It's time for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. (For previous lists check the bottom of this column.) We'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2003 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself and the staff as to what we think the standout moments of the year were. In some cases while we were fans of certain series we couldn't pin down a particular episode we thought was of special merit so don't be stunned to see a few of our regular favorites missing from the list. Anyway, on with the show...
40. "sex and the city: the domino effect" (hbo)
originally aired: september 8, 2003
A sweet and at times touching look at Big (Chris Noth) and Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) relationship as the former recovers from heart surgery. As she cares for him she gets a glimpse into his true feelings for her, feelings which sadly are shuffled off once he's back to full strength. Sure we all know they'll end up together in the finale, but even if they don't this stands as a great capper on the duo's relationship.
39. "stargate sg-1: fallen/homecoming" (sci fi)
originally aired: june 13, 2003
You'd be hard pressed to find a better execution of your typical "changing of the guard" episode(s), in this case the exit of Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec) and the return of Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks). "Stargate" has always had a great handle on how continuity and character arcs should work and it was nice to see such aspects in full force for the show's seventh season opener.
38. "boomtown: execution" (nbc)
originally aired: march 6, 2003
The last real showcase of the David McNorris character (Neal McDonough), this episode once again proved why "Boomtown" is the biggest loss of 2003. Just hours before his execution, a gangbanger tells McNorris to call off the proceedings or a cop kidnapped by his cohorts will be killed as well. And in typical "Boomtown" style the conclusion is the last thing you'd expect.
37. "miracles: the ferguson syndrome"
originally aired: january 27, 2003
Probably one of, if not the best pilots of the past year, the opener to "Miracles" was creepy and scary, but most of all absolutely riveting to watch. Too bad we didn't get to find out if God really was "nowhere."
36. "firefly: the message" (fox)
originally aired: december 9, 2003
Sure this episode didn't technically "air" in 2003, but it was first released to the general public as part of a DVD set last month and we'd be remissed if we couldn't find a way to once again say how great this short-lived series turned out to be. After a rocky start, "Firefly" found its footing at the tail end of its run and became just a pure joy to watch. If anything, the series remains to this day one of the few shows that could introduce and make us care about not one, but nine different characters in such a short time.
35. "smallville: exodus" (wb)
originally aired: may 20, 2003
"Smallville's" season finales are quickly becoming the "events" to see each year as the producers certainly know how to send out a season with a bang. Who didn't scream about the three months we would have to wait between episodes as Clark left Smallville under the influence of red kryptonite to start a new life in Metropolis?
34. "c.s.i.: jackpot" (cbs)
originally aired: november 6, 2003
Featuring some great guest work by Henry Czerny and Jeffrey Combs, this episode sent Grissom off to a small town in Nevada after a severed head is discovered. "C.S.I." is always at its best when it puts us in a world we're not used to seeing and this tightly-knit (and somewhat creepy) town definitely fit the bill.
33. "twenty four: day 3: 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m."
originally aired: december 9, 2003
After a ho-hum start to its third season, "24" ripped the rug right out from under us with this installment in which we found out what's really been happening all along. And plus any episode that negates the tired "CTU mole" plotline deserves a mention on anyone's list.
32. "angel: lineage" (wb)
originally aired: november 12, 2003
Let's be honest folks: Wesley (Alexis Denisof) kicks ass. And boy did he in this episode which saw the return of his father (Roy Dotrice). It's in this hour we see once again how far Wesley has come and how much he has changed over the years. More importantly, it finally moved along the plotline of Wes' secret feelings for Fred (Amy Acker) as he literally kills his father for her.
31. "the dead zone: ascent" (usa)
originally aired: january 19, 2003
An episode which made the Johnny-Sarah-Walt love triangle all the more heartbreaking, this installment literally had Johnny (Anthony Michael Hall) walk in Walt's (Chris Bruno) shoes as we see how he met Sarah (Nicole de Boer). You've got to give the "Dead Zone" gang credit, they don't take the easy way out in any of the relationships on the show.