Robert Rodriguez / TV Guide
Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2018

The 25 Best Episodes of TV in 2018, Ranked

Even in the age of binge-watching, certain episodes still stand out

Thanks to the internet age, we have a tendency to swallow entire seasons of TV whole. When we slam the "next episode" button in a binge-watch session as soon as the previous episode is done, the individual parts blur together, like a TV panini.

But television is still crafted in individual parts (damn these claims of "10-hour movies"), and some episodes are so good they manage to stand out on their own, no matter how we watch. We know the beginning, we know the end, and we even know the names of these episodes that moved us. The individual chapter is perhaps a dying art form as television evolves, along with the way we watch. But these standout installments prove the episode is not dead yet.

With the caveat that no show can appear more than once on our list, here are our 25 favorite individual hours (or half-hours) of television:

25. 'Finale,' The Bachelor

​Becca and Arie Luyendyk Jr., The Bachelor

Becca and Arie Luyendyk Jr. on The Bachelor

Paul Hebert / ABC

Season 22 of The Bachelorwas a total snooze until the very end, when it became as hard to watch and as hard to look away from as Irreversible. The finale, wherein oblivious ding-dong Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. realized he picked the wrong woman and then ambush-dumped her on camera, was one of the most repulsive/riveting reality TV episodes ever, because it was truly real. For 30 uncut minutes, filmed in split screen with one camera on Arie and one on his fiancée (and dumpee) Becca Kufrin, the gauzy facade of The Bachelor was torn apart, and raw, ugly, excruciating emotion poured out. It was intimate to the point of being borderline unethical. For once, Chris Harrison was telling the truth when he said it was "the most dramatic finale ever." --Liam Mathews

24. 'The Planned Parenthood Show,' Big Mouth

Big Mouth

Big Mouth


Netflix's Big Mouth dove into the importance of sex education, women's healthcare and Planned Parenthood in the season's best episode, and of course the animated comedy did it in typically graphic fashion. The format-breaking episode let everyone but sex ed teacher and ignoramus Coach Steve explain birth control and STDs via a series of time-traveling memories by the main characters' parents, Dee-lite songs and TV spoofs, the most f---ing amazing of which is a Bachelorette parody in which a 16-year-old is courted by various forms of contraception -- including a diaphragm dying of bone cancer. It's as educational as the show gets while never holding back the raunchiness it's become famous for. --Tim Surette

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23. 'Rm9xbG93ZXJz,' The X-Files

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, The X-Files

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny on The X-Files

Robert Falconer/FOX

Literally the only good thing to come out of the final season of The X-Files (besides Mr. Chuckle Teeth, of course), "Rm9xbG93ZXJz" was a reminder of what X-Files used to be: insightful, terrifying and little bit playful. In an episode detailing the potential dangers of how pervasive A.I. has become, it isn't until nearly 10 minutes in that we get our first line of dialogue, with Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) previously being too caught up in their cell phones and other tech to speak to each other. But when the partners refuse to tip the robot chefs who messed up Mulder's order at an automated sushi restaurant, they find themselves terrorized by everyday A.I., including a car navigation system, an automated vacuum and even a vibrator. As Mulder and Scully find themselves thwarted by a new form of tech at every turn, the real-life dangers of A.I. -- and the example we set for it -- crystalize into a fable so chilling it almost makes the final season worth it. Almost. --Sadie Gennis

22. 'The Queen,' Castle Rock

Sissy Spacek, Castle Rock

Sissy Spacek in Castle Rock

Dana Starbard / Hulu

There's an unfair assumption that people who have degenerative brain diseases aren't quite all there or have perspectives that don't matter. The best episode of Hulu's Castle Rock crushes that notion, offering one of the most powerful portrayals of dementia that TV has ever seen -- due in no small part to Sissy Spacek's dazzling performance -- as we experience the show's world at a critical moment through Ruth Deaver's eyes. As she passes between the past and present, we're witness to her fragmented and rearranged memories, a glimpse into how this disease might feel. And when "The Kid" arrives to make her life hell, Castle Rock is finally able to realize the potential of setting a show in Stephen King's horrifying universe. --Tim Surette

21. 'Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street,' Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers

Most shows in their ninth season show signs of age, but not Bob's Burgers. The Fox comedy is still delivering laugh-out-loud funny episodes like "Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street," which featured Gene dressed as Andre 3000 the Giant and Tina dropping truth bombs like "Money is just candy that hasn't been born yet," proving the show is as wise as it is funny. Of course, the Halloween-themed episode, which saw the kids go trick-or-treating and solve a mystery involving a candy thief, also had a streak of sincerity. Bob, dressed as Bruce Springsteen (not Rambo!), helped Teddy decorate the restaurant with a chainsaw-wielding giant spider that destroyed the decorations next door in a storyline that was both heartfelt and strengthened the characters' relationship. Bob's Burgers is still the whole package, and this episode is proof. --Kaitlin Thomas

20. 'Simone,' The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rachel Brosnahan, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel​

Rachel Brosnahan in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Nicole Rivelli / Amazon

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel kicks off its Season 2 premiere with a big trip to Paris, which goes a long way to show how the second season is attempting to out-do its award-winning debut. The spectacle is breathtaking, provoking closet envy unmatched by any other TV offering this year. And while Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband and co-creator Dan Palladino wowed us with the dazzle (and there's a speak-easy scene that is the Palladinos' tongue-twisting script work at its absolute finest), the premiere's more grounded moments are the ones that stay with you; the episode ends with a heartbreaking long-distance phone call that provides a poignant end to an episode otherwise spent in the clouds. --Megan Vick

19. 'June,' The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

George Kraychyk / Hulu

The second season of The Handmaid's Taleas a whole might not have lived up to the first, but the Season 2 premiere was an unforgettable, if terrifying, hour of television. From its heart-stopping cold open that found June (Elisabeth Moss) and the rest of the handmaids staring death in the face at the iconic Fenway Park, of all places, to its final scene in which she burned her clothes, cut her hair and used scissors to cut the tag from her ear, the episode was compelling from start to bloody finish. --Kaitlin Thomas

18. 'Moments of Vision,' Vikings

​Katheryn Winnick, Vikings

Katheryn Winnick in Vikings

Jonathan Hession/History

The war between Ivar (Alex Høgh) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) climaxed in Vikings' midseason finale in a battle that changed the landscape of the show forever. However "Moments of Vision" isn't a standout because the implications of Lagertha's loss of Kattegatt to Ivar, but rather for the way creator Michael Hirst took this massive battle and humanized it, giving us vignettes of individuals' experiences, hopes, struggles and losses from the hours leading up to the first charge and through the bloodshed that ensued. By slowing things down and finding the stillness within the chaos, "Moments of Vision" turned this battle into a beautiful and heartbreaking look at the cost of war and delivered one of Vikings' most visually striking, powerful episodes to date. --Sadie Gennis

17. 'Come Along With Me,' Adventure Time

Adventure Time

Adventure Time

Cartoon Network

There was no way for Adventure Time to tie up all the loose sagas of Ooo in the series finale, "Come Along With Me." The show was simply too big, structurally and culturally, for there to be a hard and fast resolution. So Adventure Time did what it does best: It struck out, went forth and found adventure. Rather than give each character a happy ending, the show gave everyone send-offs the hinted at happy futures. Though we won't be returning to the Land of Ooo, much like Earth after the Mushroom Wars, life finds a way and goes on. There's a distinct sense that Ooo and our beloved friends there will live forever whether anyone is around to animate the show or not. Oh and also, the best ship on the internet, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, finally got back together to end the show on the queer note it deserved. --Krutika Mallikarjuna

16. 'Time's Up for the Gang,' It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Patrick McElhenney/FX

Doing justice to the #MeToo movement would be a difficult task for any sitcom, but particularly one whose very foundation is based on the bad and often criminal behavior of its characters. But in this episode, written by the criminally talented Megan Ganz, the gang reckoned with both the current cultural climate and their own crimes. "Time's Up for the Gang" broke down a range of different predatory archetypes and the ways in which denial is often used as a shield that facilitates repeat offenses. And in between all that, the episode was still packed with standout jokes, which always punched up rather than down. While it'd be fair to argue that the surprisingly emotional season finale, "Mac Finds His Pride," deserves It's Always Sunny's spot in this ranking, there is something undeniable about seeing the entire Paddy's gang grappling with the same issue -- particularly one as ambitious (and inevitable) as this. --Sadie Gennis

15. 'Enter Flashtime,' The Flash

Grant Gustin, Violett Beane; The Flash

Grant Gustin, Violett Beane; The Flash

Katie Yu/The CW

The Flash has a lot of cool storytelling devices to work with (that's just what happens when you have superpowers and infinite earths driving your plot on a week-by-week basis), but "Enter Flashtime" stood out among even the greatest of Flash episodes. When a nuclear bomb detonates in Central City, Barry (Grant Gustin) has to enter Flashtime -- where he is operating at his maximum speed on a constant basis, effectively freezing the world around him -- to save the city. Though Barry briefly pulls other people into Flashtime with him to help, the frantic episode was fueled largely by Grant Gustin's incredibly emotional performance. --Lindsay MacDonald

14. 'The Dump,' American Vandal

American Vandal, The Dump

American Vandal

Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

The final episode of American Vandal shows why the series will live in cult classic infamy for all time. "The Dump" not only gave us satisfying answers to the whodunnit -- everyone, but after being manipulated by a catfish who can't let high school go -- but also made one of the most empathetic arguments for kindness we've ever seen on TV. In the confessional scenes in which each poop vandal tells how they came to be ensnared in this catfisher's net, the puzzle of the season coalesces into a portrait of these teens at their most vulnerable, all drastically different, but all searching for someone out there to understand who they really are. It reminds you that it wasn't so long ago you felt the exact same way. --Krutika Mallikarjuna

13. 'The Good Twin,' GLOW

Alison Brie in GLOW

Alison Brie in GLOW

Erica Parise/Netflix

GLOW fully immersed itself in the bizarre world of wrestling with this freshly fun episode-within-an-episode standalone adventure. Paying homage to the real women wrestlers who inspired the series, "The Good Twin" featured low-budget dream sequences, retro-fab music videos and epic wrestling matches that left us hitting the rewind button for an instant rewatch. It literally had it all: a kidnapping, an evil twin and even a cameo by the GLOW-bot. --Keisha Hatchett

12. 'Chapter VIII,' Dear White People

Logan Browning and John Patrick Amedori, Dear White People

Logan Browning and John Patrick Amedori in Dear White People

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

"Chapter VIII" of Dear White People's second season doubles as a one-act play when Sam (Logan Browning) and Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) are locked in the radio station and forced to face the tension that's imploded their relationship. It's a thoughtful, nuanced conversation, not only about their relationship but also their thoughts on race and how despite each of them thinking they are woke AF, they completely missed where the other was coming from. It's a major turning point for the characters, but it also showed that Dear White People is good at more than sassy commentary. When the show wants to dig deep, it can create poetry in motion. "Chapter VIII" in particular is a mirror of the conversations we could and should be having, if only we were brave enough to lock ourselves in a room and have them. --Malcolm Venable

11. 'Kiksuya,' Westworld

Jasmyn Rae, Zahn McClarnon; Westworld

Jasmyn Rae and Zahn McClarnon in Westworld


Screw the tales of robot uprising and hedonism unleashed; just give us a good old-fashioned story of timeless romance, Westworld! "Kiksuya" was a badly needed break from the brutality of the HBO series, turning some attention to a mysterious character we'd previously known only as a hatchet-wielding maniac terrorizing guests and hosts alike. Turns out there was a lot more to Akecheta and Ghost Nation than we thought, and where most of the series focused on survival, "Kiksuya" was about love. Up to this point, Season 2 was too complicated for its own good, but "Kiksuya" stepped back and kept it simple, showing this world could be a beautiful place if we just slowed down a bit. --Tim Surette

10. 'Free Churro,' BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman, Free Churro

BoJack Horseman


Bojack Horseman Season 5 took BoJack (Will Arnett) to one of the darkest places he's ever been; after assaulting his costar, BoJack can't figure out how to square his actions with the kind of person he thought he was. In a season that paints Bojack as a person (horse) who is maybe too far gone to ever really grasp the consequences of his actions, "Free Churro" is the one bright spot. It may seem odd to call an episode that's comprised solely of a 25-minute unplanned eulogy for BoJack's dead mother a bright spot, but as creator Raphael Bob-Waksburg told us, the episode "[makes] you empathize with him and feel for him; understand the difficult position that he's in. That's how he was raised and where he gets some of the ugliness inside of him from." But while the one episode makes you root for this terrible person (horse), in true BoJack fashion, it never lets him off the hook. --Krutika Mallikarjuna

9. 'God Bless Gay,' Queer Eye

Queer Eye, God Bless Gay

Queer Eye


When trying to convince your reluctant friend or family member to watch Netflix's Queer Eye revival, start with Season 2's "God Bless Gay," and let the magic of Mama Tammye wash over them. Tammye is the first and only female makeover the Fab 5 have taken on, and boy was she worth it. The devout Christian invited the boys into her home and asked for their help to complete her church's community center. While most episodes show the Fab 5 opening up someone else's hearts and minds, Tammye proved that Christianity doesn't have to be the enemy of the queer community -- it's all about love. The episode helped her bridge the gap between her and her gay son and ends with her sermon on the importance of loving everyone that will have you ugly-crying. This episode shows we can come together no matter how far apart we may seem and epitomizes what Queer Eye is all about. --Megan Vick

8. 'House by the Lake,' ACS: Versace

Cody Fern, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Cody Fern in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story


The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was, for better or for worse, told in reverse, beginning with Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) murdering the fashion icon and then painstakingly detailing how Cunanan became a killer. "House by the Lake," shows Cunanan's first kill: his one-time friend Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock). It is gruesome and terrifying, not just because of the gore, but because Criss and Cody Fern, playing their mutual friend David Madson, are respectively demented and paralyzed with fear. The murder itself prompts revulsion, but it's the subsequent drama when Cunanan takes Trail hostage on a doomed road trip that provides the episode's gripping tension. Even though viewers know the awful outcome, Cody Fern's desperate performance somehow makes the past seem present and the inevitable seem almost changeable as we root for him to run. --Malcolm Venable

7. 'Chapter Seventy-Eight,' Jane the Virgin

Andrea Navedo, Jaime Camil; Jane the Virgin

Andrea Navedo and Jaime Camil in Jane the Virgin

Michael Desmond/The CW

Sometimes you need an episode of television to remind you that you have a heart, and Jane the Virgin's tearjerking "Chapter Seventy-Eight" was that episode in 2018. The hour, which was directed by Jane star Justin Baldoni, saw Xo (Andrea Navedo) attempting to navigate breast cancer treatment while still trying to process her diagnosis. It was a spectacular but emotionally taxing showcase for Navedo, but "Chapter Seventy-Eight" was also a perfect example of Jane the Virgin's incredible ability to balance heart with humor, as another, lighter storyline focused on Petra's (Yael Grobglas) feelings for JR (Rosario Dawson). So even though the episode broke your heart, it also mended it. --Kaitlin Thomas

6. 'Scoobynatural,' Supernatural

Scoobynatural, Supernatural


The CW

Things can get pretty stale after 13 seasons, but Supernatural's ambitious crossover with Scooby-Doo proved the CW's longest-running scripted series still has a few tricks up its sleeve. "Scoobynatural" sees Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) get trapped inside an episode of the beloved animated mystery series. It could have been a real misfire, but instead, it was an instant classic, perfectly balancing Sam and Dean's dark humor with the Scooby gang's wholesome antics for an hour of sheer delight. --Keisha Hatchett

5. 'Two Storms,' The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

Steve Dietl / Netflix

Ever since True Detective made them a de rigueur signifier of television ambition, long takes have become so common that they barely even register. To make an impact, they have to elevate the storytelling while making you question the production team's sanity. "Two Storms," the sixth episode of Mike Flanagan's masterful horror drama The Haunting of Hill House, ticks both of those boxes. Presented as a single, unbroken shot (it's actually five really long ones), the episode moves back and forth through time as actors flit around the elaborate set and the camera floats around omnipotently. It's a technical marvel whose claustrophobic intimacy forces the actors to leave it all on the floor (literally so, in the heartbreaking final image). --Liam Mathews

4. 'The Sincerest Form of Flattery,' Counterpart

Nazanin Boniadi, Counterpart

Nazanin Boniadi in Counterpart


Counterpartwas already good before "The Sincerest Form of Flattery" came along, but after, it was amazing. The episode served as a crystallization of concept for the series, about cutthroat espionage between two universes, by proving how far one side was willing to go (broken legs!) to infiltrate the other when it transformed Clare ( Nazanin Boniadi) from mild-mannered operative to the embodiment of painful sacrifice. As those truths were revealed in brutal flashbacks, the present storyline became wonderfully complicated during Quayle's ( Harry Lloyd) very paranoid birthday party, emphasizing the greatest theme of the series: We're aren't made of DNA, we're made of experiences. --Tim Surette

3. 'Not Yet,' One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time

Mike Yarish / Netflix

In a show that is known for how much it inspires tears as much as it does laughs, no episode this year had us weeping quite like "Not Yet." The Season 2 finale of Netflix's family comedy saw the Alvarez abuelita Lydia ( Rita Moreno) lying unconscious in the hospital after suffering a stroke, and the family coming to terms with the possibility of losing her. Staged more like a play than a sitcom, "Not Yet" saw each member of the blended family visit Lydia's bedside one by one to express in heart-wrenching monologues what she means to them and why they still need her. The episode gives every actor time to shine -- even Moreno, whose character briefly reunites with her late husband, Berto (Tony Plana), before ultimately deciding it's not yet her time to join him. While placing the most beloved character in a life-or-death situation can often feel gimmicky or exploitative, One Day at a Time took the opportunity to provide an intimate glimpse at its characters' inner selves, which typically remain masked under their public-facing bravado. And "Not Yet" even provided a moving turning point for Lydia, who after waking up is finally ready to move on from her past and embrace her future as an American citizen, giving the tear-jerking episode an uplifting payoff. --Sadie Gennis

2. 'START,' The Americans

Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell; The Americans

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans

Jeffrey Neira/FX

Final episodes of acclaimed shows can make or break their legacies, but fear not for FX's The Americans, which ended as strong as it ever was. The finale featured many standout scenes -- Stan confronting the Jennings in the parking garage, the last trip to McDonald's and the devastating train ride, to name a few -- but the reason "START" was because it came full circle to answer all the questions we had from the pilot. How would the Jennings survive when their cover was blown? Would the family stick together? Who would die? Creators Joe Weisberg and Joel Fielding knew the series' ending from the very beginning and stuck with it -- a testament to the laser focus of what was really important to the show. --Tim Surette

1. 'Teddy Perkins,' Atlanta

Donald Glover, Atlanta



Donald Glover in a spooky mask, evoking Michael Jackson at his most disturbing. A twisted plot that involved Atlanta's existential doofus Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) going to an old man's spooky old house to get a piano off Craigslist. Chilling silence. Sad Stevie Wonder music. Gore. A shocking twist. Atlanta -- already exquisitely crafted, out-of-left-field, Emmy-worthy and Emmy-winning television -- upped the ante with "Teddy Perkins," which explored what African-American stars do to remain successful and weighed the costs of the limelight. It was a universally lauded episode of television that even Steven Soderbergh raved about on Twitter, and it will absolutely be remembered as an event -- especially after "Teddy Perkins" showed up to the 2018 Emmy Awards, haunting the sh-- out of the audience once more. --Malcolm Venable

Relive the best, worst and most unforgettable TV moments of 2018, including the 25 best performances of the year and the 25 best shows of the year.

Senior Editor, Recommendations & Reviews: Tim Surette

Creative: Robert Rodriguez and Sushant Sund