“You ain't seen nothin' yet. It's gonna be a night we'll never forget.” More like a year of nights we will never forget. This lyric taken from the Riverdale musical episode is only one of the many amazing moments to look back on in television from this past year because 2018 was truly an amazing year for TV. So many great new shows came on the scene, and many returning shows had some epic episodes. There is so much to watch now, that it is honestly impossible to be able to experience all the great moments television has to offer. And coming from someone who did a lot of binging last year, it was hard to narrow down my ten favorite episodes from 2018. From musicals to series finales to finally finding out the answers to some of TV’s current biggest mysteries, here are my favorite episodes and moments from last year. Warning, some spoilers ahead so proceed with caution…
Also, fun new feature: Click on the gifs if you want to see the full scene each gif is pulled from!
10. The Affair – (Episode 4x9)
The Affair has had its ups and downs over the past four years, but one thing it has always been good at is showing two sides of the same story. I love this show for the way it is able to portray two character’s points of view of the same situation in subtly different ways, making the viewer question everything they are being told. But this episode by far had the best use of this tactic. It still told two different accounts of one event, but the big twist was, they were both from Allison’s point of view. An even bigger twist? The event being told was how she died. In the previous episode, we found out that Allie had drowned, leaving us left to wonder what had happened to get her to that point. Now, some people say that we don’t really get a definitive answer, as both sides of the story could technically have happened. Both versions of events focus on what happens after Allison finds out her new boyfriend Ben is married. In the first version of events, Allison is upset when she finds out she has ruined another marriage. Then after sharing her fears and guilt with Ben over the death of her son, we are left to believe that she probably committed suicide. In the second version, Ben kills her in a fit of rage when she gets upset after finding out about his infidelity. The draw of this show is that you are never really sure who is telling the truth and whose perspective to believe. But with this episode, we get two different stories of how Allie died, both from her perspective, leaving it up to us which version to believe. This is a fitting ending for her character, as Allie has always lived in a narrative where she feels like a victim, but others paint her as a villain. So even in her death, she still does not get to be the author of her own story. What an amazing note to end such a complicated character on.
9. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – "Dreams in a Witch House" (Episode 1x5)
Sabrina was definitely my favorite new show of 2018, and while this may not have been my favorite episode of the season in terms of moving the plot, I just loved this episode the most overall. In fact, this episode does very little to move the plot forward at all, but I loved its monster of the week format and how it was able to break up the season’s first and second halves, while also revealing so much about the main cast. After being put under a spell by a creature called Batibat, each character becomes stuck in their own worst nightmare. This was a great way to let us into the minds and motivations of each character going into the second half of the season, and ultimately helped us relate to them better and understand the choices they would have to make going into the end of the season. Each dream world was so interesting to dive into and gave us some much-needed background without feeling like it was dropping a ton information for no reason. I also loved Batibat as a villain, and how we got to see Sabrina use her wit and love for her family to defeat her. This was overall just a fun episode, and one that I loved every minute of.
8. New Girl – “Finale: Engram Pattersky” (Episode 7x8)
I loved the first few seasons of New Girl, but the last few felt a little lackluster for me. Even the last season was not exactly what I had hoped for to end the show. But, this final episode was perfect and felt like a return to form to those earlier seasons that I fell in love with. As with Friends before it, the show ended with saying goodbye to the loft that the gang lived and became a family in because Jess and Nick are being evicted. The show started with Jess moving in and ended with her moving out, both times being drastically different points in her life. I loved how the episode embraced, yet also kind of made fun of the idea of the final episode of a sitcom being purely about nostalgia. Such as with Nick reliving the day he found the “sinkhole stick” and how it “fixed the sink and his heart”. It was so funny, yet also totally fitting to watch the gang try to please Jess in her trip down memory lane, as her life was changed by the loft the most, and the rest of them had all sort of moved on from it. I also loved that this episode paid homage to each of the smaller relationships on the show, such as between Cece and Winston, or Schmidt and Nick, as the show has always been more about the friendships than romantic relationships.
One of my favorite parts though by far was the final game of True American, which featured a flash forward to the gang even farther down the road playing a family-friendly version of the game with their kids. The show was about a bunch of misfits who became a family by moving into a loft together, and it was nice to see that they stayed one even as they all grew up and started families of their own. And of course, I loved that the whole episode ended with Winston aka “Prank Sinatra“ revealing that Jess and Nick were never being evicted and that it was a prank he had set up all along. This leads to Jess and Nick realizing that they don’t actually have to leave the loft if they don’t want to, but concluding that this period of their life is over and it is time to move on. Such a fun and yet sentimental way to end a series.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale – “June” (Episode 2x1)
So I wouldn’t call this episode a “favorite” per se, as it was incredibly haunting and hard to watch. But it was just an incredible hour of television, that I felt I had to talk about it in this post. I went into this season of The Handmaid’s Tale feeling like I knew what I was getting myself into after watching season one. But boy was I proven wrong within the first few minutes of this episode. Opening a new season of a show with almost no dialogue and just showing the horrified reactions of multiple characters as they may be walking to their deaths was absolutely haunting, and a pretty bold choice. But it worked. In case we forgot, no one is safe in Gilead, despite whether you are fertile or not. And, even though the whole thing was a rouse and the girls were not actually going to be killed, the amount of emotional damage that event would have on them was devastating to think about.
What truly got me in this episode though were the small details. How cold Serena was to June until she heard the babies heartbeat. The fear and excitement we feel with June when she realizes she may be able to escape. Another truly haunting moment is when we, along with June and the other girls, must listen to Ofrobert be burnt on her hand by a stove, leaving her reaction and the actual act to our imagination. But I think the greatest scene in this episode is June finally getting to remove her uniform, shedding the hat that blinds her from the world, and setting fire to it. Watching her cut the tracker out of her ear, while not easy to watch, was also such a satisfying moment, as we both see and hear her inner dialogue about beginning her journey back to who she was.
6. Riverdale – “Chapter 31: A Night to Remember” (Episode 2x18)
Love it or hate it, Riverdale has definitely made a successful effort to reinvent the teen drama genre. The beginning of season two started out strong, introducing us to a new villain and mystery the gang would have to solve. But, this season being given more episodes than the first caused it to need filler episodes, that its much superior first season didn’t. This, in my opinion, made the middle of the season drag. But the show got back on track with this fun and extremely well done musical episode. Two of the things Riverdale excels at are its character relationships, and ability to create a good mystery. After our Black Hood red herring (come on, we all knew the janitor was not the real Black Hood!) was defeated a few episodes into the season, the show lost one of those things that make it work so well. But this episode brought that element back in a fun and honestly terrifying way. Having everyone so distracted with their own drama and the musical, they aren’t seeing what is right in front of them (the return of the Black Hood), was a great way to surprise the audience with his return at the end of the episode.
This was also just an example of a well done musical episode of television. Many have tried, and only a few have succeeded. As we have seen from the examples that work, such as with Buffy and Once Upon A Time, a good musical episode can give a rational reason for people breaking out into song and dance, and also further the plot. Riverdale succeeds in both of these factors by making the episode be centered around the school musical. The choice of musical was also crucial in this episode’s success. Let’s be real, Carrie and Riverdale go together pretty perfectly. As Kevin points out in the beginning, each character almost perfectly matches up to the character they are portraying in Carrie, which causes them all to look at themselves in a new perspective, helping to drive the plot forward especially with developments in their story arcs. Overall, the episode was a great return to form for Riverdale, and honestly, I will always love a good musical episode, so the fact that this one worked so well pretty much guaranteed it a spot on my list.
5. AHS Apocalypse – “Return to Murder House” (Episode 8x6)
If you are a long time fan of American Horror Story, then you know this was the episode from Apocalypse that everyone was waiting for. Not only did we get the incredible return of Jessica Lange as her first American Horror Story character Constance, but also the directorial debut of Sara Paulson. Personally, Coven and Murder House were my favorite seasons of the show to date, and this episode was able to include everything I loved about both those seasons in one extended episode. And I was here for every minute of the fun. Paulson did an incredible job directing. The colors and interesting camera angles showed how she truly understands and is deeply involved in these worlds, and the whole thing was absolutely stunning. One of my favorite parts was when Constance was explaining how she buried all of the dead animals Michael killed and covered them with a rose bush, which we then saw she had an entire backyard full of.
Along with Constance, we also got the return of many other fan favorite characters. Ben and Vivian both made reappearances and we got to see what became of them after the events of season one. We also got to see Madison begin her road to redemption by helping both Moira reunite with her mother, and Tate and Violet reunite. I also loved that this episode brought us such a great duo in Madison and Behold, which was the friendship in this universe I never knew I needed until I saw how great their chemistry was. Overall, I loved everything about this episode especially since it helped break up what was a kind of all over the place season for the horror show. I hope they do more crossover episodes in the future, as I loved getting to see how all of the worlds were connected.
4. Glow – “The Good Twin” (Episode 2x8)
Nope, not another musical episode! But this episode is also a fun break from the regular story form by being an actual episode of the show the ladies work on as it would be shown on television. While some fans of GLOW weren’t fond of this episode and felt like it was just filler, to me it did so much more than let us have a glimpse of what an actual episode of the show would look like. It showed how the ladies can work together, in both the story narrative they create to frame the episode around and in the more fun elements such as the above PSA about kidnapping. While season one focused on us getting to know all the women on GLOW and watching them connect and learn about the techniques of wrestling, season two moves more into the territory of the behind the scenes. We see Ruth make an opening title sequence for the show, Debbie steps into the role of a producer, and the girls try to get more creative with their character’s storylines.
This episode was when we actually got to see the culmination of all this work the women were putting into the show come together and showed us just how awesome they work together as a team. They even went as far as to put commercials and music videos into the segment so we in the audience felt like we were watching a real episode of television. Between that, and the numerous 80s references, this was a fun episode of the show that let us see what exactly what they were fighting to keep with the network.
3. This Is Us – “Super Bowl Sunday” (Episode 2x14)
This may be a strange choice considering it is an episode focused around a tragedy and the death of a major character. But, while it was a heartbreaking and adrenaline-filled episode, it finally revealed the answer to the biggest question thus far on This Is Us: how did Jack die? And as I suspected, it was as a result of protecting his family. Now, this episode about the death of a major character was different than many that have come before it for one big reason: we knew it was coming. It was literally marketed as the episode we would find out how Jack died. That is an unusual tactic to go with, as usually the shock factor of a character’s death is what gives the moment so much impact with the audience. So This Is Us was faced with the task of using the emotional moments leading up to, and after Jack’s death to make the episode impactful. And this is why it is one of my favorites of the year because it managed to live up to the expectations I had for it and was just an amazing hour of television.
Seeing the kids’ last interactions with their father knowing it would be their final ones was heartbreaking to watch. And the fact that we knew Jack died at some point in the episode, but not knowing when drove up the anticipation. But what really got me in this episode was the fact that we didn’t even actually see Jack die, we saw what Rebecca was doing while he died, and then her immediate reaction. Mandy Moore’s performance was phenomenal and so realistic. We literally watched her experience denial, anger, and grief all in a few minute period. That would be hard for many actors to be able to pull off, but Moore managed to do it in such a believable way. The rest of the season that followed showing the aftermath of Jack’s death, and the kids in present day all moving their lives in better directions, was a great way for the season to finish out following this episode. My only hope is now that they don’t have the Jack mystery drawing us in, the writers are able to keep their focus on exploring the family dynamic, and not so much trying to come up with a new shock value mystery.
2. The Originals – "The Tale of Two Wolves" (Episode 5x12)
I have sooo much to say about this episode, but I will try to keep it brief. Let me start by saying that at the beginning of this final season for The Originals, I was kind of disappointed. We spent way too long watching the Mikelson siblings be apart, which was the major element that made the show work in the previous seasons. Add in Haley’s death, and villains who were honestly some of the most boring the Vampire Diaries universe has had yet, and I was skeptical about how the show would wrap up this universe that I love so much. But oh my gosh did my fears fade away when I watched this episode.
My love for this episode is pretty much summed up in the gif above. This show began as taking the villains of The Vampire Diaries and was faced with the task of turning them into the heroes of their own show. Sure, they never became perfect people that should fully earn their redemption after all they had done. But we did get to see what made them so interesting and redeemable: their devotion to their family, both blood and found. And this episode presented that with emotional gut punch after punch. From Hope talking to Haley in the afterlife, to Klaus and Caroline finally confronting their feelings for each other after all this time, to Klaus making the decision to die in order to save his daughter, it was all heartbreaking. I was bawling from start to finish, especially since the episode took place back where the story all began, in Mystic Falls. And while Klaus made some pretty horrible mistakes right up to the very end, his final sacrifice turned him into the hero of his story that Caroline and Hope always knew he could be. Even though I loved the finale as well, this was the episode that got to me the most on the nostalgia end, so I had to give it this spot on my list.
1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Midnight at the Concord” (Episode 2x5)
This was, in my opinion, a nearly perfect hour of television. I have been so excited for this show to return since I finished binging the first season last year, and boy was it worth the wait. While I wasn’t quite sure where the season was going in the first half, this episode was a great way to break up the season, and really give it momentum. While I liked the previous episode in the Catskills, I wasn’t sure if it really had a place in Midge’s story about advancing her career and leaving behind her housewife life. But this episode brought everything into focus in such fun and subtle ways.
The dynamic between Midge and Susie in this episode finally brought out some things in their relationship I had been interested to see. While it had currently been addressed that Midge is much better off financially than Susie, this episode really brought to life just how different their lives are. It really drove home the fact that Midge is pursuing comedy as a rich woman who could quit any time and rely on her parents to sustain her, while Susie literally needs every penny they earn to survive. And I like how this episode showed some of the results of Midge’s disregard for this fact, such as when she runs back to the makeup counter without even telling Susie.
I am also a huge fan of Zachary Levi and loved his performance in this episode. His character and his budding relationship with Midge is opposite of Joel in every way, and it is nice to see someone in Midge’s life, besides Susie, be supportive of her new found passion. But obviously, the most interesting part of the episode was during Midge’s biggest set yet at the Concord when she spots her father sitting in the front row. We just got to witness Midge being able to open up with Ben about her comedy, but now we get to see the reaction of the people she has been afraid of as her biggest critics, her parents. After the shenanigans of the past season and a half of Midge trying to keep comedy a secret, it was nice to finally propel the story forward with this cliffhanger ending.
Black Mirror – “USS Callister” (Episode 4x1)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – “Party Monster: Scratching The Surface” (Episode 4x6)
Grace and Frankie - “The Rats” (Episode 4x12)
The Haunting of Hill House – "The Bent-Neck Lady" (Episode 1x5)
Legacies - “Mombie Dearest” (Episode 1x7)
So there you have it, some of personal favorite moments in television from the past year. And based on everything I saw this year, Riverdale’s chorus will definitely ring true going into 2019, we haven’t seen anything yet. And let me know you favorite moments from the past year below, I’d love to discuss with you all!