It’s the end of the year and, while many are thinking back on their year through a personal lens, we’re taking a look back on the last six months of television. As usual, there’s always a lot of TV to take in, to appreciate, and to bask in the brilliance this medium often has to offer. In July, we ranked what we thought were the best TV episodes for the first half of the year, which you can read here. And before we head into 2018, we once again take a look back at the best episodes of TV. There was a lot to choose from, but we managed to get the list down to our top ten!
You can read through our picks below! And let us know which TV episodes you thought were great in 2017 in the comments section below!
10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “HalloVeen”
This year’s Halloween heist episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine displayed how well the series can mix its signature brand of absurdist comedy with character focused pathos. The annual heist of the championship belt was opened up to the entire staff (except for the absent and much missed Gena), allowing for even more hijinks and focus on the show’s best aspect: its outstanding cast of characters. And in “HalloVeen,” they are each given opportunities to shine. Finally allowed to join in the thieving fun, team tramp (a name Rosa hates) she, Terry, and Charles are the perfect comedy team, from Rosa setting up a God’s eye laser in the control room, to Charles using his doppelganger against Jake, to when Terry “accidentall”y ate six GPS trackers when gifted his favorite yogurt. By the time dozens of chanting Handmaids invade the police room to distract Amy from the safe she’s hiding the belt in, the whole episode feels like one of the series silliest (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And then the episode took a turn and Jake threw in a marriage proposal that was perfectly fitting this couple, as well as the entire show. Overall, “HalloVeen” wasn’t just one of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s best episodes, but a near perfect example of why the show is consistently one of TV’s best comedies. —Lesley Coffin
9. Mr. Robot – “dont-delete-me”
After a bit of rocky second season, Mr. Robot’s third season came back swinging. So intricately plotted and paced, the show took some time post-trauma to slow down a bit and recenter itself in the episode “dont-delete-me.” Elliot gets some time to process his grief in the aftermath of experiencing a whirlwind of events and tragedy–including watching several buildings explode (courtesy of Whiterose) and finding out two of his friends, Trenton and Mobley, had been killed and blamed for the attacks under the guise of terrorism. We also get a nice break from Mr. Robot himself, while giving Elliot some much-needed emotional focus. For so long, it’s been one event after another and “dont-delete-me” takes a step back from everything and allows for Elliot to reconnect with himself and why he started on this path to begin with. His relationship with Angela, which is so damaged at this point, is left with a glimmer of hope after Elliot comes to visit her. She’s suffering from shock after everything that’s happened and, even though Angela never opens the door to see him, Elliot doesn’t leave. Instead, he parks himself on the floor of the hallway and shares some fond memories from their childhood with her. This scene was exceptionally sad and beautifully done.
But perhaps the best parts of the episode are when Elliot is interacting with Trenton’s brother, Mohammed. Sure, it sounds cliché to “see the world through a child’s eyes,” but Mr. Robot does it so well. Elliot is reluctant to hang around Mo, wants him gone, but Mo is persistent and full of questions. Both characters are dealing with grief, but there’s still a sense of hope with Mo, even though he’s just lost his sister. Mo gets past Elliot’s walls without realizing he has and in a way that isn’t forced. For too long, Elliot has been lost, and “dont-delete-me” changes that and the series’ course of events in the dark aftermath. Creator, writer, and director Sam Esmail sets up an episode that is a bit jarring in its stark differences from previous episodes and emotionally riveting in its execution. The episode also digs deep into Elliot’s feelings in a completely new and more emotionally raw and satisfying way that is unlike what we’ve seen before and it’s a grounding point in the show’s third season. —Mae Abdulbaki
8. The Defenders – “Worst Behavior”
Marvel’s The Defenders arrived with a promise: to unite several disparate, but well-connected storylines heralded by distinct and electric characters in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Overall, the first season of this Avengers-esque experiment was a mixed bag, mostly because it hung too much plot on its weakest branch of lore (Iron Fist, in case there’s still some doubt).
But episode three, “Worst Behavior,” landed so many punches that almost none of the season’s other misfires could knock it down. The heroes finally unite and the subsequent action scenes are some of the best we’ve seen from these Marvel Netflix shows since Daredevil’s first season. But it’s the interplay between these established, likable protagonists all sharing the limelight that makes the episode stand out, making us feel as giddy as we did when the Avengers first teamed up on the big screen. Unlike some of the other fun, but forgettable superhero team-ups we’ve seen, “Worst Behavior” clearly has the most weight to it, even retconning some of the worst aspects of the Danny Rand character, who is a socially awkward punching bag in this series instead of the self-serious idiot we’ve seen so far. For these reasons and plenty more, you can look no further than the best episode of The Defenders to find one of the best episodes of any superhero show in 2017. —Jon Negroni
7. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “To Josh, With Love”
It’s hard to pick just one episode to highlight from the extraordinary so far season three of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Packing a newfound sense of urgency since the season began, the true tonal intentions of the season were displayed in just episode two with “To Josh, With Love,” where we find Rebecca enlisting Nathanael to help take down Josh. This both introduces the tangible will-they-or-won’t-they roots (and I’m firmly in the camp of hoping they do once Rebecca is mentally and emotionally healthy) and establishes that Rebecca has a lot to overcome before she can become healthy and whole again. It helps that the episode showcases three of the best songs and performances the show has ever done.
“Head in the Clouds” allows Josh to demonstrate his play Gene Kelly side, while “Strip it All Away” is a daring song that will both make you laugh at the shrewd nature of the word play at hand (“let me choke on your cocksuredness” is an actual line the writers managed to get into an 8:00pm CW show) and find yourselves becoming more interested in the Nathanael character (their chemistry is off the charts. But the real zinger is the reprise of “Everything I Did For You (That You Didn’t Ask For),” which takes away Rebecca’s facade of stability. It’s a powerhouse moment for Rachel Bloom and the one you’ll be remembering for the entirety of the season. The best bit of all is that since then the show has kept up the pace and quality, making the current winter hiatus all the more insufferable. —Allyson Johnson
6. Game of Thrones – “Beyond the Wall”
Choosing an epic episode within an epic show is no easy feat, but this year’s stellar episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones has to go to the episode that kept us on the edge of our seats: “Beyond the Wall.” This episode perfectly balances action, drama, comedy and slight horror as well. The episode sees Jon, Thoros, Beric, Sandor, Tormund, Gendry and Jorah go “beyond the wall” in order to capture a wight to take it to Cersei as evidence that the army of the dead exists.
In this episode, we saw Sansa and Arya go head to head, Jorah and Jon bond over their fathers, Tormund and the Hound have a riffing session, and Gendry show us he is the fastest runner of them all. We also discover that if you kill a White Walker, you kill all the wights that they sire, and yes they can raise animals from the dead – as zombies. There is the nasty run-in with some blue-eyed polar bears and, of course, the climax of the Night King raising Viserion from the dead and turning him into an ice dragon. Then there is Jon metaphorically bending the knee to Daenerys and her rule.
If anything, it’s an episode of realizations. We moved forward in the story as we receive new information about how the how White Walkers and wights can be killed, Jon and Daenerys strengthen their alliance, and the Stark sisters work on their issues. That aside, the cinematography and the special effects in this episode are out of this world, on par with what we have seen before and also take the show to new heights. It’s truly a stellar episode of television. —Caryn Welby-Solomon
5. Will & Grace – “Grandpa Jack”
After a long wait, Will & Grace is finally back and the writers aren’t afraid to highlight themes that center around politics, sexuality, and more while still remaining lighthearted and fun. In the episode titled “Grandpa Jack,” on the surface level, we see a side of Jack’s character that we haven’t seen before. We see someone who’s more vulnerable and emotional. Jack is usually the one to crack wise jokes, usually at the expense of Will; but when he finds out he’s a grandpa, his demeanor and world change. However, when Jack’s grandson is introduced, we quickly find out there’s a deeper theme, one that centers around sexuality and being your true self. As the family is split between liberal and conservative values and outlooks, Jack’s grandson struggles and questions who he truly is and as Jack is knowingly someone who is unapologetically himself, he helps his grandson by providing him with the support he needs to come to terms with his own sexuality. Behind the humorous writing, Will & Grace tackles controversial themes that viewers can relate to, such as the complexity of sexuality. —Camille Espiritu
4. This is Us – “Number Three”
The second season of This Is Us pulled us deeper into the lives of the Pearson family and reduced us to ugly crying time and time again. The last three episodes focus on each member of “The Big Three,” reflecting on how their past has influenced who they’ve become in their present. The mid-season finale, “Number Three,” was another shining moment for Randall, the always-brilliant Sterling K. Brown. Randall’s present focuses on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, reminding him of the life-altering events of the previous year; you know, when he found out Rebecca knew about William and kept him a secret all those years. A conversation Randall has with William about deciding to stay out of a life that existed before he tried to insert himself into it is what ultimately convinces Randall and Beth to make the heartbreaking decision to let Deja go back to her mother. That goodbye scene between Randall and Deja, how much of himself he sees in her, how he sees the potential and brilliance his parents saw in him, makes the moment much more difficult. Similarly, young Randall has a beautiful heart-to-heart with his father, connecting through experiences they never thought would bring them closer together. As the show does best, it shows us that what unites is greater and more beautiful than the differences that separate us. —Melissa Linares
3. The Good Place – “Janet and Michael”
Unlike most prime time sitcoms of its ilk, The Good Place boasts a seemingly endless series of plot twists, allowing the show to constantly evolve. “Janet and Michael” is a prime example of how the series meshes quality humor with sharp, fresh storytelling. Thanks in part to D’Arcy Carden’s masterful comedic timing, the character of Janet continues to develop, even though she is essentially a computer program. Keeping with the good-hearted nature that anchors the show, we get a glimpse into how she and Michael came to meet, establishing the dynamics of their ever-changing relationship. Most of the show’s major players are given almost no screen time during the episode, allowing all of the narrative energy to zero in on Janet’s blossoming personality, providing her with an unexpected level of emotional depth. The episode also features a surprising cameo that fits seamlessly into this offbeat world. —Brian Thompson
2. BoJack Horseman – “Time’s Arrow”
If you’re looking for a powerful origin story episode to watch from 2017, it has to be “Time’s Arrow.” BoJack Horseman is already a surprisingly deep and complex cartoon – these characters are more than just the one-dimensional people you’d expect them to be. But, in “Time’s Arrow,” we go even deeper into the past for the two people who had the biggest impact on BoJack’s life: his own parents.
This episode explains a lot of why Beatrice and BoJack act the way they do. We see her wealthy past, her romance with BoJack’s father, the crumbling of their marriage, and the aftermath of the affair. It’s not an easy-going episode; Beatrice suffered a lot and inflicted that on her son. “Time’s Arrow” is when BoJack Horseman felt the most real. You can’t help but feel sympathetic for these characters, even Beatrice, who was somewhat depicted as an antagonist before this. —Justin Carriero
1. Stranger Things – “Chapter 8: The Mind Flayer”
The penultimate episode of Stranger Things season two was perhaps the most emotional hour of the sci-fi drama series. Trapped inside Hawkins lab, Hopper, Joyce, Will, Mike, and Sean Astin’s Bob Newby have to find a way out without getting eaten by demodogs. It’s a scene straight out of any zombie horror film, complete with darkened hallways and monsters lurking around every corner. This action-packed first half of the episode sets up the slower-paced second half, in which our heroes try to reach a possessed Will by reminding him of the important moments from his life. It’s an episode that accomplishes more in fifty minutes than all of season one tried to do, raising the emotional stakes by making us care. Each small accomplishment has us rooting for these underdogs of Hawkins, Indiana, and each defeat feels all the more crushing because of that. Some moments may not be quite so subtle in its execution, but that makes it all the more endearing. Here’s to Bob Newby, Superhero. —Katey Stoetzel