I just love television. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to make absolutely everybody acutely aware of that fact, but anybody who has visited this blog before or knows me from Twitter should know how much television excites me. I watch it all the time. I get excited and thrilled and compelled by it all the time. And in the most recent television season, I watched so much of it that my eyes could have bled from the trauma being forced upon them. Fortunately they didn’t, but watching so many shows and being so involved with them has allowed me to create a list of my ten favorite moments or scenes from the entire year, which I will discuss in this post.
This season was the first in which I became truly involved and enamoured with the shows I was watching. I had watched television extensively for many years before, but the list and variety of shows I was watching was severely lacking to firmly get a grip on the medium. But this year I expanded that list by an exponential degree. That same expansion let me appreciate a much wider variety of shows and their successes, and several of them you will see on this list.
So I guess we’ll get straight to it, working from the bottom to the top. Please feel free to get involved with your own favourite moments from the season.
10 – Robin talks about her rape – Top of the Lake
The moment when lead character Robin sits down and discusses the brutal and horrifying rape she endured as a teenage girl is a truly fantastic character moment, played to absolute perfection by Elisabeth Moss. All of that strength and sense of resilience that the character displays before the scene is tossed aside to allow for this raw, character-defining tale to be told. It’s essentially an origins story for Robin, a recital of the most harrowing moment in her life that contributed to who she is today, and getting the chance of see beneath that ostensibly tough exterior without making her a victim is one of the show’s most fantastic moments.
Elisabeth Moss has a laundry list of strong moments in Top of the Lake, but this scene in particular is so robust, so entrenched in acting spectacle, that it stands on top of that list. Moss has always been an incredible and versatile actress, which viewers of Mad Men should be highly aware of by now, but her work in Top of the Lake, and in this scene, are nothing short of astounding.
9 – Helena is revealed as Sarah’s sister – Orphan Black
If there’s one thing Orphan Black is good at besides showing us how flawless Tatiana Maslany is, it’s throwing insane moments at you and managing not to overwhelm you with them. It puts three clones on screen at the same time, with glorious camera trickery making it look spookily authentic. It has one of the big bads be revealed as another clone, because why the heck not. It has an annoying petulant woman be killed by a garbage disposal. And still, despite having the potential to cripple you with insanity, it doesn’t.
So in the show’s ninth episode when it’s revealed that Helena and Sarah are not just clones but actual twin sisters separated at birth, it’s a brilliant moment of calculated craziness. It’s a last-minute twist of such huge proportions that it puts a completely new slant on the relationship between the two women. Even for Orphan Black deploying something like this so close to the finale is somewhat risky, but as I said, the show is effortless in its ability to make the ridiculousness a part of what makes it so enthralling. Helena and Sarah being sisters isn’t too silly or convoluted–it’s goddamn brilliant.
8 – Cooper and Lucero are held hostage – Southland
For the show’s penultimate episode of the season (and of the series), Southland goes dark. It’s already a show famed for portraying the grittier side to what it means to be a police officer, but when Cooper and his partner Lucero are taken hostage by a pair of drug-addled lunatics, and Lucero is subsequently murdered, it adds a violent and incredibly distressing tinge to an episode that’s simply incredible to watch.
The scenes in which Lucero is brutally killed are amongst some of the show’s most darkest moments. But amidst all that intense and harrowing drama lie some truly amazing scenes, due in part to Michael Cudlitz’s acting, which while not enough to earn him an Emmy nomination, is still a highlight of his tenure on the show. His terror at realising he could lose his life and never leave behind the legacy he is so desperate to have proceed his death is palpable at every point. He makes the scenes actually uncomfortable to watch, and that is as sure a testament to his acting ability as anything.
It’s disappointing that Southland is now concluded, but I can feel happy knowing that it went out soaring.
7 – The assassination attempt on Fitz – Scandal
As much as I adore Scandal’s second season, I’m not going to lie–it takes a while to get where it’s going. For the first handful of episodes it’s perfectly content with swimming around the edges of the election rigging story. But then President Grant is shot at the end of “Defiance,” and suddenly the restraints are shattered and Scandal breaks free to cause as much mayhem as possible with the first of season two’s main story arcs.
The moment when Fitz is gunned down in full view of his wife and partygoers is a shocking and brilliant moment that pretty much sums up what Scandal is good at the most. It’s good at exploring the outlandish and the insane to cause as much drama as possible. If it means it’ll produce thrilling, compelling, and downright exciting television while still remaining within the perimeter of plausibility, it’s acceptable. The arc surrounding Fitz’s assassination attempt is the first time we get to see just what Scandal is capable of, in all its ridiculous glory, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t just truly fantastic.
6 – Carrie interrogates Brody – Homeland
Both Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are phenomenal actors. They’ve both done remarkable work with their respective characters on Homeland, and they’ve both received Emmy recognition for it. So when season two’s “Q&A” decides to throw in a fifteen-minute, uninterrupted scene where Carrie interrogates Brody after discovering his involvement with terrorist activity, only one thing can, and does, happen: pure acting brilliance.
The aforementioned scene in “Q&A” is, to put it simply, mesmerising in its sheer quality. Secrets are uncovered, lies are perpetuated and dissolved, games are changed, allegiances are switched, and it all happens within that scene. There are no ad breaks or geographical shifts to break the narrative momentum, no other characters involved to dilute the importance of what’s going on between the show’s lead characters. It’s just Claire Danes and Damian Lewis bouncing off of each other for fifteen minutes–and it’s amazing.
I don’t know if they will be as successful at this year’s Emmys as they were last time, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t.
5 – Hank discovers the truth – Breaking Bad
Heisenburg is a monster. He’s created enough meth to fuel an entire nation, poisoned children, killed those who stood in opposition to him, and put his entire family at risk. But his downfall has always been an inevitability. So when brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank finally discovers the truth about Walt (while on the toilet, no less), it’s a moment of gargantuan importance. But Breaking Bad doesn’t squander the significance of the scene. Instead, it makes it brilliant.
Hank uncovering the truth about Walt, in a sort of ‘lightbulb above the head’ moment, while sitting on the toilet is a sort of brilliance that few shows could pull off. Because while there’s the requisite amount of intense drama involved, there’s also a certain degree of humour to throw into the stirring pot. It’s not every day that you discover your brother-in-law is the same ruthless meth cook you’ve been relentlessly chasing for months, and it’s definitely not every day that you have this epiphany while sitting on the toilet. But instead of it being silly and ridiculous, Breaking Bad makes it feel perfect. And perfect it absolutely is.
4 – Nick and Jess kiss – New Girl
Season two of New Girl does what I previously thought impossible: it makes me care about Nick and Jess as a potential romantic pairing. So when the moment finally arrives and they kiss for the first time, it’s not just a throwaway scene–it’s special. It’s heartfelt and sweet, compassionate and caring. But most of all, it’s just so damn perfect.
Season two does a fantastic job of developing the relationship between the two characters at a much better standard than season one touched upon. It’s because of this that I care so much about the moment when they first kiss. Everything, from the timing to the acting and the choice of music, is just so appropriate and well placed. It’s small yet mightily significant, but most of all, it’s just two characters finally acknowledging that they feel love for each other in the best way possible.
Making me care about Nick and Jess in such a short space of time is one thing; making me want to weep into a pillow at how perfect their first clinch is…well that’s something else entirely.
3 – The Red Wedding – Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is good at many things. It’s good at portraying a thriving, breathing fantasy landscape populated by excellent characters on both sides of the moral spectrum. It’s good at providing intense drama in every episode that makes you want to grab a paper bag and hyperventilate into it. But one other thing it’s good at is killing people. Characters, both good and monstrously evil, can die at any point, by any method, whether they’re considered a lead character or not. And if you need any evidence of just how skilled the show is at butchering people, you need only watch the infamous Red Wedding scene.
Whether you know the scene is coming because of reading the book beforehand, or whether it’s completely unexpected, the Red Wedding is so deliciously violent that it sticks with you weeks after watching it. Characters that sit firmly on the good side are brutally and senselessly slaughtered by those very much considered to be on the bad. It’s arguably one of the show’s most violent and visceral scenes, but it’s brilliant nevertheless. Emotionally traumatizing, but brilliant.
Good always prevails over bad…unless you’re Game of Thrones, in which case you can just reverse everything you’ve ever known.
2 – Leslie and Ben’s wedding – Parks and Recreation
While Game of Thrones uses its wedding to murder two of the show’s lead characters in cold blood, Parks and Recreation fortunately opts for happier nuptials. Instead of women being gutted and crossbowmen disguised as singers, Leslie and Ben’s wedding is simply a union between two people who love each other and have done for years–and it’s perfect in every conceivable way.
There’s very little I can say about Leslie and Ben’s wedding that isn’t full of gushing positivity. Their wedding is devoid of extreme drama because it doesn’t have to be concerned with whether they’ll walk down the aisle or not. Leslie and Ben getting married isn’t a potential non-event and it never has been; it’s an inevitability. They love each other so deeply that all the show has to do is show them solidifying that love on paper and the result is sweet, heartfelt perfection that reduces me to tears every time I watch it. And that’s exactly what it does.
Whether it’s the actual ceremony or Leslie’s emotional talk with Ron through a prison cell, Parks and Recreation‘s wedding not only does good by the characters involved but also produces the sweetest, most emotional wedding from the entire season.
1 – Kristina’s video recording – Parenthood
Cancer is a terrible disease that infects and eats away at the victim and everyone surrounding them. So when Kristina Braverman discovers she has breast cancer earlier in Parenthood‘s fourth season, it’s a devastating revelation, made worse by the fact she has two children plus a newborn baby that she could leave behind were she to succumb to the illness. This potential scenario is so possible that she records a video tape for her children if she were to die, which is revealed when she is admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve after complications stemming from her chemotherapy. The resulting explosion of emotion is, as expected, utterly heartbreaking.
The playback of Kristina’s recording is simply a stunning, deeply emotional scene that only a show like Parenthood could make so effective. The Braverman clan have always been one of the tightest family units on television, so when you throw something in there that could rip the very fabric of that apart, it’s going to cause earthquakes. Kristina’s farewell message to her children is an earthquake of incredible magnitude. Monica Potter manages to display a massive range of emotions in the scene that resonate with me so strongly that her pain feels like my own, and it’s a phenomenal success.
Fortunately the goodbye message Kristina recorded for her children ultimately never needs to be used, but it’s the culmination of a storyline that has been a resounding achievement for the show. But the emotions I feel when I watch the scene, the way in which it grabs a hold of my heart and wrenches it in every direction–this is exactly why I watch television.
Moments that didn’t quite make the cut but deserve recognition: Daenerys claims the Unsullied – Game of Thrones; Opie’s death – Sons of Anarchy; Lori’s death – The Walking Dead; the many cinematographic moments in Hannibal; the Doctor and Amy’s final goodbye – Doctor Who; and many, many more.