From popularizing pegging to meditating on an influential Coke ad to pioneering self-surgery to being a horse who’s also a washed-up actor with a crushing emotional life, TV characters this year have done some exceedingly memorable things. Though we already posted Flavorwire TV Editor Alison Herman’s list of 2015’s best TV shows, this list looks to particular episodes that caught our attention with their depictions of all forms of odd triumphs and failures, beginnings, endings, and peggings. These are Flavorwire staffers’ favorite TV episodes of the year.
Mad Men, “Lost Horizon”
The two best episodes of Mad Men‘s final season were “Time & Life” and its follow-up, “Lost Horizon.” You can probably tell a lot about a person by which one they prefer. “Time & Life” is the big, splashy shake-up, with Sterling Cooper & Partners finding out, all of a sudden, that they’re being beamed up to the McCann Erickson mothership. But “Lost Horizon” digs through the rubble of SC&P, hunting for survivors and casualties. While Joan is the most (temporarily) tragic of the former, disrespected and dismissed again as nothing more than a shapely body, Peggy perseveres. And she does so in a style that really spoke to me, strolling into McCann in a statement dress and hangover sunglasses, with a cigarette dangling from her lip and Bert Cooper’s porn-y octopus picture in her hands. Finally, her confidence — and competence — have freed her from the need to be prissy and sweet and perfect. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief
Mad Men, “Person to Person”
I’m assuming this or any of the other handful of final episodes of Mad Men will be on the lists of people around the Internet (and Flavorwire), but “Person to Person” was special to me for two reasons.
First, the conclusion of the episode expounded on the idea that great creative work does not have to be hung in a gallery, and that the framework for expression isn’t so limited by the intention of that expression. That is to say, you can sell Coke by making any commercial you want, artful or otherwise, and you can do it in a way that is satisfying — or not. The quality and artfulness of one’s work is mostly limited to oneself.
The second reason? It meant Mad Men was finally over. Which isn’t to say I hated the show, but that it felt like it needed to end. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor
The Knick, “This Is All We Are”
Watch as Stephen Soderbergh, creators Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, and Clive Owen literally eviscerate what they’ve created. This season finale allegedly brings an end to this portion (whatever that may ultimately mean) of The Knick, with Stephen Soderbergh saying that next time we see the show, it’ll be vastly different, and seemingly even in different directorial hands. Without revealing too much, the episode is the perfect, completely revolting ending to a story that’s always been consistent in its general misanthropy. Two twists particularly suggest that the show was never leading in the direction of redemption in its views on human cruelty. This final episode is an obstinate, and grotesquely memorable, final gesture — at least for this chapter in the series. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor
Broad City, “Knockoffs”
A good progressive TV show talks the talk. A great one walks the walk. Broad City burst onto the scene last year fully formed, embodying many of the values espoused by its target demographic of young, hip, city-dwelling millennials — sex positivity! diversity! weed! — so well it never needed to preach them. Somehow, Season 2 kept the momentum going and then some, with “Knockoffs” as the obvious highlight. Abbi’s pegging misadventure highlighted so many of the show’s strengths, from Abbi Jacobson’s knack for low-key physical comedy to the enabling/encouraging dynamic between her character and Ilana Glazer’s, while Susie Essman’s guest turn as Ilana’s mother makes the necessary, world-expanding work of a comedy’s second season not seem like work at all. Also, it’s funny as hell. — Alison Herman, TV Editor
American Horror Story: Hotel, “Checking In”
Baby goth me was extremely excited about the premiere episode of American Horror Story: Hotel, “Checking In,” which featured songs by Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, and Bauhaus, plus shades of Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in The Hunger. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor
Community, “Basic Email Security”
For all of the fan squealing and hulaballoo surrounding its announcement and debut, the sixth and final, Yahoo-financed season of the late, great sitcom was an oddly low-buzz affair (I continue to blame it on the shitty player over at Yahoo Screen, which tested the patience and endurance of even a super-fan like me). But Dan Harmon and crew put out some of their best work this season, and my favorite was unquestionably the season’s sixth half-hour, which gleefully riffed on the Sony hack (no coincidence: the series was produced by Sony Pictures Television), the questions it raised, and the nosiness and schadenfreude it left in its wake. It was an encapsulation of what Community did best, satirizing a pop culture phenomenon while staying hooked in to the characters and conflicts that gave the show its soul. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
BoJack Horseman , “Hank After Dark”
I consumed all of BoJack Horseman with an unexpected fierceness — it arrived during a difficult month in my life, so both its darkness and its humor were exactly what I needed. It’s hard to choose an episode since they all flow together so smoothly, but I’d probably have to go with “Hank After Dark” from Season 2, in which a Cosby- or Letterman- or Woody Allen-like figure, Hank Hippopopalous (a hippo), is exposed by Diane when she reminds people to google the never-explicit allegations against him. After covering the Cosby beat for Flavorwire, it was cathartic to see the issue of high-profile male celebrity misbehavior taken on in a manner that was both scathing and sad. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large
BoJack Horseman, Season 2
I’m not sure I can choose one single episode of this — the whole thing was so good and fitted together so seamlessly that it’s hard to pick out any episode as being the best. What I can say is that the whole show is fantastic — who’d have thought that the most existential and affecting show of 2015 would be about an animated horse? — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor
The Orgy in Sense8, “Demons”
Sense8, the Wachowskis’ bizarre and sprawling telepathy drama on Netflix, has never been shy about sex. In one of its first scenes, a woman brings her trans female partner to orgasm with a rainbow-colored strap-on, tossing it aside after completion, the camera capturing a close up shot of the prop dripping with juices. So when they stage a worldwide orgy in the sixth episode, with characters on the opposite ends of the earth, of various genders and orientations, sharing a single orgasm, it’s not surprising, but it is nonetheless shocking. It’s intense, absurd, and hilarious, and there’s never been anything like it on television. —Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor
Veep , “Testimony”
Definitely Veep’s “Testimony,” which was a feast of political double-talk and backstabbing unlike anything I’ve seen on television. It was an episode for adults in what sometimes seems like a stream of TV shows for children. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor