Undefended: The Greatest TV Episodes Since The Debut Of Lost.

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Undefended: The Greatest TV Episodes Since The Debut Of Lost.

The first episode of Lost premiered September 22, 2004 and ushered in what more than a few critics have called “the new golden age of television,” which lasts up until today. What are the five greatest individual episodes of television to have aired in this era?

Jon Paul Pope

  1. “The Wheel,” Mad Men Episode 1.13 : Don Draper delivers a pitch that makes grown executives weep.
  2. “Cornered,” Breaking Bad Episode 4.06 : “I’m the one who knocks…” I rest my case.
  3. “The Constant,” Lost Episode 4.05: For better or for worse, my childhood was deeply affected by Somewhere in Time. The time jumping love story of Desmond and Penny touched that nerve.
  4. “Fly,” Breaking Bad Episode 3.10: Mainstream TV goes avant-garde in this absurd episode. Waiting for Heisenberg?
  5. “The Sign of Three,” Sherlock Episode 3.02: Cumberbatch’s icy bravado fractures as he cracks a case while serving as John Watson’s best man. This episode contained surprisingly tender reflections on the meaning of friendship.

Sean Pope:

How about some good old fashioned half-hour comedies:

  1. “Diversity Day,” The Office
  2. “Modern Warfare,” Community
  3. “Righteous Brothers,” Arrested Development
  4. “The Doll,” Curb Your Enthusiasm
  5. “Cooter,” 30 Rock

Joshua Gibbs

  1. “Deus ex Machina,” Lost (s01e19): Locke donates a kidney to his “father,” the hatch illuminates when he beats on the door.
  2. “Dead Freight,” Breaking Bad (s05e05): The great train robbery episode is simply the most tightly coiled episode in the series.
  3. “Born Again,” The Americans (s03e06): Finishes with one of the most spectacularly set up, elaborately psychological prayers I have ever witnessed.
  4. “The Wheel,” Mad Men (s01e13): Which concludes with Don’s tragic lecture on Cronos devouring his children.
  5. “Eddie,” Louie (s02e09): Nearly impossible to watch for how bleak it is, the episode concludes with a speech which teeters back and forth between a genuine vision of human goodness pragmatism.

Timothy Lawrence

  1. Mad Men 4.7 “The Suitcase”: An emotionally charged microcosm of Don and Peggy’s relationship.
  2. Fargo 1.9 “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”: A penultimate episode concerned primarily with moving pieces into place for the finale is simultaneously the series’ most tightly wound and sustained work of suspense, culminating in a brutal cathartic gut punch. (Really, any episode from the series could go here.)
  3. Lost 1.4 “Walkabout”: Perhaps more than any other episode (although “The Constant” is a very close second), John Locke’s introduction encapsulates what “Lost” does best – marrying mythology-fueled mystery to emotion-fueled catharsis.
  4. The Sopranos 6.18 “Kennedy and Heidi”: In which Tony Soprano descends to the depths of depravity and has an epiphany – he “gets it.”
  5. Breaking Bad 5.14 “Ozymandias”: One of the most draining and horrific hours of television ever produced; all the consequences of Walt’s actions hit home in one breathtaking, stomach-churning swoop.

Honorable mentions: Mad Men 5.4 “Signal 30”,  Mad Men 6.13 “In Care Of” (and most of seasons 6 and 7, really),  Breaking Bad 3.10 “Fly”, The Americans 2.6 “Behind the Red Door”

Brian Murnion

  1. Felina – Breaking Bad (s5, ep16): Breaking Bad is the standard that I lens all other modern dramas through. BB set a new standard of quality and narrative value that most dramas, post BB, aren’t able to match. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really… I was alive.”
  2. Who Goes There – True Detective (s1, ep4): Includes a six minute single take tracking shot that’s more impressive than the action in most films. 20 clams it made P.T. Anderson cry.
  3. So Did the Fat Lady – Louie (s4, ep3): Comedy is transforming and Louie is pioneering the way. Louie is able to shift the conversation and leverage humor as a way to expose what’s wrong with how humans look at the world. “Louie, you know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? “You’re not fat.” I mean, come on, buddy. It just sucks. It really really sucks. You have no idea. And the worst part is, I’m not even supposed to do this. Tell anyone how bad it sucks, because it’s too much for people. I mean, you, you can talk into the microphone and say you can’t get a date, you’re overweight. It’s adorable. But if I say it, they call the suicide hotline on me. I mean, can I just say it? I’m fat. It sucks to be a fat girl. Can people just let me say it? It sucks. It really sucks. And I’m going to go ahead and say it.”
  4. Colony Collapse – Arrested Development (s4, ep7): Packed with subtle comedy (obviously):”Memento” references as GOB reads notes on his bathroom mirror; “The Sound of Silence” plays when GOB thinks how lonely he is; GOB is startled by an image of Jesus in his girlfriends bedroom and says “for a second I thought that was a real guy.”
  5. Rico – Better Call Saul (s1, ep8): Jimmy makes a remarkable play and goes out on the ledge, risking everything to do the right thing, which is more than I have ever done.”You can’t say it’s private if a hobo can use it as a wigwam! That’s the standard, isn’t it, if animals or vagrants can get in?”

Joseph Gross

  1. Breaking Bad 5.14, “Ozymandias”: Walter White had a spectacular way of always getting what he wanted, up until this grand tragic climax of his story, as he tries desperately to keep his family and the life he built together, only to see its thrilling and gut-wrenching collapse, setting up the two final episodes to explore the ruins.
  2. Louie 2.01, “Pregnant”: Louis CK crafts an engaging display of the anxiety creating barriers within families and the tenderness bringing strangers together, all the while building to one of the most shockingly funny punchlines of all time.
  3. Doctor Who 8.04, “Listen”: At its best, the renewed Doctor Who takes the show deeper into exploring the implications of time travel and the alien psychology of the Doctor, and “Listen,” which sees the Last of the Time Lords travel to the heat death of the universe searching for a monster that might not exist at all, is the most forceful display of what this show can be after 50 years.
  4. Better Call Saul 1.10, “Marco”: “Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun!” Viewers who’ve seen Breaking Bad know that that’s true, however much we don’t want it to be. In the aftermath of his brother’s gut-wrenching betrayal, we get our first glimpse of how this prophesy fulfills itself.
  5. Arrested Development 3.07, “Prison Break-In”: Arrested Development’s relentless satire of the American elite may have hit its peak here, as the Bluth family organizes a fundraiser for Tobias’s life-threatening hair plugs and Buster finds himself in a mutually abusive relationship with Mother, his pet turtle.

Elizabeth Stinnette:

In which I reveal that most of my television consumption comes from BBC:

  1. Doctor Who, 3.10, “Blink.” By far the best–and creepiest–Weeping Angels episode. It sets up a sort of Hitchcockian suspense and throws in some profound ideas about the fleetingness of life.
  2. Sherlock, 2.3, “The Reichenbach Fall.” Sherlock somehow maintains the upper hand as Moriarty destroys his world. A masterpiece of suspense and great acting, and remarkably true to the spirit of Doyle’s short story.
  3. Doctor Who, 5.10, “Vincent and the Doctor.” The episode that makes everyone fall in love with Van Gogh. Seriously, though, this episode is remarkable in how it comments on the value of human life and the beauty of the universe in 45 action-packed minutes.
  4. Broadchurch, Episode 8. It’s hard to pick any one episode of this show. Each episode builds slowly on the previous one, showing piece by piece how one sin affects an entire community. The last episode is an explosion of revelations, both emotional and criminal.
  5. Psych, 1.2, “Spellingg Bee.” A witty send-up of both spelling bee culture and detective dramas. I appreciate how the show carries a second, more serious level–the relationship between Shawn and his father.

James Banks:

  1. “Face Off”. Fourth season of “Breaking Bad”. Probably not as popular as the fifth season, but it combines high suspense with elements of revenge tragedy effectively and it actually is quite touching to see the paternal edge of Jesse in this episode, even though he does “break bad” at a marginally less significant angle than Walt.
  2. “Jacob’s Ladder”. First season of “Rectify”. The last episode of the first season which ends with parallel scenes in the present and past portraying Daniel being beaten by vigilantes and seeing his best friend taken to death row accentuates the question of whether or not he can ever live normally again, the conundrum which gives the series its dramatic tension.
  3. “Season 2, Episode 3” of “Peaky Blinders”. Tom Hardy as a Sephardic 1920’s era gangster laying down the law. Need anyone say more?
  4. The final “30” episode of “The Wire”. In the last scene, following the final montage, in which Detective McNulty looks across the skyline of Baltimore before getting back into his vehicle and telling an insane man who he feels obligated to return to the city “Let’s go home” it is difficult to say whether it is pathetic or tragic (a line which “The Wire” to some extent made its reputation from exploiting). But whichever it is, it is an unforgettable moment.
  5. “Bomb in the Garden” episode of “Generation Kill”. Probably the best and most accurate drama made about the Iraq War, just about any episode could fill the fifth spot on the list. But the last episode’s poignant use of Johnny Cash’s music at the end tips it over the edge.

Remy Wilkins:

  1. Louie, “Country Drive” (S2Ep5): Louie takes his daughters on a drive and gives his youngest an admonition against boredom and then pantomimes to “Who Are You”. Such amazing dadrock glory.
  2. Community, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” (S2Ep9): Three words: Giant Blanket Fort.
  3. Better Off Ted,”The Impertence of Communicationizing” (S2Ep8): The brilliant and too soon cancelled workplace sitcom is full of charm and unique humor. In this episode a typo in a memo demands employee’s NOW use offensive language in the workplace. It’s like a Dilbert TV show except super funny.
  4. Bob’s Burgers,”The Deepening” (S3Ep6): The jokes in Bob’s Burgers are fast and referential, but this episode wherein Teddy must fight a robotic shark is particularly stacked.
  5. 30 Rock, “Reaganing” (S5Ep5): Jack goes on a run of near 24hrs of perfect problem solving (aka “Reaganing”) but he cannot claim victory until he solves Liz Lemon’s most personal hang-up.

Nate Douglas:

  1. Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias” (S5, E14). “Look on my works, ye mighty, and Despair!” This was was the stuff you show students in film school.
  2. The Wire, “Homecoming” (S3, E6). While the drug wars and legalization are coming to a head, a conversation between The Bunk and Omar on a bench embodies everything that makes the show great—painting stark realities, and slowly stripping away all romanticism.
  3. Game of Thrones, “The Watchers On the Wall” (S4, E9). A brilliantly staged, standalone episode covering extensive battle sequences at different locations, riddled with tracking shots, and yet incredibly tense, logical, and personal—all on a television budget. Peter Jackson wishes he did action sequences this well.
  4. True Detective, “Who Goes There” (S1, E4). It will be most known for the climatic tracking shot at the end, but what makes it great was it was barely noticeable, the viewer was so drawn in.
  5. Mad Men, “The Wheel” (S1, E13). As tempting as it was to select the Kennedy assassination episode, this was not as reliant on a period, and more on the Draper’s struggle with nostalgia, and his pushing it away.
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