Here are the best TV episodes I watched in 2018, in alphabetical order.
“Champagne Papi” // ATLANTA
I wasn’t a fan of “Teddy Perkins” and thought this was the better standout from season two of Atlanta. I maintain the best Atlanta episodes are the ones focusing on Van, and “Champagne Papi” continues this tradition from season one’s “Value”, following Van as she tries as hard as she can to find Drake at his own supposed party. In typical Atlanta fashion, what’s real or not becomes debatable, Darius shows up to do his Darius thing, and everyone ends up getting nothing they wanted in hilariously depressing fashion.
“Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going” // BARRY
“The queen is dead.” was the most devastating line reading of the year, from the unexpectedly tense and hard to watch climactic episode of the first season of Barry. This was the episode that took the show from pretty good to one of the best new shows of the year.
“Winner” // BETTER CALL SAUL
Everyone who watches Better Call Saul knew this moment was coming and yet it’s still such a gut punch thanks to how unexpectedly it comes (at the end of a terrifically excruciating finale) and how it completely breaks Kim’s (who deserves the world) heart. Mike’s storyline mirrors Jimmy’s storyline as well, as they’ve now become the people we, as people with knowledge of the Badverse, know they’re meant to be. “It’s all good, man” also cleverly mirrors Walt’s “I won”, a similar statement signifying a transformation in Breaking Bad’s season 4 finale.
“The Planned Parenthood Show” // BIG MOUTH
This episode of television should be aired in lieu of whatever excuse for sex education high schoolers receive now.
“The Queen” // CASTLE ROCK
If you’ve ever wondered what Lost’s “The Constant” would look like if it was sadder and starred Sissy Spacek, you’re in luck. “The Queen” is a masterpiece of acting thanks to the incredible Spacek, and boasts some of the best writing of Castle Rock’s first season: it’s also a perfect tonal match for some of the most emotional passages from Stephen King’s novels.
“The Mother of all Matches” // GLOW
Both a thorny exploration of Tammé’s own compartmentalization of how she deals with the racist implications of her character “Welfare Queen” and an impressive juxtapositional character study of her and Debbie, “The Mother of all Matches” is the best of GLOW: a complex portrait of complicated women that also thoughtfully critiques one of the more dehumanizing aspects of professional wrestling.
“Globo” // HIGH MAINTENANCE
Cleverly depicting the day after the election without actually depicting it, the second season premiere of High Maintenance effortlessly captured the surreal paranoia and world weary stress that results from living in the world in 2018. That it ends on a quietly joyous scene is an unexpected, yet necessary mercy.
“Joe Pera Reads You The Church Announcements” // JOE PERA TALKS WITH YOU
Capturing the joy of discovering a favorite song for the first time and ramping it up to ridiculous heights, there was no better example of Joe Pera Talks With You’s bizarre mix of sincerity and oddness than this episode.
“A Life In The Day” // THE MAGICIANS
The Magicians takes what at first seems to be a joke (that the puzzle that Quentin and Eliot must solve in order to help return magic to the world is very hard and is taking them a long time) and turns it into a strangely beautiful formal experiment never before seen on this show. “A Life In The Day” is The Magicians at its most bizarrely and unexpectedly beautiful.
“Which Side Are You On?” // SUCCESSION
The most stressful TV episode of the year lays you flat with its impending sense of doom and heart-stopping climax. Succession all but makes you certain things are going to go the way you think they are until they don’t in horrifying fashion.