From auspicious debuts (hey, Jane the Virgin, The Affair and Transparent) to gut-wrenching twists (why, Hannibal, why?), we were spoiled with fantastic hours of television in 2014. TVGuide.com has compiled the top 25 episodes of the year. Which ones made the cut?
15. "The Last Leg," The Real Housewives of New York City
There are certain moments in television that will never be forgotten. Aviva Drescher throwing her leg during yet another Real Housewives blowup is one of them. It's the moment when reality TV folded in on itself. It's prostitution whore 2.0, but without any authenticity and triple the delusion. It's a moment so premeditated that the reality of what we were watching — a 44-year-old mother of four throwing her prosthetic leg at someone in the hopes of gaining fame — is impossible to ignore. It made us laugh. It made us cry. It made us scared for what society has become. It was, in short, leg-endary.
14. "The Wedding," Outlander
Whether you're a fan of the books or have only seen the show, viewers waited with bated breath for the highly anticipated wedding episode that would feature Jamie and Claire consummating their relationship. Told in part through flashbacks — and with stunning cinematography — the hour builds steadily to the pair's first kiss at their forced betrothal and then their first night together. But instead of gratuitous raunch, the sex scene is romantic and ultimately focuses more on the post-coital conversation, as the two giggle over Jamie's naivete and misconceptions. The episode also beautifully juxtaposes Claire's past with Frank and her future with Jamie through scenes with both wedding rings, as she realizes that she could never go back to her former life.
13. "Guest," The Leftovers
The Leftovers was never an easy watch, but this episode — the series' second single-POV episode — provides just a sliver of hope. Of course, that comes only after we watch Carrie Coon's Nora Durst wallow in the grief of losing her entire family by continuing to buy her kids' favorite cereal and hiring a prostitute to shoot her in her (Kevlar-protected) chest. But Nora's sorrow gives way to rage when she attends a conference in New York where someone has stolen her identity, and that rage then turns to yearned-for relief once Nora allows Holy Wayne to "heal" her. Coon carries the entire episode on her shoulders and effortlessly plays all the brilliant changes throughout Nora's transition. She returns home a new woman, reminding viewers that pain always hurts less when you decide to let it go.
12. "Red Rose," Sons of Anarchy
FX's biker drama didn't save its best for last. Sons' penultimate episode kills off three series regulars and serves as the true emotional culmination of seven seasons of bloody mayhem. Although Juice's prison death was a long time coming, it's impossible not to get teary when he chooses to eat his last piece of pie. The only thing more wrenching is watching a heartbroken Jax finally avenge his wife's murder by putting a bullet in the back of his mother's head and leaving her to die with Unser, who meets his own shocking fate by getting twisted up in Gemma's web of lies. Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam have never been better than in their final moments, which underline once and for all that this series, like its Shakespearean inspiration Hamlet, was most definitely a tragedy.
11. "Fight," Masters of Sex
"Two acts of intercourse, mutually satisfying. One masturbatory act. Role-playing throughout." Virginia thusly logs her and Bill's night for their sex study. Set against the backdrop of the Yvon Durelle vs. Archie Moore boxing match and featuring marvelous turns by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, the gripping hour is an emotional battleground not only for Bill and Ginny to carry on their (work) affair, but for the show to incisively ruminate on gender roles, stereotypes, and the expectations society and our own family place on us. ("Better to be a tomboy than a sissy," Bill's patient, the father of a baby boy with ambiguous genitalia, sneers.) Bill deftly deflects every physical and inquisitive verbal jab from Virginia until he finally lays bare his demons and childhood abuse at the hands of his father. Because sometimes the strongest fight you can put up is by dropping your guard.
Check back to see the rest of the list!
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