Yeah, this is a little late! Got really bogged down when it should have come out and then it became a whole thing. But I’m getting this out of the way now to unclog this drain for when I put the 2022 TV lists down it in early January.
Let’s get started, yeah?
10. “Wheel of Fire”
stream: HBO Max
Oh. Great. Just what we needed in December, 2021. An hourlong episode about the swift disintegration of Chicago as a kill-everyone pandemic hits it like a tidal wave. This is a panic attack of an episode, and while the show’s ultimate worth lies in its emotional conclusion, this hour sticks in my memory the firmest.
9. “Together Again”
Adventure Time: Distant Lands
stream: HBO Max
It’s no “Obsidian,” but the final Adventure Time chapter – “Wizard City” was released out of order – brought us deep into the future to see the final chapter of Finn and Jake’s friendship: death. An old tension between the two arises when Jake waxes philosophic, appreciating the poetry and beauty of the end, but Finn still needs his friend. A beautiful second ending to an incredible series.
8. “The Monster You Created”
season 1, episode 9
Though I imagine the cliffhanger won’t wind up as cataclysmic as it feels in the moment, this pressure cooker of an episode is an excellent culmination of a wild season, and it promises a second season which tears down the walls of the first.
7. “Where I Really Come From”
season 1, episode 8
stream: Amazon Prime
Invincible’s premier ends with a real doozy of a twist, and “Where I Really Come From” pays it off so wildly with some of the most brutal cartoon violence I can remember, and the conversation that follows its horrifying climactic fight is just as harsh.
6. “California Dreamin’”
season 1, episode 7
As Reservation Dogs finally gets to That Thing we’ve been waiting to learn about, it also gets to That Thing that Elora has been dying to know. All of this on the back of the longest driver’s test ever.
5. “True Colors”
season 2, episode 20
Amphibia is perhaps the most humble of this new wave of story-focused children’s cartoons, forwarding its plot with occasional nudges and then with slightly more frequent nudges. Which is why it’s totally fucking nuts when “True Colors” cold knocks the dominoes down, beginning with like five different payoffs and ending with about five different twists.
season 1, episode 6
Though Squid Game went massively viral due to the insidious theatricality of its games, the fourth event drops all of this and gives us a heartrending but suspenseful episode focused on character relationships. Of course, the show proceeds to eventually waste basically all of this and even actively tries to ruin this episode. Still! This one’s a real triumph while it lasts.
3. “How To Appreciate Wine”
How To With John Wilson
season 2, episode 2
stream: HBO Max
Most episodes of How To With John Wilson revel in mundane absurdity, and for a while “How To Appreciate Wine” seems like more of this, beginning with a young man whose hobby is collecting and eating expired military rations and a bowling ball company whose hook is that it scents its balls. But even there, the outrageous moments are already more frequent, and by the time you get to John’s story about his college a capella group or the journey to meet the CEO of Bang energy drinks, you’ll be spinning. It’s disorienting, and it doesn’t help you to appreciate wine in the least.
2. “All The Bells Say”
season 3, episode 9
stream: HBO Max
You could really pick anything from the last three or four episodes of Succession’s third season, but “All The Bells Say” in particular rises to the occasion, bringing you the seismic shifts of past season finales and then some.
1. “The Last One”
To Your Eternity
season 1, episode 1
Maybe it’s a little unfair to credit “The Last One” quite so much. After all, it’s mostly just a straight upreplication of Yoshitoki Ōima’s first chapter of her manga of the same name, probably one of the best individual chapters of manga ever.
A white orb is sent to earth, where it takes the form of a rock in the snow. One day a wolf dies near it, and it takes the form of that wolf. It sets off, where it meets a boy, the fallen wolf’s owner, who’s delighted to see his dear pet again. This boy was left years ago to care for the sick and elderly while most of his people set out hoping to find greener, warmer land. Now he’s alone, and upon the return of his pet wolf he decides to set out himself and find his tribe again. He and “Joann” embark on their quest, with the boy cheerfully imagining what “fruit” might be like.
I won’t spoil how it ends, because you should watch it right now even if you don’t plan on picking up the series – the above embedded video is the whole thing put on YouTube for free by Crunchyroll. “The Last One” is powerfully simple, packed with gutpunching moments and a mindblowing resolution.