Hi, guys. I’ve been working on this for, uh, a couple days now. It wasn’t the most effortless list I’ve put together, but it was still fun to write, and I hope you like it and stuff.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS!
Battlestar Galactica, “Blood on the Scales”
It’s very difficult to settle on standout episodes in a series that is so terrific from beginning to end. From the heart-pounding opening of “33″ to the last dancing robot in “Daybreak, Part 2,” there’s nary a miss in the entire run. One of the series’ greatest triumphs is “Blood on the Scales,” the second episode devoted to a coup conducted by the typically reserved, obedient crew member Felix Gaeta. It’s impossible to describe this. It’s emotionally charged, gripping, and downright anxiety-inducing at times. Just watch it, OK? This show is the best. And this episode will show you why.
Honorable Mentions: “Colonial Day,” “Unfinished Business,” “Maelstorm”
“Colonial Day” balances lighthearted fun with an assassination attempt in classic BSG fashion. “Unfinished Business” gives viewers further perspective on one of our favorite relationships, Lee Adama’s and Kara Thrace’s, and “Maelstorm” takes a gorgeously depressing look at Kara’s death (or does it?).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Lies My Parents Told Me”
This show, it seems, can’t go wrong with a Spike-focused episode, and for me, this is the most emotionally charged one. Here, the writers explore what amounts to the most important relationship Spike/William has ever had: with his mother. It shows us just how much he cared for her, and how it destroyed him to see her become a monster after he sires her, and the turmoil with which he deals upon staking her. In addition, we see Spike pull back from killing the son of a slayer he once murdered. What he does–he tells said son, Robin Wood, that Wood’s mother never truly loved him–might actually be worse, but this is one of the only times Spike shows mercy, and we can thank his mother for that. As he says, his mother loved him, and now, he’ll pass that on, albeit cruelly as ever. Beautifully directed and containing some of James Marsters’ best acting in the entire series, “Lies My Parents Told Me” is an episode that properly outlines Buffy’s strengths.
Honorable Mentions: “Hush,” “Once More, With Feeling,” “Tabula Rasa,” “Storyteller”
Both “Hush” and “Once More, With Feeling” are fan favorites, as well they should be; they’re the most unique episodes of the series–a kind of homage to silent films and a musical, respectively. They clearly took a lot of time and effort, and that paid off. “Tabula Rasa” is highly comical, a look at how the Scoobies perceive their relationships when their memories are wiped, and “Storyteller” is another unique one, half-framed as a film a pseudo-Scoobie is making, half-devoted to why reality is necessary and has its own bearings on fiction.
Community, “Comparative Religion”
Community feels unlike any other sitcom, and while this is more obvious in episodes like the mini-action movie “Modern Warfare” and the metafictional “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples,” the filmic feel is still there in “Comparative Religion.” In this episode, this focus is on Christmas and what it does and doesn’t mean to our beloved study group. As per usual, there’s nothing that isn’t sharp, witty, and bizarrely profound about the writing, and in the end, equality becomes key, as the study group all but demolishes a gang led by mustache-sporting Anthony Michael Hall and devout Christian Shirley rewrites “Silent Night” so everyone can enjoy it. After all, it’s just December 19.
Honorable Mentions: “Debate 109,” “Contemporary American Poultry,” “Modern Warfare”
“Debate 109″ kicks off every shipper’s dream: 30-something, jaded former lawyer Jeff and 18-year-old recovering Adderall addict Annie kiss at the conclusion of a debate–a debate they win, but only because Jeff, in a moment of Community’s brilliant absurdity, drops a paraplegic after Annie kisses him. “Contemporary American Poultry” frames itself as a Goodfellas parody with fan favorite Abed at the helm, and “Modern Warfare” might be one of the best half hours of television we’ve seen in years, a zombie movie with paintball guns in place of blunt objects and axes.
How I Met Your Mother, “Something Borrowed”
I can’t resist a sitcom that makes me cry once in a while, and I’m fairly sure HIMYM is the only one on air right now that does so. “Something Borrowed” has it all: a failure-prone wedding, a sweet mini-ceremony with the main cast on their own, and Marshall shaving part of his head in a fit of highlights-induced mania. It’s that mini-ceremony that sticks with you, though. Here, viewers are reminded of just how close these characters are, and how much we wish we could be part of a group like theirs, celebrating milestones in a low-key, sincere kind of way.
Honorable Mentions: “The Pineapple Incident,” “Arrivederci, Fiero,” “Girls Versus Suits”
“The Pineapple Incident” follows Ted over the course of an evening he can’t quite recall. Though the pineapple is never explained, all other manner of debauchery is, and hilariously so. “Arrivederci, Fiero” takes us on a journey through the greatest moments in Marshall’s first car’s history, and “Girls Versus Suits” contains a musical number of epic proportions, and an appearance by TV’s Tim Gunn.
Lost, “The Constant”
This is so predictable, but I don’t care. For me, “The Constant” defines Lost. It contains supernatural elements, gripping suspense, pockets of humor, and one of the most romantic phone calls you’ll ever overhear. As with “Blood on the Scales,” to describe its plot does it no justice. Suffice it to say that there’s nothing about “The Constant” that isn’t wholly satisfying. You’ll grin, you’ll cry, and you won’t soon forget why Lost is important a series as it is.
Honorable Mentions: “S.O.S.,” “Greatest Hits,” “Not in Portland,” “Dr. Linus”
“S.O.S.” explains the sweet simplicity of Rose and Bernard’s marriage. They’re a couple you can always count on, and in this episode, you find out why. “Greatest Hits” contains the best tribute to any of the many doomed characters, tracing the five best moments in beloved former junkie, one hit wonder Charlie’s life. “Not in Portland” provides the first of many glimpses into Juliet’s past, and “Dr. Linus” takes a deeply emotional look at what Ben Linus could’ve been.
Mystery Science Theater 3000, “Pod People”
“Pod People” is, without question, the episode of MST3K that took me from fan to lifetime devotee, or something like that. Not only is the movie a complete train wreck, with which Joel and the ‘bots have a field day, but the in-between segments are the best you’ll ever see, recreations of the movie’s most ridiculous scenes with the added personalities of the wonderful Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy. Many MST3K eps are quotable, but none are quite as quotable, and remarkable, as this one.
Honorable Mentions: “Manos: Hands of Fate,” “The Beatniks,” “Soultaker”
“Manos” is a classic, and it has a right to be, an extraordinarily low budget horror film with a difficult to discern plot and long stretches of silence filled with unrelated witticisms. “The Beatniks” is a hidden gem, a movie that has nothing to do with beatniks and everything to do with a group of kids who cause trouble while eating dishes of ice cream and dancing to the tunes on the jukebox. And “Soultaker” is a fairly coherent movie still rife with non sequiturs, but the episode’s real charm comes along with guest appearances by Joel and TV’s Frank.
The X-Files, “Triangle”
This is the closest The X-Files ever gets to film noir. When Mulder is transported to the 1940s after crossing into the Bermuda Triangle, he encounters a vampy Scully, a turncoat A.D. Skinner, and (surprise!) a Nazi commander Cigarette Smoking Man while aboard a cruise ship filled with millionaires and military coups. Large portions of this episode are done in one shot, and even if it wasn’t so staggeringly impressive production-wise, the sharp writing and typically impressive acting would make this episode stand out among the rest. It’s one of the most unique and thoroughly entertaining episodes of the series.
Honorable Mentions: “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” “Small Potatoes,” “Hollywood A.D.”
“Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” is perhaps the only truly CSM-centric X-Files, with a beautiful performance by William B. Davis and some remarkable fantastical elements in a fascinating character’s back story. “Small Potatoes” and “Hollywood A.D.” are both on the comical side, peppered with humor and some great acting by both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.