The regular television season, at least on the networks, is all but over, save for next week’s episode of “Glee,” so I figured now is as good a time as any to look back on what I thought were the 2009/2010 television season’s best single episodes. Not making that list is the “Lost” finale, though for its ability to generate discussion, it definitely draws an honorable mention. The “Glee” pilot also gets an honorable mention, though technically it first aired in the 2008/2009 season, and two more honorable mentions to the “Modern Family” pilot and the season finale of “Sons of Anarchy.”
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Spoilers ahead.
5. “The Getaway,” Dexter: This was the devastating season finale to this season’s “Dexter,” which threw us all for a loop, I think. I expected someone to die. I expected it to be Maria or Angel. I never expected it to be Rita, and to add salt to that wound, the series’ most obnoxious character had begun to redeem herself a little. As J.K. Barlow wrote in her recap, past season finales of “Dexter” always ended in such a way as to provide both some closure and give a satisfying send off for Dexter. Not so much this season, as he finally will have to pay for his sins, contend with the guilt, and by selfishly murdering Arthur himself, he took away closure from a lot of people.
4.“Niagara,” The Office: “The Office” peaked a couple of seasons ago, and for the most part, it’s been in a steady decline. However, Jim and Pam’s incredibly sweet marriage was a welcome reminder of how good “The Office” can be. It’s just a shame that the series didn’t end there. And I don’t care how cheesy you might think it was, that final scene was sitcom perfect. Anyone that ever decides to pick up “The Office” on DVD, after you see this, just stop there and remember the “The Office” for the great show it once was.
3. “The Son,” Friday Night Lights: Those of you who don’t watch “Friday Night Lights” are are likely rolling your eyes at this episode’s inclusion. Those of you who have seen it won’t disagree. This actually aired earlier this year on DirectTV, but for those currently watching “FNL’s” run on NBC, I believe this episode airs on Friday. Bring a box of Kleenex. Nothing has tapped me out like this episode since the finale of “Six Feet Under.” It’s unexpected. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s devastating. I won’t say any more just in case those of you who do watch on NBC are reading this. I’ll just say this: It captures the way in which we deal with loss as good or better than any episode of television I’ve ever seen. For those of you who want to relive that climactic scene, have at it:
2. “One Minute,” Breaking Bad: There have been a lot of really solid episodes of “Breaking Bad” this season, and I have no doubt that the finale may eventually top even this one, but “One Minute” was one of the show’s best payoff episodes, a mini-culmination of several plot threads that allowed Vince Gilligan to reboot for the final run to the end of the season. It was an intense, dramatic, and powerful episode in its own right — beginning with Hank pummeling Jesse and ending with Hank in a gun fight — but it also remarkably set up the reason of the season, shifting the character relationships, bringing Walt and Jesse and Walt and Skylar back together and isolating this season’s true villian in Gus. “Breaking Bad” demonstrates how a series story should be told as well as anything since “The Wire,” and this episode was the perfect example of how.
1. “Modern Warfare,” Community: I never watch an episode more than once, but this episode of “Community” I watched three times in under 24 hours, just so I could catch all the allusions. It brought in every cliche and trope imaginable, referencing — among others — The Book of Eli, Scarface, Boondock Saints, Rambo, The Matrix, “Friends,” “Cheers,” “Lost,” and even “Glee”, ending in a beautiful paint-ball Mexican stand-off and monster green-paint explosion. There were more movies and television shows referenced in 22 minutes than all of the Movie Movies. It was brilliantly inspired. Comedy-boner inducing. Nothing on any sitcom in 2010, 2011, or 2012 will top that episode of “Community.” It killed. Not even to mention the fact that Jeff and Britta had carnal relations. Funny, unexpected, and smart. And the most entertaining half hour of television all season long.