“The Affair” – Thanksgiving at the Lockharts (Episode 7)
“Aquarius” – David Duchovny Beats Up Hippies (Multiple Episodes)
For all intents and purposes, “Aquarius” Season 1 was a pretty good but largely forgettable period cop drama — save one element: David Duchovny — The King of Snark, Crown Prince of Cops, and Savior with a Six-Pack — beat the hell out of quite a few hippies. Whether they were threatening one of his damsels in distress, breaking the law or simply at the wrong end of one of his many witty retorts, Duchovny’s Detective Hodiak knew just what to do with his hands when it came to any long-haired, peace-loving, drug-doin’ hippies. He beat ’em up. And he looked good doing it.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” – Trailer Home Throwdown (Episode 1)
Even if Starz’s new half-hour horror show never came close to what it accomplished in its first half-hour, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell would have still created a worthy new chapter to the “Evil Dead” franchise. Luckily, the show’s kept up with the high bar set by the pilot, but besting the trailer home showdown between Ash and a slew of his neighbors-turned-Deadites is simply an impossible feat. Combining the nostalgia-fueled giddiness of seeing Ash once again kicking ass with Raimi’s inventive, exuberant direction, the scene is as hilarious, thrilling and disgusting as the best moments from the films. It served as a brilliant reintroduction to the character, but even more so, it’s just a damn fine piece of filmmaking — shown right there on your TV.
“BoJack Horseman” – Mr. Peanutbutter Gets Real with BoJack (Episode 8)
“Difficult People” – The PBS Roast (Episode 3)
“Fargo” – Nick Offerman Ends a “Crisis at the Highest Level” (Episode 6)
“Inside Amy Schumer” – Football Town Nights (Episode
In The Year of Amy Schumer, the “Trainwreck” star and scribe broke through on the big screen while putting out some of her best work yet on its smaller sister. We’ve heaped praise on her “12 Angry Men” homage already — and the Golden Globes are taking care of “Trainwreck” — but we must pay tribute to her “Football Town Nights” sketch from “Inside Amy Schumer” as well. Schumer won us over immediately with her hand-swinging, wine-spilling take on Tami Taylor, but the sketch quickly went to a far more topical — and timely — place. The new Coach Taylor didn’t just prioritize football, but aimed at changing the culture of Texas high school football by banning… rape. The focused attack on two issues that shouldn’t be connected, let alone excused because of said connection, spoke truth to power in the best way possible: by reappropriating a beloved series and making it very, very funny. If you don’t like it, well, “don’t let the door rape you on the way out.”
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” – The “True Detective” One-Shot (Episode 4)
Despite what many believe to be an homage to “Birdman” (Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu’s film made of only a few choice tracking shots put together to look like one long one), the fourth episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” tenth season was actually inspired by the one shot from “True Detective” Season 1. That much can be gleaned from Dennis’ charming-turned-terrifying repetition of Matthew McConaughey’s catchphrase, but many pointed to the jazzy score accompanying the episode as being an obvious nod to “Birdman.” Not true: Cormac Bluestone wrote the score before “Birdman” debuted, making for quite the favorable coincidence when both tracking shots were unveiled together — “Charlie Work” aired in early February, just as “Birdman” was in the middle of its Oscar campaign. No matter where they drew inspiration, though, the important thing to note is how well this tracking shot works for “Sunny,” accentuating the characters’ manic qualities and building comedic tension throughout. “All right, all right” is far too light praise for this inspired scene.
“The Leftovers” – Nora and Erika’s Staredown (Episode 6)
One of the truly admirable elements of “The Leftovers” Season 2 was how subtly Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta introduced foils for the Garvey clan. Ex-cop Kevin (Justin Theroux) had to face off against ex-con John (Kevin Carroll). The hate-filled Jill (Margaret Qualley) was paired with the love-filled Michael (Jovan Adepo). But the most powerful showdown of the season was between was the driving force that is Nora (Carrie Coon) and the surprisingly stalwart Erika (Regina King). The two mothers went to war over a test meant to determine whether or not a person had actually departed, but more broadly, the two did battle over the concept of belief. Nora had spent the entire episode trying to convince herself she wasn’t to blame for her entire family’s departure, while Erika was in the middle of accepting her own responsibility in her daughter’s disappearance. Each had deep conviction backing up their arguments, making for what might be the tensest conversation to ever take place in a living room. The victor may have surprised fans, as well, but the performances were what floored us all.
“Mad Men” – Peggy and Roger Bid Adieu to the Office (Episode 12)
“Mr. Robot” – Elliot’s Bad Trip (Episode 4)
“Sense8” – The Orgy Scene (Episode
“Togetherness” – Brett & Michelle’s Hotel Room Confessional (Episode 4)
“Togetherness” found deep truths in marriage, friendship and general co-habitation. While some were light and fun — like coming together for family beach day, no matter what — others were of the darker, more hidden variety. Never was the latter more pointed than when Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) snuck away for a romantic night out. Brett surprised his wife with a hotel room, but the real shockers came out when the isolation forced the couple to deal with feelings many spouses might keep buried for years, decades or even a lifetime. Prior to this scene, Mark and Jay Duplass’ HBO comedy was largely that — funny. It was based in reality and shared a few telling insights, but that was when viewers got to see just how honest this comedy would become. And it’s only got more to say in Season 2.
“Veep” – Amy Drops the Mic (Episode 5
Hot damn, Amy, and hot damn, Anna Chlumsky! A perfect pairing of character and performer coming together as one, Amy unleashing a tirade against her boss was made all too entertaining by Chlumsky’s spot-on raging. Anyone can quit a job, but everyone dreams of doing it in as grand a fashion as this. Amy left her mark on the administration, and she still has us laughing with lines like, “You are the worst thing to happen to this country since food in buckets — and maybe slavery!” “Maybe slavery,” you guys. President Meyer is probably worse than slavery. What a cherry on top of this verbal sundae.
“You’re the Worst” – Gretchen Tells It Like It Is (Episode 7)
We knew things weren’t great for Gretchen (Aya Cash) by this point in “You’re The Worst’s” stellar second season, but it wasn’t until her breakdown in “There Is Not Currently a Problem” that it became clear how deep her pain went. It’s tempting to call this scene “ugly,” but the truth is that she’s so heartbroken that there’s a beauty in what happens — even when she lashes out at the people closest to her with some of the cruelest jabs imaginable. It’s an iconic scene for the show and a powerhouse moment for Cash. If there’s any justice in this world, we’ll see it featured at the Emmys right before she wins a trophy.
Indiewire’s Year-End TV Coverage:
The Top 10 TV Shows of 2015
The 10 Best New TV Shows of 2015
The 25 Best TV Episodes of 2015
The 15 Biggest Dick Moves of the Year, or What Enraged TV Fans in 2015
The Most Shocking TV Moments of 2015, Ranked