With the worst dispensed of, it’s time to begin celebrating the best that TV had to offer in 2016. First on the docket: the best scenes or sequences.
Let’s bitch it out…
Sometimes even a less than memorable episode will contain an absolutely gang buster scene or sequence that stays with you long after the rest has melted away. The following alphabetical list (by show name) is a selection of some of my favourite from this year. Some of these will reappear in the Best TV episode post going up later this week, but for now, consider the exceptional standalones. Spoilers to follow!
Ash vs Evil Dead – Ash wears a rectum (2×02 – ‘The Morgue’)
Ash vs Evil Dead has no qualms about using its over the top violence for comedic effect, but the practical effects team truly outdid themselves when they literally stuck their star, Bruce Campbell’s Ash, up the rectum of a headless corpse in the second episode of the new season. It’s so hilariously wrong that you just can’t help but laugh your ass off. Oops…too soon?
Broad City – Bathroom Space montage (3×01 – ‘Two Chainz’)
Broad City didn’t fully work for me in S3, but the opening side-by-side montage of our girls on the toilet helped not only to denote the passing of time, it reminded the audience of Abbie (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer)’s unique habits and reiterated everything that the show does well. A perfect opening for the season.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “You Stupid Bitch” (1×11 – That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend somehow – regularly – pulls off the most insane plot arcs on TV (though CW companion series Jane the Virgin gives CEG a run for their money). Most of the show’s musical numbers are fun and witty with a generous wink to those who know and appreciate its musical cues. That’s what makes “You Stupid Bitch”so memorable: it is funny, and it is smart as hell and it plays on our knowledge of the power ballads we’ve seen a million times before. By entering the psyche of damaged protagonist Rebecca Bloom when she is at her lowest, “‘You Stupid Bitch” is also one of the most truthful TV experiences of the year – a shout out to everyone who has ever shamed or beat themselves up. It rings a bit too close for comfort and that’s why it works.
Fleabag – Claire chooses Martin (1×06)
If you’re paying close attention to Fleabag’s (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) memories of her deceased friend Boo, the reveal of her role in Boo’s untimely demise is hardly surprising. For me, the biggest shock is actually the emotional wound she suffers when her sister Claire (Sian Clifford) chooses her dirtbag husband Martin (Brett Gelman)’s word over Fleabag’s. It’s the deepest betrayal of the series and it reinforces (surprisingly) that Fleabag is actually as much about the frail relationship between the sisters as it is about the messed up, damaged protagonist who confides in us. Twist the knife a little more Claire!
Looking movie – Ritchie is endgame
I need a bit of leeway here since this is a technically a made-for-TV movie, but as the pay off for two years of “will they/won’t they,” I’m pulling rank. Following an epic confrontation between Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and his ex’s boyfriend Brady (Chris Perfetti), Ritchie (Frankie J. Alvarez) leaves the bar only to return for a reunion slow dance. The scene is set with a beautifully simple melancholy slow pan: a view of all the couples from Patrick’s point of view while he stands alone…until we see Ritchie appear behind him. The truth that Ritchie is actually a reflection in the mirror and he and Patrick are standing face to face is a playful tip of the hat to rom-com conventions and beautiful final vindication for #TeamRitchie.
Orange is the New Black – Poussey’s final smile (4×13 – ‘Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again’)
Season four of Orange is the New Black was a return to greatness, though it came at the cost of fan favourite Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) who was killed in a prison protest in the penultimate episode. The finale proved that we had not seen the last of Poussey, however; we spend the episode with her in flashback having a sublime New York adventure. As an audience, we’re primed not to enjoy these scenes because we keep waiting for the moment when something bad will happen, so it’s with no small measure of joy and hope that the otherwise emotionally draining episode/season ends with Wiley’s brilliant smile as Poussey stares directly into the camera. As far as send offs go, it’s a delight, even if it tragically means we won’t see the character again.
Preacher – Tulip in the cornfield (1×01 – Pilot)
Preacher won’t end up on the best shows of the year because it’s too muddled and inconsistent, but the show is built for a list like this. The sum of the series’ parts are much stronger than its whole and this first fight scene with Tulip (Ruth Negga) is a great introduction to a badass character, as well as a preview of the fight sequences to come. Close-runner up: Cassidy’s airplane fight scene.
Preacher – Angel fight (1×06 – Sundowner)
If we’re going to talk about fights, however, Preacher‘s stand-out season 1 moment is this fight scene between three angels and Jesse Cutler in a rundown motel room. Since the angels reappear each time they are murdered, the fight becomes increasingly ridiculous as the unkillable bodies begin to stack up. The creative use of editing and camera movement as we pull out through the eye hole leaves us wanting more, and ultimately delivers a rich comedic payload when we see the bloody aftermath. A classic violent scene.
Rectify – A request for divorce (4×05 – “Pineapples in Paris”)
Long suffering couple Teddy (Clayne Crawford) and Tawney (Adelaide Clemens) were doomed from the start, and Rectify has been as much about the slow dissolution of their marriage as it has been about Daniel Holden’s (Aden Young) return to society after 19 years in prison. Still, there are few words to describe the emotional toll this scene takes; something as simple as a husband offering his wife an “out” from their marriage that he knows she can never ask for, despite the deep pain it causes him, is simply overwhelming. It’s hard to fully comprehend what this scene means without context, but it is a prime example of the kind of understated moments that Rectify executed with ease and grace. No histrionics or razzle dazzle required.
The Americans – A sudden execution (4×04 – ‘Chloramphenicol’)
Fans of The Americans have fretted that Russian agent Nina (Annet Mahendru) was not long for this world since the show’s first season, but she has always hung on with the tenacity of someone who refused to accept the inevitable. S4 found Nina in a Russian prison, isolated from every other character. For the first four episodes it seemed as though we would split our time between the US and the prison. Then without any notice, at the end of ‘Chloramphenicol’ Nina is suddenly marched to a non-descript hallway, unceremoniously tried and then executed with a bullet to the back of the head in a four and a half short minutes. It’s shocking, brutal, and completely devastating.
You’re The Worst – Fireworks Immersion Therapy (3×06 – ‘The Last Sunday Funday’)
This perfectly joyous montage scored to The Rentals’ “It’s Time To Come Home” finds Edgar (Desmin Borges) undergoing immersion therapy in a shower of fireworks mid-way through a scavenger hunt. The moment would be beautiful in any context, but the bliss on Edgar’s face means so much more coming on the heels of one of You’re The Worst‘s most powerful episodes: “Twenty-Two”.
Those are the scenes that stand out to me. What were your favourites?
I’ll be back later this week for a long-ish post on the best episodes of the year and then between Christmas and New Year’s there will be two posts: Best New Shows and Best Returning Shows. #PeakTV y’all!