The 20 biggest TV fireworks of the year — so far

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Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Milo Ventimiglia as the doomed Jack Pearson in <em>This Is Us.</em> (Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
Milo Ventimiglia as the doomed Jack Pearson in This Is Us. (Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Independence Day is here and, with it, the sights and sounds of lavish fireworks shows. But television fans have already been treated to some major dramatic (and comic) fireworks over the past six months, courtesy of shows like This Is Us, Jessica Jones, and Saturday Night Live. Yahoo Entertainment has picked the 20 buzziest moments from the 2018 TV season so far, from heart-wrenching deaths to funny cat videos to high-profile firings. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Jack dies — for real this time (‘This Is Us’)

Speculation about how Pearson family patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) meets his untimely end has raged since the NBC tearjerker’s breakout first season. Would Jack perish in a hunting accident? A canoe trip gone awry? At the jaws of dozens of angry squirrels? The blockbuster Super Bowl Sunday episode of This Is Us gave us our answer at last: Jack is the victim of a house fire from which every Pearson escapes, except him. With that mystery solved, we can turn our attention to other pressing questions — like, will Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis make cameos alongside their Planet Hollywood cohort Sly Stallone in Season 3?

Paige gets off the train (‘The Americans’)

At one point or another, children have to leave their parents behind and chart their own future. Few departures are as dramatic as that of Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor), who begins the series finale of FX’s ’80s-era spy serial on the lam with her Soviet-born mom and dad (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) after their longtime undercover identities as ordinary American suburbanites have been blown. Mere moments from crossing the Canadian border, Paige decides that an uncertain future in her birth country is preferable to spending the rest of her years in a land she’s never known. Her choice strips away the final remnant of her parents’ American lives and sends The Americans out on a high note … one that’s appropriately scored to the classic U2 anthem “With or Without You.”

What is ‘Black Panther’? (‘Saturday Night Live’)

After Will Ferrell’s departure, SNL took a long hiatus from Jeopardy-themed sketches. But the show has recently revived the format via the Kenan Thompson-hosted Black Jeopardy, which arguably improves on the original. After memorable sketches built around the likes of Elizabeth Banks and Tom Hanks, Black Jeopardy delivered its best outing yet, courtesy of a guest appearance from none other than Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). We’ll take hearing King T’Challa try to get a handle on American attitudes toward grandmothers and potato salad — in that order — for $500 please, SNL writers.

Clayne Crawford hands in his badge (‘Lethal Weapon’)

In a dramatic turn of events, Clayne Crawford found himself ejected from the hit TV version of Lethal Weapon after several incidents of negative on-set behavior. Those behind-the-scenes stories quickly spilled into public view via co-star Damon Wayans’s Twitter feed as well as leaked video and audio of Wayans and Crawford going at it during production. Seann William Scott has since been recruited to serve as Murtaugh’s new partner in the show’s third season, which is a little like replacing Mel Gibson with Jim Carrey.

The Conners say goodbye to Roseanne (‘Roseanne’)

While the Clayne Crawford departure from Lethal Weapon was big news, 2018’s most high-profile breakup between a series and its star remains Roseanne Barr’s stunning exit from the show that bears her name. Mere months after the revived Roseanne debuted to monster ratings, Barr’s terrible Twitter habits led ABC to cancel an already-ordered second season. In recent weeks, the network has negotiated a deal for a Roseanne-less version of the series called The Connors, which will debut in the fall. Presumably the remaining cast will be, ahem, Barr-ed from Tweeting.

Trish commits mom-icide (‘Jessica Jones’)

For a woman who has spent much of her life wrestling with her own mommy issues, you might think that Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) would give her adoptive sister, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), a wide berth when her presumed-dead — and newly super-strong — mom (Janet McTeer) reenters the private eye’s life. But no, the child actress-turned-radio host can’t help butting in on an already tension-fraught mother and child reunion. Rather than let Mrs. Jones surrender to the police, Trish takes a cue from Of Mice and Men and shoots her in the back. In the process, she also loses a sister, since Jessica can’t stand to look at her afterward.

Welcome to Raj World (‘Westworld’)

Viewers are introduced to a British Raj park — and a new character, Grace (Katja Herbers) — in the third episode of <em>Westworld</em> Season 2. (Photo: HBO)
Viewers are introduced to a British Raj park — and a new character, Grace (Katja Herbers) — in the third episode of Westworld Season 2. (Photo: HBO)

Thanks to the Season 1 finale of Westworld, we already knew that there was a Shogun World in the vicinity of the titular Old West theme park. But few would have guessed that the Delos Corporation also manufactured a version of colonial India for Raj-worshipping tourists. That secret was revealed in a lengthy sequence that opened the show’s third episode and also introduced the doomed daughter of Ed Harris’s Man in Black. Since Raj World is designated as Park 6, that means there are still three lands that have yet to be unveiled. We’re hoping that one of them is “Canada World.”

Coco makes her choice (‘Dear White People’)

In its stellar sophomore year, Dear White People doubled down on tackling timely and topical issues confronting college students, ranging from alt-right internet trolls to student pregnancy. The latter issue becomes all too real for ambitious economics major Coco Conners (Antoinette Robertson), whose grand dreams for her future threaten to be put on hold when a pregnancy test comes back positive. While in the health clinic waiting room, she imagines the different roads her life might present — and makes her own choice for her own body accordingly.

Samantha Bee drops the C-word (‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’)

No one would ever accuse Samantha Bee of not choosing her words carefully. And TBS’s late-night star knew precisely what she was doing when she called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c***” for not trying to soften her POTUS father’s controversial immigration policy. What she couldn’t have anticipated was how those words would be weaponized against her by the Fox News echo chamber in the wake of Roseanne Barr’s high-profile fall from grace. Bee, at least, still has her show, not to mention her sense of humor.

Johnny calls Daniel out on his illegal kick (‘Cobra Kai’)

As performed by Ralph Macchio, Daniel-san’s perfectly timed crane kick at the conclusion of The Karate Kid may just be the greatest finishing move in sports movie history. But it’s also illegal, according to the rules of the All Valley Karate Championship. When the YouTube sequel series Cobra Kai begins, LaRusso’s vanquished foe, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), has had over 30 years to stew about his controversial loss, and he gives voice to an argument that’s been made on a dozen Reddit threads. It’s the first sign of the extent to which the Cobra Kai creative team understands the Karate Kid mythology … and how well they successfully subvert our expectations.

June and Hannah have a brief encounter (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’)

Ever since her capture while trying to flee across Gilead’s border into the “Little America” section of Canada, June (Elisabeth Moss) has had only memories of her daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake), to keep her company in her new life as a Handmaid. Toward the end of the Emmy-winning drama’s second season, she gets to see her child — now named Agnes — in the flesh once more, though for only the briefest (and most heart-rending) of reunions. It’s a short respite from the horrors that await our heroine, but she, and we, need that glimmer of hope to keep going.

Daughters of the Dragon unite! (‘Luke Cage’)

The Daughters of the Dragon (Jessica Henwick and Simone Missick) team up in <em>Luke Cage</em> Season 2. (Photo: Netflix)
The Daughters of the Dragon (Jessica Henwick and Simone Missick) team up in Luke Cage Season 2. (Photo: Netflix)

In Marvel’s comic book universe, New York cop Misty Knight and Japanese martial artist Colleen Wing have a partnership-in-butt-kicking that dates back to 1974. Their Netflix alter egos (played by Simone Missick and Jessica Henwick, respectively) landed their first team-up outing in 2018, and we can only hope that it’s the first of many more to come. The third episode of Luke Cage‘s second season plays like the backdoor pilot for the Daughters of the Dragon spinoff series that we’d much rather see than Iron Fist Season 2.

Paul McCartney and James Corden go for a ride (‘The Late Late Show With James Corden’)

Just when you think you’re sick to death of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment, he goes and books a guest like Paul McCartney. The former Beatle takes the late-night host on a tour of Liverpool, pointing out legendary spots in Fab Four history and bringing Corden to tears with his touching stories of yesterday. We’d happily spend more time with these two on a long and winding road trip.

Ma Anand Sheela goes on the run (‘Wild Wild Country’)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment in the course of Netflix’s expansive documentary series about the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram when the group’s grand experiment in the Oregon wilderness failed. That said, things clearly turned sour after Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s right-hand woman, Ma Anand Sheela, fled the commune she had helped create, giving the American authorities the opening they needed to hasten the community’s downfall. Her departure is a dramatic high point in Wild Wild Country‘s seven-hour-plus narrative and a harbinger of even crazier events to come.

Meet Teddy Perkins (‘Atlanta’)

Donald Glover as Teddy Perkins in <em>Atlanta.</em> (Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX)
Donald Glover as Teddy Perkins in Atlanta. (Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX)

The standout episode of Atlanta‘s second season took the already-acclaimed show to a whole other level. Series creator Donald Glover wrote the 41-minute installment and dons whiteface to play the title character, an eccentric homeowner and piano seller with murderous designs on series regular Darius (Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield). Even if you haven’t watched a single episode of Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins” is must-see TV and, along with the Childish Gambino music video “This Is America,” a clear sign that Glover is one of the most vital creative forces currently working in any medium.

GLOW invades ‘GLOW’ (‘GLOW’)

Speaking of standout standalone episodes, Episode 8 of GLOW Season 2 daringly breaks format and presents itself as an episode of the ’80s-ladies-wrestling-show-within-the-’80s-ladies-wrestling-show, complete with era-appropriate commercials and music videos. For 30 minutes, viewers are invited to indulge in GLOW’s glorious weirdness without any real-world filter. It is, in a word, glow-rious.

The ‘Discovery’ meets the ‘Enterprise’ (‘Star Trek: Discovery’)

Side-by-side glimpses of the <em>Discovery</em> and the original<em> Enterprise.</em>
Side-by-side glimpses of the Discovery and the original Enterprise.

That sound you heard the evening of Feb. 11, 2018, was the minds of millions of Star Trek fans collectively exploding. That’s when the good ship U.S.S. Discovery — star of the first Trek TV series in over 10 years — came nose-to-nose with the starship that launched the franchise, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, captained by one Christopher Pike. Sure, it’s a risky move to put that iconic vessel alongside the newest Starfleet spacecraft, particularly while Discovery is still so young. But man, you can bet we’re streaming the first episode of Season 2 the minute it drops on CBS All Access.

Tyler takes aim at his schoolmates (‘13 Reasons Why’)

In the final episode of its second season, 13 Reasons Why lays its teen suicide storyline to rest, but the drama is far from over. After being subjected to a vicious attack, Tyler (Devin Druid) shows up at the high school dance brandishing an assault rifle. Fortunately, Clay (Dylan Minnette) is able to talk him out of following through with his plan — a poignant resolution to a story that, in real life, too often ends in tragedy.

Rebecca’s crazy-cat-lady future (‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’)

From crazy ex-girlfriend to crazy cat lady? That’s the path Rebecca Bunch imagines for herself in one of the third season’s funniest (and catchiest) tunes, “Buttload of Cats.” Packed with Jim Henson-esque feline puppets and nimble lyrical wordplay like “When you’re a permanent bachelorette / It’s mandatory that you go out and get / A buttload of cats,” this song is the perfect accompaniment for your road trip to and from the vet.

Adrian Boseman gets plugged (‘The Good Fight’)

The “kill all lawyers” theme that runs through the thrilling sophomore year of the Good Wife spinoff reaches its high point with the shooting of Delroy Lindo’s Adrian Boseman. That bullet has major implications for the remainder of the season and confirms that The Good Fight is every bit as great as its predecessor. We’ll fight you if you say otherwise.

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