10 Best TV Episodes Of 2017

‘Better Call Saul,’ “Chicanery”

Better Call Saul has never been a courtroom drama – but it is a show about lawyers, and “Chicanery” smartly exploited the way that TV viewers have become conditioned to expect our legal system to produce just outcomes, whatever the cost. The McGill boys carry their domestic drama into their professional arena – and Michael McKean does what may be his finest work on the show, which is saying something. Noel Murray

‘Better Things,’ “Eulogy”

Jessica Brooks/FX

Pamela Adlon’s extraordinary FX sadcom does a variation on the Huck-Finn-overhearing-his-own-funeral vignette, when anger over Sam not getting respect from her daughters leads to a mock wake in her honor. A brilliant take on the agonies and ecstasies of parenthood, the show business life and balancing the personal with the professional. It’s also proof that this is hands down one of the funniest, deepest shows on TV, period. David Fear

‘Bojack Horseman,’ “Time’s Arrow”


This season’s penultimate episode takes us inside Beatrice Horseman’s mind and gives viewers a first-hand experience with the progressive effects of Alzheimer’s dementia. Identities are washed away or violently obscured;  you can almost feel the character fighting through the turbulent waters alongside you, or occasionally trying to pull you away before you’ve seen too much. The ending offers just a fleeting moment of half-remembered happiness – and even that may be a lie. Sam Adams

‘Girls,’ “American Bitch”

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Like many of Girls‘ most acclaimed installments, this one’s a bottle episode, isolating writer/fuck-up Hannah Horvath with Chuck Palmer, a beloved novelist (played by Matthew Rhys), who has a habit of propositioning young fans for oral sex under circumstances that are dubious at best and outright non-consensual at worst. It ends with a swerve away from realism: a street filled entirely with faceless, professionally dressed young women, all of them moving toward the maw of the literary superstar’s apartment building. Sean T. Collins

‘GLOW,’ “Maybe It’s All the Disco”

Erica Parise/Netflix

After one of their practices, the G.L.O.W. ladies discover that they’re all on the same menstrual cycle. Alison Brie’s Ruth, however, realizes that she’s not synced; she may, in fact, have a bigger problem on her hands. Thanks to our current political climate, where the fight for a woman’s right to choose is likely to become more difficult than it has been in decades, showing that abortion is, fundamentally, a medical procedure that a woman chooses – and that it can be no big deal – feels utterly vital. Amy Plitt

‘The Good Place,’ “Dance Dance Resolution”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

What was the funniest half-hour of television of 2017? The answer: a clever commentary on the very structure of episodic comedy itself. Forced to reset the Kristen Bell & Co’s bespoke “paradise” lost, Michael (Ted Danson) keeps rewriting the scenario and recasting supporting players in slightly different roles. His victims keep figuring it out. It throws the laughs out fast and furious and then adds in a love story to boot. Come for the high-concept comedy; stay for sense of higher-power comfort. Brian Tallerico

‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ “Late”

George Kraychyk/Hulu

“Late” offers a gut-wrenching view into what happens to those who don’t conform in Margaret Atwood’s oppressive dystopian future. It’s also when we learn just how near this near future is, rewinding back to Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her friend Moira (Samira Wiley) participating in a protest that looks an awful lot like the Women’s March. “In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it,” Offred says. Viewers awash in the news of the real-world political climate shuddered in recognition. Jenna Scherer

‘I Love Dick,’ “A Short History of Weird Girls”

Jessica Brooks/Amazon Prime Video

You don’t necessarily have to watch the rest of this Amazon series to prep for “A Short History of Weird Girls” – it stands on its own as an inventively exhilarating, abrasively funny 21-minute tour de force. Four women deliver monologues about their sex lives, creative struggles, childhood memories, female desire. Dick doesn’t get a word in – he’s only there as a muse. As always, Kevin Bacon is only there to give the weird girls a reason to cut footloose. Rob Sheffield

‘Master of None,’ “Thanksgiving”


A coming-out tale told over seven holiday dinners that spans three decades (hurtling through time rather than space), this stand-out, Emmy-winning episode is a vindication of Master of None‘s inclusive vision and artistic aspirations. Lena Waithe (who wrote it) has her character Denise go from a kid discovering she’s gay to a young woman negotiating her her mother’s resistance; Angela Bassett plays her mom. It’s also a reminder that no medium feels more homey than television – a coziness that makes a sense of belonging from the shows we watch all the more important. Inkoo Kang

‘Twin Peaks,’ “Part 8”

Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Landing at the exact midpoint of a 16-episode season, Twin Peaks: The Return‘s eighth installment – titled simply “Part 8” – was one of those rare cultural moments when you’ll remember where you were when you watched it. A nuclear bomb explodes in New Mexico, 1945; the story of Laura Palmer and her killer “Bob” appears in an eerie vision of predestination; and when the camera passes through the atomic flame, a photo-negative of American hell awaits on the other side. Then a sooty woodsman asks, “Got a light?” This is what it looks like when Pandora’s Box gets cracked wide open. Scott Tobias

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