18 Episodes Of TV That Were Mind-Blowingly Good

·9 min read

1."The Winds of Winter" — Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 10

Cersei Lannister stands with her back to the camera in front of two arched windows

Written by: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

No matter how you feel about the last season, there's no denying Game of Thrones featured some of the best episodes in television history over the course of its run. None were better than "The Winds of Winter" (although preceding episode "Battle of the Bastards" comes close).

This Season 6 finale is full of huge plot moments — from Cersei blowing up the Great Sept and all the subsequent deaths, to Arya's revenge on the Freys, to Daenerys finally setting sail for Westeros, to the flashback of Jon Snow's birth to Lyanna Stark juxtaposed with the adult Jon being crowned King in the North. It's a lot of story to pack in, but it's balanced well and exquisitely directed by Miguel Sapochnik. The opening sequence, featuring the preparations for Cersei's trial set to Ramin Djawadi's "Light of the Seven," is enough to place it on this list alone.

HBO

2."Ozymandias" — Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14

Walter White has teary eyes and a mouth open in shock; he is at an outdoor location with rocks and desert

Written by: Moira Walley-Beckett

Directed by: Rian Johnson

This episode is the culmination of five seasons worth of character and plot development, and the cast and crew nail the landing beautifully. There's a lot happening, story-wise — including Hank's death, Jesse finding out about Walt's role in Jane's death, and Walt and Skyler's confrontation — but the pace is tight and compelling. The most masterful aspect of the episode is not just the way it weaves in callbacks to Breaking Bad's past, but also in the way it pays homage to the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem from which the episode gets its title.

AMC

3.Derry Girls Season 1, Episode 1

The detention scene from Derry Girls

Written by: Lisa McGee

Directed by: Michael Lennox

Derry Girls is one of the funniest shows in recent years, and the very first episode is testament to that. It sets up the characters wonderfully, and it's full of so many funny moments that encapsulate the highs and lows of being a teen girl. The highlight of the episode, though, is the detention sequence, which is a masterclass in perfect comedy.

Netflix

4."Ego Death" — I May Destroy You Season 1, Episode 12

Theodora, Arabella and Terry wear black and walk down the street at night

Written by: Michaela Coel

Directed by: Michaela Coel and Sam Miller

Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You is a breathtaking, brutal watch from start to finish, and the series finale will have you on the edge of your seat. It veers away from the straightforward (though never simple) storytelling of the earlier episodes to explore different possibilities and endings for Michaela's character Arabella as she once again encounters the man who sexually assaulted her. It's cathartic and unforgettable.

HBO

5."Gay" — Kath and Kim Season 1, Episode 2

Kath touches her hand to her face in concern

Written by: Jane Turner, Gina Riley, and Magda Szubanski

Directed by: Ted Emery

Australian comedy Kath and Kim is packed with incredible, quotable episodes, but the very second one is perhaps the greatest. Featuring a storyline in which Kath suspects her daughter Kim is gay, the highlight of the episode is a sequence in which Kath walks down a Melbourne street and is overwhelmed by punny, innuendo-filled signs. The editing and performance are perfect.

ABC

6."Marooned" — Red Dwarf Season 3, Episode 2

Rimmer and Lister sit in front of a fire in a barrel in a spaceship

Written by: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Directed by: Ed Bye

British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf is at its best when focused on Lister and Rimmer and the odd couple tension between them. "Marooned," then, is the best of the best: focused almost entirely on these two characters as they're stranded together trying to survive. It's both hilarious and undercut with an emotional depth, allowing for quieter moments that add layers to each character and their relationship.

BBC

7.“Who Goes There” — True Detective Season 1, Episode 4

Rust stands against the wall with his gun pointed to a man's head as two men run from the building behind him

Written by: Nic Pizzolatto

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga

This episode lands on the list for the iconic tracking sequence alone. Up until this point, the show had been a lot of men sitting and talking, but this raid scene and the unbroken six-minute tracking shot that focuses tightly on Rust amidst absolute chaos signified a huge turning point. It's the kind of TV that actually takes your breath away and makes you sit up and pay attention.

HBO

8."Two Cathedrals" — The West Wing Season 2, Episode 22

Bartlet smokes a cigarette in a cathedral

Written by: Aaron Sorkin

Directed by: Thomas Schlamme

This episode beautifully deals with President Bartlet's grief over the death of his longtime aide Mrs. Landingham, as well as his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and the question of whether he'll run for re-election. There are so many emotions mixed up in these threads, and they come to a head in Bartlet's iconic monologue in the cathedral.

NBC

9."Remedial Chaos Theory" — Community Season 3, Episode 4

Troy walks into his apartment with pizza to find fire and chaos

Written by: Chris McKenna

Directed by: Jeff Melman

Community never shied away from pushing the boundaries of what a sitcom could be, and getting creative with the storytelling. This episode is perhaps the best example of that — the gang gather at Troy and Abed's place for a housewarming, and when Jeff throws dice to decide who will collect their pizza delivery, we see seven different timelines unfold. It's chaotic (of course), hilarious, and full of memorable (and meme-able) moments.

NBC

10.Fleabag Season 2, Episode 1

The characters of Fleabag sit around a table in a restaurant

Written by: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Directed by: Harry Bradbeer

The first season of Fleabag is brilliant, but Season 2 takes it to a whole new level — which is demonstrated immediately in this opening episode. From the first moments, in which we see Fleabag cleaning blood from her nose and turning to the camera to announce, "this is a love story," you just know it's going to be special.

Taking place almost entirely over the course of one family dinner at a restaurant, the tension between the characters is exquisitely dealt with, undercut with many moments of humor — not to mention the perfect introduction to the Hot Priest himself.

BBC

11."San Junipero" — Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 4

Yorkie and Kelly talk in front of a public bathroom mirror

Written by: Charlie Brooker

Directed by: Owen Harris

One of the most optimistic Black Mirror episodes in existence — certainly the one with the happiest ending — "San Junipero" is actually a sweet and emotional love story wrapped up in a sci-fi tale. Two very different women find love inside a simulation, and the twists in the plot are by turns heartbreaking and heartwarming. The vibrant performances of leads Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis are what really make the episode.

Netflix

12."Hush" — Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4, Episode 10

The Gentleman stand together

Written by: Joss Whedon

Directed by: Joss Whedon

The dialogue was always one of the strongest aspects of Buffy, so it's ironic that its greatest episode actually had the least amount of dialogue — it's absent from more than half the episode, as a creepy group called The Gentlemen steal people's voices. But that is what makes "Hush" so powerful — the performances shining as the characters have to find new ways to communicate, and emphasis placed on the score and visuals in a way it isn't elsewhere.

Warner Bros

13."The Constant" — Lost Season 4, Episode 5

Desmond cries while on the phone

Written by: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof

Directed by: Jack Bender

Who can resist a time-travelling tragic love story? Frequently hailed as THE best episode in a show full of best episodes, "The Constant" sees Desmond trapped in a time-slip, his consciousness switching between 1996 and 2004. The most significant moment in the episode is the phone call, when Desmond finally talks to his long-lost love, Penny, who is his "constant," giving the episode its title.

ABC

14."Pilot" — The O.C. Season 1, Episode 1

Ryan stands in a driveway with a cigarette in his mouth

Written by: Josh Schwartz

Directed by: Doug Liman

Although The O.C. turned into more of a tight ensemble, the first episode is very much Ryan's story, focusing on his perspective, and it's all the more powerful for it. He's the outsider in this new world, and a fascinating character, with intelligence and yearning bursting out from under his tough exterior.

There are so many iconic moments in this episode, but particular highlights include when Ryan and Marissa meet — and Ryan perfectly delivers the "whoever you want me to be" line — as well as when Ryan is being driven away from the Cohens' and Marissa watches from the bottom of her driveway, framed by the setting sun. The soundtrack is also on point.

Fox

15."International Assassin" — The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 8

Kevin wears a suit and walks through a hotel lobby holding hands with a little girl

Written by: Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse

Directed by: Craig Zobel

The Leftovers is full of spectacular episodes of television, but this one is a standout — partly owing to the fact that it removes main character Kevin from the standard storyline, as he finds himself in an underworld-like realm (that looks like a hotel). The performances are brilliant, and the surreal nature of the episode is a bit of a mindfuck in the best possible way.

HBO

16."Blink" — Doctor Who Season 3, Episode 10

Sally stands in front of two Weeping Angels

Written by: Steven Moffat

Directed by: Hettie MacDonald

The Doctor himself isn't actually seen much in this episode, and the plot hinges on the very 2007 concept of DVD Easter eggs, but it's still a remarkable piece of TV. There's a lot happening in the episode, but it's executed to perfection, with just the right amount of creepy. The Weeping Angels are genuinely some of the scariest Doctor Who monsters ever invented. And while all the performances are solid, guest star Carey Mulligan particularly shines.

BBC

17."True Love" — Dawson's Creek Season 3, Episode 23

Dawson cries

Written by: Greg Berlanti & Jeffrey Stepakoff (story); Tom Kapinos & Gina Fattore (teleplay)

Directed by: James Whitmore Jr.

The simmering enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story of Pacey and Joey, and the way it complicated both of their relationships with Dawson, was the best part of Dawson's Creek, and the focus on it in Season 3 is a big reason why it's the strongest season. In this finale, Joey finally chooses Pacey and literally sails off into the sunset with him, inadvertently creating the Dawson crying meme. It's all very dramatic and so damn compelling.

But it wasn't all about Pacey and Joey — this episode was also responsible for the first passionate gay kiss on network TV, as Jack makes a grand gesture with Ethan.

Warner Bros

18."Everyone's Waiting" — Six Feet Under Season 5, Episode 12

Nate standing behind Claire, who is crying

Written by: Alan Ball

Directed by: Alan Ball

The series finale of Six Feet Under wraps up the story of the Fisher family in a devastating and memorable way. It begins by subverting the usual show opening of a death by focusing on Willa's birth, marking a new beginning as much as the episode is an ending. But the most powerful sequence of the episode — of the whole series — comes right at the end, as we get flash-forwards of each character's life and death, set to Sia's "Breath Me." Impactful and beautiful.

HBO

What's your favorite episode of television? Tell us in the comments.