The 50 Best TV Scenes of the Past Year
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40. Arrow (CW)
Ep. 23, “Unthinkable”
SCENE: Arrow and Deathstroke’s final fight.
WHY: The long-awaited throwdown gave fans two fights—one past and one present—combined with a sinking ship to create an unforgettable (and highly physical) conclusion to their rivalry. Arrow did not fail his city, and the show’s stunt team did not fail its fans. —Samantha Highfill
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Stunt coordinator JJ Makaro takes us inside the battle.
39. Doctor Who (BBC America)
50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”
SCENE: The return of Tom Baker.
WHY: The show’s last Fall marking the 50th anniversary of the British time travel show featured plenty of moments designed to have Who fans finding they had something in their eye. There was David Bradley’s heart-breaking performance as “First Doctor” William Hartnell in the TV movie An Adventure in Space and Time; “Eighth Doctor” Paul McGann’s role in the webisode “The Night of the Doctor;” and of course the return of both Billie Piper and David Tennant in the 50th anniversary special episode, “The Day of the Doctor.” But it was a surprise cameo in the same episode by Tom Baker, the longest-serving TARDIS-dweller and the most beloved Doctor from the show’s original run, that had Whovians of a certain age bawling like babies as they watched the sci-fi icon chat with Matt Smith. “He wanted to be part of this very special occasion,” says Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat of Baker’s appearance. “It’s the only time he’s consented to do something for Doctor Who since he left it, really.” —Collis
38. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Ep. 15, “The Wall”
SCENE: Leslie (Amy Poehler) attempts to “tear down this wall” between Pawnee and Eagleton and exposes a hidden “beehole.”
WHY: We don’t like laughing at Leslie Knope, but when so many crucial elements coalesce at once—crackling writing, antic acting, and… bees? BEES!—we just have to side with camera-phone-wielding Councilman Jamm (John Glaser): “I’m gonna send this straight to Tosh!” —Ray Rahman
37. Broadchurch (BBC America)
SCENE: Beth (Jodie Whittaker) confronts Ellie (Olivia Colman) after learning who killed her son.
WHY: The pain of two mothers comes crashing to a tragic climax as Beth comes face-to-face with her friend—who is not just a detective on the case but, as it turns out, also the wife of the murderer—in a darkened field outside Beth’s home. “How could you not know?” Beth cries, before walking away. And a devastated Ellie, who once asked the wife of a sex abuser the same question, is left to wonder why she has no answers. —Rice
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Creator Chris Chibnall on the killer, key scenes, and keeping the secret.
36. Hannibal (NBC)
Ep. 12, “Tome-wan”
SCENE: Hannibal Lecter’s unruly patient Mason Verger feeds his own face to dogs and eats his nose.
WHY: Why, indeed? We’ve all done things while intoxicated that we regret, but this is a worst-case scenario blackout. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) drugs his obnoxious patient (a scenery and face-chewing Michael Pitt) and encourages him to make a meal of his own head—which he does, and cheerfully (“I’m full of myself!”). Leave it to showrunner Bryan Fuller to serve up what might be the most gory scene in broadcast TV history. “Pitt was so infectiously fun throughout his episodes, so incredibly game for whatever we threw his way and he’s practically giddy in that sequence,” Fuller says. And what were those slices of his “cheek,” which the dogs so eagerly ate, made from? “It was tofu soaked in meat by-products,” Fuller says. “It was as healthy as it was terrifying on screen.” —James Hibberd
35. The Returned (Sundance)
Ep. 1, “Camille”
SCENE: The truth is revealed about Camille (Yara Pilartz) and her sister.
WHY: When teenage Camille returns from the dead, her older sister Lena is even more freaked out than you might expect. Why? It’s unclear, until a flashback reveals that Lena isn’t really Camille’s older sister. They’re actually identical twins. Camille died during a class trip, when the school bus careened off the road. But Lena stayed home sick that day. Now, years later, Lena has aged while Camille remains frozen in time. As Lena watches Camille leave home for the last time, waving from the window, the scene sums up survivor’s guilt perfectly. You can’t tell the difference between them. It could’ve been Lena who died. —Melissa Maerz
34. Kimmel (ABC)
Ep. 14, February 6, 2014
SCENE: Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #6.
WHY: It’s tough to pick the best edition, but this one—which featured Tim Robbins calling out the bad speller that called him a “pretensious c—” and Bill Murray chuckling at the tweeter who said he was glad that Murray got shot in Zombieland—contained many, shall we say, favorites. —Snierson
33. Fallon (NBC)
Ep. 46, “April 28, 2014″
SCENE: Jimmy’s lip-sync battle with Emma Stone.
WHY: The new prince of late night is a master at putting his guests at ease before asking them to participate in segments that bring out their truest selves. To wit: We knew Emma Stone was a talented charmer but her uncanny lip-sync renditions of Blues Traveler’s “Hook” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” left not just us but also Fallon himself (who was hardly a slouch with his renditions of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Styx’s “Mister Roboto”) completely stunned. “That’s the best one that’s ever been done!” Fallon exclaimed. We agree. —Rice
32. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Ep. 22, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
SCENE: Burke (Isaiah Washington) offers Cristina (Sandra Oh) his job.
WHY: Cristina Yang is not to be trifled with. So, seven years after being left at the altar, hearing her former fiance admit he can’t work with her for his marriage’s sake and is passing along his dream job is the ultimate validation for the usually stoic Dr. Yang. And getting one final moment of crackling chemistry between the two actors was the ultimate parting gift for fans. —Highfill
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Read the script for the confrontation.
31. Community (NBC)
Ep. 4, “Cooperative Polygraphy”
SCENE: Pierce (Chevy Chase) says goodbye to every character through the executor of his will, Mr. Stone (guest star Walton Goggins).
WHY: In an episode that showcased what this meta comedy can do just by sticking all of its characters in a room, this scene proves a crafty and surprisingly touching way to handle a farewell for a cantankerous, disagreeable character who has already departed our world: Pierce bequeaths gifts that range from thoughtful to lavish—an iPod Nano, a tiara, a spacious timeshare in Florida, a bottle of fine scotch, $14.3 million in shares of Hawthorne Wipes—but none was as, well, life-affirming as the canisters of frozen sperm that he gave to each of his former study group frenemies. Touching, thoughtful, and, yes, perfectly crass. —Snierson
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