The 50 Best TV Scenes of the Past Year
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20. The Walking Dead (AMC)
Ep. 14, “The Grove”
SCENE: Carol (Melissa McBride) kills Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino).
WHY: From the very first episode of TWD, it’s been clear that even the very young are not safe in the apocalypse. But the decision by Carol to shoot her “adopted” daughter Lizzie after the girl murdered her sister was still one of the drama’s most shocking moments so far. “There is no way to say it’s right or wrong,” says McBride of her character’s choice. “But what she did had to be done in her mind. Lizzie just wouldn’t do well in this world, and it would make it so difficult to survive with her for long. I think she just did what needed to be done.” —Collis
MORE ON THE MOMENT: McBride discusses the “devastating” turn.
19. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Ep. 15, “The Locomotive Manipulation”
SCENE: Sheldon (Jim Parsons) surprises Amy (Mayim Bialik) with a kiss in the middle of a heated argument.
WHY: Perturbed about the expectations of Valentine’s Day, Sheldon launches into a mini-tirade about having to force romance, but a throwaway kiss to Amy turns into a precious, long-awaited make-out session. It also serves as a key reminder why Sheldon’s alter-ego, Jim Parsons, deserves to remain showered with Emmys. —Rice
18. Fargo (FX)
Ep 1, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”
SCENE: Murderous hit man Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) talks novice cop Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) into letting him go.
WHY: Because Malvo said this: “Some roads you shouldn’t go down because maps used to say ‘there’d be dragons here.’ Now they don’t. But that don’t mean the dragons aren’t there.” -Hibberd
17. Mad Men (AMC)
Ep. 6, “The Strategy”
SCENE: Don and Peggy stay late at the office and slow-dance to “My Way.”
WHY: In a tantalizing echo of the classic Don-Peggy after-hours tussle in season 4’s “The Suitcase,” Matthew Weiner blesses us with a scene where our vulnerable, booze-loosened heroes take each other by the hand—literally and figuratively—for an emotional, elegantly plotted dance that beautifully demonstrates how, for better or for worse, their souls are inextricably linked. —Maerz
16. The Mindy Project (Fox)
Ep. 8, “You’ve Got Sext”
SCENE: Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) and Peter (Adam Pally) hijack Mindy’s (Mindy Kaling) phone for sexting.
WHY: Kaling’s send-up of rom-coms reached a new level of hilarity thanks to Barinholtz and Pally’s performances as the goobers who think they’ve got a handle on sexting. We love the scene (well, scenes) for the sheer ridiculousness of the sexts in question, and for addressing the sad truth that we’ve essentially all been there and done that. Chalk this episode up to another victory for TV’s best modern romantic comedy. —Snetiker
15. Scandal (ABC)
Ep. 15, “Mama Said Knock You Out”
SCENE: Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Mellie (Bellamy Young) duke it out over who’s to blame for their broken marriage.
WHY: Everything came out when the long-simmering confrontation between POTUS and FLOTUS exploded, but what wasn’t said—Mellie’s rape at the hand of Fitz’s father—made the argument even more powerful. It was the conversation we’ve been waiting for all season long, but we couldn’t anticipate how emotional it would actually be, especially with both actors giving their season best performances. We can’t decide which was better: Goldwyn’s terrifying outburst, or Young’s agonizing restraint. —Snetiker
14. SNL (NBC)
Ep.10, “Dec. 23, 2013″
SCENE: The ladies (and host Jimmy Fallon) drop the beat about having sex in your childhood bedroom on “(Do It On My) Twin Bed.”
WHY: SNL‘s digital shorts have always been more “bro” than “broad,” so the first music video to feature all the female cast members was a welcome treat—not to mention one of the season’s flat-out funniest bits. “They’ve done a lot of really awesome music videos, but never one with all of the girls,” says SNL player Aidy Bryant of the short, which was brainstormed on Tuesday, put to music on Wednesday, shot on Friday, and edited on Saturday. “We had a Britney or Pussycat Dolls vibe in mind, and that’s an insane look … to see comedians go full sex on the least sexy thing ever.” We’ll never look at our seventh grade yearbook photos the same way again. —Snetiker
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Bryant takes credit for the lyric, “just shirt, no pants, like Winnie the Pooh.”
13. AHS Coven (FX)
Ep. 2, “Boy Parts”
SCENE: Supreme witch Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) meet.
WHY: If there’s one thing Ryan Murphy’s anthology series does better than any other show on TV, it’s providing brilliant material for gold-plated actresses of a certain age. As Fiona and Marie size each other up at Laveau’s salon Cornrow City, the undercurrent of danger pulsing between these centuries-old rivals is trumped only by the thrill of watching Lange and Bassett engage in a thespian throwdown. —Kristen Baldwin
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Murphy admits he “cackled with glee” the first time he saw it.
12. Homeland (Showtime)
Ep. 12, “The Star”
SCENE: Carrie inks a star on the CIA’s Memorial Wall to commemorate Brody’s covert sacrifice.
WHY: Brief and dialogue-free, Carrie’s quiet goodbye is still the most emotionally devastating scene in the series, aided by composer Sean Callery’s unconventionally wistful score. —Hibberd
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Showrunner Alex Gansa explains Brody’s fate.
11. House of Cards (Netflix)
Ep. 4, “Chapter 17″
SCENE: Claire (Robin Wright) publicly admits that she got an abortion.
WHY: What starts as an act of bravery—the Vice President’s wife admits on national television that she got an abortion—turns into a master class on media manipulation. Claire only admits to one of the three abortions she’s had, and it’s the result of a rape. The implication is chilling: the American public would forgive an abortion that followed a rape, but they’d never forgive a woman for simply choosing not to have children. The scene stirred up passionate debates about strong female characters, and whether writers really need to make them suffer in order to make them “likeable.” (See also: Cersei on Game of Thrones.) But Claire’s confession made sense within the power-mad world of House of Cards, where nothing is too personal to use for political means. —Maerz
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