It's taken me nearly six months, but I've finally reached the end of this list. Glad that I did it, but I really want to hear is how horribly you disagree with me, or which ones I left out. For several of these shows, I could have picked multiple episodes, but I tried to find the one that may have had the greatest impact. You've got any better ideas, let me have it
24--- Day 5: 6:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M.
This one probably presented the greatest challenge of all the shows: how do you pick the best from what is essentially eight different shows? And how do you choose an episode from one where every piece is integral to overall effect? You choose the one that has the moment that probably resonated more in the middle of what the series greatest day. We see the Vice President arrive on the scene raised to appear to be the probable villain. You put Jack Bauer in the same room with the daughter he betrayed when he faked his own death nearly eighteen months earlier. You make one of the most insidious attacks on the most daring group of terrorist--- CTU's been attacked from within and without, but never quite like this. And then you kill everyone with nerve gas --- including one particular CTU tech. Considering how many regulars the creators had axed so far this season (people we'd known for longer and were more invested in) it's surprising that chubby Edgar Stiles who we hardly know really meant so much to us. Perhaps it's just the way he dies--- his running on to the scene with no way of escape, his slow little cough as he doubles over, and the horrified expression on Chloe O'Brian's face as this man she feuded with dies right in front of her eyes. Her look made that scene. We didn't need the ticking clock to go silent; her look was so devestating that it really said it all.
Lost --- There's No Place Like Home, Part 2 and 3
Say what you will about the last episode--- the finales that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof designed for this jigsaw of a show were positively brilliant, and this one shined brighter than most. We thought that rescue had come for some of the Oceanic survivors, instead all it seemed to bring was death, but there were so many set pieces Sawyer's swan dive of the helicopter to allow his fellow passengers to be rescued, Ben's act of revenge against the mercenary who killed his daughter, the helicopter flying off the freighter just in time for Sun to (apparently) see her husband get blown to smithereens--- all of this shock, balanced by the awe when Desmond was reunited with his beloved Penelope after nearly eight years, the apparent moving of the island (still not sure where it actually went) and, oh yeah, the revelation that in the future John Locke was the man in the coffin. All of this seems byzantine when I describe it (and believe me, even when you know what's happening , it's still confusing) but this demonstrated better than any other how remarkable an accomplishment Lost truly was. Even knowing the ultimate fate of all the characters that were involved, it's still a hell of a shock and watching it blows my mind and brings a tear to the eye. Episodes like this are why we watch series like Lost in the first place.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer --- Hush
There are at least six or seven episodes of this series that register as some of the most landmark in television, so choosing this one--- the only one of this series to even earn an Emmy nomination --- may seem a bit obvious. But it's not just that Joss Whedon elected to due an episode of his series without dialogue for nearly forty minutes. It's that he elected to do this series--- where the rapid fire repartee was ninety percent of thefun--- without dialogue. Amazingly, none of the series trademark humor got sacrificed--- there are at least a dozen brilliant sight gags locating throughout the episode. It also happened to have one of the scariest standalone monsters--- the Gentlemen, with faces that looked like they were right out of German horror films. This also celebrates the introduction of Tara, the shy little woman who would become Willow's greatest love, and finally reveal the exsistence of the Initiative, which has been stalking Buffy since the beginning of Season 4. And considering how much of the brilliance of this show centers around the general kick-ass nature of the heroines, it's rather ironic that the key to stopping what was the most dangerous threat was a woman's scream. This was a landmark episode, and demonstrated why Joss and Sarah Michelle Gellar should have been wracking up an Emmy a year. Another blog.
The Wire --- Middle Ground
This is an even harder pick than 24. How do you separate a show that tells so many intricate interlocking stories with so many characters, and then try to pick out one that is the most amazing. That may have been one of the reasons this show got even less Emmy love than Buffy. Watching Major Colvin try to justify the establishment of a drug free zone than led to a major reduction of crime is hard enough because even though it worked, the city councilman he's selling it to will deliver enough information to bury it and him. The case to try and bring down Stringer Bell--- an investigation that essentially had to have the Major Case Squad sell pre-tapped cell phones to a bunch of drug dealers is creative marketing, to the say the least. But what makes this episode last in the mind is Stringer Bell's fate. For years, he's been trying to negotiate a middle path to sell drugs with less death. He believes every solution can be solved with money. Which is why there's something tragic about his eventually dying by being in a situation with the bloodthirsty Omar Little that he just can't negotiate out of. The best laid plans of mice and Baltimore detectives are not able to get him in jail in time to stop him from meeting his fate at the end of two shotguns. And the fact that so many fans of the show were horrified that this murderous, cold-blooded drug dealer met his end just goes to show how brilliant David Simon is as a writer. There is no good and evil in the world of The Wire, and the fact that Simon thinks both Bell and Colvin's approaches might have merit in this world, only guarantees that they will be ground into dirt by the system they are both locked into.
Homicide --- Crosetti
Another flashpoint for debate--- this police drama was the best television of the nineties. And even though it should so many episodes demonstrating the effect of murder, none-- not even their billiant 'Subway' episode in 1997, matched the power of this earleir episode. Detective Crosetti hasn't come back from a supposed vacation in Atlantic City. Which is why it comes as a huge shock that a bloated, waterlogged corpse dragged out of the harbor belongs to the detective. Everyone in Homicide knows what has happened, but Meldrick Lewis can not accept that his partner has killed himself. He spends most of the episode trying to convince all of Crosetti's associates that he was all right, while Stan Bolander tries to convince him otherwise. The moment when the autopsy's results are revealed finally break him, and leads to a wrenching moment of agony for everybody. The rest of the episode is dealt with what seems to be part of the mundane, Lieutenant Giardello trying to get an honor guard for his fallen detective, and ultimately failing, Munch trying to get a coffin from his undertaker brother, Pembleton and Bayliss trying to buy cookies for the wake. All of this is balanced by Frank Pembeleton (the peerless Andre Braugher) appearing to act like a self-righteous jerk for almost the entire episode, refusing to go to church because of his own personal antagonism towards God. Which makes the last two minutes of this episode so moving. As the funeral procession walks by the Homicide Unit, standing there is Pembleton in full uniform, performing a one-man honor guard. No matter how many times I watch this episode, I can't see the last couple of scenes without crying. I've seen a lot of beloved characters deis on TV (many of them mentioned in these posting, but this one, more than any of the others hits the hardest. It's been over sixteen years since I first saw it, but it's still arguably the most wrenching moment I've ever seen.
Please by all means tell me how wrong I am. Tomorrow I will be ranting (or cheering) at this year Emmy nominations. Stay tuned to this site for more diatribes