It's time once again for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. (For previous lists check the links to the right.)
As usual we'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2008 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself, the staff and you the readers as to what we think the standout moments of the year were.
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. "battlestar galactica: revelations" (sci fi)
(originally aired: june 13, 2008)
When the opening credits to your show say the characters are trying to find Earth, the episode in which they actually find Earth is undoubtedly going to be huge. But in typical "Battlestar" fashion, be careful what you wish for - instead of a promised Eden, they find a world of ash and gray. Because of said event, I literally have no idea what's going to happen in these last few episodes - and I couldn't be happier.
9. "lost: the constant" (abc)
(originally aired: february 28, 2008)
Desmond's (Henry Ian Cusick) mind-bending trip between the past and "present" gave us not only more clues about all the business of the island but also an I-dare-you-not-to-choke-up moment with Penny in which a promise made eight years ago comes to pass.
8. "mad men: meditations in an emergency" (amc)
(originally aired: october 26, 2008)
Featuring two of the best I-can't-believe-they-said-that-and-just-left-the-room conversations I've ever seen, "Mad Men" went out with a flurry of gut punches in its second season finale. Whether it was Peggy responding to Pete's admission of love with a confession about their child or Don taking a wrecking ball to Duck's power play by revealing he doesn't have a contract, each was a masterful stroke 13 (maybe 26) episodes in the making. Oh and lest we forget, Betty gives into temptation with a stranger in a bar, only to choose her marriage and impending motherhood in the end.
7/6. "house: house's head/wilson's heart" (fox)
(originally aired: may 12, 2008/may 19, 2008)
The biggest medical mystery House (Hugh Laurie) has ever encountered gave us the show's most emotional moments to date. From its awe-inspiring crash sequence (seriously, how amazing was that?) to Wilson's (Robert Sean Leonard) final minutes with Amber (Anne Dudek), there wasn't a beat that didn't hit home during the show's two-part season finale. And if that wasn't enough, said events shattered House and Wilson's friendship, making for one long summer.
5/4. "friday night lights: new york, new york/hello, goodbye" (directv)
(originally aired: november 19, 2008/october 22, 2008)
In a show where someone like Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford, the 21st century Charlie Brown), the nice guy quarterback gets benched and is left to raise his increasingly ill grandmother, it almost seems unfathomable that anyone could get a happy ending. And yet this season we had not one but two characters - humbled loudmouth Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) and crippled hero Jason Street (Scott Porter) - get just that. For Smash, it was a scholarship despite a potentially career-ending injury. For Street, it was a life with his newborn son and girlfriend out East. Each however didn't get it until reaching their wit's end, when life ultimately decided to give them a shot at their dreams. So maybe happy ending wasn't the right word - a hopeful future sounds about right.
3/2. "the shield: possible kill screen/family meeting" (fx)
(originally aired: november 18, 2008/november 25, 2008)
It's almost impossible to separate "The Shield's" final two installments as each packed stunning developments more than seven years in the making. In the former it was Vic Mackey finally confessing to the murder of Terry Crowley in the pilot... and getting immunity for it in the process, sending the show's only moral authority Claudette (CCH Pounder, where is your Emmy?) over the edge. In the latter it was Vic Mackey truly alone - having cashed in his career, family and friends - left to rot in the white collar prison he built himself. In between we got Shane (Walt Goggins) calling a "family meeting" and Ronnie (David Rees Snell) cast into hell for Vic's sins. There's no other way to say it other than: wow.
1. "the wire: -30-" (hbo)
(originally aired: march 9, 2008)
A few days before this episode aired we billed "The Wire" as "the greatest show in television history." And so, by the transitive property, it shouldn't be that much a surprise that the show's finale topped our list. What is surprising is just how perfectly David Simon and company stuck the landing. In an era where most shows seem to either go out unfinished (see "Deadwood") or with mixed results (see "The Sopranos"), it's almost shocking that we got not one but two finales (see above) which gave us exactly what we wanted and/or needed. "-30-" was the final moment before the entire heart-breaking, soul-crushing cycle of inner city life began again. It's when Dukie became "Bubbles," when Michael became "Omar" and when we the audience said our final hellos and goodbyes.