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!
10. sons of anarchy: j'ai obtenu cette
(originally aired: december 4, 2012)
"Sons of Anarchy" finally stuck the landing so to speak in 2012. Each year the show seemed to paint its characters into inescapable corners for 12 weeks, then just pull them out of their predicaments without significant consequence. This time though, the big choices were finally made and their costs were heavy. That especially applied to Jax, who in his efforts to remove Clay for good, finally became the man he's loathed all along.
9. suits: she knows
(originally aired: june 14, 2012)
A breakthrough episode which solidified its status as a top-tier drama, "She Knows" doubled down on its previously shaky premise and somehow emerged clearer and sharper than ever thanks to its supernaturally charming cast, distinctive voice and slick look. At a certain point you either fall in love with a show or you don't and we fell hard in 2012.
6/7/8. louie: late show, parts 1-3
(originally aired: august 30-september 20, 2012)
After three seasons of character pieces, "Louie" finally pushed for a full-fledged narrative in this trilogy of episodes and the dividends were tremendous. Admittedly part the fun was seeing who would show up next (Jay Leno! Chris Rock! David Lynch?!) but the true draw was seeing Louie actually challenged on a level we haven't seen before, both at work and at home. The prize: a chance to succeed David Letterman on CBS. The ensuing "Rocky"-esque journey gave us a litany of great moments: from a pragmatic discussion about his career with a network executive (Garry Marshall) to learning how to literally tell jokes by the aforementioned Lynch. The piece de resistance of course arrives in the closing installment when, after learning the entire operation is for naught, the mere fact he was in the discussion proves to be all the victory he needs.
5. mad men: signal 30
(originally aired: april 15, 2012)
A dinner party at the Campbells - not to mention a science-fiction story by Ken Cosgrove - provided a window into Pete's foibles in this memorable episode. Perennially painted as the petulant child of the show, Pete nevertheless has grown to match the personal and professional success of his idol Don Draper. And yet, despite it all, he's still unhappy, on the cusp of tearing down his great life because it's suffocating him. It's Don of course who steps in and sets him straight, advice that also serves as a reminder he'll never be Don Draper... or anyone else for that matter, as much as he wants to be.
4. homeland: new car smell
(originally aired: october 21, 2012)
We all knew the day would come, we just couldn't imagine it happening this fast. And yet here we are 16 episodes in and the unthinkable has happened: Carrie and company, armed with definitive proof of Brody's terrorist activities, take him into custody. The fact that a rattled Carrie does it to simply regain the power in her relationship with Brody: all the better.
3. breaking bad: dead freight
(originally aired: august 12, 2012)
A brazen, daylight train robbery served as the backdrop for this standout installment as Walter and company endeavor to not only steal a shipment of methylamine, but replace it with water to cover their tracks. The end result was about as stunning a setpiece as this series has ever achieved, made all the more harrowing by its closing moments in which our "heroes" rejoice after pulling off their expertly crafted heist - only to be spotted by a random boy riding his bike. The choice is made before even a discussion can be had: Todd shoots and kills him in cold blood. Just... wow.
2. the walking dead: seed
(originally aired: october 14, 2012)
Season three opened with a staunch reminder of just how bad things have gotten in the world of "The Walking Dead." Ever outnumbered, our heroes make the only choice left to them: hole up at a nearby prison and pray its walls keep them safe longer than a few nights at a time. Before that can happen, they literally have to clean house. Said efforts are about as stunning and visceral of a TV experience as I've ever encountered, an agonizing sequence of events that's both thrilling (seriously how many zombies did they kill?) and downright unsettling (seriously how many zombies did they kill?) plus not without its costs (Hershel is bitten but potentially saved via impromptu amputation). Just another white knuckle episode of "The Walking Dead."
1. game of thrones: blackwater
(originally aired: may 27, 2012)
Sometimes things just live up to the hype. So goes the penultimate episode of season two, which finally put the show's oft-referenced - but rarely seen - epic battles front and center. A wondrous spectacle of both military strategy and CGI, Stannis' attempt to take King's Landing was worthy of the big screen. But as is custom with this show, it's the character beats that eclipse it all, whether it's the seemingly invincible Sandor Clegane losing his fire for battle, packing up and leaving; Cersei's spiral into drunkenness, acknowledging the cancerous presence she has become; and of course, Tyrion's stirring speech to keep on fighting, not for the crown but for their homes ("Those are brave men knocking at our door... let's go kill them!"). Man do I love this show.