1. Boardwalk Empire — Boardwalk Empire is one of those well-crafted dramas that simmers for much of the season, but three or four times a year, storylines come to a head and provide for explosive episodes. This week’s was most certainly one of the explosive episodes, not only because Richard Harrow returned after a three-episode absence, but Michael Shannon is finally being well utilized. He crushed it this week, finally transforming into the character we’ve wanted to see all series’ long.
2. Masters of Sex — In its freshman season, Masters of Sex has been nothing short of phenomenal, turning out great episode after great episode with surprising consistency. This week, the Showtime series managed to wrap the episode’s theme around clitoral versus vaginal orgasms, and it worked splendidly.
3. The Good Wife — There was plenty to love about this week’s episode of The Good Wife, but the thing that I loved most was the fact that it’s not going to be a season where Alicia just comes in and wins. Florick/Agos may have gotten the better of Lockhart Gardner last week, but this week, Peter put the screws to Alicia. Better still, there are no pity parties. Diane gets her dream stripped away from her, she sheds a tear in the bathroom, and she comes out swinging. It’s so evenly matched in terms of character sympathies and flaws that it’s almost impossible to pick a side, but right now. #teamwill
4. Parenthood — Anyone that’s ever had to give up their beloved car for a minivan (i.e., “go shopping for a vagina”) will no doubt appreciate this week’s Parenthood, especially the way that Crosby gradually came to appreciate the utility of the vehicle. THEY ARE REALLY PRACTICAL. Kristina’s debate speech was also terrific, as was the reunion between Sarah and Amber, and that last second twist was a gut puncher.
5. Saturday Night Live — SNL makes an appearance here because Kerry Washington salvaged a few bad sketches, and transformed the good sketches into great sketches. No SNL is never perfect, but there was enough good in this week’s episode to outweigh the bad, and make Washington the most unexpectedly delightful host since Jon Hamm’s first outing.
Still, I’m a little annoyed with this line from Rolling Stone:
Kerry Washington managed to make a fierce argument for the inclusion of black women on SNL simply by being so damn good in every sketch. If her secret agenda was to show SNL viewers what they’re missing, well… Olivia Pope, you’ve done it once again.
The implication there is that Kerry Washington was good on SNL, and Kerry Washington is a black female, ergo all black females must be good on SNL, which is reductive and no better than saying that Justin Timberlake makes a strong case for more white males on SNL, which is a dumb argument. Should there be black female cast members on SNL? Absolutely! But not because Kerry Washington was great and therefore representative of the entire demographic, but because SNL should have more diversity, more voices, and more talented comedians.
If Washington were made a major fixture on the show, that’d be great, too.
6. The Blacklist — The Blacklist has gotten by on James Spader’s charm for most of the season, but there’s an Alias-like arc that has become unexpectedly compelling. The resolution to the mystery behind Attractive Generic Brunette’s Husband will almost certainly be disappointing, but for now, it’s wildly intriguing. Another episode like this week’s, and I might actually look up Attractive Generic Brunette’s name.
7. Scandal — As if this show couldn’t get anymore absurd, we found out that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for President had a secret love child, who her mother raised as her sister, and that Olivia Pope’s lover, the President of the United States, killed Olivia Pope’s mother under orders from Olivia Pope’s father. I have no idea how this show continues to work, but it does. No show has a bigger ball sack, and no show tries to cram as much into it.
8. Trophy Wife — This week’s Halloween episode wasn’t any better or worse than previous episodes of the series, but in a bye week for most sitcoms, here’s a shout-out to the consistent, delightful best new family sitcom of the season, which received a full-season order on Friday (along with The Goldbergs).
9. The Walking Dead — Another slower-paced episode that alternated between two supply runs — one for food, and another for medicine — helped to develop the characters, but besides the small bomb dropped at the end of the episode concerning Carol, the plot didn’t do a lot of advancing. If Michonne flashed that smile more often, the zombie hordes would die of joy.
10. The League — The League edges out American Horror Story this week because it was a Rafi episode, and Rafi episodes are like 22-minutes of one-liner heaven.