The 11 Best TV Episodes Of 2019

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There was a lot of TV in 2019. Between the traditional networks, cable series, established streaming platforms, and newcomers to the streaming scene, there was a constant flow of new TV, that inevitably ranged from unmissable to terrible, with everything in-between. If there was one problem, it was simply knowing what to watch–with so much available, it’s easy to miss out on essential shows, especially if they don’t have the profile of the big Netflix or HBO titles.

In terms of the best shows of 2019, you can check out GameSpot’s picks here. But what about individual episodes? A great show doesn’t automatically have a stand-out episode–there are series that maintain a consistent quality throughout, with no one episode particularly better or worse than any other. Equally, just because a season wasn’t that good doesn’t mean it can’t have a great single episode–the stunning “Kiksuya” in the otherwise mediocre second season of Westworld last year was a classic example of this.

In 2019, however, the high quality of TV generally meant that the best individual episodes were mostly part of great seasons. Some of them were striking premieres or moving finales, while others were a brilliant culmination of events throughout the preceding episodes. And there are always those stand-out episodes that deliver something truly unexpected, that are destined to go down as true TV classics. So here are the best TV episodes of 2019–and once you’ve read these, check out our guide to the year’s best and worst movie and TV reboots, adaptations, and remakes, and the most anticipated shows of 2020

11. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 14: “The Janitor Always Mops Twice”

Episode 6 of IASIP’s fourteenth season (let that sink in for a moment) was the rare experimental episode of this show that featured no framing device. This wasn’t a Charlie fever dream, a Dennis scam, or an elaborate Frank con; The Janitor Always Mops Twice was simply a self-contained tribute to the noir detective genre, featuring Charlie as the central gumshoe (and also still the janitor) investigating a classic case of “diarrhea poisoning” that has Frank doubled over on the john. This episode easily joined the storied annals of concept episodes like “Charlie Work” and “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell” to become an instant classic.

10. Cobra Kai, Season 2: “No Mercy”

If you were to say that a season of any TV show ended with a high school karate riot, and it worked perfectly within the context of the series, most people would call you a liar. However, within the world of Cobra Kai, this teenage brawl was a necessary means to an end for Season 2 as the rivalry between Miyagi Dojo and Cobra Kai came to a head. It was an exceptionally well choreographed battle that took up a chunk of the finale and is the perfect resolution to the growing tension between the groups. While it’s a bummer that the outcome of the battle left Miguel in a hospital bed, it does drag you in for future episodes as you ask, “Where do you go from here?” – Mat Elfring

9. Umbrella Academy Episode 5: “Number 5.”

Umbrella Academy had a strong showing across the board in terms of adapting the source material in surprising ways, but Episode 5, “Number 5,” sealed the deal. By completely recontextualizing the time travel element of the original story for one of the series’ most irreverent and comedic characters, Klaus Hargreeves, Umbrella Academy upped the stakes for the entire Hargreeves clan, and set the stage for the reveals coming down the line. And, not to mention, Robert Sheehan’s heartbreaking performance as a traumatized, time-displaced Vietnam veteran really set the tone for the entire back-half of the show. – Meg Downey

8. The OA, Season 2: “Syzygy”

The OA was always a strange series, with its multi-layered storylines about mad scientists, near death experiences, parallel universes, and interdimensional portals opened by dance routines. But the Season 2’s fourth episode was something else, even by the mad standards set so far. Technically titled “Syzygy” but better known as “the one with the octopus,” the episode built to the scene in which Brit Marling’s character Prairie Johnson–trapped in the body of her interdimensional alter-ego Nina Azarova–found herself in a sinister underground Russian club. She’s tied to a chair in front of an audience, then made to talk telepathically to a giant octopus-like beast calling itself Old Night while it caresses her with its tentacles. What does it all mean? Who knows? The OA isn’t the sort of show that feels the need to explain stuff like this. But it’s an unforgettable scene in an incredible season. – Dan Auty

7. The Mandalorian, Season 1: “The Sin”

Disney+’s original series The Mandalorian is all over the place when it comes to the quality of the individual episodes. However, director Deborah Chow took the helm for two episodes in Season 1, and while both of them are brilliant, Episode 3–titled “The Sin”–was the standout. It’s an incredible episode that builds on Mandalorian lore, the state of the Galaxy, and where this show is headed. Mando becomes a fully-realized character here and much more than a “cool dude with a wicked blaster.” He has tough choices to make to figure out where his loyalties lie, and most Star Wars fans wish every episode of the series could be this darn good. – Mat Elfring

6. Mindhunter, Season 2: “Episode 5”

Agents Ford and Tench spent less of Mindhunter Season 2 visiting incarcerated serial killers that they did in Season 1, but the prison interviews we did get were every bit as gripping and memorable as those that defined Season 1. The build-up to the interview with Charles Manson was teased for several episodes, and the encounter itself was a defining moment for the season. But its importance has less to do with Manson himself–although Damon Herriman’s performance is chilling–and more with the way it showed the increasing difference in opinion and outlook between Ford and Trench about their life and work. While Ford is captivated by the charismatic, fast-talking Manson, Tench views him as a pathetic conman, who offers their research nothing of value. In addition, the increasingly fraught home life that Tench deals with is brought into the fore during the interview, leading the normally stoic agent to boil over with rage at Manson. – Dan Auty

In the crowded annals of superhero television, Legion is in a league of its own. The first episode of Season 3 opens with an entirely new focus: a brand new character named Switch (Lauren Tsai) who seemed locked in a sort of Wes Anderson flavored isolation. In any other show, it would seem completely incomprehensible to withhold any familiar cast members from a season premiere for almost half the episode. We don’t see a single character we’ve met before for a full 20 minutes. But in Legion, it somehow works completely, thanks largely to the show’s completely magnetic self-confidence. Legion creator Noah Hawley correctly assumes that if you’ve stuck with the madness for two seasons already, you’ve become pretty familiar with the rules of the game here, so not even the impromptu musical number that crops up midway through the episode seems even the slightest bit out of place. – Meg Downey

4. The Imagineering Story: “The Happiest Place on Earth”

While everyone was freaking out about The Mandalorian, one of Disney+’s best originals was missed by many: The Imagineering Story, a six-part documentary series about the creation of the most iconic Disney theme parks and rides. The first episode, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” is where the show shines brightest. It digs into Walt Disney’s history and the work that went into creating Disneyland, his first park. There’s a surprising amount of archival video from construction and opening day of Disneyland, showcasing the highs and lows the team who built it went through. The series even goes into detail about the myriad ways opening day at Disneyland was an absolute disaster. The show provides a never-before-seen look at exactly what it takes for a Disney park to be successful–and how easy it could all go wrong. – Chris E. Hayner

3. Silicon Valley, Season 6: “Exit Event”

Silicon Valley sadly came to an end this year, but luckily, the series stuck the landing in a way that was all too fitting for the crew of Pied Piper. While on the verge of producing something revolutionary, Richard and company realized they needed to kill their creation or it would eventually turn into a Skynet situation, causing havoc around the world. It’s a bummer to see these programmers come so far only to destroy what they worked so hard–over the course of years–to make, but this show couldn’t have concluded in any other way. – Mat Elfring

2. Watchmen, Episode 3: “She Was Killed By Space Junk.”

The riskiest move HBO’s Watchmen pulled off was including classic comic book characters in the mix as series regulars, and Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake was perhaps the riskiest. Everything about Laurie’s new status quo invites viewers to question so many angles of the show–but Watchmen never shied away from inviting questions and Episode 3 proved just how much that gambit was going to pay off. She Was Killed By Space Junk not only provided a chance for Smart to shine as Blake, but a way for Watchmen to plant its flag in the ground, stand tall, and say that it was absolutely not going to let any of its characters fall flat. – Meg Downey

1. Barry, Season 2: “Ronny/Lily”

While most great TV episodes are vital parts of an ongoing story, occasionally we get an episode that works as a stunning standalone. Westworld’s “Kiksuya” did it last year, and in 2019, we got this incredible episode of Barry Season 2. The episode centers on the aftermath of Barry’s failed attempt to carry out a hit on a man named Ronny, as Barry and Fuches find themselves on an increasingly surreal nighttime odyssey, pursued by Ronny’s feral, seemingly superhuman 11-year-daughter Lily. Part of what makes “Ronny/Lily” so remarkable is its utter commitment to the escalation of bizarre events. Tonally it feels pretty different to all the episodes around it, but rather than harm the show, this dazzling mix of dark comedy, bloody action, existential dread, and minimal dialogue serves to raise the already high standards of the whole series. The episode was stunningly directed by star and co-creator Bill Hader too–hopefully he’ll get a chance to deliver more episodes as good as this when Season 3 rolls around. – Dan Auty

Source: Game Spot Mashup