that opens with Hank's tragic, inevitable murder in the desert and a spiteful Walt, having lost nearly all his millions to Jack's Nazi crew, telling Jesse that he had watched Jane die. Like the ruined statue of a fallen, boastful king in the Shelley poem from which the episode takes its name, Walt's empire and life crumble, as Walt Jr. learns the truth and a knife fight with Skyler ends with Walt temporarily kidnapping baby Holly. But the episode's crowning moment comes from that riveting phone call. Having always been eager to play the hero, Walt does so as the antihero to exonerate his wife, going full Heisenberg on Skyler, railing against her with such venom and tears — yet another astonishing performance from Bryan Cranston — that expertly blurs the line between his two personas. We will all look on this work and despair.
What were your favorite episodes this year?