The 44 Best TV Episodes of 2015

TV Insider Staff
ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE, Agents of Shield

Tyler Golden/ABC

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , "4,722 Hours"


Season 3, Episode 5

The biggest question all season (What happened to Simmons?) is finally answered in a bottle episode that focuses on the scientist’s survival on a mysterious planet. The ep’s melancholy blue color scheme set the mood for the desolation, and her loneliness.

The Americans, Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys

Jeffrey Neira/FX

The Americans, "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?"


Season 3, Episode 9

The conversation between Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and one unlucky woman as our Soviet spy talks her into suicide is a dark and terrible confrontation of the Jennings' mission and the consequences of their choices as they pursue it. The episode marks the show at its tense, troubling best.

Ursula Coyote/AMC

Better Call Saul, "Five-O"


Season 1, Episode 6

The show pulls away from Saul long enough for a Mike-centric episode that gives Breaking Bad fans a look at a favorite character's backstory and gives Jonathan Banks an opportunity to show what he can really do.

The Big Bang Theory

Michael Yarish/CBS

The Big Bang Theory , “The Opening Night Excitation”


Season 9, Episode 11

Sheldon and Amy have sex! Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons are gems in this milestone episode for "Shamy," proving that a perfectly paired duo can bring charm and fun to even the most awkward of moments.

Black-ish family in Season 2 Episode 1

ABC

black-ish, "The Word"


Season 2, Episode 1

The ABC sitcom's Season 2 premiere is a testament to the show's underrated ability to address provocative issues of race and society in an honest and genuinely funny way. When Jack, the youngest and most adorable Johnson, sings Kanye's "Gold Digger during a school show and includes "the N-word" in the lyrics, heated debate ensues. The generational divides over what the word means and who can (and can't) use it are complicated, nuanced and addressed with shades of Norman Lear rather than preachy clarity.

Brooklyn Nine Nine Johnny and Dora

Fox

Brooklyn Nine-Nine , "Johnny and Dora"


Season 2, Episode 13

When Jake and Amy go undercover as an engaged couple, Jake’s love for his partner stops being unrequited. Amy finally admits her feelings—and seals it with a steamy kiss in the evidence room. Too bad everything else falls apart around them.

Team Coco

Conan, "Conan in Cuba"


Episode 699

The talk show host made headlines this year when he devoted an hour of his TBS series to exploring the Caribbean country, whose borders were newly opened to United States citizens. O'Brien made the most of his trip, joining a salsa band and visiting a cigar factory. The episode's positive reception allowed O'Brien to document another overseas trip in 2015 when he traveled with his assistant, Sona, to her family's homeland of Armenia.

Rachel Bloom and marching band

The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, "Josh Just Happens to Live Here!"


Season 1, Episode 1

Right from the pilot, the talents of star Rachel Bloom turn Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's odd premise--a women trades in her NYC success to move to West Covina, California, maybe-possibly because her childhood boyfriend kind of-sort of happens to live there-- into something charming and quirky. Mixing comedy and fantasy musical numbers, she trips along with a marching band and squirms into the horrors of Spanx with equal enthusiasm. The episode sets up the series as something clever, original and unafraid of its own delightful weirdness.

Jon Stewart Daily Show Finale

Brad Barket/Getty Images/Comedy Central

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Stewart's Last Episode


Season 20, Episode 142

On August 6, we bid Stewart #JonVoyage after more than 16 years at the helm of The Daily Show. His final episode included a lauding crowd of past correspondents, cameos from political friends and enemies and a final musical moment with Bruce Springsteen. But Stewart also paid touching tribute to the rest of the Daily Show team, emphasizing just how many unseen individuals contribute to the show for which he usually gets sole credit. A few teary moments and plenty of laughs made for the perfect send-off.

Empire - Pilot

Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire, "Pilot"


Season 1, Episode 1

You might not have known while watching the splashy first episode that within weeks Empire would be a ratings success story, a weekly can't-miss Twitter party and some of the most enjoyable TV of the year. But then, based on how confidently the premiere leans into the soapy storylines and how triumphantly Taraji P. Henson arrives on screen as Cookie, everyone should have seen it coming.

The Flash - Out of Time

Diyah Pera/The CW

The Flash , "Out of Time"


Season 1, Episode 15

This was the episode that die-hard comic book fans had been waiting for: Barry's super-speed sends him back in time, resetting the show's clock after an hour's worth of season finale level twists: Iris realizes she has romantic feelings for Barry! He reveals to her that he's the Flash! Wells confirms his identity to Cisco—then kills him! Indeed, so much happened in this episode that you could say Barry ran so fast he left the audience out of breath.

Fresh Off the Boat

Michael Ansell/ABC

Fresh Off the Boat, "Nightmare on Dead Street"


Season 2, Episode 5

Think the Huangs are gonna keep a low profile for their first Halloween in the burbs? Shut up, fool! Dad Louis (Randall Park) channels the A-Team for his mission to help their cul-de-sac shake its rep as a lame trick-or-treating zone. He’s not the only one committing: sons Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen) go for a Silence of the Lambs theme. But don’t expect matriarch Jessica (Constance Wu) to break out the face paint, says writer Eric Ziobrowski: “To quote her, ‘Begging for candy in a disguise to hide your shame? No, thank you.’”

Game of Thrones episode 8

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones, "Hardhome"


Season 5, Episode 8

Game of Thrones has featured its share of spectacular battles, but the icy, brutal war between Wildlings and White Walkers may be its best. The 20-minute sequence isn't just a masterful display of special effects and stunts (that took nearly a month of shooting); it's also a uniquely devastating defeat that makes all of the other epic conflicts we've seen seem like skirmishes. On top of that, we also get to see Cersei suffer imprisonment, Daenerys and Tyrion team up as allies, Jorah volunteering for the fighting pits and Arya pushing around carts of oysters. It's everything a Thrones fan could wish for, and then some.

Gotham Last Laugh Jerome

Nicole Rivelli/FOX

Gotham, "Last Laugh"


Season 2, Episode 3

Creatively re-invogorated in its second season, the bloody fun un-Batman series proved it wasn't joking by offing Jerome (Cameron Monaghan), the fan-favorite maniac many suspected would become The Joker. Not only was his death unexpected, it proved that the writers aren't afraid to kill characters we think are essential.

The Grinder, "The Curious Disappearance of Mr. Donovan"


Season 1, Episode 3

The Fox freshman comedy found its groove in this installment when former Hollywood actor Dean (Rob Lowe) investigates his family law firm's new hire, Claire (Natalie Morales), after he is convinced she is a mole. But the real stars of this episode are the show's young actors Hana Hayes (Lizzie) and Connor Kalopsis (Ethan), who find themselves in trouble with their parents for deleting an episode of Ray Donovan off the DVR.

Brooke Palmer/NBC

Hannibal, "The Wrath of the Lamb"


Season 3, Episode 13

Hannibal's (Mads Mikkelsen) last hurrah is a testament to the dark series' magical, gruesome appeal and an unexpected final twist for a show that was full of them.

Homeland

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland , "Our Man in Damascus"


Season 5, Episode 11

The show has been uneven in the past, but the penultimate episode of Season 5 is a return to full strength, with Carrie and Saul doing a better version of 24, the intriguing Allison adding to the drama and a new hope for the series' exciting future.

12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer

Comedy Central

Inside Amy Schumer, "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer"


Season 3, Episode 3

The pitch-perfect parody of the 1957 film, which has a jury of Hollywood's finest non-heartthrobs (including Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum and John Hawkes) debating whether Schumer is hot enough to be on TV, is a scathing takedown of sexist double standards and a high point in the It Girl's bang-up year.

Jane The Virgin

Tyler Golden/The CW

Jane the Virgin , “Chapter Twenty-Six”

Season 2, Episode 4

After vacillating between Michael and Rafael, Jane finally has an “ah ha!” moment after an epic kiss under some fake snow—a callback to her and Michael's first romantic moment, and a sign they were meant to be. Sure, it inevitably gets more complicated. But the episode is just the right mix of sweetness, sass and romance that made us love the show in the first place.

Jessica Jones

Marvel's Jessica Jones, "AKA WWJD?"


Season 1, Episode 8

The eighth episode of the Netflix series adds layers to Kilgrave (David Tennant) and Jessica (Krysten Ritter). She wrestles with guilt over her family's death and whether she can channel our villain's mind-control powers for the sake of good; he doles out a heart-breaking story of childhood abuse and the loneliness that comes with his powers, eliciting unexpected sympathy. The episode also features the season's most critical exchange between the two about the concept of consent, driving home the show's gritty feminism by tackling the topic bluntly and directly.

The Jinx - Robert Durst

Marc Smerling/HBO

The Jinx, "Episode 6"


Season 1, Episode 6

The hot mic heard round the world sounded loud with Robert Durst's murderous confession -- and echoed in a series of think pieces about how the series' creators managed their legal and ethical responsibilities. Regardless, the moment was a watershed for true-crime tales, and one of 2015's most memorable TV moments.

Justified Season 6 Finale

Prashant Gupta/FX

Justified , "The Promise"


Season 6, Episode 13

The FX drama closed out its six-season run with a final Raylan (Timothy Olyphant)-Boyd (Walton Goggins) showdown. And their final scene ("We dug coal together.") was one of the best moments of the series.

Will Forte in Last Man on Earth pilot

Fox

The Last Man on Earth, "Alive in Tucson"


Season 1, Episode 1

Will Forte spends much of the pilot episode alone and barely speaking, but still manages to make Phil Miller's plight as the (presumed) last living human being hilarious, pathetic, adventurous and sad. It's a bold way to set up a new series--and it paid off.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

HBO

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver", "Episode 18"


Season 2, Episode 18

It's hard to single out just one episode from Oliver's smart, funny and wildly underrated HBO show, but we'd hold up the June 21 installment--in which he addresses the confederate flag in the wake of the Charleston church shooting, the debate over a woman on the $10 bill and the ugly reality of online harassment and revenge porn--as the perfect example of why Last Week is one of the most insightful shows on television.

The Leftovers

Van Redin/HBO

The Leftovers, "International Assassin"


Season 2, Episode 8

The most ambitious hour in one of this year's most ambitious seasons of television follows newly deceased Kevin Garvey's (Justin Theroux) journey to a purgatory hotel with the goal of killing former Guilty Remnant leader Patty Levin (Ann Dowd), whose specter has been haunting Kevin since her death in Season 1. Bold, emotional and head-scratching, it's executive producer Damon Lindelof at his best.

Justina Mintz/AMC

Mad Men, "Person to Person"


Season 7, Episode 14

Series finales might be the most difficult episodes of all—there's no pleasing everyone. But "Person to Person" turns the focus back to Don, letting Jon Hamm earn his Emmy as a broken Draper finds spiritual inspiration... that he'll turn into a commercial ear worm. Cynical? Perhaps. But his lack of redemption is balanced by Peggy and Stan's sweeter finish.

Master of None, Aziz Ansari

K.C. Bailey/Netflix

Master of None, "Parents"


Season 1 , Episode 2

A look at American-born Millennials trying to relate to their immigrant parents, this episode of Aziz Ansari's much-lauded Netflix series taps into the combination of love, guilt, frustration, humanity, and respect that gets woven into the question of what role moms and dads play in the lives of their adult offspring. Adding a few degrees to the heart-warming episode? Dev's mother and father are played by Ansari's real-life parents.

John Fleenor/NBC

The Mindy Project, “While I Was Sleeping”


Season 4, Episode 1

Any fans worried about what the move from Fox to Hulu would do to Mindy Kaling's joyful chaos of a sitcom had their fears assuaged by the first streaming-season episode. In a "what if Mindy and Danny never got together?" alternate reality that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her not-so-perfect husband, we got just as much fun as we could ever want on broadcast.

Sarah Shatz/USA Network

Mr. Robot, "eps1.0_hellofriend.mov"


Season 1, Episode 1

On paper, a hacker drama starring little-known Rami Malek and fresh-off-a-string-of-TV-flops Christian Slater on the USA network doesn't sound like it'd be the hit of the summer. But the pilot episode quickly deletes any doubts, offering crackling mystery and a compellingly original lead. Malek's alienated and conflicted Elliot draws you in from under his hoodie with a monotone narration as the show sets up a psychological cyber-thriller and taps into timely themes of corporate greed and technology's illusions. It's a perfectly paced entry point to a series that never slowed down.

Season 3 OITNB

Netflix

Orange Is the New Black, "A-Tittin' and A-Hairin' "


Season 3, Episode 10

A number of shows (arguably too many) dealt with rape storylines in 2015. But what sets OITNB apart is how the series treats prison guard Nathan's assault of Pennsatucky not as shocking and sexual but as cruelly banal. A series of flashbacks, in which we learn she has been raped before, add to the trauma and the sense of inevitability. The episode is also an example of how the show layers and humanizes characters over time; the Tiffany Doggett we know by the end of Season 3 is far different from the one-dimensional woman we met in Season 1.

Outlander episode 16

Sony Pictures Television

Outlander, "To Ransom a Man's Soul"


Season 1, Episode 16

Anyone wondering if Sam Heughan was snubbed by the Golden Globes needs look no further than the harrowing first-season finale, in which his imprisoned Jamie is raped and ruined by the sadistic Captain Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). As the devastating violations haunt him well after being reunited with Claire (Caitriona Balfe), Heughan's broken eyes scream haunt the fantasy series to something heartbreakingly realistic.

Parks and Rec Leslie and Ron Fight

Ben Cohen/NBC

Parks and Recreation, "Leslie and Ron"


Season 7, Episode 4

Leslie and Ron spend the early episodes of the show's last season at odds; it isn't until the rest of the gang locks them in the Parks Department to work out their differences overnight that we find out why. What ensues is a series of antics, fights and heart-to-hearts that highlights the comedic chemistry between Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman and the goofy warmth and sincerity that made the show so special. Ron's humbling revelation that he had wanted to ask Leslie for a job before she accidentally stood him up for a lunch date is genuinely emotional -- and a testament to the complex friendship the two have built over the years.

Persons of Interest

JoJo Whilden/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Person of Interest, "If-Then-Else"


Season 4, Episode 11

With Team Machine cornered by Samaritan operatives, they turn to the Machine to calculate which move would give them the best chance at survival. The unique hour showcases several unfavorable possible outcomes, but their ultimate reality is just as traumatizing: Shaw (Sarah Shahi) sacrifices herself for the team, and is shot/captured by Samaritan.

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Michael Porro/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, "Amster-damn!"


Season 5, Episode 16

Whenever a gaggle of Real Housewives gather 'round a table, you know there's going to be trouble. Such was the case when the Beverly Hills ladies took a trip to Amsterdam and ended in a major showdown at dinner over Kim Richards' (lack of) sobriety. Lisa Rinna won us over by throwing a wine glass and almost choking Kim out, but it was Kyle Richards fleeing the room in melodramatic self-pity that will forever keep this episode in our hearts.

Kerry Washington Lawn Chair Episode of Scandal

ABC

Scandal, "The Lawn Chair"


Season 4, Episode 14

The "TGIT" drama took a break from the soapy plot twists of Olivia Pope's life for a scorching look at police brutality against African-Americans. Courtney B. Vance was riveting as a father heartbroken and enraged at the shooting death of his son, standing off against police and turning the crime scene into an emotionally charged protest, forcing Liv—and the audience—to face tough issues about the racial climate in this country.

Survivor

Monty Brinton/CBS

Survivor: Cambodia, "You Call, We'll Haul"


Season 31, Episode 8

After receiving a hero's edit for the first half of the season, the entitled alpha dad Andrew Savage was sent packing in a blindside for the ages. Despite receiving just three votes, Savage was no match for Kelley Wentworth, who played her immunity idol, nullifying all the votes cast against her. It wasn't just the best tribal council of the season, it was one of the best of all time.

Sense8 Season 1 Finale

Netflix

Sense8 , "I Can't Leave Her"


Season 1, Episode 12

The season finale is the first time all eight members of the shared-consciousness cluster at the heart of Netflix's global-scale sci-fi series come together and use each of their individual skills to save one of their own. It's an incredibly fun, innovative, action-packed sequence that naturally includes Korean businesswoman Sun kicking a little ass.

Silicon Valley

HBO

Silicon Valley, "Binding Arbitration"


Season 2, Episode 9

A cell phone forgotten at a bar by a competitor gives Richard the opportunity to blackmail his rival; later he has to decide whether to tell the truth in his legal battle with Hooli and cop to the fact that, just one time, he used a company computer to test his algorithm--a slip-up that could sink Pied Piper. The ethical conundrums are real enough for the ruthless startup world (the forgotten phone is actually ripped right from the headlines.); add in Erlich's testimony (to the fact that he's, well, an idiot) and Dinesh, Guilfoyle and Jared debating Schrodinger's Cat as a guy falls off a cliff, and you've got a sublime mix of the believable and the ridiculous.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt , " Kimmy Goes Outside!"


Season 1, Episode 1

The gleefully upbeat Netflix series had us hooked from the first note of that catchy auto-tuned theme song. Its first episode introduces the wholly original Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and the entirely-too-much-fun Titus (Tituss Burgess) and wastes no time as it churns out the one-liners and hidden gem jokes with sunny charm. The pilot flawlessly sets the tone for the show and reminds us all that (don't pretend you're not already singing it) "females are strong as hell."

UnREAL pilot

James Dittiger/A&E

UnReal , "Return"


Season 1, Episode 1

A Lifetime series riffing on The Bachelor turns out to be a complex and dark drama rather than frothy guilty pleasure. The irony-loaded pilot sets the tone for one of the year's most surprising shows, with Shiri Appleby perfectly cast as the troubled reality show producer and Constance Zimmer as her manipulative-yet-vulnerable boss.

Veep

HBO

Veep, "Convention"


Season 4, Episode 5

Come for the long-awaited return of House vet Hugh Laurie as Selina's potential running mate, stay for Anna Chlumsky's tour de force. As fed-up campaign manager Amy Brookheimer delivers a scorching attack on Meyers' ineptitude, we witness both the hilarious end of Amy's White House career and a comedic powerhouse at her finest.

Vikings Paris Attack- To the Gates

Bernard Walsh/History

Vikings, "To the Gates"


Season 3, Episode 8

Ragnar Lothbrok and his Viking bretheren lay siege to Paris in a first-rate battle sequence that blends all the action, history, glory and gore we've come to expect from the series.

Glenn and Nicholas Dumpster - The Walking Dead

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead, "Thank You"


Season 6, Episode 3

Yes, the final moment, in which Glenn appears to be torn apart by walkers, turned out to be a con on the audience that soured the rest of the season. But otherwise, this episode hits on all of The Walking Dead's main draws: plenty of action, gruesome zombies, end-of-the-world emotional turmoil and a shocking death. (Well, "death.") We might have qualms with how the story played out, but there's no denying this was the most talked about episode of television all year.

YOU'RE THE WORST

Byron Cohen/FX

You're the Worst , "LCD Soundsystem"


Season 2, Episode 9

The FXX comedy has wrestled this season with how clinical depression looks, feels, works and affects relationships. But watching Gretchen (Aya Cash) watch Rob (Justin Kirk) and Lexi (Tara Summers) be the ideal couple, the seeming zenith of mature relationships, is confusing and off-putting and cute and sad all at once. And when her illusion of the perfect duo is shattered, she walks home with an oblivious Jimmy (Chris Geere), who doesn't seem to notice the devastated tears as they start to pour. It's heart-breaking and unlike any other half hour of comedy this year.

< >