10) “THE PERFECT PEAR” from MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC
Since the first episode, fans have wondered what happened to Applejack’s (voiced by Ashleigh Ball) parents. Seeing this honest young farm pony run the family’s apple farm by herself alongside her Granny Smith (Tabitha St. Germain), Bronies have speculated on who her mother and father are and how they died. After six and a half seasons, they finally discover how Applejack’s parents fell in love.
The return of Granny Smith’s arch rival Gran Pear (guest voice William Shatner) spark memories of the Apple/Pear rivalry. While tracing back the origins of this rivalry, Applejack, her little sister Apple Bloom (Michelle Creder) and their big brother Big Macintosh (Peter New), they find out their mother is Gran Pear’s Daughter, Pear Butter (Felicia Day)! Which means they’re (gasp), PART PEAR!!! So, begins the origins of how Butter fell in love with Bright Mac (Bill Newton) and the effect the rivalry had on their relationship.
Why are cartoons better at portraying romance than most live action movies? The love between the cartoon couples like Homer and Marge Simpson and Belle and the Beast feel way more believable than Edward and Bella or Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Day and Newton bring such charming chemistry that you fall in love with these characters too. This results in many adorable moments between these two. And Pear Butter’s song “You’re in My Head Like a Catchy Song” absorbing into your subconscious upon first hearing.
But in between these flashbacks in the lingering reminder of their deaths. While the show never says they’re dead, they still imply it. This results in a couple heartbreaking scenes, especially when you see Bright’s old friend Burnt Oak (Bill Mondy) tear up when Big Mac asks about his father. But that doesn’t compare the heartbreaking moment when Grand Pear disowns his daughter.
Not bad for Girl’s show, huh?
9) “GOT A LIGHT” from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
With David Lynch running the show, you know you’re in for a long day’s journey into weird. This reboot of his classic series certainly delivers with Kyle MacLachlan playing three versions of Dale Cooper over a whole lot of WTF moments. But it’s in episode seven where we see how deep the rabbit hole goes. You won’t need any drugs for this acid trip.
At first it starts out as usual (well, as usual as a David Lynch series is going to get). But within the 20-minute mark, the episode suddenly cuts to a black and white image of a mushroom cloud. From this moment on, Lynch goes all Stanley Kubrick on the show and throws in a visual equivalent to the light show trip scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it’s a visual marvel, throwing in one dazzling light show after another. Of course, it has that Lynchian touch to it. Nowhere is this truer than in a brief stop motion scene of strange beings walking across an exploding old gas station.
If you want to truly experience this scene, I’d best to watch this episode in the dark with no lights on.
8) “LATCHING” from GIRLS
Say what you will about Lena Dunham, but she can write a compelling episode. Since the fantastic first season, her series Girls has been uneven, creating one great episode in between confused tones. But when she’s on her A game, she can create self-deprecating, compelling episodes of screwed up people trying to get their shit together. The last two seasons saw her show being more consistently great. The question was if the series finale would match that quality? Fortunately, this series went out in all of its cringe-inducing, compelling glory.
After becoming a new mother, wannabee author Hannah (Dunham) has secluded herself from her friends and family to raise her little girl alongside her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams). But she grows upset when her baby won’t breastfeed. With the struggles of raising a baby, Marnie defies Hannah and brings in Hannah’s mother (Loreen Horvath) to help them. Of course, Hannah gets indignant about this.
Then we get Hannah’s encounter with a sobbing teenage girl. At first she believes this girl has been through some traumatic incident, only to realize this girl is acting all traumatized for the most superficial reasons. This scene works on two levels. First, this teen embodies Hannah’s worst flaws, forcing her to confront herself. And last, but not least, it show how Hannah has grown as a person, still imperfect but way more mature than she was in the first scene. On a comedic note, this scene ends with the teen stealing Hannah’s pants.
How much you love or hate the series depends on your opinion of Hannah. Dunham is unafraid to portray Hannah’s self-absorbed privilege and commitment issues. But through her uncomfortable screw-ups, she tries to become a better person. Either these flaws make her relatable or make her unbearable. Sometimes both. Even in the final episode, she remains frustrating by refusing help from her mother.
Then this episode ends on a beautiful note of Hannah humming a lullaby to her baby.
7) “THANKSGIVING” from MASTER OF NONE
Since childhood, Dev (Aziz Ansari) has joined his friend Denise (Lena Waithe) for her family’s thanksgiving dinner. Though he loves the chance to enjoy an actual thanksgiving (and enjoy forbidden bacon), it comes with the price of witnessing Denise’s clash with her traditional mother Catherine (Angela Bassett).
Catherine spends years in denial of her daughter’s homosexuality, when even her aunt Ernestine (Venida Evans) can see the signs. It would be so easy to portray Catherine as an ignorant and old-fashioned bigot, but Waithe and Bassett make her a more complex human being. She is a strong single parent who raised her daughter alone. She does love Denise, but her religious upbringing has left her conflicted about Denise being gay. But through the years, we see Catherine reluctantly accept Denise for who she is, with a little help from Ernestine.
Waithe became the first black woman to win the Emmy for comedy writing with this episode she co-wrote with Ansari. As we travel through thanksgiving after thanksgiving, we see Denise grow from a rebellious tomboy to a trouble teenager questioning her sexuality to a confident, openly gay woman.
6) “THE RICKLANTIS MIXUP” from RICK & MORTY
Just when you think Season 3 couldn’t top “Rickshank Rickdemption” and its obsession with McDonalds Szechuan Sauce, along comes this anthology of the Ricks and Mortys (both voiced by co-creator Justin Roiland) living in the multiverse Citadel.
Multiple versions of Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith have returned to everyday life after C-137 Rick destroyed the Citadel. A rookie cop Rick (Roiland) endures his version of Training Day with crooked veteran cop Morty (also Roiland). Four prep school Mortys (all Roiland) begin a quest (ala Stand by Me) to find wish granting portal. Frustrated factory worker Rick (Roiland too) loses it and leads a hostage situation. While all this happens, a charismatic politician Morty (you get the idea) gains momentum in the election with his calls for equality. But a Journalist Morty (take a guess) discovers a truth that might ruin this Morty.
This episode demonstrates all of strengths of this hilarious sci-fi series. First is their ability to subvert tropes. In contrast to usually fantastical world building, the series looks at the mundane aspects of the Citadel. Ironically, this only creates more of a sense of wonder for fans as they take in this world. Plus, it’s fun to browse around the unique designs of Ricks and Mortys, trying to guess what they’re referencing.
There’s also Roiland and Dan Harmon’s ability to implant essay worthy ideas into their storylines. We’re use to the other Ricks and Mortys matching the drunken asshole behavior and exasperated horniness of our heroes, but seeing unique personalities including good cop Rick and rebellious teen Morty brings up the subject of nature vs. nurture in the universe. Roiland and Harmon also love to keep us guessing about Rick, like in this moment when another Rick turns out to have lived the origin Rick had “made up” in the season premiere. Insert fan theories in the comments below.
How we meet the other Rick is the embodiment of the unflinching cynicism that makes Rick and Morty standout from other shows. Seeing this Rick placed in a catatonic state while a factory extracts his happy memories to sell chocolate bars brings a satirical take on consumerism. This leads to a delicious payoff that adds a darker take on the merciless grip on consumerism. These moments also symbolize how moments of hope are often undercut by cynical undertones, especially with that glorious plot twist at the end of the episode. The result is a less predictable story and a unique sense of humour.
5) “CHINCANERY” from BETTER CALL SAUL
All Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) wanted was his brother’s approval. But Chuck (Michael McKean) seemed intent on seeing the worst in his little brother. This rift finally came to a head in this episode, which places Jimmy on trial.
Jimmy finds his career on the line when Chuck tricks him into confessing his illegal activities in front of their boss (Ed Begley Jr). This trial becomes a battleground between these two brothers, each determined to destroy the other.
This trial scene summarizes the complex dynamic of these characters. Sure, Chuck is right about Jimmy’s illegal activities, but we side with Jimmy because his actions are often done for the right reasons. Plus, he tries to be an ethical person, but the unethical world pulls him back in his old ways. While Chuck claims he’s exposing Jimmy to save him, you can’t help but suspect selfish motivations behind Chuck’s actions, especially when he sinks to his own lows to ruin Jimmy. Plus, you could argue that Chuck’s disapproval only leads Jimmy to a darker path.
This show ends with Jimmy’s career damaged, Chuck reputation ruined and the brother’s relationship destroyed beyond repair. This also marks the beginning of Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman.
4) “TIME’S ARROW” from BOJACK HORSEMAN
What a horrible mother Beatrice (voiced by Wendie Malick) was. Throughout the series, she’s regarded her son with contempt, turning Bojack (Will Arnett) into a psychological mess. You couldn’t help hating her. But that changed in Season 4 when the show reveals her past upbringing, revealing her mother to be a strong, independent woman lobotomized by her bigoted sociopathic husband (Matthew Broderick). But that’s nothing compared to this brilliant episode, which replays the previous season from Beatrice’s point of view.
In a creative visual move, the episode has Beatrice trapped in a world of white, unstuck in time as she walks in and out of various moments of her past. Not only does this give the audience an idea of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease, but it came with many revelations. We already knew Beatrice’s father hid extreme bigotry under a gentlemanly demeanor, but this episode showed what a monster he truly was. We also learned the identity of the mysterious Henrietta and the true origins of Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla).
This episode also marks a chance for Bojack to break the cycle of abuse within his family.
I would also like to give props to Matthew Broderick for his performance of Beatrice’s father Joseph Sugarman. By maintaining a gentlemanly demeanor, Broderick makes Joseph’s misogyny and psychological abuse even more unsettling.
3) “LEMONS” from BLACK-ISH
I’ll be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with this series. There are many hilarious moments from this series, but even for a sitcom the characters can be too one dimensional. The characters’ exchanges often horrible to each other, especially Dre’s mother (Jenifer Lewis) to Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross). But this show does an excellent job going into the history of various issues inflicting black culture. They truly shine when it comes to controversial issues. Case in Point; “Lemons.”
This episode centres on the aftermath of Trump being elected president. While everyone at work’s crying over this unexpected turn of events, Dre (Anthony Anderson) just wants everyone to get back to work. It’s in the work scenes where this episode shines. Each character presents a different perspective over the 2016 election. Dre’s tone deaf boss Mr. Stevens (Peter Mackenzie) represents the anti-Trump Republican who felt betrayed by their party. Through employee Lucy (Catherine Reitman), the show gives the more sensible Trump supporters a chance to debate for their side. And in the film’s high point, Dre makes a passionate speech about the struggles and defiance of Black American voters.
The show ends with call to allow Trump supporters a chance to explain their side of the story in hopes of reaching an understanding.
2) “MICHAEL’S GAMBIT” from THE GOOD PLACE
Holy Forking Candlestick that was an amazing season finale. Anyone whose read my Best TV Shows of 2016 list know I love the shine out of this series. This series never stops leaving me in awe with episode after episode of awe inspiring set pieces, creative plot twists and Janet, the scene-stealing hologram. What I love about this series is how it finds the funniest way to ask what it means to be a good person. Each episode is a philosophical essay hidden under comedic fantasy, leading to a mindblower of a finale.
After being exposed as an imposter, “Fake Eleanor” (Kristen Bell) must defend her right to stay in The Good Place, an afterlife of McMansions and frozen yogurt. If she fails, she’ll have to switch place with “real Eleanor” (Tiya Sircar) and join the devilish Trevor (Adam Scott) in the Bad Place, where she’ll be subject to karaoke of Richard Nixon quotes. It’ll be up to eccentric Good Place designer Michael (Ted Danson) and Eleanor’s friends; the uptight, indecisive philosopher Chidi (William Jackson Harper), entitled philanthropist Tanhani (Jameela Jamil) and dimwitted Jason (Manny Jacinto).
What makes this episode special is that plot twist, probably one of the best in TV history. I won’t give away what it is, but what I will say is that it completely changes how we view the characters. If you check back to previous episodes, you will be surprised to see all the warning signs.
1) “DOUBLING DOWN” from SOUTH PARK
Heidi’s (voiced by Jessica Makinson) is fed up with Cartman’s (Co-creator Trey Parker) emotional manipulation and murder attempts. Therefore, she breaks up within him. But he emotionally manipulates her into taking him back. Therefore, Kyle (co-creator Matt Stone) becomes concerned about her well-being. But the other boys are indifferent to this. Therefore, Kyle takes it upon himself to save her from everyone’s favourite sociopath. But his attempts to question their relationship only makes Heidi double down on Cartman. Therefore, he tries to reach get his classmate to stop being so hard on her. Meanwhile, the GOP try to reign in President Garrison’s scandalous behavior. But every attempt to stand up to him end up the same way; therefore, they submit.
Both plot lines bring plenty of hilarious moments. The idea of creating a sexually abusive relationship between Garrison and the GOP is so uncomfortable it’s hilarious. Then there’s that hilarious scene with Paul Ryan trying to explain away semen on his eye; “I fell on a doorknob, it’s doorknob cum.” There’s of course Cartman’s side splitting bigoted cluelessness, like when he offers to join Token in “disrespecting the flag and turning over cars.”
Despite the humour, I have to say this is the scariest episode in the series. It’s uncomfortable to watch Heidi put up with Cartman’s emotional abuse, especially when he makes her sick from KFC than mocks her weight. Seeing her put up with it makes you feel sorry for her.
The kids are no help handling this situation. The boys regard the situation as “not their problem” and the girls belittle Heidi for dating Cartman. Kyle’s the only one who regards this situation with seriousness and caring, but it could be argued he does it for selfish reasons (him being in love with Heidi). Through these moments, the show shows how bystanders can make matters worse for abuse victims. While those who ignore it are bad for enabling Cartman’s behavior, but the show argues those who mock Heidi are worst. As Kyle points out, mocking Heidi only makes her feel stupid and double down on it. They certainly prove his case when they make Heidi feel worst after she dumps Cartman.
It all ends with Heidi brainwashed by Cartman’s bigotry. Cartman’s intolerance has always been played for laughs, but this is a rare time when it becomes frightening. This episode’s ending is an unsettling example of how someone as innocent as Heidi can be corrupted when they’re at their lowest point. Look at the moment before someone joins a hate group like the KKK or ISIS and you usually see their low points. It’s in this moment they are in most need for meaning in their lives, which often makes them vulnerable to extremists. When Kyle asks Heidi what she sees in Cartman, she says “He said what I needed to hear at the time.” Hearing Heidi make anti-Semitic comments to Kyle sends a chill down your spine.
 The show’s to afraid to say the word “dead”, but it makes it clear Applejack’s parents are pushing daises via subtle verbal ques and visual symbolism.
 And yes, there is a lot to be said about Dunham.
 Sure, Todd is right when he tells Bojack “you are all the things that are wrong with you,” but Beatrice’s parenting wasn’t exactly helpful.
 Props go to Broderick, who easy going, mannered persona makes his character’s intolerance darkly comedic.
 It’s interesting that the show draws scribbles over her face.
 Which is treated with surprising respect.