It's time once again for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. Always, we'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2012 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself, our merry band of freelancers and you the readers as to what we think the standout moments of the year were. And as always, be sure to revisit some of our previous picks in the archives.
Obviously our final list will differ from the ones you sent in - but that's half the fun! So sit back, relax and enjoy the countdown!
20. fringe: letters of transit
(originally aired: april 20, 2012)
The hallmark of "Fringe" has been its ability to establish a family unit no matter how outlandish the scenario. Lose your son, replace him with one from an alternate universe. Lose your universe, have yourself dropped into a new one. Regardless of the makeup, the connections of love and family still manage to get created. That constant state of reinvention once again became evident in this episode, as Walter, Astrid and Peter awaken some 25 years into the future under the rule of The Observers. Among the rebels: Peter's now grown up daughter Henrietta, squaring the circle of the family unit once again.
19. community: virtual systems analysis
(originally aired: april 19, 2012)
If centering an episode about trying to help Abed, a character who is paralyzed by his skewed perception of reality, using an even more fake perception of reality, the Dreamatorium, isn't snake-eating-its-tail meta manna from heaven, I don't know what is.
18. treme: tipitina
(originally aired: november 25, 2012)
David Simon and Eric Overmyer's annual closing up shop remains as potent as ever, as their characters either find peace in letting go of their previous ambitions or remain resolute in the face of the realities of their fates. As always "Treme" remains a compelling story about survival and what that means to each of its denizens.
17. parks and recreation: halloween surprise
(originally aired: october 25, 2012)
Ben's (Adam Scott) marriage proposal to Leslie (Amy Poehler) was somehow surprising, touching and hilarious all at the same time - a perfect moment between two great characters, not to mention two wonderful actors.
16. dexter: are you ...?
(originally aired: september 30, 2012)
It's a development that's been hanging over the series since its start: what happens when Deb finds out her brother is a serial killer? Six years later we finally got the answer. No cop out, no switcheroo, she really knows. The result: a full-on reinvention of the show, one that gave rise to questions about the status quo we've accepted for Dexter the character (and the show) all along.
15. luck: episode 9
(originally aired: march 25, 2012)
The de facto ending to David Milch's horse racing opus proved to be a surprisingly upbeat capper, from Mike and Ace's détente over the race track to the windfall for our sad sack group of gamblers. The latter in particular was disarmingly sweet as what were initially a group of degenerates at best ultimately morphed into a quartet of true friends, all hopeful of the future.
14. the good wife: another ham sandwich
(originally aired: january 29, 2012)
The defeat - for now at least - of Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose) was "The Good Wife" at the top of its game. Whether it's the cleverly passive-aggressive way the characters manage to manipulate each other or the endless shades of grey they continue to become mired in, this show is a delightful meal any week. Here though we them pushed to the precipice, from Kalinda going all double-agent to Alicia being tasked with admitting to her personal foibles on the witness stand.
13. mad men: lady lazarus
(originally aired: may 6, 2012)
Pete's search for and Don's attempts to hold onto happiness remained as fascinating as ever in this episode. For the latter, Megan's decision to leave Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue acting pulled the floor out from under him (literally if you count his experience with an empty elevator shaft). And in the former's case, a dalliance with an acquaintance's wife (Alexis Bledel) once again exposed - much like Don - his perpetual need to control the world around him. Plus, you know, it ended with a f---ing Beatles song.
12/11. breaking bad: say my name/gliding over all
(originally aired: august 26-september 2, 2012)
"Shut the f--- up and let me die in peace," were the final words of Mike Ehrmantraut to Walter White. They also marked the beginning of the end of Walter's empire as his meticulous construction begins to unravel across these two episodes. It's the end result of pride unchecked by humility. Even with his initial goals long achieved - Walter literally has more money than he can spend - there's a hubris inside him that still demands more. More respect. More fear. Just more. So how fitting then that the man who thinks he knows everything overlooks the one thing that lays the tracks for his downfall: a seemingly innocuous copy of "Leaves Of Grass" that Hank stumbles across and gets his wheels turning.