TVS October-in-Review: The month’s best episodes

Because I love lists and various compiled features, I figured one thing I could start doing here at TVS is looking back at the end of every month. This new feature will include the once-dead, now-alive-in-a-new-form broadcast network power rankings, series power rankings (I can’t not, I just want to do them so badly) and a discussion of some of the big stories from the month. And maybe some other stuff. I can neither confirm nor deny that I’m doing this because I’m super excited for the end of the year so I can do multiple features just like this one.

Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we?

Best episodes of October

This is where my love of lists really comes to light, as I tried to compile a list of what I think are the best episodes of television that aired during the month of October. I tried to keep it to one episode per series, but only if it was absolutely true (i.e. I didn’t put an episode of a series I like on here just to fill some faux quota). One important thing to note is that I unfortunately can’t watch everything on television, as much as I try, so if you’re ticked at the lack of The Good Wife, Bored to Death or even Parenthood it’s because I’m either not watching those series or too far behind this season already to discuss their best episodes. Sorry.

They’re ranked roughly in order, as much as I could decide at this moment.

18. Dexter, “Practically Perfect”: Unfortunately, the best episode of Dexter‘s fifth season aired in September and the rest of the episodes have been comparably good, but a notch or two below the premiere’s level of quality. However, “Practically Perfect” is the best of that second group because it focuses on some of the things the series does best, most notably play to an ending and have Dexter methodically track someone down and take them apart.

17. How I Met Your Mother, “Subway Wars”: After a shoddy fifth season, How I Met Your Mother has returned strong during season six and this episode mixes the humor with the heart in a way that’s not overly cheesy or manipulative like some of the season’s other efforts.

16. 30 Rock, “Live Show”: This NBC comedy didn’t take a whole lot risks with its live show, but found creative ways to move around its normal storytelling format and transitions. And unlike other live episodes, this one was still funny and felt natural enough that it fits within the 30 Rock structure. Alec Baldwin is born for the live format.

15. Terriers, “Aqua Caliente”: FX’s new series is the best on television and last week’s episode hammered that point home with an exciting, twisty-turny and emotional episode with great thematic concerns.

14. Boardwalk Empire, “Nights in the Ballygran”: I haven’t been as high on Boardwalk as I would like to be, but I can’t deny that it’s a really good series. It might not be one that I HAVE to watch each week, but episodes like this one continue to chip away at my weird skepticism with its sprawling storytelling and interesting characterization.

13. Friday Night Lights, “Expectations”: As I said in my review, the season premieres of FNL are often table-setters for the season of events to come. However, that doesn’t keep them from being great.

12. The Office, “The Sting”: Timothy Olyphant makes everything better. Fact.

11. Smallville, “Homecoming”: The 200th episode of one of television’s longest-running drama series is probably the best in five years and one that finally puts the series and Clark Kent on the road to Superman.

10. Mad Men, “Tomorrowland”: Mad Men‘s season four finale is overwhelmingly frustrating and difficult to watch in many respects, but it’s hard to leave television’s second-best drama off this list.

9. Cougar Town, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”: Cougar Town‘s been the most consistently funny comedy all season and this past week’s Halloween episode combines hilarious costume gags, running jokes and a whole lot of heart that would exist as the best half-hour of the month if weren’t for the episode in our number one slot.

8. Fringe, “The Plateau”: Fringe seems like it’s been gone forever thanks to baseball, but “The Plateau” is one of the series’ best episodes, even though it’s a fairly straight-forward procedural effort.

7. The Vampire Diaries, “Masquerade”: The Vampire Diaries is at its best when burning through plot like a junkie with a pocket full of cold cash and “Masquerade” is the best example of that in a slow-starting season two. The movement here is absolutely suffocating and glorious.

6. Rubicon, “Wayward Sons”: Though the finale was the biggest disappointment of 2010, Rubicon had one heck of a run up to it, especially with the penultimate episode that should have really just served as the finale anyway. The conspiracy arc unspooled in a creepy and intense way and suggested the AMC series knew how to give answers without seeming too strenuous. Turns out that was a lie.

5. Luther, “Episode One”: BBC’s gritty police drama debuted with little fanfare here on BBCA, but the first episode is fairly staggering. The interactions between Idris Elba’s John Luther and Ruth Wilson’s Alice Morgan are some of the most intriguing on television right now.

4. The Walking Dead, “Days Gone Bye”: The season’s most anticipated new series of the season lives up to almost all the hype.

3. Terriers, “Ring-A-Ding-Ding”: What makes Terriers so good is an episode like this one, where the case isn’t especially great, but the character moments completely overtake the plot in an emotionally effective and poignant way. This one is tear-inducing, for sure.

2. Glee, “Duets”: Oddly, Glee would probably have an episode on the “worst episodes” list too in that Rocky Horror nonsense, but that doesn’t really diminish the glory that is “Duets” thanks to the series’ almost anthology-like nature of storytelling. This episode pays more attention to character than any other episode in Glee‘s short time on the air and here’s to hoping that it reaches this level again.

1. Community, “Epidemiology”: Ohhh boy. I’m a complete and admitted mark for Community, but it’s hard to argue against the series’ ode to the zombie genre, which smartly balances the gimmick and references with some quality character moments. It avoids from straying into the problems that plagued “Basic Rocket Science” by making sure there is both believability (however slight) and personal story present.

That’s my take, what about yours?

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