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Best of 2016: Moments

This is my fourth list of the year and the first one I’ve really had a difficult time ranking. Even more so than favorite characters or relationships, this list feels like a reflection of who I am and what I love about television. The specific moments and events that resonate with people are so individual and don’t always have the same effect out of context. Some stand on their own, but others are only pieces (often culminations) of a character’s journey over seasons or entire series. No matter how many of these moments you are familiar with, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about them and share some of your own favorites in the comments below.

1. Lorelai’s best memory of Richard (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) I’m not sure that Lauren Graham has ever been better than she was in this scene. Though time has passed since his death, Lorelai still hadn’t managed to fully process the realities of her father’s death. There was a loss in the general sense but the full force of her emotions had yet to hit her until she stood and looked at the wilderness. While Lorelai had a complicated relationship with her parents, she loved Richard. He was distant and not as involved as she might have needed, but he loved her and tried to show it as best he could. Teenage heartbreak is kind of the worst. Without any perspective, all you have is the fact that it hurts and is humiliating and makes you question everything. Richard knew where to find Lorelai and knew what would help ease the pain. He knew she wanted the pretzel and knew what kind of movie she would want to see. He knew she didn’t need a lecture, just some love and compassion. He knew she needed this to be a secret from Emily, who wouldn’t have understood either of their actions at the time. On that day, Richard gave Lorelai exactly what she needed. She needed to feel as though someone saw her and understood her just as she was. It wasn’t a feeling she got often in her childhood. Richard never intended to hurt his daughter or push her away. He loved her deeply even if he couldn’t always demonstrate it in a way Lorelai needed. But he left her with this memory, this secret between just the two of them. And by letting Emily in on the secret, by showing her that Lorelai was missing her father just as much as Emily was missing her husband, he helped repair the rift between them just enough to keep a relationship possible.

2. I’m gonna miss her (The Americans) For a scene with so few words, so much is said and expressed. For the first time in Elizabeth’s adult life, she had a friend. Though it started as an assignment and though Elizabeth could never be fully honest with her, she genuinely enjoyed Young Hee’s company. The laughter and friendship was real, even if it’s origins weren’t. I wish that there could have been another way, that Elizabeth could have kept this. The fact that she even tried speaks volumes about what this relationship meant to her. But there wasn’t, so after doing her duty for her country, she came home and let herself be vulnerable and comforted by her husband. She’s honest here, in a way she can only be with Philip. He’s the only one who gets to see this side of her, the fragile side. He can’t make it better but he can sit there with her so she doesn’t have to be any more alone than she already feels like she is.

3. It’ll always be yours (Game of Thrones) I stopped watching this show last season but this relationship is something that they are getting exactly right and that is all thanks to Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. They love these characters and their dynamic so much and it shines through in every scene they share. Every interaction is so layered and full of unspoken truths each are unable to give voice to. By allegiance, they are on opposing sides of this war. Jaime is loyal to his family and Brienne continues to honor her oath pledged to Catelyn and now Sansa Stark. That fact hangs heavy over their reunion. They recognize that there may come a day when they are asked to fight against each other and Jaime is doing is best not to think about that fact. Brienne tries to deal with it head on and essentially tells him that despite her love for him, her pledge comes first. It’s always the things that are unsaid that are most important with these two, especially when it comes to Oathkeeper. We know it symbolizes their relationship. It’s their unwavering faith in each other’s word and honor. They know it too and you see that in the scene where Brienne tries to return it. She’s terrified of what loving this man might mean and how she can reconcile that with her duties. She’s afraid to lose him but also afraid to have him. Jaime on the other hand, is more sure of his love, but not ready to face the consequences that love will bring. There is a tenderness in the way he says “it’ll always be yours” that leaves little doubt as to what he is actually talking about, a fact not missed by Brienne judging by her face. Every time Coster-Waldau and Christie share a scene together, I’m left in awe of their ability to convey so much in a look or change of tone. I may not care about much else on the show, but these two will always bring me back.

Continue reading Best of 2016: Moments

Best of 2015: Shows

Happy New Year, everyone! I was enjoying a much-needed vacation and now that I am back, it’s time to talk about my favorite shows of last year. My contenders for this list turned into a monster that grew entirely out of control. There was a lot of TV made in 2015, as was been noted, and there was a lot of it that was good. I love the transition to a greater quantity of TV that will appeal to a smaller number of people. Not every show can or should be Empire but all have the ability to resonate deeply with people and that is what this list is to me. These are the 10 shows that resonated with me the most in 2015 (and another 15 honorable mentions just because I love TV and want to see it celebrated).

For even more Best of 2015 fun, check out MGCircles and Nerdy Girl Notes if you haven’t already for their takes on the best TV had to offer last year.

Parks and Recreation All anyone really wants from a final season of a show is for it to honor the investment they have put into it. That means different things to different people and looks a little different for character-based vs. mythology-based shows, but it all boils down to us wanting the things we love to end strongly, if they have to end at all. I would have happily watched another several seasons of Parks and Recreation but since that wasn’t an option, I can’t have chosen a better final season. It was everything I could have asked for as it closed this chapter of the story for these characters while allowing me to see a future in which they are all still close. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it gave me even more of Leslie Knope to be inspired by and that’s really the show in a nutshell. It was a show that made me feel good and believe that people can and want to do good for others and be rewarded for that goodness. It was a show about friendship and the joy that comes from watching your friends succeed. It was a show about believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams. It was a special show and I’m glad it got the ending it deserved.

The Americans What a brilliantly crafted season. It was gripping and tense from start to finish all while allowing for some quiet moments of intimacy and grounding that prevented things from feeling oppressively bleak. This show isn’t a typical spy show, it’s a character study about faith and allegiances and family. This season highlighted the similarities between Paige and Elizabeth and the wholehearted way they embrace their beliefs and how those beliefs help to provide a structure to their lives. Elizabeth may not understand why Paige believes what she does but the underlying desire to be a part of something greater is the same for both of them. Philip, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same grounding faith as his wife and daughter and he was adrift for much of the season, caught between trying to be a loyal agent and the man he wants to believe himself to be. Seeing the growing divide between Philip and Elizabeth was painful to watch but Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell continue to be captivating screen partners and the work Holly Taylor and Alison Wright did as Paige and Martha was simply incredible. Taylor and Wright in particular took two characters who could have been stereotypes and far less fleshed out and made them into characters we want to root for and protect from the life the KGB thrust upon them.

Jane the Virgin This is one of the best crafted shows on the air right now. The writing is sharp, clever, and incredibly self-aware all while also being funny and emotional. The care that goes into crafting this show and balancing its numerous elements is evident in every scene and I will never think it gets enough credit for the wonderful job it is doing. It is easy for many to dismiss the quality of the show because it doesn’t doesn’t hit the various markers of “prestige TV” but those who do are doing themselves a disservice. Shows don’t have to be dark or constantly serious in order to be well-made. They can be full of warmth and love and joy and be every bit as good as anything else on the air if a person is willing to put down their preconceived notions of what the show is and instead embrace the amount of respect and love everyone associated with this show has for its telenovela roots and how they have played with its genre to create something wholly their own. I love these characters, so I’m already inclined to enjoy the show but at least once an episode, something will happen that makes me pause and marvel at how well-done the show is. Anyone who is a fan of high quality TV should check this show out and enjoy what this incredible cast and crew has to offer.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Shows

Best of 2015: Episodes

Choosing the best episodes of the year is always tough because it can be tricky to compare against many different types of shows. Ultimately, as always, I opted to discuss the ones that touched me the most. Whether it was for a standout moment, a departure from the ordinary, the relationships showcased or saying goodbye to a show, these are the episodes I could watch again and again. They were executed well and made me feel and there isn’t a better qualification, in my opinion.

One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation) To close out seven seasons of the show, Parks and Recreation chose to spend their final episode by reflecting on these characters and how they have been changed by knowing Leslie Knope. For a character whose dreams always included the happiness of her friends, I can think of no better ending. The unique structure allowed us to peek into the future and know that these characters had bright lives ahead of them. We got to say goodbye to each of them individually before we got to celebrate one final moment of them working together to make a difference in a small, rather unappreciated way. We got one more chance to celebrate the friendship between this intense, occasional steamroller of a woman and her beautiful tropical fish (and cry many tears at their reunion). We got one more look at the unconditional support and belief that Ben Wyatt has in his wife and got to see Leslie accomplish everything she had ever wanted. We even had time for one last library joke. Nobody does anything alone. Leslie taught us that has she achieved all of her goals with the people of the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana by her side. It is a beautiful message and the only real way to say goodbye to this beautiful show.

Stingers (The Americans) A single scene and its fallout elevate this episode into one of the best of the year and the best thing The Americans did in an incredible season. This scene wasn’t loud or splashy, but instead was quiet and almost painfully tense. For the first time in her life, Paige’s parents decided to be honest about who they were. It was a question she had every right to ask because no one can pretend that their life is perfectly normal. It was also a question whose answer she was in no way prepared for. Her parents were similarly unprepared to tell her the truth though I’m glad they did. They understood what they were asking of Paige even if I think they overestimated what a teenage girl could reasonably be expected to bear. And so they told her with as much compassion and love as they could muster because despite their history and everything they have been asked to fake, they’ve never needed to fake their love for their children. This scene was so affecting because you could feel Philip and Elizabeth’s need for Paige to understand and accept what they were saying just as much as we felt how overwhelming all of this information was to Paige in this moment and for the rest of the episode. Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Holly Taylor are all so talented and made this a scene and an episode I won’t forget.

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (Community) There was no other way for Community to end. The final episode needed Jeff to come to terms with himself and be wonderfully meta about the role television plays in our lives. This episode was Dan Harmon’s thank you letter to his fans. It was an acknowledgement of the show’s ups and downs and a statement of his vision and everything he put into creating such a weird little show that never found mass success but inspired a dedicated following. It was his frustration of the way the show was received by fans and an admission that it’s hard to create a TV show that is everything each viewer needs and wants it to be. Saying goodbye is hard, whether it’s to a show you love or to your best friends as they go off and start new chapters in their lives. But things can’t stay the same, in television or in life. Change is needed. People need to move on and grow so they don’t end up in a permanent stasis that isn’t true to who they are. This episode was about welcoming that change and by making it as much about TV and the viewers as it did about the characters, Community gave us a fitting end so we would be ready for whatever the future held for the show.

The Devil’s Mark (Outlander) In this episode, Claire found out that that she wasn’t the only time-traveler in Scotland and Jaime found that that Claire was from the future. These two events changed Outlander and solidified the bond between Claire and Jaime. From now on, these two are full partners, with the knowledge that they have chosen each other and their life together. When a character is keeping a secret as big as Claire’s, we know as viewers that it can’t last forever. Eventually, someone one has to find out. Often times, it gets revealed for an easy source of drama, but Outlander chose to go a different route. Jaime may not understand how all of this was possible but he listens and he chooses to trust his wife and let her decide how she wanted to move forward. Their separation at the stones was painful because you could see the effect it was having on both. They got married out of necessity but the love between them is real. Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan have incredible chemistry with each other and they sell the epic love story that is Jaime and Claire. Their reunion at the end and the tender kiss they share says what words couldn’t at the moment. Claire no longer wanted to go home. Or rather, she didn’t want to go back to her own time. She did choose to go home but that home was now wherever she and Jaime could be together.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Episodes

Best of 2015: Moments

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.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Moments

Best of 2015: Characters

Now that I’ve discussed the shows I didn’t get to see, it’s time to start talking about all the things I’ve loved about television this year. I watch TV for the emotional engagement more than any other element of a show and that’s what this list and the other four I will be releasing represent. They represent the characters, relationships, moments, episodes, and shows I have been drawn to the most over the course of this year. Each list has gone through several iterations until I landed on one that felt the most right and authentic to my engagement over the year and I would like to think that in years to come, I will be able to look back on this list and see who I was in 2015 and how that related to the media I connected with. That, even more than recommending new shows to people, is why I enjoy these lists. They are a record for me of what I loved and how I loved them, as I believe they are for everyone else who makes similar lists.

There were a lot of characters that caught my attention this year. Some for their personality, some for the struggles they went though, and some for what they represent and their importance to the larger pop culture landscape. These are the ten that resonated with me the most.

Mariana Foster (The Fosters) This year, Mariana coded a routine for her dance team’s competition and lost her virginity to her sister’s ex-boyfriend. She did amazing things and she made huge mistakes. While that level of complexity from a teenage girl (who isn’t even the main character on her show) shouldn’t be remarkable, it still is in today’s TV environment. She has wholeheartedly embraced the power of “and” by refusing to fit into a convenient mold. She loves both dance and STEM, looking pretty and being valued for her intelligence. She wants it all because she’s been taught she can be both and she will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. And that is a remarkable thing in any character, let alone one who is only 15. But despite that, she’s not perfect. She’s not immune from society’s messaging. She slept with Wyatt because she was hurt and because she felt like everyone else was having sex so she should be able to as well. She messed up and did something she regretted and caused herself and people around her pain but it never made her less of character. There were consequences but she wasn’t demonized for her choice even though she knew it was the wrong one.

Ilana Wexler (Broad City) This was a fabulous year for messy, flawed women in comedy and Ilana Wexler is their queen. As Lindsay Jillian (You’re the Worst) would say, Ilana “wears her stains on the outside” except Ilana doesn’t even think of them as stains, just another aspect of herself that makes her fabulous. She’s self-absorbed and a terrible employee and is kind of awful to most people she interacts with but you still can’t help admiring her confidence in herself. Ilana has no front, she is exactly who she is at all times. She is entirely controlled by her impulses and makes messes that Abbi ends up cleaning up, but at the end of the day, Abbi doesn’t care because she knows Ilana would do anything for her. Ilana loves Abbi so entirely and it grounds her character. She’s always going to be someone most of us envy at least a little for her ability to do whatever she wants with seemingly few severe consequences but it’s in her love for Abbi that she becomes a full person and not just a chaotic, impulse-driven plot device.

Clarke Griffin (The 100) If anyone needs a hug on TV right now, it’s Clarke. She went through more in 7 episodes than many characters do in an entire season. She has been in so many situations where there is no clear answer and she’s done her best to make the right choice but the weight, pressure, and consequences of those choices have been their toll. Clarke is a good leader because of her love for her people. It’s what drives her to keep them safe and risk everything to get them back. But she knows that alone won’t save them. She needs to be smart and strategic as well. She needs to be pragmatic. She believes herself to be a good person (and I think she’s right about that) but when that belief, her love for her people and her strategy and pragmatism come into competition, how is anyone supposed to hold on to who they are? Especially in the face of a strong leader who is telling her that the love that partly defines her is weakness. The choices she has made have been strategic and worked toward her goal of rescuing her people. But they weren’t without a heavy cost. She was responsible for a lot of pain and death this year and now that the battles have been won, she must learn to face herself and the person she’s become.

Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful) Where season one Vanessa was haunted and more reserved, season two gave us a new side to Vanessa. She’s still haunted, as one could expect of someone being courted by the devil, but she’s no longer alone. She has gathered a group of people around her who care for her and wish to protect her, not out of obligation or to use her for their own ends, but because of who she is. Her rift with Malcolm repaired, her friendships with Ethan and Victor strengthened, and the loyalty of Sembene affirmed, Vanessa is free to experience moments of happiness and something akin to peace. And in those moments, we see the kind soul she possesses underneath the evil power she is capable of wielding. Vanessa can be both the person who saw and loved the poet in a monster and the person who essentially told the devil to go to hell in his own language. She longs for a normal life but knows that as long as she still suffers, it’s not a life she can allow herself to have. She longs for a lasting peace, one in which her thoughts, dreams, and prayers are safe. And as we see her goodness and the care she shows to those who are otherwise outsiders (not a pleasant place to be in Victorian England), we want her to find that peace. We want the struggle to be over so she can live the life in her dream. She couldn’t grasp that vision this season, but you can bet I’ll be tuned into the next one to see her continue to battle her demons.

Continue reading Best of 2015: Characters

Shows to Get You Through the Summer Hiatus

We are about two months away from the start of the fall season of TV and while there are some great options for summer viewing, one of my favorite things to do in the summer is to start a new show. I’ve already written one piece on short-lived shows that are well worth a watch, but in case you have already seen those or are simply looking for more recommendations, I present to you 15 different shows to get you through the remainder of the summer hiatus along with the approximate length of time it will take you to complete them.

Galavant (3 hours)
Episodes: 8
If all you want is something fun and short to watch, look no further than Galavant. It is a musical comedy with catchy songs and an incredibly fun cast of characters. I’m predisposed to like all shows with a musical element but this was one of my most enjoyed shows of the 14-15 TV season.

Selfie (4.75 hours)
Episodes: 13
If you’re willing to overlook a shaky pilot before watching two people who thought they knew who they were and wanted to be before the other came along to show them another way, then join me in my love for Selfie. Karen Gillan and John Cho are wonderful together as Eliza and Henry and sell every moment of their development as a team and as individuals. While Selfie was canceled far too soon, this show came so far and is one I’d recommend wholeheartedly.

Agent Carter (6 hours)
Episode: 8
If you’re a Marvel fan or just need more intelligent spy ladies in your life, it’s time to watch Agent Carter. Hayley Atwell reprises her role as Peggy Carter from the Captain America movies and shows us what it meant to work in the man’s profession of Intelligence in the 1940s. Watch her help a Howard Stark clear his name with the help of his butler Jarvis and her friend Angie Martinelli all while mourning the loss of Steve Rogers. Atwell is wonderful here as are James D’Arcy and Lyndsy Fonseca as they all show that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero.

Broad City (7.5 hours)
Episodes: 20
If you like friendships between female characters, you really need to be watching Broad City. Abbi and Ilana are in their 20s and living in New York City. Their lives are kind of a disaster but their friendship is solid and unshakeable. Ilana may be selfish and self-absorbed most of the time but her love for Abbi and desire for to experience all that life has to offer is incredibly endearing and will have you rooting for her. Add in some fun recurring characters in Lincoln, Jaime, and Jeremy and you have two seasons of friendship, weed and adventure.

Noah’s Arc (8.25 hours)
Episodes: 17 + a wrap-up movie
If you are looking for a show that features gay men of color, this is the little-known show for you. The characters on this show are so easy to love and root for as they navigate life, love, and challenges specific to their sexuality and race. I’m personally not a fan of the movie that followed the show’s cancellation but 17 episodes was simply not enough with these characters. It aired on LOGO and never seemed to achieve mainstream popularity, but it deserves to be seen.

Continue reading Shows to Get You Through the Summer Hiatus

Best of 2014: Actors

In my second to last installment of the Best of 2014, I want to take a moment to celebrate the brilliant work that so many actors did on TV this year. It was a year full of talent and it could be found everywhere you looked, across all networks and platforms.

Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) I’m sure that Jeffrey Tambor has been in a great number of things but until this year, I only knew him as George Bluth, Sr. Within just a few minutes of meeting Maura Pfefferman, all images of George Bluth were erased in my mind. Jeffrey Tambor has been rightly praised for his work in Transparent. He captures the vulnerability, the strength, the fear and the relief that comes with being the person you always knew you were supposed to be. There is a gentleness to his portrayal of Maura, a sense of trying to relearn everything you thought you knew about the world while holding onto sometimes (like family) you don’t want to leave behind.

Allison Tolman (Fargo) The casting department found gold in Allison Tolman. Without the warmth and dedication she brought to her role as Molly Solverson, Fargo would have been far less memorable to me. Whether it was her relationship with her father, her growing relationship with Gus and his daugher, or her pursuit of Lorne and Lester, there was an emotional and moral base to all she did. I sincerely hope this becomes a breakout role for her and we see much more of her in the future.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) I’m cheating and picking two people for this spot. Each of them are fantastic on their own and definitely shine in their individual scenes but it’s the combination of Russell and Rhys that makes the acting on The Americans so compelling. The Jennings are complicated characters, torn between their loyalties to their mother country and their children who are still unaware of who their parents really are, and every bit of that conflict and complication comes through in these two performances. Whether it is a quieter moment, like Elizabeth reaching out to Emmett and Leanne’s son and deciding to not tell him the truth about his parents or a louder moment like Philip’s meeting with Paige’s pastor, you don’t want to take your eyes away from them.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Actors

Best of 2014: Episodes

Welcome to my second Best of 2014 list! Today we are taking a look at some of the best episodes of the year. This is always a tough list to make, as evidenced by the fact that my honorable mention list is nearly as long as my actual list. It was truly a great year in TV with so many episodes that made me laugh, cry and think. In no particular order, here are the episodes that stuck with me most this year. As always, feel free to make your own list in the comments below and for even more Best Of fun, head over the Nerdy Girl Notes for Katie’s favorites of the year.

Outlander – The Wedding It’s a crazy situation when two characters need to get married after knowing each other a short time in order to protect one of them from an angry English soldier. It’s even crazier when you consider that one of them recently traveled back in time 200 years and left a husband behind in the present. Yet Outlander makes these unusual situations work and that is largely due to the strength of the chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. It is believable that Claire would be drawn to Jamie in this strange world and the 6 episodes preceding “The Wedding” shows that progression. Claire may be terrified and conflicted but there is no denying that she wants Jamie. Jaime would have married Claire just to protect her because it was the right thing to do, but it’s also undeniable that he deeply cares for her. And this episode shows just that – two strangers who are drawn to the other and navigating their feelings under a speedier timeline than usual. The sex, while required to make it official, isn’t an event of dreams. Jamie started out a bit confused about which direction each of them was supposed to face and then quickly finished as he was told women wouldn’t enjoy it much. And here is where the episode (and the book series it is based on, does something remarkable). It allows Claire to tell Jamie how much she did enjoy it and to teach him how to please her. Claire is a woman who knows what she wants and rarely has a show focused so much on her desires and pleasure. The episode gave us a moment solely from Claire’s perspective as she enjoys and examines her new husbands nude body before turning and allowing him to do the same for her. We get a female perspective of the sex and that is something that has been sorely lacking for too long.

The Good Wife – Dramatics Your Honor While not my favorite episode in the season (that would be The Last Call, the episode following it), this episode pulled off an impressive feat. It killed off a main character with absolutely no buildup. There were no spoilers that a character’s life hung in the balance, nothing about an actor leaving, nothing in previews for the episode. It was abrupt and it was startling. It allowed us (or at least the East Coast viewers who happened to be watching live) to be hit with the full emotional impact of the death. Even for those of us who were spoiled thanks to a combination of a different timezone, the internet, and more than a little bit of impatient curiosity, those final few moments were still breathless viewing. It was the second time in one season that The Good Wife took what we thought we knew about the show and threw it all away. It sent the show in a new direction and was one of those episodes of TV I was happy to experience with everyone else online.

Rectify – Donald the Normal Sometimes the only possible reaction one can after watching a particularly powerful episode of TV is to sit there in stunned silence and just experience the moment. That’s what this episode of Rectify did for me. Just the scenes with Kerwin’s family would have been enough to make this episode emotionally powerful. But what really made me love this episode was Daniel’s attempt to live life for a day free of his history and the suspicions of the residents of Paulie only to realize that you can’t outrun your past. It’s heartbreaking to see Daniel’s joy at getting to interact with other people without any baggage clouding their view of him. He gets to be the person he might have been without the murder charge and years in prison hanging over his head. Then he runs into a couple who recognizes him and any chance he thinks he has of a normal life vanishes. It is a beautifully acted episode from Aden Young and takes wonderful advantage of the slow and contemplative tone of the show. It was emotionally intense for me to watch but I loved how resonant and full it felt.

True Detective – The Secret Fate of All Life The editing and acting in this episode are fantastic. I loved listening to Rust and Marty tell the story of what happened to the Ledoux cousins back in 1995 while we saw the actual events unfold on the screen. It was a fascinating look at how we construct stories about our past to suit our needs (in Rust and Cohle’s case, to cover up the killing of the Ledoux cousins) and while Rust’s philosophizing has gotten a lot of the attention on the show, I enjoyed the emphasis on the psychology behind these two men getting from who they were when we first see them in 1995 to their present state, especially Rust. We saw their journey and that was never more clear than it was in this episode.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Episodes