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Best TV Episodes of 2015 (So Far): Part One

Over the television year, not only do specific shows and specific seasons stand out, but so do specific episodes. Certain episodes rise above the rest of the television landscape in a variety of ways, whether it’s due to excellent direction, strong character exploration, or something else entirely. For the past few years, Sound on Sight TV has highlighted these standout episodes, both at the midpoint of the year and again in December, and thanks to its sheer quantity of fantastic television, 2015 brings our most extensive list yet. Presented below are the best episodes from the first half of the year (January through the end of May), as curated by a panel at Sound on Sight consisting of Editor in Chief Ricky D, TV Editor Kate Kulzick, Managing TV Editor Deepayan Sengupta, and TV contributors Simon Howell, Sean Colletti, Randy Dankievitch, and Whitney McIntosh.

Adventure Time S06E24 Evergreen titlecard

Adventure Time, “Evergreen”
Written by Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard
Directed by Andres Salaff
Aired January 15th, 2015 on Cartoon Network

“Wish magic is really the big deal.”

Adventure Time is weird, zany, and more often than not, hilarious from start to finish. Here is a show that truly rewards investment with its painstaking details and hundreds of characters that can re-emerge at any time. Adventure Time is also a show that is impossible to predict, and “Evergreen” is a prime example of what makes the show so special. “Evergreen” is a tour-de-force of storytelling, and perhaps their best episode since the season six two-parter “Wake Up” and “Escape from the Citadel.” With a story penned solely by Tom Herpich, Adventure Time delves into an aspect of the series that has long been a mystery. Set in the Prehistoric Era, Evergreen and his apprentice Gunter use the Ice King’s crown as a weapon to destroy a meteor heading towards Earth. Not only does this episode finally provide information on the nature and origin of the Ice Crown, but it adds a new twist to this season’s ongoing narrative as well. Adventure Time is not afraid to go to new dark places nor travel to the far away past, nor is it afraid to structure an entire episode as a flashback that doesn’t feature their two main characters (Finn or Jake) in any capacity. Instead viewers are dropped in the middle of a new setting and introduced to new characters. Seven seasons in, Adventure Time never ceases to reinvent itself. Featuring guest stars Alan Tudyk and Keith David, and storyboards by Steve Wolfhard, “Evergreen” is joy to behold. [Ricky D]

Parks and Recreation S07E04

Parks and Recreation, “Leslie & Ron”
Written by Michael Schur
Directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller
Aired January 20th, 2015 on NBC

Of the many relationships built across Parks and Recreation, the one between Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson is the most central to the series. So when an undefined riff between them plagues the tone of the final season’s first few episodes, “Leslie and Ron” becomes an important and historical event for the show. While locked up in their old stomping grounds at the Parks Department by their friends, Leslie and Ron eventually hash out their differences—through stubbornness and alcohol (which only Parks and Recreation knows how to utilize so well)—but they do so in ways that show how deeply personal their connection is. More than boss-employee or substitute father-daughter, Leslie and Ron’s relationship is identified by their capacity to be loving human beings, and each is responsible for the other’s development in that area. “Leslie & Ron” shows that nature at its most raw and profound, finally deciding that nothing can come between a friendship like this for very long. [Sean C]

Broad City S02E04

Broad City, “Knockoffs”
Written by Lucia Aniello & Paul W. Downs
Directed by Lucia Aniello
Aired February 4th, 2015 on Comedy Central

For Broad City‘s first 13 episodes, Jeremy was Abbi’s romantic Moby Dick, the character on all sitcoms that one main protagonist wants badly, but never gets a chance to date. Built up as the epitome of masculinity (he’s a carpenter with a lucious beard) and intentionally designed as faultless, “Knockoffs” brings Abbi’s hormone-fueled dreams back down to earth when he actually agrees to date her. Not only does this immediately skewer the traditional “hot guy next door” trope, but turns it inside out and lights it on fire; after a nice night out on the town, Jeremy asks Abbi to peg him, which leads to what is still the single funniest image of television in 2015: the camera fastened between Abbi’s feet, looking straight ahead through the plastic dildo to Jeremy’s inquisitive face. And I haven’t even mentioned how wonderful Susie Essman and Bob Balaban are in the episode as Ilana’s parents; simply put, “Knockoffs” is a comedic masterpiece, the definitive episode of Broad City‘s magnificent first two seasons. [Randy D]

Always Sunny Charlie Work S10E04

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Charlie Work”
Written by Charlie Day & Glenn Howerton & Rob McElhenney
Directed by Matt Shakman
Aired February 4th, 2015 on FXX

Very few series make it to a 10th season and those that do are, by this point, rarely operating at their peak. Not so for It’s Always Sunny…, which had a very strong 10th season earlier this year. The standout episode was without a doubt “Charlie Work”, which followed Charlie through a particularly stressful day at the bar, operating in real time and featuring a driving, percussive score and a fantastic performance from Charlie Day. Charlie manages one problem after another, salvaging the rest of the gang’s harebrained scheme to defraud a steak company while simultaneously ensuring the bar isn’t shut down by the tough new health inspector. The comedy comes in all forms, from sight gags to physical comedy to character-driven interactions, giving Day some much-deserved (and overdue) time in the spotlight. Tucked away on FXX, it’s easy to overlook It’s Always Sunny…, but as “Charlie Work” proves, the series is still going strong and producing some of the best comedy of the year.  [Kate K]

Banshee S03

Banshee, “Tribal”
Written by Adam Targum
Directed by OC Madsen
Aired February 6th, 2015 on Cinemax

Over the course of its three seasons, Banshee has been unafraid to wear its influences on its sleeve, interspersing visceral and inventive fight sequences with poignant character development and a strong focus on its locations. The combination of these factors, particularly the show’s emphasis on the Cadillac showroom turned police station, come together in a perfect storm in “Tribal”. While the idea behind “Tribal”, that of a police station under siege by a powerful gang, brings to mind Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Banshee adds its own factors into the mix. Not only does the audience go into the episode already aware of the station’s layout, nearly every single character involved comes fleshed out, from Hood and Kai Proctor to intriguing newcomer Kurt Bunker and lead antagonist Chayton, all of which adds shading to the episode’s shifting alliances and open hostility. But the positive attributes of “Tribal” don’t end there. Allowing every character to get their time in the spotlight, ensuring that people on both sides suffer injuries that drive home the stakes of the situation, and finishing with one of the more shocking moments of the entire series all work together to elevate the episode into one of the year’s best so far. [Deepayan S]

Last Man on Earth S01E01

The Last Man on Earth, “Alive in Tucson”
Written by Will Forte
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Aired March 1st, 2015 on FOX

“Alive in Tucson” deserves a place on any list of 2015’s most notable television for at least one reason: it masterfully establishes a tricky, compelling premise, while leaving the door open for the series that follows to be almost anything. The Last Man on Earth, as a series, wound up vexing many who were hooked by “Alive in Tucson” when it became clear that Phil Miller (Will Forte) was not only not the last man on earth, but also an insufferable jerk whose season arc amounted to his becoming maybe slightly less of an insufferable jerk. While some admired the series’ staunch refusal to make Phil a conventionally “likable” hero or even a satisfying antihero, the vision that showrunner Forte and his writing team had for the series didn’t really align with the expectations generated by the pilot. Taken on its own as a tragicomic short film, however, “Alive in Tucson” is very strong, distilling a lot of very funny and very sad ideas into a short timeframe, thanks to some inventive visual storytelling courtesy of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Clone High, The Lego Movie). Many viewers—yours truly included—couldn’t help but hope that the series might linger in this wonderfully outlandish, atmospheric space for perhaps even its entire run, or at least a chunk of its first season, in what would have been the most audacious season of a network sitcom in many moons. For us, at least, there will always be “Alive in Tucson.” [Simon H]

Looking S02

Looking, “Looking for a Plot”
Written by Jhoni Marchinko
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Aired March 1st, 2015 on HBO

Credit to writer Jhoni Marchinko and director Andrew Haigh for delivering the best episode of the now short-lived HBO LGBT series where coming out is beside the point. “Looking for a Plot” blends humour and heartache in perfect harmony whilst focusing upon one of its best characters. Across two seasons, Patrick has always been front and center above everyone else, to a fault. How refreshing a change, then, for the story to veer away and shine a spotlight on a much-loved supporting character instead. Doris finally gets her moment in the limelight as Patrick takes a back seat (literally), and unsurprisingly, the leading man becomes all the more likeable for it. “Looking for a Plot” is an episode devoted to memories of troubled childhoods and desperate attempts to break free from your past while making the leap into adulthood. And when the characters finally do accept their current place in life, their celebration is short lived as their car swerves off the road, sending the characters once again into a tailspin. [Ricky D]

Continue to Part 2 for more of the Best TV Episodes of 2015 (So Far)


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Man Seeking Woman S01E09 Teacup

Best TV Episodes of 2015 (So Far): Part Two