- 5. The Americans: Start (2018)
Many great TV shows build toward one moment, the one fans have been waiting for all along. Few have been as well executed as the ultimate showdown in The Americans, the series finale, when Russian spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and come face to face with their FBI-agent neighbour Stan. They lose not just their cover and identities but also their children in a crushing end to one of the decade’s finest shows. The carpark scene with Stan is one of the most intense you’ll see, and a huge payoff for those who followed the show to that point. So many shows fail to land the finale but The Americans ended with its best episode.
- 4. Atlanta: Teddy Perkins (2018)
Fans of Atlanta knew it was not a run-of-the-mill comedy series. Single episodes of the Donald Glover-created and starring program often veered into dramatic territory. But nothing prepared viewers for Teddy Perkins, the show’s crowning moment, and the episode that strays farthest from the program’s usual style. Teddy Perkins is a straight-up horror film. Side character Darius ventures into a random mansion looking to buy a secondhand piano and is greeted by the titular character — a rich but disturbed former star with obvious nods to Michael Jackson. Teddy Perkins (played by Glover in disguise) is creepy and complicated, and the episode builds suspense to almost intolerable levels. As a standalone episode, it’s brilliant. In the context of the entire show, it’s insanely brilliant.
- 3. Breaking Bad: Ozymandias (2013)
The third-to-last episode of Breaking Bad is the show’s all-time high point, a peak among peaks. Ozymandias takes its title from a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about collapse following greatness, a perfect illustration of the episode’s central theme. Walter White has gone from drug kingpin to a grovelling mess laying face down in the desert. His brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader, has finally solved the biggest mystery of his career, discovering Walt has been the legendary crystal meth cook Heisenberg all along. Both are helpless as they face the repercussions of Walt’s actions. Walt turns on his partner Jesse Pinkman and kidnaps his infant daughter. His life has gone from diabolical to, somehow, something even worse. It is the most wrenching start-to-finish episode of TV imaginable.
- 2. Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter (2016)
Although it does not top the list — edged out by a different Game of Thrones episode only because by this point the shock of losing a third of the show’s cast had become less visceral — the Winds of Winter is pound-for-pound the best episode of Thrones. Daenerys finally makes her way to Westeros; Jon is named King of the North; Cersei destroys her enemies (and, indirectly, her only living son) in one burst of green flame. But above all that, the episode confirms Jon’s parentage, upon which the entire story has always hinged. This all happened beyond the events of the book series, which stalled out with Jon lying dead in the snow at The Wall. It gave viewers real hope the show runners could meet every expectation and finish the story with aplomb. Sadly that didn’t happen, but this moment of perfection will remain unimpeachable.
- 1. Game of Thrones: Rains of Castamere (2013)
Better known as the Red Wedding, this episode hooked more people on Game of Thrones than perhaps any episode of any television series in history. When people say they have started watching the show, a reasonable reaction is to ask whether they have yet made it to season three, episode eight. The Rains of Castemere is titled after the song that plays just as everything turns for the Starks, and signals Catelyn’s realisation her family and their allies have been ambushed in TV’s most stunning and shocking twist. Television fandom would never be the same again. The Lannisters send their regards.
Entertain Us (25-8-2020): Best TV episodes of the decade
YORKE Peninsula Country Times journalists continue looking back at the best of entertainment in the 2010s, and this week Nick Perry has shared his top five television episodes of the decade.
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