10 Best TV Episodes of the Season Thus Far

     December 22, 2014

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Television is great right now.  It’s no secret that some of the best storytelling of any medium is happening right now on the small screen with exciting filmmakers and incredibly talented performers flocking to TV as they’re drawn to its character-centric, serialized stories.  Our own Allison Keene has been running down some of the highlights of 2014, including the Top 10 New Series of the year, the Top Returning Series, and miscellaneous Other TV Bests, but since there’s so much good stuff out there, the Collider Staff came together to highlight our favorite individual episodes of the TV season thus far.  Check out the list after the jump.

*A brief note: In order to avoid having both past and current seasons of shows eligible for selection, we’ve narrowed this list to the TV season running from July to December.  Without further ado, here are the best TV episodes from that timeframe:

Homeland – “13 Hours in Islamabad”

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Showtime’s CIA drama Homeland roared back to form in its fourth season, and nowhere was this more apparent, more tense and more heart-attack-inducing than in “13 Hours in Islamabad.”  In it, Homeland never shied away from extremes and difficult truths, as the show’s own Benghazi unfolded over one harrowing hour.  The episode was a great example of a show getting back to the top of its game, where every cast member shined (and many were mourned). – Allison Keene

The Walking Dead – “Self Help”

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AMC’s The Walking Dead is the strongest it’s been in a couple of years, but it wasn’t the show’s usually-shocking mid-season finale that boasted the best episode of the season.  Sure, as far as ratings go, the season five premiere was the show’s best yet, and the winter finale had almost equally huge numbers, but it was the thematically superior “Self Help” that really got people talking.   The early half of the season had a lot of dramatic moments; I mean, we had the massacre at Terminus, the arrival of the mysterious Father Gabriel, tragic and gruesome character deaths, an introduction to the beleaguered Slabtown (and that particular arc’s doomed resolution), and even cannibals for God’s sake!  But it was the death of the group’s last hope for a return to the world they once knew – catalyzed by Eugene’s confession and personified by Abraham’s primal reaction – that set this episode apart as an hour that favored psychological torture over the tried and true practical effects … though we also got to see zombies blown apart by a fire hose, which was pretty cool. – Dave Trumbore

The Leftovers – “Guest”

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Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof’s return to television marked a very different direction from that previous series, and while The Leftovers proved to be rather divisive, it’s tough to deny the strength of the show’s single character-centric episodes.  The Nora-centric episode “Guest” was particularly excellent, as viewers followed Carrie Coon’s character attending a departure-related conference in New York City, revealing just how impactful her family’s disappearance has been.  The episode is a swell showcase for all of Lindelof’s strengths as a writer—his fascination with faith and belief, his strong handle on character, and of course his penchant for telling a good slow-burn mystery.  The episode ends with an emotional catharsis that’s incredibly powerful but also enigmatic, which is characteristic of the series as a whole really.  Again, whatever you think of the show, it’s tough to deny the wonderful piece of storytelling that is “Guest”. – Adam Chitwood

Penny Dreadful – “Closer Than Sisters”

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Eva Green should be getting some awards recognition for her work on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.  Want to see why?  All you have to do is watch episode 5, “Closer Than Sisters.”  It was pretty clear that she was going to own the show after the seance scene in episode 2, but “Closer Than Sisters” isn’t just a standout installment because of one mind-blowing moment.  Green nails a drastic single-episode arc that takes Vanessa from a bright, kind young woman to one plagued by demons and darkness.  “Closer Than Sisters” functions as a brilliant character piece and standalone episode, but it was also a major game changer for the rest of the show.  Whether you’re watching a scene between Vanessa and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) or one during which she’s exploring her budding romance with Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney), it all comes back to what she experienced in this episode. – Perri Nemiroff

Last Week Tonight – “Episode 19” (Wealth Gap)

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Jon Stewart pretty much has the monopoly on news-skewering nightly comedy programs, so it was unclear if we really needed a similarly-premised HBO series from The Daily Show alum John Oliver.  With HBO’s Last Week Tonight, however, Oliver carved out his own niche, giving us one of the best new series of the year.  More investigative journalism than short comedy bits, the show gives Oliver the opportunity to devote an extended amount of time to a single subject, and one of the highlights of the year was the show’s segment on income inequality.  Oliver tackles the issue with tact, candor, and a healthy dose of humor, offering up a concise yet in-depth examination of how the issue has become so bad and why it’s so difficult to make it better.  Depressing, yes, but the fact that Oliver and his team are willing to devote nearly 15 minutes to this touchy issue without mincing words is why Last Week Tonight is one of the best shows on TV.  You can watch the segment yourself right here–Adam Chitwood

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