Let’s get right out and say it. This list is obviously very objective as I haven’t seen every TV show that came out this year. Yet, there’s more than enough to warrant attention and I’m only including those that are released in this 2016. It’s been another stellar year for brilliant shows so let’s get to it.
10. Assassins – The Crown
One of the loveliest surprises of the year was Netflix’s The Crown, a royally binge-worthy show that had grandeur, humour, style and complex themes. Whilst there were many great episodes, it was perhaps this penultimate one that resonates hardest. Focusing on John Lithgow’s wonderful turn as Winston Churchill, the episode delves into his past as he sits for a birthday portrait and we learn about his demons.
There’s also the perfect moment where Elizabeth confronts Phillip about their relationship and its incredible stuff.
9. The Bicameral Mind – Westworld
For better or worse, Westworld was one of the most interesting shows of the year and though the season finale may have been too long, it resonated because it knew what it needed to do to be spectacular. The final ten minutes are some of the best TV of the year, with the wonderful score and action reaching a crescendo of exquisite violence. The preceding hour was also full of revelations, intrigue and character study that made the prior nine episodes worth every second.
8. Episode 6 – Fleabag
Funny, filthy and dark, Fleabag is the addictive show from Phoebe Waller-Bridge about a woman whose life spirals downwards self-destructively after the death of her best friend. It’s only got six episodes but each one built on the last, crafting an impeccable and enthralling TV dramedy. The final episode, of them all, is the most breathlessly painful as the titular Fleabag wars with her Mother-in-law (played repulsively by Olivia Coleman) and we discover the real truth behind her friend’s death.
It’s heartbreaking and captivating TV.
7. Nailed – Better Call Saul
People forget about Better Call Saul. There is so much TV out there that people always forget about Breaking Bad’s excellent Saul Goodman spin-off. Which is a damn shame as the show quickly set itself out as intricate and detailed as its predecessor but with a slowly unfurling story that built to some incredible conclusions. For me, the crowning moment was the culmination of Jimmy’s brother Chuck’s obsession with uncovering his brothers lies, leading to him collapsing in a printing store and smacking his head on a desk.
In terms of shocking moments, this had me jumping up with my mouth agape and Saul’s look of horror as he looks upon the scene, deliberating on whether to intervene is gripping stuff.
6. Bubbled – Steven Universe
I watched plenty of shows this year, however, some weren’t released in 2016. For example, I began Cartoon Networks delightful animated show Steven Universe and it instantly became one of my favourite shows of all time despite beginning in 2013. Continuing in 2016 with a wonderful array of incredible episodes, for me, it was the exquisite bottle episode ‘Bubbled’ where Steven finds himself adrift in space with a Ruby soldier called ‘Eyeball’ that really topped my list.
It was funny, dramatically important and brought tears to the eyes.
5. Toast Can’t Never be Bread Again – Orange is the New Black
Brutal, devastating and necessary. This year OITNB stepped head first into its darkest season yet, dealing with important social issues and delivering a knockout blow of a final two episodes. The show this year balanced humour and pathos as usual but come the end it had more than enough proved that it was one of the most potent and powerful dramas of the decade.
4. San Junipero – Black Mirror
Returning for a new Netflix-produced series, Charlie Brooker and co. gave us another six episodes of techno themed cautionary tales. Everyone has their favourites and for me, the 80’s tinged time-crossed love story was the standout. Maybe because it was the most positive but also because it was frickin’ beautiful. In a dark year, it was a gorgeous highlight.
3. The Upside Down – Stranger Things
The most talked about show of the year besides the obvious ones, Stranger Things was the breakout hit of the summer, perfectly capturing our sense of nostalgia whilst crafting a beautiful, thrilling drama. The highlight was indeed the finale which built things up to a genuinely exhilarating finale and capped the story off with an incredible flourish.
Emotionally investing and artistically engaging, Stranger Things just about had everyone talking about it.
2. Fish Out of Water – Bojack Horseman
Few shows surprise you as much as Bojack Horseman. It’s a wry, sarcastic show about an anthropomorphic animated horse but also has some of the darkest and must achingly poignant moments on TV at the moment. It excelled itself in season three with the stunning, wordless Fish Out of Water which sent Bojack under the ocean for a film festival and took him on a journey which felt like it came out of a painting.
Beautiful, sad and inspiring, this was the best episode in a show as daring and exhilarating as they come
1. Battle of the Bastards/The Winds of Winter – Game of Thrones
It could only be one thing. And this isn’t me pandering to the most popular show, far from it. Last year I was done with Game of Thrones, bored of its meandering emptiness. Season five felt like the end of my interest in Westeros but it’s a testament to season six that it not only brought me back but pushed it up into my top ten shows of all time. That’s in great part to the stellar final two episodes which blended superb direction, a wonderful score, genuine awe, shocks and more crowd-pleasing, fist-pumping moments than you can shake a dragon glass stick at.
The revelations were many, the battles jaw-dropping and all of it as expertly crafted as any show in history and as artistic as any movie. More than that it came at the end of a season that, apart from some so-so episodes, was generally very impressive. The Door helped resolidify my love of the show and with a greater focus on female roles, an expanded world and jettisoning of useless storylines, it was a season like no other.
These aren’t just my top pick because it was the biggest show of the year. These are my top pick because there is genuinely nothing as truly epic and utterly wonderful as Game of Thrones when it’s at its best. I couldn’t separate these two episodes if I wanted to, they’re one in the same and brilliant.
So there we have it. My ten favourite episodes of the year.
Luke Cage – Moment of Truth
National Treasure – Final