I can tell I’ve been watching too many YouTube videos and listening to too many podcasts lately, since I was inexplicably compelled to compile/update my list of Top 10 Favorite Episodes of TV Ever. (Actually, it was prompted by the sudden thought, “Damn I loved WandaVision,” which is something that I think about almost daily).
These aren’t necessarily all of my favorite TV series (but most of them are), and many of them are here because of one scene instead of the entire episode, and also I obviously went over 10 because none of this is at all important. Also I loved series like Alias, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, 30 Rock, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, but couldn’t think of any one particular moment or episode that stood out in my memory. Also I guess I should mention that I’ve never seen more than one episode of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, True Detective, or Fargo, and I got so annoyed with The Sopranos that I had to stop watching and it drove out any memories of how much I was enjoying the first part of the first season.
16. True Blood, “Plaisir D’Amour”
This one starts with showing what happens in the True Blood universe when a vampire gets staked, and that scene alone was my favorite in the entire silly series. This is where the series hooked me, and I was low-key obsessed for a while there. The show is so horny and so over-the-top, that I’d spent a lot of time wondering whether they were in on the joke. The start of this episode made it clear: oh yeah, they get it.
15. The Book of Boba Fett, “The Tribes of Tatooine”
Still early in a series that I haven’t liked quite as much as The Mandalorian, but damn if that train sequence wasn’t one of the best Star Wars moments I’ve ever seen. It also had Boba Fett’s vision quest at the end of the episode, a perfect example of how these series can best spin off into weirdness while still feeling like Star Wars.
14. Battlestar Galactica, “Sometimes a Great Notion”
This might be the bleakest episode of a very bleak series, and at the time I thought it was one of my least favorite. But one character’s suicide is the one scene that I remember the most vividly from the series, all these years later. I’m sure it was done mainly for shock value, but it felt like a flash of maturity in a series that was otherwise designed just to heap trauma on its characters. It’s an intriguing idea that if someone’s been suffering under years of stress and horror that an ongoing series demands to keep things exciting, they’d choose to go out with a pleasant memory instead of a brutal one.
13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush”
One of the best of the gimmick episodes (another of my favorites was called “Doppelgangland”), this one worked for me because it went back to the formula of combining gags based on the supernatural premise with the theme of a Teen Girl Drama; Buffy and her boyfriend were having trouble communicating.
12. Arrested Development, “Mr. F”
I’m not going to suggest that this episode was ever in good taste, but it still feels like it’s aged poorly enough that I feel a little weird calling it out as a favorite. The whole storyline with Charlize Theron’s character was what hooked me on the series (I didn’t see the first season until later). This episode in particular is where the whole shaggy-dog-story format of Arrested Development finally “clicked” for me: the ingenious way it piled set-ups on top of each other across an episode or multiple episodes, finally letting them all pay off in an interconnected punchline.
11. How I Met Your Mother, “Three Days of Snow”
This is the one where Marshall shows up to meet Lily at the airport with a marching band (spoiler), and that moment makes me cry every damn time. This is still one of my favorite sitcoms, because it had no hesitation being maudlin and romantic. And by the way, I still say the series ended perfectly, and anyone who says otherwise just didn’t get it.
10. Futurama, “The Sting”
This is the one where Leela is mourning Fry after he’s killed by a giant bee. The episode of Futurama that first springs to mind as a favorite is “Jurassic Bark,” and I’ve got a soft spot for “Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles” because it’s where I got the name for my cat Pazuzu. But “The Sting” is the one that surprised me for being so surprisingly sweet and romantic.
9. Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Inner Light”
This is the one where Picard is hit by a probe that causes him to experience the entire life of an alien on a doomed planet. It shows off the best potential of Star Trek: not being obsessed with continuity or grand story arcs, but taking a single sci-fi premise and spending an hour elaborating on it and its repercussions. My second favorite episode of the series was called “Remember Me,” the one where Dr. Crusher realized, “If there’s nothing wrong with me, there must be something wrong with the universe.”
8. Cowboy Bebop, “Speak Like a Child”
This is the one where Faye Valentine receives a Betamax tape in the mail, and Spike and Jet have to go pick through the ruins of Earth to find a machine that can play it. The last scene gets me every single time I see it, and Faye’s “I don’t remember” is what does it.
7. The Mandalorian, “The Sin”
This is the one where Mando returns to collect the bounty on the foundling and then regrets it. It’s hard to pick a single favorite episode of the series so far, but I think this is the one that really started to deliver on the premise. Not just the premise of a bounty hunter finding redemption and re-inventing himself, but the premise of Star Wars on TV means you get to see a whole covert of Mandalorians flying jetpacks and shooting lasers at aliens and because it’s all in a series you get to see more of it next week.
6. Lost, “Man of Science, Man of Faith”
The introduction of Desmond and the code he has to keep typing in to keep the world from ending. At the time, the cold open of this episode just blew my mind, and I’ve always liked the song “Make Your Own Kind of Music” because of it.
5. Twin Peaks, “Coma”
This is the one where Maddy sees killer Bob menacingly crawling towards her in the Palmer living room, which still might be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on television. As a bonus, it’s got the song James, Maddy, and Donna sing together, without a trace of self-consciousness.
4. The Good Place, “Dance Dance Resolution”
This is the one where Eleanor (and one time, Jason) figures it out over and over and over again. After the season one finale, I thought I knew where the series was going to go, but they crammed every one of my short-sighted predictions into a single episode, and then went off in new directions.
3. WandaVision, “Breaking the Fourth Wall”
Once again: damn, I loved WandaVision. This is the one with “Agatha All Along,” and while the reveal itself wasn’t that surprising, every element of the reveal and the end of the episode was pulled off flawlessly. It was so satisfying to see everything that the series had been building for weeks culminating in one extended sequence. There are so many great details in it, one of my favorites being how the aspect ratio quietly and near-invisibly changes as Wanda moves from a 2000s sitcom back into the “real world” of the MCU.
2. Doctor Who, “Blink”
The series overall kind of crawled up its own butt, and they overused the Weeping Angels to a ridiculous degree, and I’m still even more annoyed by “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” as I was by “the cake is a lie.” But this episode is still a masterpiece, full of genuinely scary moments and monsters that are terrifying because of the implications of their attacks, not just the attacks themselves. Plus Carey Mulligan is so charismatic that she overshadows the leads; at the time I was convinced this had to be a back-door pilot for her own series.
1. The X-Files, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space“
Always my favorite episode of television ever, even if the rest of The X-Files has mostly lost the magic it had over me in the 1990s. The series tried this kind of meta-storytelling multiple times, but it never worked as well as here because it wasn’t just parodying The X-Files, but spinning the parody into a larger idea about the nature of faith and belief. Highlights are Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek as Men in Black, the D&D player who knows a little something about courage, and the fairly savage parody of the ridiculousness of Fox’s Alien Autopsy specials of the time.