Almost a century into this whole television thing, you’d think we’d have run out of uncanny stories and innovative ways to tell them. Yet even with over 500 shows on the air, modern TV continues to surprise and delight us. Whether it’s a bottle episode, a shocking twist, a cathartic confrontation, or a child with the battle instincts of a feral mongoose, every episode on this list stuck with us long after we turned off our TVs.
Here are the unranked 10 best television episodes of 2019.
1. Game of Thrones Season 8, episode 2 “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
Game of Thrones’ final season may have rushed to its finish line, but for one glorious episode time stood still to let its characters shine. Instead of charging into battle, Season 8 Episode 2 “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” showed Thrones fans the night before the fray, when almost every surviving character came together to live through their alleged last night in Westeros. Naturally, everyone was , but between the raging ice hormones there were beautiful character moments, culminating in the overdue knighting of Ser Brienne of Tarth, the first lady knight of the seven kingdoms. – Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
2. Succession Season 2, episode 10 “This is Not For Tears”
Succession‘s whole second season was stellar, so it was tough to pick just one episode. But we’re going with the finale, where all the arcs that had been building all season long came together — on a magnificent yacht, no less — and delivered an emotional, twist-y saga that showcased beautiful moments for the full ensemble. From the quippy brunch from hell as our faves argued about who should be the sacrifice for the cruise disaster to Roman’s series-defining ask to his siblings that maybe they could, you know, talk a little bit, the whole thing was a delight. Bonus: The final seconds of the episode were some of the most satisfying of the year; we’ll be debating Logan Roy’s final smirk until Season 3 begins. – Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor
3. The Mandalorian Season 1, episode 1 “Chapter 1”
Like all Star Wars stories, The Mandalorian was shrouded in secrecy before its November premiere. By quelling any expectations, Disney+ set itself up for a hit. The Mandalorian‘s opening chapter boasts dazzling visuals, propulsive music, meticulous action, and Werner Herzog — and that’s before we meet Baby Yoda, who thawed the cold, dead hearts of audiences around the world. This child has power to stop wars, right wrongs, and save humanity — and wouldn’t even need the Force to do it. Like with the Mandalorian, all it took was one look from Bebé to win us over. This is the way. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
4. Pose Season 2, episode 5: “Never Knew Love Like This Before”
Pose has been tugging on heartstrings since Season 1, but the Season 2 episode “Never Knew Love Like This Before” was a supremely emotional hour. Candy’s death tragically highlighted the historical and current reality of violence against black trans women, and her loss served as a painful reminder to Pose’s characters that women like Candy needed their support while alive — not after her death. Angelica Ross’s performance as Candy’s spirit appearing to those who loved, ignored, and tormented her in life is an all-timer for a show whose only Emmy winner so far is Billy Porter, and the glittering glory of her final lip sync is one of this year’s most poignant title-and-episode pairings: She never knew love like this before. – A.N.
5. Veep, Season 7 episode 7 “Veep”
If you had trouble with Veep‘s all-too-brief final season, it was probably because everything felt a little too real. Nowhere was this more evident than the extended series finale, which closed the loop on just about every dangling thread in the midst of a blockbuster election where every single fictional candidate felt like a funhouse mirror reflection of the Donald Trump era of politics. It’s an episode of TV that’s all about closure, and its success is elevated by a crowd-pleasing coda that’ll make you laugh and cry for these wonderfully deranged and awful characters. (Plus Richard Splett, the purest and most perfect soul in the entire Veep-verse.) – Senior Entertainment Reporter/Weekend Editor Adam Rosenberg
6. Russian Doll Season 1, episode 3 “A Warm Body”
For every new series, there’s a moment when the plot takes a turn for the better or the worse. In Russian Doll’s third episode “A Warm Body,” the Groundhog Day-esque plot pulled a switcharoo that laid the groundwork for the rest of its impeccable first season. Just as Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is beginning to lose all hope — having spent previous days seeking answers from a local synagogue, searching for her cat, and letting a homeless man chop off all her hair — she enters an elevator and meets a stranger. The introduction of Alan (Charlie Barnett) changed the trajectory of this series remarkably, in an episode that was at once comically bleak and stunningly hopeful. -Entertainment Reporter Alison Foreman
7. Watchmen Season 1, episode 6 “This Extraordinary Being”
In a series that has already taken viewers by surprise again and again, “This Extraordinary Being” still stands out. Angela Abar’s journey into the past highlights what Watchmen has done so well as a series as it’s toed the line between honoring the source while building on that foundation with a fresh and engaging story. Angela’s drug-fueled hallucinations show us a vision of the past that was only ever hinted at in the graphic novel. The revelations that spill forth from this hour of TV shift our understanding of the entire series, and in a way that perfectly underscores the show’s ongoing engagement with race and generational trauma. There’s never been an episode of TV quite like “This Extraordinary Being,” and we’re all the better for it. – A.R.
8. Barry Season 2, episode 5 “ronny/lily”
Barry first made its claim to fame by taking a concept that was vaguely funny and making it indisputably hilarious — then transforming it into something unshakably dark. In Season 2, this knack was crystallized in “ronny/lily,” a subplot that took Barry into the home of a competitive Taekwondo monster and his even more skilled child. An 11-year-old girl Barry describes as a “feral mongoose” delivers a remarkable performance as the unlikely target of Barry’s moral conflict. In 2019, this was the anti-hero episode to catch. – A.F.
9. Ramy Season 1, episode 4: “Strawberries”
In a season positively stacked with spectacular episodes, Ramy’s debut hours peaked with “Strawberries,” a flashback episode to our protagonist’s experience as a Muslim-American child during 9/11. But this is no after-school special with a warm lesson underlined in red ink; “Strawberries” begins with Ramy lying about masturbation and climaxes with a one-on-one chat between the boy and his subconscious projection of Osama Bin Laden. They eat strawberries. Just watch it. -P.K.
10. Fleabag Season 2 episode 1
Too much and somehow not enough has been written about Fleabag‘s bewitching second season, which catches up with our flawed heroine over a year after the rock bottom of Season 1. 201 finds Fleabag living clean; focusing on work, rejecting casual sex, putting pine nuts on her salad because contrary to what her sister says, it does make you a grown up. It’s this new-and-improving Fleabag who joins her family for raucously dysfunctional dinner to celebrate the impending nuptials of her father and godmother, who will be wed by an as-yet-unimportant priest. The expertly paced episode, directed by Harry Bradbeer, plunges us back into Fleabag‘s irreverent juxtaposition of dark and light, switching deftly between acts of tipsy dinner discomfort peppered with potent punch lines (“A les—”). It’s a master class for the ages, a perfect half-hour. -P.K.