Honestly, 2022 was such a strong year of television that it’s alarming to think of what little we had in 2020 and 2021. Clearly a lot of the best stuff was saved for the first full year of post-lockdown, and while I’ll celebrate the shows themselves tomorrow, here were the individual episodes that most stood out to me this year.
10. “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird”
season 2, episode 5
stream: HBO Max
I’ve mostly found myself poo-pooing Euphoria‘s hype train. Though immaculately crafted, its plot is an absolute train wreck and it just generally leaves me feeling fairly gross. Before Euphoria turned in one of the most inept season finales in recent memory, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” was a visceral dive fully back into the plot that really keeps this show moving: Rue’s fight with addiction. Rue frantically running around town to avoid further addressing her struggle is enormously successful and for a moment justifies the large platform this show has found itself.
It does, of course, commit the sin of kicking off the hype cycle of Maddy vs Cassie, HBO’s second Cleganebowl, to put it unkindly.
9. “Shadow of Fate”
season 2, episode 2
stream: HBO Max
Up until this very episode, Primal had been a string of one-offs, with only very occasional gestures towards continuity. Its second season’s first episode felt like the language-speaker Spear and Fang met would only alter the locations of the action, seeing them struggle while crossing the sea. Then, “Shadow of Fate” proceeds to do absolutely everything. Fang finds herself in a relationship with a red T-Rex while Spear finds himself being taken in by a moderately more advanced civilization. The two plots collide, and it’s immediately apparent how much more complicated the emotions of this show would be from this point forward.
Also Considered: “The Red Mist” (season 2, episode 4), “The Primal Theory” (season 2, episode 5)
8. “The Fielder Method”
season 1, episode 4
stream: HBO Max
Nathan gets away from his fake household to teach a class on his method, but in trying to be a better teacher, he finds himself tumbling down a Kaufmanesque rabbit hole. When he returns “home,” he demands that his relationship with his son take on a gritty realism. Two of The Rehearsal‘s most memorable turns are both in this one episode.
Better Call Saul
season 6, episode 10
stream: Netflix (eventually 🏴☠️)
There are a lot of ways to go with this slot given Better Call Saul‘s stellar final season, so I’ve chosen the episode most unlike the others: Gene Takovic’s black and white heist in a closed mall. This episode might have been frustrating given how little time they had to still wind things down for the show (only three episodes came after), but this was great showing off by a team that can’t help but make good television, culminating in the most stressful episode of the year in one that had Severance and The Bear. Though Gene sets this heist in motion to satiate the man who’s recognized him, it’s clear that the process sees him slipping back into the man he spent this series becoming.
Also Considered: “Rock and Hard Place” (season 6, episode 3), “Plan and Execution” (season 6, episode 7), “Saul Gone” (season 6, episode 13)
6. “Three Slaps”
season 3, episode 1
With “Teddy Perkins,” Atlanta began the trend that would come to define its third season: shoving the main story aside to just be bold. Inspired by the Hart family murders, “Three Slaps” follows young Laquareeous as he accidentally tumbles into the foster system. The white lesbian couple that adopts him puts him and their other black adoptees to work and feeds them like shit. Things deteriorate, and without getting too far into it, Atlanta makes the climactic scene with the van almost operatic. A dizzying episode of television.
Also Considered: “Crank Dat Killer” (season 4, episode 6), “The Goof Who Sat By the Door” (season 4, episode 8)
5. “Chapter 7”
season 1, episode 7
stream: Apple TV+
Though its 1989 plot dovetails so well in its fourth episode, Pachinko‘s strongest mode is when it’s following young Sunja in Korea and Japan in the 1920s. So it makes sense that its strongest episode focuses entirely on that period: “Chapter 7” takes place mostly on the day of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Kanto Massacre of Koreans in Japan that immediately followed. But “Chapter 7” focuses on the backstory of Koh Hansu, who was up to some mustache-twirling manipulation of Sunja just an episode ago. Pachinko‘s use of the history of the occupation of Korea by Imperial Japan is a large part of what makes it such a great show, and “Chapter 7” sees its strongest foot forward.
Also Considered: “Chapter 4” (season 1, episode 4)
season 3, episode 6
stream: HBO Max
Barry‘s third season is on shaky ground, and it knows it. Its status quo has been too upset and all of its characters aren’t in the houses the story had given them. So the moment Barry‘s brilliant third season snaps into place is when shit finally gets maximally chaotic. The motorcycle chase at the end of this episode is the best individual scene this year.
Also Considered: “candy asses” (season 3, episode 7)
3. “Dual Confessions, Part 2 / The Shuchiin Afterparty”
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
season 3, episode 13
Kaguya finally gets to it. Up until now, the show has constantly reset to its status quo – that’s kind of its whole thing, really – and this stone is finally split in two. The tension of the moment is really earned, and the show goes all out in presentation, bringing back some key music and making all of its balls in the air crash down dramatically. “Dual Confessions, Part 2” is one of the most well-executed climaxes in all of anime.
season 1, episode 7
Oh, god. After a very cool montage of Chicago set to Sufjan Stevens, “Review” begins a single, unbroken shot of the kitchen to throw you into the chaos. The Original Beef trials Sydney’s new ordering system, and the store gets slammed when she fails to turn off the pre-order option. What follows is pandemonium, including two blow-ups and knife. And you’re trapped in the kitchen with all of this for about twenty minutes.
Also Considered: “Braciole” (season 1, episode 8)
1. “The Plight Before Christmas”
season 13, episode 10
Bob’s Burgers in its thirteenth season is a bit like King of the Hill in its thirteenth season: still very good, but no longer special and essential. But “The Plight Before Christmas” is yet another demonstration that this show steps up for its holiday episodes. Bob and Linda are in a pinch: Tina, Gene, and Louise all have Christmas events at the same time, and obviously between them they can only see two. Hearing that Louise just wants to gross out everyone at a poetry reading, Bob and Linda opt for the more wholesome offerings of Gene’s xylophone performance and Tina’s turn as a star – not the star, a star – in the play. But to their horror, they learn too late that Louise’s story was a cover for her doing a reading of a sincere Christmas poem she wrote.
In a year where Bob’s Burgers released a theatrical film, Louise’s moment of sincerity in “The Plight Before Christmas” feels like the show’s biggest landmark in years. “The Plight Before Christmas” makes a serious play for the show’s best holiday episode when there’s already plenty of competition for that, and it might be the show’s best episode. A fantastic note on which to end 2022.
“Chapter Four: Dear Billy,” Stranger Things, season 4 episode 4
“Defiant Jazz,” Severance, season 1 episode 7
“Doomcoming,” Yellowjackets, season 1 episode 9
“Dr. Chaudhary,” Station Eleven, episode 9
“Driftmark,” House of the Dragon, season 1 episode 7
“Go Flip Yourself,” What We Do in the Shadows, season 4 episode 8
“Jerusalem,” Industry, season 2 episode 8
“King’s Tide,” The Owl House, season 2 episode 21
“Mabel,” Reservation Dogs, season 2 episode 4
“Morning Light Falls on You,” Bocchi the Rock!, season 1 episode 12
“Night Family,” Rick & Morty, season 6 episode 4
“Rix Road,” Andor, season 1 episode 12
“The Hardest Thing,” Amphibia, season 3 episode 18
“Transmission 2 ~Encountering the Unknown~,”
Mob Psycho 100, season 3 episode 8