My Top 25 Episodes of 2017
By: Dylan Hysen
It’s time for my Top 25 episodes of television of the year! I do this annually here at Overly Animated, ranking episodes only from shows I watch, both animated and live-action, in order to give a sense of how this year’s best of animation stacks up against the overall best of television. Check out my previous lists from 2016 and 2015, and now on to the episodes!
Honorable Mentions: “XCIII”, Samurai Jack; “Reunion”, Voltron: Legendary Defender; “Baby”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Just Friends”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Face the Music”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Starcrushed”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Raid the Cave”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Toffee”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Lava Lake Beach”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “The Trial”, Steven Universe; “Off Colors”, Steven Universe; “Lars’ Head”, Steven Universe; “That Will Be All”, Steven Universe; “The Zoo”, Steven Universe; “Are You My Dad?”, Steven Universe; “Islands Part 6: Min & Marty”, Adventure Time; “Islands Part 8: The Light Cloud”, Adventure Time; “Elements Part 2: Bespoken For”, Adventure Time; “Hostage Situation”, Girls; “The Bounce”, Girls; “Come to Jesus”, American Gods; “The Eaters of Light”, Doctor Who; “World Enough and Time”, Doctor Who; “The Doctor Falls”, Doctor Who; “The Anecdote”, Nathan For You; “Shipping Logistics Company”, Nathan For You; “The Richards Tip”, Nathan For You; “The Rickshank Rickdemption”, Rick and Morty; “Pickle Rick”, Rick and Morty; “The ABC’s of Beth”, Rick and Morty; “Hooray! Todd Episode!”, BoJack Hoeseman; “Thoughts and Prayers”, BoJack Horseman; “Stupid Piece of Sh*t”, BoJack Horseman; “Ruthie”, BoJack Horseman; “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”, Stranger Things; “Skies of Fire”, Mysticons; Mutiny Most Fowl”, Mysticons; “Changing at the Edge of the World”, Little Witch Academia; “shutdown -r”, Mr. Robot; “Sacrifice”, Lego Elves: Secrets of Elvendale; “Arkangel”, Black Mirror; “Crocodile”, Black Mirror; “Metalhead”, Black Mirror.
25) “XCII”, Samurai Jack
Samurai Jack came back for a final season this year, and with it stunning visuals and fight scenes, even if the narrative wasn’t suburb towards the end. “XCIII” is maybe the better episode, but give me the season premiere which was a great re-introduction to the world of Jack and introduced one of my favorite characters of the year, Scaramouche.
24) “Rest and Ricklaxation”, Rick and Morty
If you don’t watch Rick and Morty, you may be skeptical of it actually being good considering the reputation of some of its fans. But let me assure you, Rick and Morty is genuinely excellent: incredibly funny, clever, and just great TV in general. Its 3rd season this year was its strongest featuring consistently funny and inventive episodes. “Rest and Ricklaxation” stood out for its unique concept and take on its main characters.
23) “Black Museum”, Black Mirror
Season 4 of Black Mirror was a strong way to finish out 2017. After back to back great seasons I think this show might be the best on TV even if this year didn’t hit the highs of 2016’s “San Junpiero”. Take your pick for 2nd best episode of the season, they were all great. “Black Museum” is really difficult to judge, a mashup of different stories loosely tied together (reminiscent of “White Christmas”). I found all the stories captivating with some of the most interesting uses of technology of the season, and the end really powerful.
22) “All Hail Necrafa”, Mysticons
Mysticons is the breakout new animated show of the year for me and there are a ton of reasons to check it out. Its first season was very strong and culminated in this action-packed finale with great character moments and mythology advancement. I haven’t seen a season finale quite like “All Hail Necrafa” since the Legend of Korra days and that’s thrilling.
21) “New York, I Love You”, Master of None
Master of None had a great overall second season, but there are two particular episodes that by far stand out. The first is “New York, I Love You”, a series of somewhat connected vignettes featuring a diverse array of New Yorkers. It’s interesting and refreshing to see a look into the lives of people you don’t normally see portrayed on TV. The standout segment of the episode features a deaf woman and is told with no sound, a striking and fascinating choice that really works.
20) “The Old Sugarman Place”, BoJack Horseman
BoJack has always shined with its narrative, exploring personal and meaningful elements of our lives not often discussed in media. Season 4 made the addition of powerful visual storytelling to the show’s repertoire and it wowed. This was fully on display in “The Old Sugarman Place” featuring interwoven sequences of BoJack in the present and his mom’s family in the past.
19) “The Spoils of War”, Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones had a down year, struggling with its expedited pace as we reach the end of the series. It was still thrilling though, and “The Spoils of War” stood out for its incredible and visually stunning battle featuring a dragon.
18) “Islands Part 5: Hide and Seek”, Adventure Time
As you’ll see many times on this list, I love self-contained episodes, and backstory ones especially. Adventure Time managed to weave an incredible past narrative in the midst of a larger mini-series arc for Finn. The bond and hinted-romance between Susan and Freida detailed in this “Part 5” is a sight to behold and a high-point even at the end of Adventure Time’s run.
17) “Deep Dive”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
16) “Moon the Undaunted”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
Star broke out this year as one of the best animated shows on TV, and it did so with stand-out episodes, which is what this list tracks (there were almost 10 other episodes that easily could have made this list). These are two very different episodes that show Star vs. the Forces of Evil’s incredible range. “Moon the Undaunted” is a showcase of characterization, a great focused flashback episode that advances the mythology of the show. “Deep Dive” is an abstract, gorgeous entry that succeeds in furthering Star’s character and the narrative in a minimalistic way.
15) “Chapter Fifty-Four”, Jane the Virgin
14) “Chapter Fifty-Five”, Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin made a bold show-altering shift mid-way through its third season earlier this year. It abruptly altered the course of the show, and although the show somewhat struggled to regain its footing in the weeks following, the episodes that detailed the shift were incredible and some of the show’s best. These two episodes are some of the most emotional ones I’ve seen on all of TV, cashing in on hours of incredible character build-up to detail how some of the best characters around deal with tragedy. These two episodes and the show’s quick bounce back after the shake-up further cement Jane as one of television’s elite shows.
13) “The Legend Begins”, Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron finally turned the corner this year into achieving some of its obvious potential with a great Seasons 3 and 4. The Legend Begins was the highlight for me, an incredibly satisfying backstory episode that explained a large portion of the show’s mythology. The episode shows how powerful it can be to pay off mysteries fully, and also just tells a great self-contained story.
12) “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, American Gods
11) “Git Gone”, American Gods
American Gods aired its first season earlier this year and it definitely came in with a force. As a fan of the book, I absolutely loved it, although I can imagine things would be pretty confusing for someone not familiar with the source material. The show certainly didn’t ever stop to explain itself. These two episodes were my favorites, both featuring powerhouse performances from Emily Browning. The show’s expansion of Laura was incredible to see, especially in “Git Gone”, and Browning also took on the one episode appearance of Essie in “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, whose story stood out even among all the show’s great one-shot characters. These were two of the best self-contained character-focused episodes I’ve ever seen.
10) “eps3.2_legacy.so”, Mr. Robot
9) “eps3.4_runtime-error.r00”, Mr. Robot
Mr. Robot was back in a major way this year. Season 3 was almost as good as the show’s incredible first season. Two episodes stood out to me, the first focused solely on Tyrell, with great characterization of him and tying in really well to the show’s overall mythology. The second, a tense episode depicted in only one shot, an outstanding visual feat.
8) “USS Callister”, Black Mirror
“USS Callister” is definitely the standout Black Mirror episode this year even if it might not measure up to the series’ absolute best. It’s a brilliant social commentary on misogyny and male entitlement in nerd and video game culture and uses great narrative twists to achieve that. With an engaging narrative and great performances, this is one of the best episodes of the year.
7) “American Bitch”, Girls
Girls has had some of the best episodes of TV in recent memory, and they always tend to be bottle episodes, including last year’s “The Panic in Central Park”, and now “American Bitch” can be added to that illustrious list. The episode is an incredible parable of how societal gender dynamics interplay with power imbalances, and features some of the most powerful, meaningful narrative this year.
6) “Finding Frances”, Nathan For You
It’s always hard to describe the brilliance of Nathan For You. I could have easily put three other of its Season 3 episodes of this list, especially the incredible “The Anecdote”, but I limited myself to just its epic two hour finale. It contains the usual of what makes this show great, but also an added emotional resonance and poignancy, especially in its final scene… maybe the best scene of television of the year.
5) “Running With Scissors”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
What a powerhouse episode of Star, and just TV in general. “Running With Scissors” covers more character and emotional ground in eleven minutes than most shows do in an hour. The plot of the episode itself spans many years in the course of minutes and somehow it really works. The best thing this episode does is take itself completely seriously, and that pays off in the form of incredible characterization for Marco and a super emotionally resonant climax.
4) “Extremis”, Doctor Who
Sometimes Doctor Who can just stun with a brilliant entry. It did it last season with “Heaven Sent”, and Steven Moffat struck gold once again with “Extremis”, even in the midst of a somewhat mediocre send-off season for him as showrunner. “Extremis” has a captivating mystery plot with hilarious elements and great characterization for Bill and the Doctor, and that’s all before the culminating brilliant twist that really cements this as a Doctor Who all-timer. I’ve been frustrated with Moffat as showrunner at times, but I’ll certainly miss his occasional showstopping script.
3) “Time’s Arrow”, BoJack Horseman
“Time’s Arrow” is such a triumph, the best episode ever of BoJack, and one of the best episodes of TV of the year. It’s stunning visually, conceptually, narratively, and within the context of the season. The last 5 minutes are some of the most powerful and best television you’ll ever see.
2) “The Ricklantis Mixup”, Rick and Morty
The best episode of animation of the year goes to Rick and Morty with what might be the series’ high point. “The Ricklantis Mixup” is so, so good. It’s Rick and Morty as its best with an interesting concept delivered with great narrative in a hilarious way. It’s also really satisfying in the context of the series. It’d be surprising if Rick and Morty were ever able to top this entry, but the series does seem to be getting better and better.
1) “Thanksgiving”, Master of None
“Thanksgiving” is the rare perfect episode of television, and features basically every narrative element that I particularly enjoy. It’s a slam dunk number one on this list despite an incredibly strong top ten. The episode details many Thanksgivings with Denise’s family and Denise’s coming out to them. It features perfect character work and snapshot storytelling over a long period of time. It handles LGBT and racial social issues seamlessly and with grace. “Thanksgiving” and my #1 last year, Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” show the narrative heights we can reach if we tell the stories of many different types of people.
So that’s it. 2017: another very strong year of television and a particularly strong year for animation, taking three of the top five spots on this list. Most of the shows here will be back in 2018 and I can’t wait to see what they have to offer.