If you haven’t already, take a look at my choices for Best Shows I Didn’t See, Best Characters, and Best Relationships and share your own choices for these categories. For even more end of the year TV fun, check out Nerdy Girl Note’s best performances of 2015 and MGCircles Media’s best shows of the year.
In a year of great television, there will always be moments that stand out to you and that resonate with you just a little more. It is these moments that you will carry with you as you continue to watch more television and it will be these moments that you remember from their respective series. These moments all made me feel deeply and it was truly a pleasure to experience them this year.
Connor and Jude hold pinkies (The Fosters) I don’t watch very many shows with younger characters so I don’t often get to experience a character’s first love. The Fosters had been slowly moving toward a relationship between Connor and Jude and the process of watching them figure out their feelings toward each other has been incredible. I love this moment for two reasons. First, it perfectly captures the early stages of a crush that could maybe turn into something more. The hesitation, the fear, and the exhilaration were all there on both Connor and Jude’s faces and actions. It feels right and takes me back to those days in my own life. Second, while it has a lot of older fans, The Fosters is geared toward a younger audience. I love Stef and Lena’s relationship and think it’s one that is so important to see on TV but they are older and more sure of who they are. They have already gotten past the early stages in their relationship when they are trying to figure things out. Jude is just now getting to go through that and for younger gay or questioning teens, this is a moment they haven’t gotten to see on TV the way their straight peers have. It is the sort of moment I want to see more of on TV as we allow for stories to be told about a greater variety of people.
Elizabeth kills Betty (The Americans) What a moment of television. The work that Keri Russell and Lois Smith did for this entire episode was brilliant but it was in the moments just prior to Betty’s death that Elizabeth was forced to take a hard look at what she was doing with her life. Betty knew that there was no getting out of the situation. She was going to die that night and nothing she said would change that fact. But she left Elizabeth with a lingering thought. Would killing her, an old woman who happened to be in the building at the wrong time, make the world a better place? Elizabeth has rarely shied away from the difficult aspects of her work as a spy. The cause is a part of her and the things she does are in service to that cause. Even with all she has seen, this price was higher than usual. She gave Betty as gentle of a death as she could but having to do so rattled her more than an ordinary assignment. Betty brought out a moment of vulnerability in Elizabeth as she told the story of her life and her relationship with her husband and for a moment, Elizabeth allowed herself to feel (and us to see) the weight of her actions upon her. She may believe in the cause and she may be a very talented and committed spy, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the collateral damage her line of work brings.
Clarke leaves Camp Jaha (The 100) This scene hurts. From the haunted look in Clarke’s eyes to the pleading look in Bellamy’s, you can’t help but feel for these characters and everything they’ve been through. These two just made a choice that led to the death of hundreds of people, some of them innocent of the crimes committed against the Sky People. It was the last straw in a series of hard choices that left Clarke broken and questioning who she was. She needed to heal and find herself again but she is also punishing herself by depriving herself of the comfort that people like Bellamy, Monty, and Abby could provide her. She needs to walk away because she doesn’t believe she deserves the forgiveness Bellamy is offering her, the forgiveness she once offered him for his crimes. The callback to Clarke asking Bellamy to stay because she needed him and her own inability to do the same for him is heartbreaking. These two are separating at the time both of them need the comfort of the other and the reminder that they share this burden and can overcome it together. You see it in the way Clarke pulls Bellamy close and the way he holds on like he doesn’t want to let go. And you see it in the way she pulls away and the haunted yet determined look on his face as she does. In their final words, the “may we meet again” isn’t just what Sky People say to each other to say goodbye, it’s a promise that they will see each other again, this isn’t the end of their journey. One way or another, these two will find their way back to each other.
Lily rises (Penny Dreadful) Accent slip aside, Billie Piper is phenomenal in this scene. In life, Brona was a prostitute, an object for men to use and discard. In death, Lily is still an object, dressed up and posed for Victor and Caliban to fight over and possess. She is something they are owed because they find her beautiful and it is because of them she has been brought back from death. For all the lip service Victor gives to Lily being her own person, she could never be anything more than his toy. After remembering what her life had been like and comparing that to her life post-death, in this moment, Lily has had enough. She has had enough of being used. She’d fed up with the lack of agency afforded to her in life or death. She is done with the idea that women in Victorian England exist only for the enjoyment of the men around them. And so she rises, not as Brona the prostitute or Lily the reanimated corpse, but as a villain, furious and terrifying. No longer will she bow and cater to the whims of men. From now on, they will cower in front of her as she takes back all the power she’s never had in life and channels it into a roaring flame within. Piper gave this scene everything she had and it was powerful to see.
The Lake Scene (Orange is the New Black) This is the kind of moment that could only be done with the freedom that Netflix and other streaming services provide their content creators. This is ten, nearly wordless minutes that exist purely to give these characters a purely emotional moment. It is freedom, joy, friendship, forgiveness, acceptance, and love, uncomplicated by a need to service plot or make things explicit with dialogue. In a season that really doubled down on the flaws of the American prison system and the lack of dignity it affords inmates, this was a moment to give them a piece of that dignity and humanity back. This was the characters we have grown to love experiencing a moment of freedom, not from prison itself, but from its constraints and limitations. They were given a chance to be happy and to bask in who they are and the friendships they have forged. These women have made mistakes and committed crimes but one of the strengths of Orange is the New Black is that it doesn’t lose sight of their humanity and basic need for connection. It allows these women to also be more than their choices that brought them to Litchfield and that is the statement that this moment is making. These women are flawed but they are still worthy of this moment of escape.
I am not nothing (Once Upon a Time) My heart sank as Nimue worked to convince Emma she needed to embrace the Darkness and its power. I was afraid she would listen to the words of the original Dark One and begin to doubt herself. I shouldn’t have been. If there is one pivotal character trait of Emma’s, it’s her need to define herself. It’s the need to make her own choices and be the person she wants to be. She knows exactly who she is and at this moment in time, Emma Swan was a woman who knew her value. She knew she was strong and worthy of love even without the seductive calling of the Darkness and in that moment, Emma fought back. She broke free of Darkness’s grip and took her true power back. When the voices in her head tried to make her believe the worst about herself, Emma refused to give in. We all have that voice in our head that tells us that we’re nothing, that we’re worthless, that we don’t deserve love or happiness or any goodness at all. That voice can be loud and it can be persistent. But the only way to silence that voice, even if it is only temporarily, is to fight back. To know our own worth and value. Seeing Emma do that, to fight for her ability to make her own choices in life, was an incredibly powerful moment that I cheered as I watched.
You stayed (You’re the Worst) In one moment, Jimmy Shive-Overly showed us just how far he had come as a character. Gretchen’s depression arc was rough. It was hard on her, it was hard on Jimmy, it was hard on the viewers. Earlier in the episode, Gretchen had lost hope. She had accepted that this is just the way she felt now and there was nothing anyone could do about it, especially not Jimmy. She told him that it was OK to go off with another woman because she wanted him to be happy. Jimmy almost went. He walked about the door and was going to wait for Nina to pick him before he reconsidered and hid in a bush to avoid Nina (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). When he walked back in the house, he found Gretchen asleep on the floor where he left her standing, lacking the energy to move any further. Where the Jimmy of a few episodes might have put a pillow under her head and called it good because he did something, this time, Jimmy took it one step further. He built a fort around Gretchen and stayed in there with her all night. He may not have understood what she was going through and she could be maddening at times but more than anyone else, he just wanted to be with her. And when Gretchen woke up and realized that, neither she nor I could hold back our tears.
Emma finds out about Maggie’s letter (Playing House) In the words of Janice Willcall, “I get it now! The importance of lady friendship” Emma upended her entire life to move home for Maggie and to say thank you, Maggie wrote a letter to their favorite singer about her best friend and asked him to dedicate a song to her at an upcoming concert. While her plan didn’t work out as intended, it led to this beautiful moment between these two friends. We may not have heard the letter but like Emma, we didn’t need to. The love these two have for each other is so evident in everything they do. What could have been the hardest time in Maggie’s life was made a lot easier because she had her best friend by her side and returning to her hometown to help raise her best friend’s daughter led to the best year of Emma’s life. There is nothing these two wouldn’t do for each other and that bond transcends words. It’s found in the tears they share, in Emma’s knowledge that the letter was great because it came from Maggie, and in the sentiment behind the gesture. And in true Playing House fashion, this beautiful, heartfelt moment was capped off with laughter because that’s who these two are. They are the women who love each other until the end of the earth and have never stopped laughing together.
Do both. Or nothing. (Parks and Recreation) Parks and Recreation has always presented us with an idealized version of government officials with Leslie while remaining deeply critical of our current system and politicians. This moment was designed to highlight all the ridiculous things that are asked of women in politics or even women indirectly involved, like a candidate’s wife. It was designed to critique this idea that women have to either be a homemaker or have a career. It was designed to spotlight the negative, misogynistic side to the Men’s Rights Movement. It was purposely trying to say a lot and I think it does it well. The result is an inspiring speech by Leslie and Ben that shows what a feminist, equal relationship looks like. You could feel the importance given to this moment in the writing and in Amy Poehler’s performance. It was a moment about finding our own way in life, outside of restrictive norms and assumptions that may be pushed on to us. It was a moment about not judging others for the choices they have made, even when those choices differ from yours. It asked us to look beyond the way we thought things “should” be and embrace possibilities and variety because those things are good for us, as individuals and society. Everyone is better when we are each free to choose our best path and I’m proud that it’s a message one of my favorite shows supports so strongly.
Castle’s acceptance speech (Castle) This would have been a perfect way to end the series. Both Beckett and Castle have been on a journey through the past seven seasons to get to this moment. Beckett needed to get to a point where she could imagine a life beyond getting justice for her mother and Castle needed to find this family. It is with the help of the people who surround him that Castle has become a happier, more fulfilled person and the writer on the stage winning that award. It is with the help of the people surround her at that table that Beckett has gone on to truly live. She’s gotten justice for her mother and found a life that is entirely her own, unfueled by anger and sadness. Through each other, Castle and Beckett found what they didn’t know they were looking for and created something beautiful together. People don’t often watch procedurals for the crimes, they watch them for the characters. This was seven years of growth and development and change for these characters that led to them coming together and celebrating a non-police accomplishment for the man they have come to love as one of their own. This will be one of the moments I remember from the show long after it is gone.
Honorable Mentions: Lito and Nomi talk (sense8), Mateo’s baptism (Jane the Virgin), Meredith lets Derek go (Grey’s Anatomy), “I know my value” (Agent Carter)