Featuring house-flipping vampires, intergalactic prison breaks, lip-sync showdowns, and more.
By EW Staff December 09, 2022 at 10:56 AM EST
Justice for the TV episode! In this never-ending era of peak TV, too many showrunners have embraced the “12-hour movie,” structuring their story as one sprawling, shapeless binge. But there’s a particular magic to a well-crafted episode of television, whether it’s a jaw-dropping finale or a creative experiment in the middle of the season.
So, as 2022 draws to a close, we took it upon ourselves to rank the best TV episodes of the year. The result is a delightfully eclectic list, ranging from critically acclaimed dramas to buzzy reality shows — with plenty of variety in between. Some are colossal, 80-minute epics (ahem, Stranger Things), while others clock in at less than 10 minutes (shoutout to Bluey). But every episode on this list is magical in its own way, with picks stretching across networks and genres.
Here are EW’s picks for the 33 best TV episodes of the year (listed alphabetically by show).
Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby in Our Flag Means Death; Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary; Tatiana Maslany in She-Hulk; Jeremy Allen White in The Bear; Diego Luna from Andor
The best TV episodes of 2022
| Credit: HBO / Disney / ABC / FX
Abbott Elementary, “Desking” (ABC)
(Written by Morgan Murphy, directed by Melissa Kosar)
Abbott Elementary has offered no shortage of delights over the course of its first and second seasons. But “Desking” was a comedic A+, perfectly capturing the zany relatability of the show. When TikTok sparks the trend of “desking,” a.k.a. sprinting across the tops of desks while a teacher’s back is turned, the Abbott staff is beside themselves. At its heart Abbott is about a group of flawed individuals doing their best in a broken system, and “Desking” encapsulates that through the rise and fall of a viral trend. The notion of “desking” itself is hilarious, a TikTok challenge so dangerous and stupid, it feels real. But the episode’s most piercing humor lies in the escalating helplessness of the teachers — and the physical comedy of their pyrrhic victory in making “desking” uncool. Throw in Sheryl Lee Ralph’s iconic delivery of “Sweet Baby Jesus and the grown one too,” and it’s clear that when it comes to crafting iconic moments in comedy television history, Quinta Brunson understands the assignment. —Maureen Lee Lenker
The Afterparty, “Yasper” (Apple TV+)
(Written by Jack Dolgen, directed by Christopher Miller)
Even among a wealth of pop culture murder mysteries, The Afterparty shines thanks to its central concept, where each character gets their own episode, styled in a unique genre befitting of that person. Even still, the musical-themed “Yasper” stands out among them as best in show. It’s impossible to resist Ben Schwartz’s portrayal of his high-energy character, coupled with insanely catchy songs, really great choreography, and an abundance of ingenious hidden clues. Even though you know you’re watching what could be a prime suspect in a cold-blooded murder, you can’t help but love Yasper, and that’s a testament to the episode’s brilliance. —Lauren Huff
Andor, “One Way Out” (Disney+)
(Written by Beau Willimon, directed by Toby Haynes)
There’s only one way to watch Andor’s 10th episode: on the edge of your seat. “One Way Out” is the gripping climax of the show’s “prison trilogy,” which finds future rebel Cassian (Diego Luna) wrongly held by the Empire in a sterile, dystopian jail straight out of THX-1138. Luckily for him, he’s sharing a cell block with Kino Loy (series MVP Andy Serkis, in human form this time!), the tough but respected “day shift manager” who oversees the inmates’ dehumanizing factory labor. When the truth finally hits that they’ll never be released, Cassian and Kino hatch a high-stakes plan to escape — culminating in a spectacular, Andorphin-spiking sequence that takes full advantage of Serkis’ physicality and gravitas. While the show is named after Cassian, it wisely puts the spotlight on new players like Kino and shadowy spymaster Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard), so it can examine a rebellion in the making from every angle. By being laser-focused on character and theme (instead of endless easter eggs), Star Wars feels more vital than it has in years. —Chuck Kerr
Atlanta, “The Goof Who Sat By The Door” (FX)
(Written by Francesca Sloane and Karen Joseph Adcock, directed by Donald Glover)
The most exciting thing about turning on an episode of Atlanta during its final two seasons (which both aired in 2022) is that you never knew what you were going to get. You didn’t know where it would take place. You didn’t know what tone it would adopt. Hell, you didn’t even know if any of the four series stars would appear in it. But even when trained to expect the unexpected, no one could have been prepared for “The Goof Who Sat By the Door.” Presented as a faux documentary on the Black American Network, the episode (directed by series creator Donald Glover) tells the fictional tale of Thomas Washington, who becomes Disney CEO by accident and then loses everything in an attempt to make “the Blackest film of all time.” That film? A Goofy Movie. Yes, that A Goofy Movie. Not only does this brilliant installment provide sly and cutting social commentary throughout, but it also somehow does the impossible — using the relationship between anthropomorphic father and son dogs on-screen to somehow make you care deeply about a man who never even existed off it. —Dalton Ross
Bad Sisters, “Splash” (Apple TV+)
(Written by Daniel Cullen, directed by Josephine Bornebusch)
An egregiously underrated dark comedy — at least in the press, not in the many, many minds of those who found it through word-of-mouth — Bad Sisters, from Catastrophe mastermind Sharon Horgan, deserved its promotion from limited series to serial as Apple renewed it for season 2. “Splash,” the show’s sixth episode, is a great example why. The show chronicles the lives of four Irish sisters and their fifth sibling who’s locked in an abusive marriage. Split between two timelines, the Garvey gals attempt to murder their brother-in-law, John Paul (Claes Bang), but all their plans go terribly awry. “Splash” sees one of the most bold schemes backfire: drugged by rohypnol slipped into his daily nose spray, John Paul wakes in a daze as the Garveys are hiding in closets and beneath the bed. The knucklehead shenanigans that ensue — complete with John Paul peeing on a carpet in the corner before recklessly driving to the docks, plummeting into the water, and rising later to think, “Maybe someone’s trying to kill me” — are a highlight of physical comedy. —Nick Romano
Better Call Saul, “Fun and Games” (AMC)
(Written by Ann Cherkis, directed by Michael Morris)
Of all the farewells in the final season of Better Call Saul, the severing of Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim’s (Rhea Seehorn) relationship was the most dreaded, the least violent, and the most resonant. After the striving-and-conniving lawyers’ plan to damage Howard (Patrick Fabian) spun deathly out of control, enigmatic Kim did the unexpected again: she walked away from her beloved profession in court and then leveled (with) a begging-and-bargaining Jimmy. Their break-up scene — full of reversing momentums; another in a season of mesmerizing performances by Seehorn and Odenkirk — was a perfectly unsettling end to one of TV’s most unconventional couples. Cartel consequences rippled elsewhere, as Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) fleetingly dropped his guard with a sommelier (Reed Diamond). Nacho’s grieving dad (Juan Carlos Cantu) delivered a hard truth to code-adhering Mike (Jonathan Banks). But true tragedy loomed in the final minutes, when a flash-forward revealed Saul Goodman living in hollowed-out gaudy excess — gold toilet, rotating leopard-spotted bed, and not a moral anywhere to be found. —Dan Snierson
Bluey, “Rain” (ABC Kids)
(Written by Joe Brumm, directed by Richard Jeffery)
What makes Bluey so magical is that it not only understands the wonders and frustrations of the parent-child relationship but portrays it in a way that’s not cloying or cliched. In this season 3 standout, a sudden thunderstorm creates a tiny river on the sidewalk, and Bluey, in her fervor to build a small dam, creates one mess after another, much to mom Chili’s consternation. Almost completely without dialogue, a silent movie plays out between a determined kid and a frustrated mother who eventually sees the wonder in the falling water. There were many great episodes in season 3 — “Faceytime” remains a hilarious delight — but “Rain” is a beautiful little tone poem that perfectly demonstrates why Bluey is one of the most special shows on TV right now. —Lauren Morgan
The Bear, “Review” (FX on Hulu)
(Written by Joanna Calo, directed by Christopher Storer)
Like Sydney’s expertly crafted cola-braised short rib and risotto, episode 7 of The Bear’s freshman season is damn near perfect. Almost the entire episode is dedicated to one long uninterrupted take, which follows the staff of the Original Beef of Chicagoland as a good review and glitch in their online ordering system lead to more customers than they can handle. The Bear is not the first television show to attempt a one-take episode, but we’re willing to bet it’s the first that features a high-pressure kitchen environment complete with screaming matches, multiple walkouts, and an accidental stabbing. It’s truly chef’s kiss. —L.H.
Euphoria, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” (HBO)
(Written and directed by Sam Levinson)
Amid awards season, there’s always that one episode (or even one scene) that solidifies an actor’s spot in the Emmys race. It’s something that sticks out in voters’ minds, something they can easily point to. For Zendaya on Euphoria, that episode was too easy to spot: Rue’s withdrawal haze of a small-town odyssey. A powerhouse and double Lead Actress winner at 26, Zendaya put her range on display. Helpless in her dread, sloppy in her panic, ferocious in her wrath, maddening in her denial, surgical in her schemes, a single night becomes endless as Rue races through a jonesing addict’s fever dream, wrecking herself and those around her along the way. And the memes! Glorious memes! “Rue, when was this?” During Zendaya’s golden era. —N.R.
For All Mankind, “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Apple TV+)
(Written by Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, directed by Craig Zisk)
It’s almost become tradition that this alternate-history drama’s season finales make an appearance on this annual list. As with the season 2 ender in 2022, the stakes couldn’t be higher for the astronauts thousands of miles from home — but season 3 mixes in life-or-death consequences for those back at mission control as well. The cast expanded greatly over the nine previous episodes as the Russians, Americans, and a private company embarked on a race to Mars, but co-creators and writers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi find a way to weave even the less successful story lines together in the end. Edge-of-your seat tension mounts as masterful misdirects leave you guessing who won’t make it to season 4. It’s devastating to see who doesn’t survive, but a flash-forward to 2003 has us ready for Mankind’s Y2K era. —Patrick Gomez
Ghosts, “Trevor’s Pants” (CBS)
(Written by Kira Kalush and Talia Bernstein, directed by Trent O’Donnell)
In a bit of pitch-perfect casting, Rob Huebel, perhaps the premier “d-bag” character actor of his generation, guest stars as Ari, the onetime bro of dearly departed wolf of Wall Street Trevor (Asher Grodman). Ari’s arrival prompts a flashback to the year 2000, when “Y2K was behind us, Mad Cow was Europe’s problem, and the future looked bright.” Trevor died during a bacchanalian weekend away with his Brooks Brothers bros after mixing some random drugs. (Young Ari’s panicked declaration that “I’m like 70 percent cocaine right now, we are not calling the cops!” has to be a frontrunner for one of the best lines of the year.) Eventually, we find out that Trevor sacrificed his pants to a younger bro so he wouldn’t have to go through the cruel hazing ritual he did. Turns out Trevor, to the surprise of everyone, is actually a good person. Well, was. —Lester Brathwaite
The Good Fight, “The End of Everything” (Paramount+)
(Written by Robert and Michelle King, directed by Robert King)
There are so many ways for series finales to go wrong. So thank goodness TV’s daffiest legal thriller went out with a just-right blend of absurdity, bemused horror, and droll grace notes for its astounding cast. Actually, Fight’s final fight is practically a bottle episode, with all the characters converging on the law offices of Reddick Ri’Chard just in time for a riot, a shooting, and a romantic showdown between the two men Diane (Christine Baranski) loves. It’s a testament to the show’s laughing-at-the-graveyard charm that a tense sniper sequence gets played first for drama and then for laughs. And no show in years has dared to end on such a bleak punchline. (You’ll never listen to “Y.M.C.A.” again.) —Darren Franich
Harley Quinn, “Joker: The Killing Vote” (HBO Max)
(Written by Conner Shin, directed by Joonki Park)
Batman’s greatest villain has been deconstructed and reconstructed and whatever times 50. Credit HBO Max’s playful toon for doing something truly unconventional with its Joker (Alan Tudyk): making him a step-dad who really wants to get his kids into a Spanish immersion program. Harley Quinn takes a Harley break in this midseason outing, which gives the clown prince of crime his own family-sitcom theme tune (“We live in a society/But baby, it feels like it’s just you and me”) and a new school-mom nemesis Debbie (Amy Sedaris). Joker’s parental struggles spiral into a political campaign and an extended homage to the graphic novel classic The Killing Joke. And now we know Joker uses a CPAP machine. —D.F.
House of the Dragon, “The Lord of the Tides” (HBO)
(Written by Eileen Shim, directed by Geeta Vasant Patel)
The death of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) was a foregone conclusion in House of the Dragon. Even viewers who hadn’t read George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood could understand immediately that the show was going to be about a civil war between competing factions of House Targaryen, and that requires a power vacuum. But Considine imbued Viserys with so much humanity over the course of eight episodes that viewers really feel his loss — especially after the king pushes his ailing body to the limit to defend his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) one last time. Plus, the sudden beheading of an outspoken lord in the throne room marked the welcome return of chaotic, bloody violence to Westeros. —Christian Holub
Interview with the Vampire, “The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child’s Demanding” (AMC)
(Written by Eleanor Burgess, directed by Keith Powell)
Witness the delightful, deranged arrival of vampire “daughter” Claudia (Bailey Bass). Immortal aristocrat Lestat (Sam Reid) and his lover-protégé Louis (Jacob Anderson) shake up their dysfunctional relationship by turning a dying teen into a forever teenager. Claudia loves her new life of nightly bloodsucking — “Ya suck ’em like frog legs and burn ’em like trash!” — and Bass’ scenery-chewing performance sparks different layers of chemistry with Reid’s statuesque baritone and Anderson’s endearing drawl. “Daddy Lou” and “Uncle Les” become Claudia’s conflicting father figures, transforming the gothic supernatural romance into a riveting soap opera about a murder family tearing themselves (and the poor humans around them) to pieces. —D.F.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, “Udûn” (Amazon Prime Video)
(Written by Nicholas Adams, Justin Doble, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay, directed by Charlotte Brändström)
Amazon’s ambitious fantasy epic spends much of its first season sprawled across Middle-earth. While Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is busy navigating elvish politics in Lindon or meeting a strange castaway in the Sundering Seas, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) are investigating a growing orc presence in the Southlands. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the island kingdom of Númenor is juggling threats of its own. But all these separate storylines come crashing together in the satisfying “Udûn,” as Galadriel and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) accompany the Númenórean army into battle in the Southlands. It’s a bloody and brutal hour of television, and the tides of battle continuously shift as each side tries to claw its way to victory. Even when our heroes believe they’ve finally won, the orc leader Adar (an excellent Joseph Mawle) reveals his final plan: a volcanic eruption that clouds the land in ash, transforming the mountain Orodruin into Mount Doom. All season long, The Rings of Power has been a powder keg ready to explode, and “Udûn” officially lights the fuse. —Devan Coggan
Love Island UK, “Episode 36” (Hulu)
The post-Casa Amor “recoupling” episodes are always the hot-mess highlight of any Love Island season — but this one was the reality TV equivalent of a dumpster fire riding a mudslide into a sinkhole. The highs were very high: The look of relief on Davide’s face when he saw Ekin-Su return alone was 100 percent heart-eyes, and Luca and Gemma’s fire pit reunion was similarly sweet. As for the lows? They were constant. Not Dami choosing Summer over Indiyah — and then having the nerve to be mad when she walked in with new guy Deji? And did Andrew seriously dump his OG partner Tasha for Coco based on vague rumors the Casa Amor girls whispered in his ear? But the most brutal moment may have been when scorned bombshell Cheyanne put Jacques on blast for choosing Paige after spending a week “sharing a bed” and “kissing” her. This episode had everything we look for from a trashy dating show: romance, schadenfreude, and wonderfully elaborate names. — Kristen Baldwin
Minx, “Not Like a Shvantz Right in the Face” (HBO Max)
(Written by Ellen Rapoport, directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg)
Whatever you thought a show about the creation of a women’s porn magazine in the 1970s was going to be like, the Minx pilot burns those expectations up like a bra at a second-wave feminism rally. Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) has long dreamed of launching her own women’s lib publication, but she’s dismayed when the only interested party is Doug (Jake Johnson at his trash-bag-with-a-heart-of-gold best), the owner of porn publisher Bottom Dollar Publications. Still, it’s a shot at her dream. In a mere 36 minutes, the pilot establishes the give-and-take between Joyce’s feminist aspirations and Doug’s economic pragmatism. Its jaw-dropping penis montage makes it clear this show is here to turn objectification and desire on its head for its audience and its characters alike. Minx is clever and subversive from the word go, but we’re still in awe of how rapidly and effectively the first episode establishes the unlikely team behind Minx, as well as Joyce’s relationship with her sister Shelley (Lennon Parham). If only quick satisfaction were always this simple. —M.L.L.
Our Flag Means Death, “The Best Revenge is Dressing Well” (HBO Max)
(Written by John Mahone, directed by Fernando Frías)
It’s not every day that a fashionable fête gets gatecrashed by two of the most nefarious pirates in history: the dreaded Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and the Gentleman Pirate, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby). The co-captains are two sides of the same coin in “The Best Revenge is Dressing Well,” teaching each other how to survive two very different battlefields: a ship’s deck and a nobleman’s dinner party. Its final moments are a perfect encapsulation of the series’ signature blend of heart and humor as Blackbeard, who longs to blend in with the bourgeoisie, finds the validation that he’s been craving not in his pompous peers but in Stede, slowly setting the pair on an uncharted course for romance. —Emlyn Travis
Pachinko, “Chapter 4” (Apple TV+)
(Written by E.J. Koh and Soo Hugh, directed by Justin Chon)
It’s 1931, and a young and pregnant Sunja (Minha Kim) arrives in Japan after a grueling boat ride, journeying from her native Korea for the first time with her new husband. It’s also 1989, and an older Sunja (Yuh-Jung Youn) returns to Korea with her son to scatter the ashes of her sister-in-law, who became her closest confidante after docking in Osaka nearly 60 years before. Past and present collide as these two life moments are masterfully — and devastatingly — woven together. The result is a sweeping multigenerational drama set against the backdrop of the Japan–Korea annexation, punctuated by grandson Solomon’s (Jin Ha) impromptu and exuberant dance in the rain to The Cure’s “In Between Days.” —Jessica Wang
Peaky Blinders, “Lock and Key” (Netflix)
(Written by Steven Knight, directed by Anthony Byrne)
After a bit of a bummer of a final season — in terms of content, not quality — the Peaky Blinders series finale delivered the perfect balance of resolution and unfinished business. (There is still a movie, after all.) With Cillian Murphy’s brilliant Thomas Shelby at its lead, fans watched as the Shelby brothers took down their enemies, one by one. Arthur (Paul Anderson) finally got sober long enough to give us an unforgettable action sequence — “I don’t shoot dogs. I shoot fascists.” — and Tommy, with the help of a single bullet, put an end to his war with Michael (Finn Cole). Then there’s that final shot of Tommy, after having realized he’s not dying, riding off on a white horse — a beautiful mirror image to Tommy riding a black horse in the series’ opening shot — as his carriage goes up in flames. Tommy Shelby is back from the dead, and everybody better watch out. —Samantha Highfill
The Rehearsal, “The Fielder Method” (HBO)
(Written by Nathan Fielder, Carrie Kemper, and Eric Notarnicola, directed by Nathan Fielder)
The Rehearsal started off with a fascinating premise in itself — comedian Nathan Fielder helps normal people prepare for difficult life decisions — but the true brilliance of the show was how its creator kept pushing the meta-absurdity further and further with every episode. The apex of head-spinning wheels-within-wheels came in the fourth installment, which started with Fielder teaching an acting class, then found Fielder hiring one of those actors to switch roles with him, and somehow ended up with the oddly touching moment of the teenaged actor pretending to be Fielder’s son going into a slide and a younger actor coming out the other end. In a year that was so defined by breaking the fourth wall, Fielder went above and beyond. —C.H.
Reservation Dogs, “Stay Gold Cheesy Boy” (FX on Hulu)
(Written by Bobby Wilson, directed by Blackhorse Lowe)
This season 2 standout puts the spotlight on Cheese (Lane Factor), who’s sent to a youth-detention home after his uncle Charlie (Nathan Apodaca) is arrested for growing weed. What follows is simultaneously sweet, sad, and deeply funny, as the ever-genial Cheese tries to navigate his complicated new living situation. In a tight 29 minutes, “Stay Gold Cheesy Boy” introduces a whole house of fully fleshed-out characters, including the mopey chaperone Gene (Marc Maron) and the chaotic Tino (Travis Thompson), who’s just trying to land a job at Red Lobster. Ultimately, the other members of the Reservation Dogs crew put aside their squabbles and unite to try and break out their bro — proving that everything’s better with a little Cheese. —D.C.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, “An Extra Special Episode” (VH1)
RuPaul is a deliciously diabolical genius. Bosco‘s face-crack could further crack approximately 1 million mirrors. Why didn’t Jorgeous pick the Jennifer Lopez song? WHO KNEW WILLOW PILL COULD DANCE LIKE THAT? These questions (and many, many, many more) ran through our minds while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14’s epic lip-sync-only episode, which Mama Ru introduced as punishment for the cast’s disappointing performance in the prior week’s Snatch Game celebrity impersonation challenge. It’s a clear, juicy machination of production prowess, but the installment — which featured all of the constants lip-syncing against each other in sudden-death duels, until only one sashayed away — stripped Drag Race down to what makes the show great at its core: Queens, conflama, and talent as raw as Bosco’s feet after she wore her heels THE ENTIRE DAY(!) during the multi-hour production. —Joey Nolfi
Rutherford Falls, “Adirondack S3” (Peacock)
(Written by Matt Murray and Jana Schmieding, directed by Eric Kissack)
When Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding) are invited to be “cultural consultants” on Adirondack — a prestige cable Western featuring rugged cowboys and solemn Native Americans — he hopes to convince the mega hit to shoot an episode at his Rutherford Falls casino. Plus, as he notes, “Native representation is, for the most part, a hate crime,” so why not help the show get it right? What follows is an incisive takedown of the TV industry’s superficial approach to cultural sensitivity (as well as a sharp spoof of a show that rhymes with Mellowbone). When Terry realizes the co-exec producers — three interchangeable white guys, all played by Jon Barinholtz — have no interest in listening to his input, he decides to give them all the wrong guidance. (“The extras saging the tepees — I need more whooping!”) —K.B.
The Sandman, “The Sound of Her Wings” (Netflix)
(Written by Lauren Bello, directed by Mairzee Almas)
One of The Sandman’s greatest strengths as a comic book is its mixture of longer sagas with standalone stories. Two of the best such issues, “The Sound of Her Wings” and “Men of Good Fortune,” combine to form the standout episode of Netflix’s TV adaptation so far. Dream’s sister Death, who eschews the grim reaper scythe in favor a goth girl wardrobe, has been a pop culture legend for decades, but Kirby Howell-Baptiste managed to put her own spin on the icon. Together with Ferdinand Kingsley’s rendition of fan-favorite immortal Hob Gadling, she helped Dream (Tom Sturridge) rediscover the importance of friends and family at the season’s precise midpoint — and remind viewers that death is just a natural part of life. —C.H.
Severance, “The We We Are” (Apple TV+)
(Written by Dan Erickson, directed by Ben Stiller)
Plenty of shows end their season with a cliffhanger, but the twisty, slippery Severance ups the difficulty and gives us a tense ticking-clock finale capped by four cliffhangers at the same time. Each one packs an emotional punch for the four “severed” characters, who are working to topple the shady, all-powerful Lumon Industries. (It’s a complicated plot, just watch the show.) Team leader Mark (Adam Scott) discovers his presumed-dead wife is alive and trapped at Lumon; Helly (Britt Lower) is revealed to be a member of the Lumon-running Eagen family and a literal poster child for the severance process; Irving (John Turturro) tracks down Burt (Christopher Walken), his work crush/possible soulmate; and Dylan (Zach Cherry) is captured by the frighteningly professional — and Lumon true believer — Seth Milchick (Tramell Tillman). Here’s hoping Severance won’t leave the audience hanging for too much longer for a second season. —C.K.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, “Ribbit and Rip It” (Disney+)
(Written by Cody Ziglar, directed by Kat Coiro)
After spending most of the season in reluctant hero mode, gamma-powered lawyer Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) gains some Hulk/life balance with an assist from a very special guest: Daredevil, a.k.a. Matt Murdock, a.k.a. the Man Without Fear of a New Disney Contract. In a plot ripped from the pages of Marvel Team-Up, Jen and Matt (Charlie Cox) join forces to take down delusional costumed goon Leap-Frog (Brandon Stanley). Cox slips back into his horned cowl with ease, seamlessly transitioning from the grim-and-gritty tone of his Netflix show to the sunny-yet-subversive world of She-Hulk. (And yes, there is a hallway fight — with a twist.) But DD’s presence here is more than just empty fan-service. As a lawyer by day and vigilante by night, Matt is uniquely qualified to help Jen embrace her chance to help people both inside and outside of the courtroom. It doesn’t hurt that Maslany and Cox also share Hulk-sized chemistry, so when their Marvel Team-Up turns into a Marvel Hook-Up (and an unforgettable walk of shame for Cox), this meta superhero sitcom also hit its stride. —C.K.
Station Eleven, “Unbroken Circle” (HBO Max)
(Written by Patrick Somerville, directed by Jeremy Podeswa)
Of the many changes Station Eleven made when adapting Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, one of the most vital was deepening the connection between Kirsten Raymonde (Mackenzie Davis) and Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel). On the page, they only spent a few key hours together, right as a deadly pandemic started ripping through their world. But the show wisely made Jeevan into Kirsten’s guardian for months — until a freak accident separated them for two decades. The series finale is a great episode all around, but their tearful reunion in its final minutes brings their relationship full circle. Even amidst so much death, “Unbroken Circle” proves that love, hope, and humanity can still survive. —L.M.
Stranger Things, “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” (Netflix)
(Written by Paul Dichter, directed by Shawn Levy)
Tick-tock: Time is running out to prevent Max (Sadie Sink) from becoming the next victim of Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), and the result is one of Stranger Things’ most riveting episodes to date. The nearly 80-minute-long episode, which powerfully juxtaposes Max’s survivor’s guilt with her physical battle against Vecna, hinges entirely upon its final 15 minutes, but the payoff is worth the wait. When her twisted fate seems all but sealed, the sumptuous synths of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and a series of flashbacks give Max the strength to fight back, sending her careening through the Upside Down toward salvation. As she gasps awake, it’s hard not to breathe a sigh of relief with her. —E.T.
Superman & Lois, “Waiting for Superman” (The CW)
(Written by Brent Fletcher and Todd Helbing, directed by Gregory Smith)
This season 2 ender had plenty of action, as Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) must recover his powers to defeat a cult leader-turned-superbeing from merging two different versions of Earth. But it’s the & Lois part of this Arrowverse drama that elevates this episode to worthy of this list. While her husband is asking his estranged brother to literally throw him into the sun, Lois (Bitsie Tulloch) fights to make it back to her family — as does her friend Kyle (Erik Valdez) as well as her surrogate daughter (her actual daughter in an alternate universe) Natalie (Taylor Buck). Miraculously without feeling overstuffed, Superman manages multiple family reunions… and a few tears. —P.G.
What We Do in the Shadows, “Go Flip Yourself” (FX)
(Written by Marika Sawyer, directed by Yana Gorskaya)
Four seasons in, our favorite vampire mockumentary has trained us to expect the unexpected. But “Go Flip Yourself” might be the most unhinged episode yet: a pitch-perfect parody of every cheesy renovation show on HGTV right now. All season long, Laszlo (Matt Berry) has been watching brothers Bran (Randy Sklar) and Toby (Jason Sklar) flip houses on TV, and his obsession gets a delightful payoff, as the brothers themselves show up to renovate the vampires’ dilapidated Staten Island mansion. The result is an immaculately constructed HGTV homage that looks like it could air in a time slot right next to Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, and Love It or List It. (Even the cheery voiceover sounds exactly like House Hunters legend Suzanne Whang.) Every scene is more absurd than the last — and that’s before that final reveal of Bran’s true identity. But in the end, “Go Flip Yourself” earns its instant-classic status with a single line: Berry’s melodic delivery of “You really are the most devious bastard in New York City.” —D.C.
Yellowjackets, “Doomcoming” (Showtime)
(Written by Ameni Rozsa and Sarah L. Thompson, directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer)
Overall, Yellowjackets delivered a beautifully crafted first season of television, but it’s hard to deny that the penultimate episode was its best. In present day, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) called upon her former teammates to help her deal with Adam’s (Peter Gadiot) body, a scenario that led to the best line delivery of the year from Jeff (Warren Cole): “There’s no book club?!” Meanwhile, back in the ’90s, the teenage girls prepared to throw themselves a Doomcoming, a party that, thanks to some mushrooms, grew incredibly out of hand. Audiences watched as the teens morphed into something else entirely, hunting down and nearly killing Travis (Kevin Alves). As Lottie (Courtney Eaton) put on her antler crown, we got a glimpse at the darkness the show had been promising since its opening scene. —S.H.