A TV “moment” could be a scene, an arc, or an entire episode. Ultimately, these are just TV sequences that stuck out in my mind this year.
Best Action Sequences on “ZeroZeroZero”…Some of the best action sequences of the year took place on this frustrating Amazon Prime series involving the complications of an international cocaine shipment. The series utilizes long tracking shots and matter-of-fact violence to make trancelike action set pieces, especially in the Mexico sections (like an apocalyptic coup at a birthday party).
Best Debunk of a Conspiracy: “Avenue 5” episode “This is Physically Hurting Me”…Conspiracy theories were everywhere in 2020, but “5” hilariously satirized the dangers of mindless belief by (literally) exploding the ignorant theory that they aren’t really trapped on a spaceship by several of the dumbest passengers.
Best Personal Revelation: “Houston” episode of “Mrs. America”…Sarah Paulson’s housewife-turned-activist (against the Equal Rights Amendment) starts this episode as a hardcore believer in something that it makes no real sense for her to be fighting (at her own expense), and then goes on a drug-fueled “Alice in activist land” adventure. It’s one of the best allegories I’ve ever seen on how the 1960’s housewife morphed (seemingly overnight) into the 70’s feminist. By the end, Alice sees that her side seems to have an awful lot of KKK and confederate support, and the look on her face as she realizes what side she’s truly on is gut wrenching.
Worst Personal Revelation: Wendy’s Brother Ben on “Ozark”…In the second-to-last episode of “Ozark”‘s third season (the excellent “Fire Pink”), Wendy’s bipolar (but conscientious) brother is being chased out of town by cartel thugs and Wendy asks him where he wants to go. He can’t think of a place where he hasn’t burned bridges and/or wouldn’t burn them if he got there. “Wherever I go, there I am” before breaking down in shattering tears. Whether she knows it then or not, I truly believe it’s in that moment Wendy decides Ben’s ultimate fate, realizing that nothing she does will make much difference; an absolutely devastating scene.
Best Plot Kickstarter: President Warner dies on “Homeland”…The second Beau Bridges’s helicopter goes down (in the early middle of “Homeland”‘s final season), the pace becomes breathless. Was it the Taliban? A rogue Afghani Vice President? Pakistan? Or just flat-out mechanical failure? Regardless of the answer, it propelled “Homeland”‘s swan song into the most compulsively watchable show of the year as things just keep getting worse…and worse…and worse with an international incident that wouldn’t quit at the exact moment CoVid-19 was ravaging the planet.
Best “What the Fuck?” Moment: Mother gives birth on “Raised by Wolves”…Admit it, you did not see that birth scene coming.
Runner-Up “What the Fuck?” Moment: Federal Judge Julius gets told off in court on “The Good Fight”…In the opening scene of the second episode “The Gang Tries to Serve a Subpoena,” Julius demands that a subpoenaed defendant appear in court, and the wealthy developer’s lawyer (there in his client’s absence) says “respectfully judge, my client says ‘go fuck yourself.’ Judge Julius looks as shocked as we do, and it’s only the beginning of the “Memo 618” plot line where wealthy people bully judges into not enforcing court orders. [Not like that would happen in real life or anything.]
Wildest Plot Twist: The Ocasio-Cortez doppelgänger is the one making the heads explode on “The Boys”…Congresswoman Victoria Nueman (an enigmatic Claudia Doumit) is very clearly based off a certain Bronx representative, with her fiery passion speaking out against Vought and the 1% superheroes. Of course, that only makes it more shocking when she’s actually the one who’s been making Vought-antagonist’s heads explode every time they threaten the corporation. A reminder that not every progressive is actually helping very much (cough, Jill Stein, Andrew Yang, and Tulsi Gabbard, cough).
Most Unforgettable Illustration of the Multiverse: Nick Offerman’s Forest losing his family (and sometimes not) on “Devs”…In episode 5, we see Offerman’s character living out the flashback where he lost his wife and daughter in a horrific car accident at a stop sign only a few yards from their house. It plays out in various timelines where they die at different points in the road or the car gets clipped at a different angle that’s non-fatal or they miss the car completely or a dozen other things happen. Offerman’s agonized acting being immersed in countless variations of what could’ve been is the most unforgettable TV scene of the year.
Best CoVid Entertainment: “South Park” tackles Coronavirus…This series has been so relevant for so long (the episodes are cut together only a few days before they air) that I’m not surprised at all they were the fastest and best way to tackle the absurdity of CoVid and the bonkers response to it. This episode made me laugh (or shake my head) from start to finish, from Cartman’s delight at “social distancing” to Butters’s “we’re not going to take it anymore!” Build-a-Bear rant to the disgusting origins of the virus and Presidential response to it.
Best Cliffhanger Ending: “Yellowstone”…The slow-building third season finale of “Yellowstone” ends on a cliffhanger so seemingly out-of-nowhere (it’s “who shot J.R.?” family version) that there’s at least a half-dozen suspects for who did it. One of the most genuinely surprising (in a good way) TV sequences of the year, and that’s saying something.
Best Overall Ending: “The Good Place”…The series finale is called “Whenever You’re Ready.” It is the single best series finale of the year, and best TV episode of the year. Although the main action of the series is over (they saved heaven in a the previous episode), this is mostly about the bittersweetness of ending things which is just about perfect for a series that’s about the ultimate “end.” I could not have asked for a better ending.