There are many people who will tell you that we’re living in the golden age of television, with more great TV and options than ever before. Now I haven’t seen close to all the TV shows that I would have wanted to over the last decade. But with that in mind I’m going to count down the Ten best episodes of TV that I’ve seen during the 2010s. I have restricted this list to just one episode per show. Obviously there are going to be a number of great shows that I haven’t seen, so I would love to hear your favourites in the comments. There are also some spoilers for these shows ahead. Here we go with what I believe are the best episodes of TV in the 2010s.
10) Rick and Morty (Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender) – Rick and Morty has been one of the big hit shows of the decade, gaining huge popularity. There have been a number of big stand out episodes, but my personal favourite is the one featuring the Vindicators. This was Rick at his absolutely narsacistic best and also unpleasant. There are few characters out there who are capable of destroying a galactic threat and then murdering several of the galaxy’s biggest heroes whilst being so black out drunk they forget it completely. But that’s Rick, truly the great villain of the Rick and Morty universe. All the supporting characters in the episode as incredible. Crocubot, Alan Rails, Million Ants, and of course Noob Noob are all so unique and still some of my favourite one and done characters from the show.
9) Hannibal (Mizumono) – ‘Mizumono’ was the Season 2 finale of Hannibal’s exceptional second season. It was the big confrontation between Hannibal and Jack Crawford, whilst Hannibal tries to finally win the battle for Will Graham’s soul. As with every episode of Hannibal this was beautifully shot and bizzare in the arthouse style that Bryan Fuller wanted the show to always have. It was the perfect capper for the Season and is still the high point of one of the best, and most underseen, shows we’ve been treated to this decade. And it ends with what always made the show so special, a scene between Will and Hannibal, and it is every bit as heartfelt and bloody as you’d expect.
8) Black Mirror (San Junipero) – Black Mirror became known for their often gloomy views and takes on the way technology was moving society. But amongst all of that in Season 3 we had ‘San Junipero’ a beautiful romance between two women in a strange situation that is never really pieced together until the end. The visual flair that director Owen Harris brought to the episode was stunning, and it was driven by two exceptional performances from Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. It also felt like the overwhelmingly positive reception to this episode meant that Charlie Brooker could take more risks with the tone of episodes like ‘USS Callister’ and ‘Hang the DJ’ in Season 4.
7) Breaking Bad (Ozymandias) – Breaking Bad is one of the few shows out there whose ending was fairly unanimously well received, and one of those last few episodes leading up to the ending was the Rian Johnson directed ‘Ozymandias’. This was where the story had really been building to over the years though, with the final two episodes almost serving as an epilogue. This was where the Walt and Hank confrontation finally came to a head with its tragic end, and it was every bit as incredible as it deserved to be. This was also where Walt’s relationships with Jessie and his family completely disintegrate and leave him isolated.
6) Parks and Recreation (Andy and April’s Fancy Party) – I found picking the best episode of Parks and Rec from the decade (which is almost all the show) almost impossible. There were never big stand out episodes when I watched it, I just loved the whole show. In the end I’ve gone for the episode when April and Andy decide to have a party at their house, which is ultimately revealed to be a surprise wedding. The episode is as funny and moving as you’d always expect Parks and Rec to be, but also had some of the most moving moments. The wedding itself is lovely, and we get a big step forward in Leslie and Ben’s relationship as well as a great scene with Ron, but it is the moment where April opens up to Leslie that always hits me hard as one of the best. Parks and Rec is truly an incredible show, and this episode is really here representing the whole series.
5) Community (Remedial Chaos Theory) – Community was Dan Harmon’s big breakthrough, and it was a show that had a few incredible years before being gutted by a number of the cast moving on. But before that we got one of the best meta comedy shows of all time, which may well have peaked with ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’. This was the episode where we see the numerous implications for each of the characters being the one to collect their pizzas, eventually coming to the conclusion that without Jeff being controlling most people managed to have fun. This was also the episode that gave us the darkest timeline, gag where things go so horribly wrong that several of the characters die. This was the kind of implausible thing that really let us dive into each of the seven main characters and their effect on the group. Perfection.
4) It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (The Gang Dines Out) – It was so hard to pick a favourite episode of It’s Always Sunny and I could easily have picked ‘Charlie Work’, ‘Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense’, or ‘CharDee MacDennis: The Game of Games’. But in the end I’ve gone for the episode where all five of the gang end up in the same restaurant. We see how Dennis and Frank both feel as though they should be the most powerful person in the group, and frequently manipulate Mac and Charlie to get their way. We also see Dee’s narcissistic side where she assumes they’ve noticed and care about her being there as well, but everyone is too focused on themselves. Ultimately we see how the only thing that can really united the gang is an external force they can rally against or mock.
3) Game of Thrones (The Winds of Winter) – However anyone feels about how Game of Thrones ended there’s no doubt that it was the standout show of the decade in terms of cultural impact. There are so many great episodes, but for me the Season 6 finale was the one that will always stand out head and shoulders above any others. The opening 10 or 15 minutes alone was some of the most breathtaking television that I’ve ever seen, and all set to Ramin Djawdi’s ‘Light of the Seven’. Beyond that we had the King in the North moment for Jon, Bran discovering Jon’s true identity, Tyrion becoming Hand of the Queen, and Daenerys finally bringing her army to Westeros. Epic storytelling.
2) Doctor Who (Heaven Sent) – We ended the previous decade with David Tennant as The Doctor, and whilst I’m not sure I’ll ever love any era of the show as much as I did his run, the 2010s gave us Matt Smith. The show really hit some problems with some lackluster writing during Peter Capaldi’s tenure, but even then we were treated to some incredible episodes of television, none better than ‘Heaven Sent’. The penultimate episode of Season 9 of the show revolves around The Doctor trapped in a mysterious castle being pursued by a veiled figure. The whole episode is truly a work of genius, and Capaldi was really able to show what he could do in the role as he delivered an acting masterclass. I wish he could have been given more episodes of this quality, but the fact we got ‘Heaven Sent’ is enough.
1) BoJack Horseman (Free Churro) – The single BEST episode of television in the 2010s for me was BoJack Horseman’s ‘Free Churro’. I think this show has been the most consistently brilliant show of the decade, so it is fitting for a BoJack episode to top this list. This episode in particular consists solely of BoJack giving a eulogy at his mother’s funeral. The writing from Raphael Bob-Waksberg should have swept awards, and Will Arnette delivers a tour de force vocal performance as BoJack. This really sums up everything great about the character of BoJack and the introspective nature of the show as he ponders what his mother’s final words could mean. And in true BoJack style the show ends this brilliant and moving monologue with a brilliant joke. Perfection.