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The Top 10 TV Episodes of 2013: The Best and the Rest

No one, even a critic, can watch every episode of TV. But these are the ten that stuck with me.

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My list of the top 10 TV episodes of 2013 is now up here at time.com. You can see my post about my 10 best series of 2013 list for an FAQ explaining my general principles of listmaking, but here are a few more specific to my episodes list.

How could you put ____ on your best series list and yet none of its episodes here? Good question, Hypothetical Interlocutor! This year, for instance, Enlightened is my top show of 2013. Being entirely honest, there are several episodes that could fittingly be on this list: “The Ghost Is Seen” and “Higher Power” to name two. But a Best Episodes list almost entirely of series on my Best Series list would be boring. Where possible, I try to use this list to recognize shows that nearly made that list but didn’t, or didn’t nearly make it but had fantastic individual episodes.

OK, yet you put Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias” at the top of this list. Um. I don’t claim to be consistent! I that case, I thought the episode was such a standout–both relative to the rest of TV and within Breaking Bad’s final season–that it deserved recognition. It’s cheating, I guess. But it’s my list.

But “To’hajilee” was great, too! It was! But I’ve only got 10 slots, so one show, one episode.

How can you say “_____” is better than “______”? Honestly, even more than with the Best Series list, this one is apples and oranges. I used a finely calibrated ranking system involving gut instinct, alcohol, and a 10-sided die.

“You forgot ______.” You know what? Probably I did! A TV critic can watch every major new series that comes out in a year, but it’s physically impossible to watch all of TV, so it entirely possible there was a kick-ass night of Grimm that I missed, and if so, I apologize.

Now, the short version of the list (see the full feature for my longer reviews of each episode):

1. Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias”
2. Girls, “One Man’s Trash”
3. Justified, “Decoy”
4. The Good Wife, “Hitting the Fan”
5. 30 Rock, “Hogcock / Last Lunch” (series finale)
6. Mad Men, “For Immediate Release”
7. Switched At Birth, “Uprising”
8. Game of Thrones, “The Rains of Castamere”
9. Scandal, “Nobody Likes Babies”
10. Parks and Recreation, “Two Parties”

And finally, a very–very–incomplete honorable-mention list, in no particular order except that in which I wrote them down:

The Returned, “Camille”
Kitchen Nightmares, “Amy’s Baking Company”
Bunheads, “Next!”
Bob’s Burgers, “Mother Daughter Laser Razor,” “O.T., the Outside Toilet,” “Topsy”
30 Rock, “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World”
The Office, “Finale”
Enlightened, “Higher Power,” “The Ghost Is Seen,” “All I Wanted”
The Good Wife, “Red Team / Blue Team”
Arrested Development, “The B. Team,” “Off the Hook”
Orange Is the New Black, “Tall Men With Feelings,” “The Chickening,” “Fucksgiving”
Breaking Bad, “To’hajilee,” “Granite State”
Game of Thrones, “And Now His Watch Is Ended”
Parks and Recreation, “Are You Better Off?”
Boardwalk Empire, “Erlkönig,” “Farewell Daddy Blues”

I’m sure you have dozens more. Let me know in the comments!