It's that time again! That time when we look back over the last 300-something days and say, "Remember that? That was good." We're speaking specifically about the best television episodes of the last year, the hours and half-hours that made us laugh, made us cry, and made our hearts stop beating for three very scary minutes.
I polled the TV.com writers for their input and after much discussion and arm-wrestling, we settled on these 20 episodes of television that made the past year awesome. The rules for qualifying for this list are simple: no more than one episode per show and it must have aired from June of 2013 to June of 2014 (give or take a few weeks so that we could squeeze the end of Game of Thrones in here). Take a look, vote for which episodes you thought were best, and hit the comments with your own list! (Lest ye blow your top over an episode appearing at the bottom of this list, these are in random order.)
Breaking Bad's "Ozymandias" – Season 5, Episode 14
What made it one of the best: When it comes to choosing the best Breaking Bad episode from this last season, you really could do no wrong. But "Ozymandias" stood out as an hour where pretty much every last damn thing about the whole series came to a head. Hell, it's named after a poem about the fall of kings and empires: a flashback to Walt and Jesse's first cook, the stalwart demise of Hank and Gomie, Walt finally telling Jesse about Jane, Walt losing his family. Rian Johnson’s expert direction carried viewers through Breaking Bad’s special brand of madness, tragedy, and existentialism, all while setting up the the final two episodes in a way that had everybody guessing how this would all finish out. – Ryan Sandoval
Other great Breaking Bad Season 5b episodes: "Blood Money," "Felina," "To'hajiilee," "Confessions"
Arrow's "Three Ghosts" — Season 2, Episode 9
What made it one of the best: Arrow's mid-season finale has hallucinations, a mask, a startling death, and an even more startling reveal. The hallucinations didn't completely work, but they were much-needed character insights into Oliver, who can sometimes feel too closed off to those around him and us. Even if that wasn't there, the episode was high on action and thrills with Sebastian Blood's abduction of Roy, Barry receiving his powers in Central City, Oliver's fight with Cyrus Gold and, perhaps best of all, finding out that a deranged and vengeful Slade Wilson was still alive and out for blood. It's exactly how you get people to stay pumped over a month-long break. – Noel Kirkpatrick
Other great episodes from Arrow's second season: "Identity," "Deathstroke," "The Man Under the Hood," and "Streets of Fire"
Fargo's "Buridan's Ass" – Season 1, Episode 6
What made it one of the best: Fargo's first four episodes were good, but the miniseries really became great during a four-episode stretch that detailed Lester Nygaard's transformation from push over to pusher. When Lester framed his brother (and threw a gun in his kid's backpack for good measure) in "Buridan's Ass," he cemented himself as more Heisenberg than Walter White, changing his character for the remainder of the series. But "Buridan's Ass" also featured the series' most gloriously dark violence when Don was duct-taped to an elliptical machine with a shotgun in hand while a SWAT team swarmed his house and the most tense firefight when Malvo took on Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers in a white-out blizzard. Add beautiful cinematography, scintillating performances, and a level of insanity that could only leave you laughing, and it's one of the best hours of the year. – Tim Surette
Other great Fargo Season 1 episodes: "The Crocodile's Dilemma," "Who Shaves the Barber?," "The Heap," "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage," "Morton's Fork"
Mad Men's "Waterloo" – Season 7, Episode 7
What made it one of the best: The first half of the first half of Mad Men's final season may have taken some time to pick up speed. But by the time man walked on the moon, Don had managed to avoid being enthusiastically fired by his colleagues, which frankly, was a surprise to us all—especially with a finale called "Waterloo" to leave us hanging until the season wraps up next year. There was a lot of catharsis in "Waterloo," from Don passing the torch to Peggy by insisting she make the Burger Chef pitch, to Cutler calling Lou Avery out for the "hired hand" schmuck that he is. Never a series to shy away from the historical context of its setting, Mad Men's "Waterloo" fell against the backdrop of the July 1969 moon landing and felt every bit as new and epic. We may have had to say goodbye to Robert Morse's Bert Cooper, but that goofy-great song-and-dance routine (in Cooper's trademark stocking feet, no less!) made the loss more pleasant to bear. – MaryAnn Sleasman
Other great episodes from Mad Men's seventh season: "A Day's Work," "The Strategy," "The Monolith"
How I Met Your Mother's "How Your Mother Met Me" – Season 9, Episode 16
What made it one of the best: How I Met Your Mother might have gone out on a sour note, but for all the series' problems in the final season—or even the final few seasons—every once in a while an episode would sneak in and remind us of the good ol' days when the show's flexible narrative structure wasn't a gimmick and Ted's romantic nature was charming. The introduction of the Mother in Season 8 opened many doors for HIMYM, and every scene featuring Cristin Milioti's Mother crackled with an electricity the series hadn't seen in years. Which is why "How Your Mother Met Me"—the series' 200th episode—was so exciting even with the reveal the Mother's first love was killed on her 21st birthday. Despite the episode's earnest nature, seeing all of Ted's near misses with the Mother from her point of view was fun and finally fleshed out a woman fans had been building in their minds for eight years. The series truly came full circle in that moment. – Kaitlin Thomas
Other great episodes from How I Met Your Mother's ninth and final season: "The End of the Aisle," "Vesuvius," "The Lighthouse," "The Rehearsal Dinner"
Hannibal's "Mizumono" - Season 2 Episode 13
What made it one of the best: The Season 2 finale of Hannibal was the psychological thriller at its most daring, and I say this about a show that had a man eating his own face the week before. It was daring not because it was gory and violent—though it was those things—but because it embraced the psychological and emotional horror of a man torn between two natures and a monster who thought he had finally found a friend. It was an intimate showcase of betrayals and broken friendships and a ruined pseudo-family, with the chaos Hannibal leaving in his wake hearkening back to the chaos Will left in his in the pilot episode with the death of Garret Jacob Hobbs. – Noel
Other great episodes from Hannibal's second season: "Sakizuki," "Mukozuke," "Shiizakana," and "Tome-wan"
Sleepy Hollow's "Necromancer" – Season 1, Episode 8
What made it one of the best: Some of you are like, "Necromancer" over the season finale? Really? Are you on drugs? Allow me to explain, please. "Necromancer" was a turning point for Sleepy Hollow. It was the episode of the Infamous Fist Bump Incident of 2013, but even more than that, it was the episode that introduced us to the man behind the Headless Horseman. The reveal that it was Ichabod's former BFF and Katrina's former betrothed Brom who was out for blood opened up Ichabod's backstory and dove into how our actions affect not only the present, but also the future. It also raised the question of whether evil was born or created while humanizing someone who runs around chopping off people's heads/blowing them away with automatic weapons. The episode was a perfect balance of everything that makes Sleepy Hollow work: friendship and love, humor and drama, good and evil. Plus, you really can't deny how awesome that fist bump was. – Kaitlin
Other great episodes from Sleepy Hollow's first season: "The Sin Eater," "Bad Blood," "The Midnight Ride"
Louie's "So Did the Fat Lady" – Season 4, Episode 3
What made it one of the best: Louie's been kind of a jerk all season, and "So Did the Fat Lady" put him right in the middle of one of society's double standards: that an overweight man can be cuddly and funny but an overweight woman is "fat." With a spectacular guest appearance from Sarah Baker and brilliant, intimate direction by Louis C.K., "So Did the Fat Lady" was Louie at its best: uncomfortable and thought-provoking. – Tim
Other great Louie Season 4 episodes: "Model," the "Elevator" arc, the "Pamela" arc, "Into the Woods"
The Walking Dead's "The Grove" – Season 4, Episode 14
What made it one of the best: When The Walking Dead isn't recycling the boring debate about who should be leader (just put Carol in charge already), it occasionally reminds us just how horrible this zombie-packed world can be and how society's rules—even the most basic ones like "Don't shoot kids"—need to be rewritten in order to give everyone a fightin' chance. This was one of the most fucked-up episodes of television all year and featured more brilliant acting by Melissa McBride. It's the kind of episode that The Walking Dead should be putting out more often instead of the ones where Rick wonders about where to plant cucumbers. – Tim
Other great The Walking Dead Season 4 episodes: "Internment," "Alone," "A"
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "Turn, Turn, Turn" – Season 1, Episode 17
What made it ones of the best: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a tough go of it this season. It was frustratingly uneven for most of its run, but all of that changed when the series finally realized its potential in the final moments of "Turn, Turn, Turn." The reveal of Agent Ward's betrayal was the catalyst the show desperately needed to propel itself forward. Acting as a slap to the face of those fans who'd long ago fallen asleep, the episode not only made Ward the series' most interesting character in a matter of seconds, but it also raised the stakes and left its mark on each episode that followed. For fans who'd stuck by the series, it was vindication. For fans who gave up, it was reason enough to come back and give it another try. – Kaitlin
Other great episodes from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s first season: "F.Z.Z.T.," "Providence," "Beginning of the End"
Orange Is the New Black's "Tall Men With Feelings" – Season 1, Episode 11
What made it one of the best: In the final moments of "Tall Men With Feelings," the great end of a brilliant four-episode run, outside collided with inside as Larry—still heated after learning about Piper and Alex's rekindled lesbian romance—told all on a radio show part out of spite and part out of drive to kickstart his middling writing career. The entire prison was listening, and everything Piper had done to build up her life while incarcerated was destroyed by Larry's honest talk. It re-emphasized that time inside Litchfield and time among the free moved at different speeds and that no amount of phone calls or visits could keep the lives from being severed. And it was full of OMG moments, if that's what you're into. – Tim
Other great episodes from Orange Is the New Black's first season: "I Wasn't Ready," F*cksgiving," "Bora Bora Bora," "Can't Fix Crazy"
Game of Thrones' "The Lion and the Rose" – Season 4, Episode 2
What made it one of the best: Yes, the season finale "The Children" was pretty incredible, but Season 4 didn't save the best for ninth or last as it did in previous seasons. Instead, Game of Thrones' finest hour came in Episode 2 with the Purple Wedding (I get the chills just thinking about it). The series is well known for keeping its characters apart, which is why gathering them all together for Joffrey's wedding made for dialogue rich with backhanded compliments, jealous stares from across the patio, uncomfortable situations for poor Tyrion and Sansa, and King Joffrey acting like King Joffrey on his special day. Well, until he choked to death on some poison. Game of Thrones thrives on shocks, and this was the biggest—and most satisfying, despite the fact we'll miss the lil' bugger—shock of the season. – Tim
Other great Season 4 Game of Thrones episodes: "The Laws of Gods and Men," "Mockingbird," "The Mountain and the Viper," "The Watchers on the Wall," "The Children"
Person of Interest's "The Devil's Share" – Season 3, Episode 10
What made it one of the best: The follow up to the series' most shocking moment could have been 60 minutes of Reese spraying bullets (which would have been awesome), but instead the episode backtracked and examined the team as individuals dealing with loss. And it peeled back yet another layer to this surprising show in what was its best season yet. Despite the episode's fantastic finish, it was the amazing intro—an emotional, cinematic montage—that remains one of the best scenes of the past year and captured the varied emotions—sadness, anger, confusion—that death brings. Are we sure this is a network show? – Tim
Other great episodes from Person of Interest's third season: "Razgovor," "The Crossing," "RAM," "Death Benefit," "A House Divided," "Deus Ex Machina"
Boardwalk Empire's "Farewell Daddy Blues" – Season 4, Episode 12
What made it one of the best: Boardwalk Empire has a knack for turning fantastic season finales that bring all the disparate storylines together in one bloody package, and the Season 4 finale "Farewell Daddy Blues" is the best exemplar yet. Like the preceding 11 episodes, the season-ender smartly placed its focus on two fan favorites, Richard and Chalky, and delivered emotional gut-punches to both. Richard saw his journey come to a stirring, still conclusion while Chalky lost nearly everything but his life. In many ways, this was an episode four years in the making. – Cory Barker
Other great episodes from Boardwalk Empire's fourth season: "The North Star," "White Horse Pike," "Havre de Grace"
True Detective's "The Secret Fate of All Life" – Season 1, Episode 5
What made it one of the best: HBO's star-studded miniseries was great when it was delivering cockamamie new-age monologues, keeping a camera on for six minutes, or discussing the battle between war and light, but it was incredible when it played with viewers' expectations and beliefs. The miniseries format and the crummy protagonists that we watched led us all to wonder who was telling the truth and who was more involved than they let on, and "The Secret Fate of All Life" ran with our suspicions and transformed our anti-heroes into suspects themselves. It's unusual that an episode that leveled everything we thought we knew about a series would be its best, but that's the game that True Detective played best. – Tim
Other great episodes from True Detective's first season: "The Long Bright Dark," "The Locked Room," Who Goes There," "Form and Void"
Community's "Cooperative Polygraphy" – Season 6, Episode 4
What made it one of the best: Well, it's more or less a Community bottle episode, and few shows do better in those single, confined spaces. "Cooperative Polygraphy" faced the challenge of explaining away the departure of both Chevy Chase's Pierce and setting up an exit for Donald Glover's Troy, but it managed to do so thanks to a simple premise (everyone is made to take a lie detector test) that forces all the characters to speak from the heart and reveal uncomfortable things about themselves—you know, like all great Community episodes. Though it's a bummer we won't see #SixSeasonsandaMovie on NBC, Dan Harmon's return season was worth it for this episode alone. – Cory
Other great episodes from Community's fifth season: "Geothermal Escapism," "App Developments and Condiments," "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," "Basic Sandwich"
The Americans' "Echo" – Season 2, Episode 13
What made it one of the best: Granted "Echo" has the benefit of being a season finale standing proud on the backs of its predecessors. But dammit if this episode didn’t feature a perfectly executed mind-melting twist that honored the season-long mystery of who killed Jared’s family (hint: teenagers are nuts!), while shifting focus to higher stakes to come in season 3. And let’s not forget Stan and Oleg’s betrayal of spy prodigy Nina! The Jennings are no strangers to mixing suburban home life with private espionage, but "Echo"’s family outing forced the two spheres together in a way that had yet to been see in The Americans. For evidence that this show can not only survive, but thrive past its own high-concept premise, fans need look no further than the emotional, suspenseful "Echo." - Ryan
Other great episodes from The Americans' second season: "Comrades," "Arpanet," "The Deal"
The Good Wife's "Hitting the Fan" — Season 5, Episode 5
What made it one of the best: Season 5 of The Good Wife was likely one of the best seasons of TV in the past year, and "Hitting the Fan" is the point at which it started its ascent. A culmination of character arcs, from Cary's professional ambitions to Alicia's cocktail of emotions, "Hitting the Fan" was also a visual tour de force, an episode directed and edited within an inch of its life in the first half, giving the sense of legal speed-chess as the defecting associates scrambled to keep their clients and files and the older partners did everything to stop them. The second half offered up a twisty, bitter case-of-the-week as everyone tried to keep Chumhum on their respective side, showing that even when the show is blowing up its premise, it sticks to what works. – Noel
Other great episodes from The Good Wife's fifth season: "The Decision Tree," "Goliath and David," "The Last Call," and "A Weird Year"
Orphan Black's "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed" – Season 2, Episode 1
What made it one of the best: When a TV series' freshman season is as successful as Orphan Black's was, there's always a concern that the show won't be able to maintain the same level of quality the second time around. Luckily, that worry was unfounded as the series went to new heights in season 2, introducing new characters and threats while still maintaining the series' perfect balance of humor and drama. But none of that would have been possible if the Season 2 premiere, "Nature Under Constraint and Vexed," hadn't come out swinging, quite literally. Nearly no time had passed since Season 1, and yet we had a new set of villains, we had new mysteries to solve, and Helena was revealed to be alive. A lot was riding on the premiere, and it was definitely the highlight of what came to be a strong, successful sophomore season. – Kaitlin
Other great episodes from Orphan Black's second season: "To Hound Nature in her Wanderings," "Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things," "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done," "Mingling Its Own Nature With It"
The Returned's "La Horde" – Season 1, Episode 8
What made it one of the best: This is really a case of take your pick, with every chapter of this stunning foreign series' worth a spot on this list. But I'll go with the finale "La Horde" (it's French for "The Horde") because it blew my head clear off my neck. It didn't deliver answers to the series' main questions (i.e. What the f@*$ is going on?) which may have upset some, but it still elevated the series to another level, which is The Returned's big gimmick. Stunningly gorgeous with odes to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and bite-your-fingers tense, "La Horde" was the perfect hour to end the season on because it made us even more excited for Season 2. – Tim
Other great episodes from The Returned's first season: "Camille," "Victor," "Adele"
Honorable Mentions: Supernatural's "Bad Boys," New Girl's "Keaton," Sons of Anarchy's "Aon Rud Persanta," Sherlock's "The Sign of Three," Parks and Recration's "Moving On Up," The 100's "Twilight's Last Gleaming," Justified's "Shot All to Hell," Banshee's "The Truth About Unicorns," Homeland's "One Last Thing," Scandal's "A Door Marked Exit," Almost Human's "Skin," The Mindy Project's "The Desert," Bob's Burgers' "Mazel-Tina," Enlisted's "Vets," Archer's "Filibuster"
What were your favorite episodes of television from the past year?
AIRED ON 9/29/2013
Season 5 : Episode 16