There’s really nothing better than finishing a scene and only being able to say “wow”. Or needing to pause because you’re in tears or need to control your excitement before continuing so you don’t miss what comes next. Whether they are ship-related, a strong character moment, or a stunning example of acting and writing, it’s those moments that stick with us after an episode finishes. It’s what makes us look back on them later and remember how good they were, often ignoring other plotlines in the process.
There are many moments this year that I skipped over in favor of writing about the episode they are contained in as a whole in an attempt to highlight a greater number of shows and episodes. A lot of them are fairly lowkey and a not-small number revolve around characters showing or expressing what they mean to each other. That’s what I wanted most of all from TV in 2018 and I feel like I captured that well here.
1. Wedding scene + sex montage (sense8) This is only a small clip but the last 25 minutes of this show are the best representation of what sense8 is about that you could want. It’s a show that says that feelings matter, that love comes in many forms, and that the connections we share with others are the most important things in the world. Nomi and Amanita’s wedding is full of joy and love from everyone involved, even Nomi’s largely terrible mother. It is a reunion and a meeting and celebration of everyone significant in their lives, all of whom also mostly already know and love each other. It’s about family in every way possible, from Bug walking Nomi down the aisle to the presence of everyone significant to the cluster. And this show was never going to end without one last orgy and it is beautiful. The montage leading to the orgy looks at each relationship throughout the two seasons and where they are now, which is in bed and having the time of their lives. It is filmed so lovingly with the warm lighting and the slowly moving shots and while it’s naturally sexy because these are all very attractive people, the love between them all is what is front and center rather than their bodies or the acts themselves. It was the best, most-fitting way for the show to end and while I will always want more, I still feel a little amazed and blessed that it existed at all.
2. Let’s try (The Good Place) I am failing at the internet because I cannot find a gifset or video of this moment, but it’s the one at the end of “Jeremy Bearimy” when Eleanor reveals her plan to the rest of the group. For two and a half seasons, this show has asked the characters and audience what we owe to one another. In this moment, we get the answer. We try. We do what we can to make the world and the people around us better. It’s reminiscent of Angel’s famous “if nothing we do matters, than all that matters is what we do” realization and reminds me of one of my favorite bits of Leverage commentary when John Rogers described Eliot as someone who knows he’s going to hell but who can do some good before he gets there. That is where Eleanor is. There is no redemption, no happy ending or ultimate salvation at the end of all this. But there is still something she can do because that’s who she is now. That’s what hundreds of reboots and friendships with these five other people have done for her. She is now someone who wants to put more goodness in the world because it would make it a better place. It is the message we all needed from this year. We can choose good no matter how hopeless it feels or how little it impacts our current situation. We try. We put in the effort and that’s how we make a difference.
3. Two people who love each other (Elementary) There are very few television shows who have showcased a male/female friendship as beautiful as what Elementary has done with Joan and Sherlock. Unlike some iterations of Sherlock, which feature him as aloof and at least feigning at emotional distance from all others, Elementary’s Sherlock has learned the value in the relationships he’s made and that is largely due to Joan’s influence in his life. As he says in this scene, she saved him. Not by being his sober companion, but by being his friend. She pushed him to be more than he thought he could be and as a result, he’s gotten so much more than he thought was possible and he’s found he is happier this way. They are partners, as all their best moments remind us, but at the core of it, their partnership works because they are two people who love each other. They have made the commitment to be in each other’s lives and support each other in their goals and do what they can to help shoulder the burdens placed upon them. This beautifully simple declaration of platonic love was a terrific end to an incredibly strong season and while it would have been a fitting end, I’m glad it won’t be.
4. I’m pretty great (One Day at a Time) First of all, Isabella Gomez SLAYS this scene and needs all the recognition for it. This scene breaks my heart and also fills me with incredible pride for Elena. I hate that these are lessons she had to learn, especially from her dad. I hate that he was the first person to truly reject her because of her sexuality. I hate that it changed her image of who he was in a way that may not be repairable. But she also learned she can survive it. She learned who her support system was and learned that she is capable of living a full and terrific life without him or anyone else who tries to bring her down. She found that her strength and heart wasn’t just for all the causes she marched for but could be turned inward and help her thrive. She is a remarkable character on her own and means so much to so many people and this scene was incredibly powerful. And no discussion of this scene would be complete without mentioning how much that reaction shot from Penelope gutted me. It’s quiet devastation and pride and overwhelming love all mixed up in one and Justina Machado was perfect.
5. I Want It That Way lineup (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) Much like the Digital Get Down moment on The Good Place last year, this scene is so perfectly suited to my interests that I had to pick it. Jake’s enthusiasm (and the way he attempts to downplay it initially) is so in character, the singalong is terrific, and the sharp turn into murder at the end is brilliant. It was truly the perfect song choice – it’s infectious and nearly impossible not to sing along to, especially in a group. It’s one of B99’s best cold opens and that is very high praise.
6. He didn’t know (Superstore) I am a sucker for scenes like this in the build-up to actually getting a ship together. I feel very badly for Kelly because that must have been an extremely uncomfortable situation to sit through as Jonah’s girlfriend but I was also very excited by Jonah’s reaction to Amy’s past crush confession. We know these two liked each other but Jonah truly didn’t know that his feelings were ever reciprocated and it completely unbalances him and turns him into a rambling mess. Sandra gets to be the audience stand-in as she delightedly realizes that this is all new information for him and it’s wonderful. It’s pre-relationship writing done so right and I was so impressed with Superstore for how well they did this arc.
7. Thank you for saving us (The 100) This is everything I wanted from this season of The 100. While not a physical reunion for Clarke, Raven, and Murphy, it’s an emotional one and it hits every beat perfectly. From Clarke’s shaky voice to the tears in Raven’s eyes to Murphy’s proud smirk at the only person seemingly better at surviving than he is, it’s the friendships I love in full display. It was 45 seconds devoted solely to these characters apart from the plot and it was exactly what this show can do very well when it chooses to.
8. I choose you (Younger) I love Liza and Charles. I loved Liza and Josh. But this friendship right here is the heart of Younger. This is the relationship that has helped both of these women grow into better people and who have achieved so much alongside each other. This moment, coming at the end of an episode featuring an author who felt the best way to succeed as a woman was to treat all other women as competition and push them away, the show decided to take the opposite approach and celebrate what can be done with women work together to lift each other up and celebrate their connections. This is the relationship that matters most to each of them and the one they’ve never been able to let go of, even after fights, and I love the show for that.
9. Spring dance (Fresh Off the Boat) Eddie and Nicole’s friendship was one of my favorite parts of season 4 and this is why. When Nicole was told she wasn’t allowed to go to the spring dance in a suit, Eddie protested by putting on a skirt and getting banned with her. Eddie would never independently say a sentence like “we’re not down with gender conformity” but he’ll do whatever he needs to do to make one of his best friends feel supported. It is him stepping up to be Nicole’s friend and ally and it’s a great moment. Made all the better by the two of them being absolute disasters when they get complimented by two girls on their outfits. They are not smooth at all and are horrified at themselves in the aftermath (“why did you let me say ‘open short’” is a great line) but it’s a good look at why these two understand each other so well.
10. My guys (Killjoys) Grumpy Turin explaining Human-ing 101 to Weej was good the first time. It got better when Weej repeated his words back to Gared and Pree and convinced them that he was trying to help. It then got heartbreaking near the end of the season. But the concept of loyalty and doing what you need to do to get your people back and look out for them is the heart of Killjoys. This show loves the connections between its characters and understands the way their shared bonds and goals hold them together and nothing highlighted that more this season or captured this show’s sense of humor quite as well as this recurring conversation between two side characters.