Top 50 Episodes of 2018 Western Animation

By: Dylan Hysen

 

Headlined by record years from best-shows-on-TV Steven UniverseBoJack Horseman, fantastic series wrap-ups from Voltron Mysticons, and incredibly promising starts from She-RaCraig of the Creek, and many others, 2018 was the best year ever for Western animation. We’re highlighting 50 of the best episodes of the year here across 23 shows, focusing on just Western animation for simplicity. There are plenty more wonderful shows airing that we don’t fully have eyes on. Here’s the best among what we’ve been watching. This isn’t a site consensus ranking, it’s Dylan’s personal list, with input from Alex’s own list, and additions made from across the Overly Animated staff.


50) “Temple of Mars”, Adventure Time

Jermaine, voiced by Tom Scharpling, turns in one of his strongest episodes as the foil for Finn in their quest to search for lost Jake. Along the way Betty joins the group, and the episode is able to explore her backstory and blend the line between flashback and present in such a way that raises questions about the episode’s true meaning. Adventure Time liked to lend itself easily to various interpretations, and this was one of its final examples of that style of storytelling. –Alex Bonilla

49) “Colrath”, The Hollow

The Hollow was a super fun binge and [BIG SPOILERS!] concludes its finale episode with a leap-out-of-your-seat twist. Its change to live-action in the last five minutes was very divisive at best but I personally loved it. It was an experience like no other this year; a change in medium was the most unexpected possible way to end things in a season where you’re anticipating something big happening…but not that. “Colrath” left me satisfied with the conclusions to most of the mysteries of the season, and most importantly felt big and substantial enough to justify the painstaking mystery build-up throughout the show. –Dylan Hysen

48) “Sofia The First: Forever Royal”, Sofia The First

This finale put a bow on a great series, one that really put high-quality preschool and early grade school shows back on the map. Luckily we have a lot of good shows to pick up where Sofia left off. It was a great episode, with highlights being Sofia’s amulet powers revealed to everybody and Prisma’s redemption. I am going to miss this show. –Steve Zec

47) “The Sword Part 1”, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Rarely does a pilot episode make waves or achieve something better than mediocrity, but She-Ra races out of the gate with a stunning opening. The Horde from Adora’s perspective is well painted while also making obvious the horrors of its reality. It’s comical really but well executed. It’s so obvious Adora does not belong, and when she enters the forest you’re practically begging her to escape. Her relationship with Catra is also well-established and it’s hard not to fall in love with them immediately, but the imminent tragedy you can feel coming also weighs heavily. —Delaney Stovall

46) “Dark Side of the Boob”, Big Mouth

I have a… complicated relationship with Big Mouth. I am not a fan of it, yet I keep watching it. Hate-watching, the kids would say. However, I’ll admit that the second season that aired this year was better than the first, with “Dark Side of the Boob” being a highlight. The episode brings the shame that the cast of characters has been haunted by all season to a climax, resulting in moments that were utterly human and actually realistically representative of the middle school setting that the show prides itself in portraying. Good job, Big Mouth. Good job. –Sam Quattro

45) “Bittersweet Rivals”, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes

“Bittersweet Rivals” resolves the Enid & Elodie relationship beautifully. The episode shows that relationship struggles can sometimes be because of pride and stubbornness. Elodie struggles to muster the courage to say what she really feels, contrasted by her own pride and self-image which is heavily amplified, literally and metaphorically, by P.O.I.N.T. Prep’s environment. Seeing the two of them overcome this was a great payoff, capped off with a beautiful scene of them observing the sunlight. –Steve Zec

44) “Blossom3”, The Powerpuff Girls

2018 was another year of the Powerpuff Girls reboot having some of the best characterization on TV. I absolutely adore “Blossom3”, which features a villain accidentally creating two clones of Blossom, and showcases the show’s excellent characterization by having Blossom interact with copies of herself and seeing Buttercup and Bubbles’ reactions to them. This all happens in the context of one of the best superhero parodies I’ve seen, with some especially fun lampooning of secret identities. –Dylan Hysen

43) “Jungle Moon”, Steven Universe

An Emmy-winning jungle landscape, the first clue into the enduring mystery of Pink Diamond, and AJ Michalka’s best vocal performance as Stevonnie land “Jungle Moon” on our Top 50 list. Patrick Bryson contributed to a richly decorated topography of trees and wilderness, along with a ruined Gem base that contained the first big hint of who Pink Diamond was (and her first on-screen appearance). Stevonnie comes into their own as an individual character, thanks in large part to Michalka’s voice work in the “Diamond Dream”, effortlessly shifting from being a human fusion to the mysterious Pink Diamond herself, a sign of what was to come just four months later. –John McKenna

42) “Chapter Ten”, Final Space

The first season of Final Space concluded with our heroes taking on the army of the Lord Commander, and the melee serves up some choice emotional moments for Gary, who gets battered throughout the episode and pushed to the precipice of death. Near the end of the episode is a payoff for the series of cold opens employed throughout the season. Perhaps the season finale ends up opening up more questions than it resolves, but it’s likely that “Chapter Ten” is one of Final Space’s better showings in the action department. –Alex Bonilla

41) “The Dagger and the Wolf”, The Dragon Prince

The Dragon Prince wowed in its first season with its deep mythology and infinite potential. Also notable was its gorgeous and poignant season finale “Wonderstorm”, but while the show sometimes left some depth of characterization to be desired, that wasn’t the case in “The Dagger and the Wolf” where Rayla especially shined. The “Human Rayla” gag was the highlight of the season for me and the whole episode just felt like going into a new town in a video game but brought to life in the most brilliant way. –Dylan Hysen

40) “Feeling Spacey”, Summer Camp Island

“Feeling Spacey” is this absurdly touching parable about being open with your emotions told through an adorable romance between two non-binary aliens on a planet where everything is cute. I just love it so much. It showcases what makes Summer Camp Island special: its cuteness, comfiness, and quirkiness, and I can’t wait for more from this show next year. –Dylan Hysen

39) “Familiar”, Steven Universe

A stunning look into the inner workings of Homeworld and the Diamonds, “Familiar” is whimsical and lighthearted at times, and deep and moving at others. It’s capped by a powerhouse musical performance by Zach Callison in one of the show’s best songs. The episode features so many alien concepts yet manages to stay thematically focused throughout on Steven relating his past experiences to the present. –Dylan Hysen

38) “Image is Everything”, Super Drags

Super Drags was an exclamation point in a year full of queer representation in animation, unabashed and unafraid to show a side of the LGBT+ community rarely seen in television. “Image is Everything” was a standout episode in a standout series, showcasing the pushback against the more “stereotypical” members of our community and body issues that sully the dating scene. It touched on things I’ve personally experienced, but have never seen portrayed sympathetically. It takes all kinds of people to make the rainbow and Super Drags embraces that. –Sam Quattro

37) “Mayura”, Miraculous Ladybug

Hawkmoth left his lair. He just left. Season 2 of Ladybug has changed all the rules and “Mayura” changed them the most, in just 20 minutes. Nathalie has been an incredible background character thus far and shined through Season 2, but this was her moment and she was not only great but truly terrifying. Her reactions and emotions countered Hawkmoth’s lack of feeling well and added weight to everything that unfolded. Mayura also had one of the best villain designs to date. Because of “Mayura” we’ve introduced stakes into Ladybug like never before and we even got to see our new hero team in action. Finally, Hawkmoth and now his second in command, Mayura, pose a considerable threat to our heroes. —Delaney Stovall

36) “The Final Book”, Craig of the Creek

“Final Book” is what made me fall in love with Craig of the Creek, and it quickly became one of my favorite shows of the year, in only its first season. The episode showcases a ton of fun supporting characters, especially the iconic horse girls, and Stacks, who shines in her interactions with Kelsey. The framing device with Craig reading a mystery novel is handled so delightfully and as a whole the episode is just so much fun. –Dylan Hysen

35) “INT. SUB”, BoJack Horseman

BoJack has several episodes in Season 5 that play with and deviate from the show’s traditional A-B narrative structure. And then there’s “INT. SUB” which tackles the issue head on and directly comments on it. The episode takes what would be fairly traditional A and B narratives for the show and frames them within a minor character from the season and her wife having dinner and retelling their days. The two plots end up being told with characters that are wacky deviations of the normal cast, highlighted by some particularly creative animation. The result is a way for the show to advance the narrative of the season in a typical way but one that feels fun and new for the audience. And the episode doesn’t hold onto the gimmick for too long, leaving it behind for a dramatic standout final scene. –Dylan Hysen

34) “Red Action to the Future”, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes

This was a worthy sequel to the now classic episode “Back In Red Action”. Enid & Red Action’s relationship is highlighted, showing how a lack of honesty and courage to say how you feel can damage a relationship, which we saw before with another of Enid’s relationships. We see some cool future robot fights and it’s great to see Red’s team again. What a great episode. –Steve Zec

33) “Razor’s Edge”, Voltron: Legendary Defender

This episode follows up on the revelation of Krolia being Keith’s mother with a series of non-linear flashbacks (and a flash forward) that fill in the gaps. The flashbacks come as a result of their journey into a section of the universe where there are space-time drop-offs, a concept that fits with the high-concept galactic physics of this show. On the margins of the episode is Lance dealing with his feelings towards Allura, although the episode for the most part gives the proper spotlight to Keith and Krolia’s bonding over past losses. –Alex Bonilla

32) “Glaciator”, Miraculous Ladybug

What I loved so much about Glaciator was how beautifully it ventured into the depths of the relationship between Ladybug and Chat Noir. They are both incredibly vulnerable with one another throughout this episode, which ultimately highlights the trust and connection that the pair share. The ending rooftop scene is a highlight of the year for me, with both touching dialogue and gorgeous animation. This episode made my shipper heart swoon and it’s remained a personal favorite since it first aired in early 2018. —Sarah Dolman

31) “The Stopped Show”, BoJack Horseman

People are messy. We do bad things. Not everything we do can be forgiven or washed away. You don’t have to like BoJack Horseman, and in this season finale I don’t think anyone does. But if “The Stopped Show” has one message in the aftermath of perhaps the darkest point in the run of BoJack Horseman thus far, it’s that we can move forward towards the light at the end of the tunnel and work to break the patterns we find ourselves in. –Sam Quattro

30) “Divide”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil

“Divide” is the first half of Star Vs.’s season finale, and it especially succeeds in giving the show’s supporting cast some good comedic moments to shine. The Tom and Marco chemistry that’s developed gradually on the show is strong here, and Ponyhead adds some levity to the kingdom-threatening situation. The opening of the episode is also deserving of praise for paralleling Star’s temporary rise to the throne with how her mother handled it at the beginning of Season 3. –Alex Bonilla

29) “Legs from Here to Homeworld”, Steven Universe

“Legs from Here to Homeworld” has an astounding amount of plot jam-packed into 11 minutes, and yet so many quick moments really stand out. The way Yellow and Blue Diamond interact with Steven is so fascinating, the way they attempt to heal Centipeetle, Bismuth’s quick talk with Steven, seeing Homeworld like we’ve never seen it before, White Pearl, and of course the stunning introduction of White Diamond… each of these individually are fantastic and experience of going through all of them so quickly after painstaking build-up previously from Steven Universe is unforgettable. –Dylan Hysen

28) “Age of Dragons”, Mysticons

Mysticons is definitely the best show you never heard of and it concluded this year with “Age of Dragons”, an epic series finale. It features an awesome end to a series-long villain arc, a great culmination for our heroes and the journey they’ve been on, and the ultimate Game of Thrones reference. –Dylan Hysen

27) “The Lost Fable”, RWBY

“The Lost Fable” delivers the world building and mythology RWBY fans have been waiting for. Not only is it satisfying thematically, it also features stunning artistry and sound design. These elements come together to make it a technically sophisticated episode and a standout moment in RWBY–Hayley Nabuurs

26) “Chapter Four”, Final Space

“Chapter Four” of Final Space begins with Gary dramatically reacting to his crush not knowing who he even is, and hits its high when we get to Gary being thrown into flashbacks of his childhood and watching his astronaut father fly to his demise. Fan favorite KVN also gets a rare hero moment, helping the episode’s case among the best of the year. –Alex Bonilla

25) “The Midnight Giant”, Hilda

Hilda is underrepresented on this list, probably because it’s not as much a “standout episodes” type of show. But make no mistake, it’s right up there with She-Ra and Craig as the best new shows of year. Hilda is more than the sum of its parts, it’s a joyous, comfy viewing experience highlighted by some of the most gorgeous animation out there. “The Midnight Giant” was its best entry for me as the non-city elements of the show worked slightly better. This tale of giant Jorgen and his lover is just the most moving and beautiful thing I’ve seen all year. –Dylan Hysen

24) “Shadows”, Voltron: Legendary Defender

In long-running shows, villain backstories are often an easy way to get people more invested for the final showdown, and Voltron followed that strategy with “Shadows”, which through flashbacks reveals how Honerva (formerly known as Haggar) and Emperor Zarkon slowly lost their minds and how that affected the childhood and maturation of popular antagonist Prince Lotor. –Alex Bonilla

23) “The Last Crash of the Sunchaser!”, DuckTales

The DuckTales! reboot began in 2017 with a loose plot thread concerning the nephews’ missing mother, but most episodes deal with comedic situations that result in growing emotional connection between the nephews and their uncle Scrooge McDuck. Those two strongest elements of the show unite most cohesively in “The Last Crash of the Sunchaser”, which gradually ramps up tension until the episode climaxes on a heartbreaking ending for the family. –Alex Bonilla

22) “The Dragon’s Rage”, Mysticons

There are many reasons why “The Dragon’s Rage” is a fantastic episode: battles, betrayals, love and hate declarations, even a song timed perfectly to the episode’s heaviest emotional beat. But let’s be honest, “The Dragon’s Rage” isn’t one of the best on this list because of how it highlights Mysticons’ strength as a show that can balance fantasy, action, and character development. No—it’s because of the weredragons. WEREDRAGONS!! –Beatriz Mourad

21) “Sandboy”, Miraculous Ladybug

Ladybug was somehow phenomenal throughout its 2nd season despite never deviating too much from its usual rigid episode structure. Then “Sandboy” arrived and for the first time really changed things up. The result was captivating, with the highest-level narrative this show has seen so far. Never actually seeing things from the akumatized party’s perspective allowed for a striking experience of watching things unfold through Marinette and Adrien’s eyes. Coupled with perspective shifts to Plagg and Tikki, an absurd and fantastically strange kwami ritual inside a box, an evil clone of Ladybug pulling out a giant anime sword, and the usual incredible romance we expect from the show, “Sandboy” was the highlight entry of the show so far for me. –Dylan Hysen

20) “The Showstopper”, BoJack Horseman

BoJack seems like a better person throughout Season 5 of the show, and then comes “The Showstopper” where everything comes tumbling down for him in heartbreaking fashion. The climax of this episode is told through a stunning musical number within a trippy drug-induced sequence, and the rest of the episode is framed between an inter-cutting of BoJack filming the TV show he’s on and the show itself airing. The result is a captivating experience where you lose track of what’s real and not, like BoJack himself is experiencing. –Dylan Hysen

19) “A World Between Worlds”, Star Wars Rebels

Any fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will tell you that when it comes to television, everything is not as “connected” as it seems. Despite the rise of television as the go-to for excellent serialized storytelling, the MCU still treats TV as film’s annoying younger sibling. In the world of Star Wars, this is not true. From the first seconds of “A World Between Worlds,” Rebels signals to the viewer how interwoven every Star Wars tale is and that the episode will have massive consequences, changing what is possible in that galaxy far, far away. What makes the episode masterful, however, is that it acts not only as the culmination of decades-worth of storytelling but also as a satisfying conclusion to Ezra and Kanan. –Beatriz Mourad

18) “Princess Prom”, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

This episode is probably the gayest thing I’ve watched all year. Catra shows up in a SUIT with the bowtie undone. She and Adora dance and DIP. It’s the Kataango all over again and I died. In all seriousness though, this episode was another demonstration of not only the all-encompassing queerness of She-Ra but its feminine power. An entire ball full of princesses. It had that fun danger dance feel we all love in our teen dramas à la Kim Possible’s “So the Drama”. There were also meaningful moments between our main trio. This show continues to add new characters but in this episode, they juggle them all with finesse. —Delaney Stovall

17) “Conquer”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil

Star vs. the Forces of Evil concluded its third season with a showdown between Star and Meteora, and the fight between them is some of the best animation work Star vs. has done for an action sequence. Eclipsa’s appearance at the end of the episode also raises some interesting questions for how the show’s final season will proceed. –Alex Bonilla

16) “The Kid from 3030”, Craig of the Creek

This episode is absolutely unlike anything I’ve seen before from animation. Del the Funky Homosapien appears as his previously existing character Deltron and gives three original rap opera performances. The rap sequences are incredible; the songs are great and so are the accompanying visuals. They’re some of the best things I saw on TV all year and I’ve watched them again and again. And somehow all of this is tied very well into the Craig world, fitting into a solid-as-always narrative from the show. –Dylan Hysen

15) “Can’t Go Back”, Steven Universe

“Can’t Go Back” is another high point for Lapis Lazuli and her character’s continued efforts to grapple against self-doubt and how that affects others. The principal set piece the episode will be remembered for is the performance of “That Distant Shore”, Jennifer Paz giving a Disney princess-level voice to the water gem’s wistfulness. “Can’t Go Back” may pale in excitement to other lore-heavier episodes this year, but this episode is visually captivating and is another successful piece in Steven Universe’s emotional portfolio. –Alex Bonilla

14) “Chapter Nine”, Final Space

Final Space’s satirical take on apocalypse action shows mixed with legitimate human drama, long-term plot, and well-designed yet still cartoonish backgrounds is what makes this show unique, and “Chapter Nine” is a shining example of this balance. Gary, Quinn, and company go on a search for an anti-gravity bomb that will close a breach to the dangerous alternative reality known as Final Space, while also getting closer together, and even go on a long-anticipated date in the bar where they first met. Throw in the hilarious antics of supporting characters like KVN (earning a much-earned thumbs up from Gary), Tribor (most hardcore rebel leader with a scarf on his head that you’ll ever see), stunning apocalyptic visuals, and menacingly brilliant line-reading from David Tennant as the evil Lord Commander, and you have an episode that’s hilarious, sad, and sets up for the epic season finale to come.  –John McKenna

13) “Doorway to Helen”, Craig of the Creek

Among the many strong episodes of Craig’s first season, “Doorway to Helen” stands out for its poignant tribute to the bond between far-apart friends—whether separated by dimension, distance, or time. Wistful and and evocative, this episode underscores the show’s power to draw you into its world and bring its characters to life in just 11 short minutes. –Sarah Dolman

12) “Now We’re Only Falling Apart”, Steven Universe

In the wake of the revelation that Rose was Pink Diamond, the next step was to explore how that decision came to be. That came to pass in the form of a fairytale-like telling by Pearl that sometimes clearly mirrors “The Answer”. It serves as another example in Steven Universe’s gradual reveal of the war hero Rose Quartz making unwise decisions along the way and provides some long-desired backstory filling for the Rose-Pearl relationship. –Alex Bonilla

11) “The Amelia Earhart Story”, BoJack Horseman

The binds of family haunt many characters in BoJack Horseman, so it was due time that we see Princess Carolyn’s ghosts. Another stop on the series’ search of what it means to be a good person, “The Amelia Earhart Story” is a portrait of motherhood, from the abusive and neglectful to the caring and tender: all of these different aspects can be within the same person in a heartbreaking way. This episode continues the funny idea that a show primarily about animal people is more human than most other shows. –Sam Quattro

10) “The Question”, Steven Universe

“The Question” is the episode of TV that made me the happiest to watch this year. It’s pure joy from start to finish, exploring Ruby’s character and how she feels about Sapphire including such a fun song, and culminating in a gorgeous proposal that’s one of the best scenes of the year. –Dylan Hysen

9) “Fear the Spectral Hand”, Mysticons

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a single character tour de force as Dreadbane is in this brilliant penultimate Mysticons episode, which really digs to the emotional core of the former villain. Capped by a fantastic culminating scene for the Arkayna’s parents arc that Dreadbane is key to, this episode elicited some of the biggest emotions I’ve had all year. —Dylan Hysen

8) “Promise”, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

She-Ra develops its protagonist and antagonist around each other, and both characters actually care about one another in a way that’s rarely depicted in that dynamic. Going into “Promise,” audiences hope that because Catra has shown some good moments, her journey with Adora through the First Ones’ citadel will be a turning point. But as the episode sheds more light on Catra’s perspective, the cracks that were always present in her relationship with Adora become apparent as their nostalgic past gets dissected, revealing other, darker layers. “Promise” explores the full depth of the “tragic villain origin” archetype to tell an engaging story while adding extra weight to the series’ plot, its characters, and their development. —Ally Martin

7) “For Love”, Castlevania

Castlevania’s highlight episode was the penultimate of Season 2, the final showdown between Dracula and our ragtag crew of protagonists. The fight sequence as our main trio first enters the castle is well-choreographed, resulting in a lively affair. The episode then comes to a head with a well-done introspective scene for Dracula. If you like your animation with action, I’d argue this is the best episode of the year in that category. –Alex Bonilla

6) “The Princess and the Pirate”, Mysticons

This episode is the culmination of everything great about Mysticons: action, fantasy, and a truly touching queer romance. We parallel the two worlds of our princess and pirate until they collide in the most explicit queer declaration behind Steven Universe’s wedding kiss. Zarya looks Kitty dead in the eye and says “I love you.” It was extraordinarily beautiful and powerful. I cried and felt validated in a way I hadn’t since the ending of The Legend of Korra. An obvious kiss was cut but our couple did share a very adorable hug. This was episode was just a joy from start to finish and had that wonderful romantic tension you never get with queer characters. —Delaney Stovall

5) “The Black Paladins”, Voltron: Legendary Defender

Voltron’s magnum opus is the absolutely stunning action sequence between Keith and Clone Shiro in “The Black Paladins”. Crafted by Joaquim Dos Santos, one of the best there is for action, and his crew, this battle features frenetic camera work and anime-style visuals of the two characters fighting amidst a landscape that’s falling apart. For my money it’s one of the greatest action scenes in American animation history. The episode ends with a series of short flashbacks that further drives the pathos of Keith and Shiro’s relationship and really brings everything home. –Dylan Hysen

4) “Reunited”, Steven Universe

“Reunited” is one of the most uninhibited and exciting episodes of American television that I’ve watched this year. Steven’s culminating musical number shows us how much everyone has to worry about while also acknowledging time for happiness and love. We see the show’s constant push for better LGBT representation in the media with a revolutionary lesbian wedding. Having one of the final conflicts as both a battle and a conversation was perfectly fitting for Steven Universe, and 24 minutes fly by in this climax of the series, preparing fans for what may be the beginning of the end. —Ally Martin

3) “Come Along with Me”, Adventure Time

It was the ending of one of the most important animated series of the decade and it was maybe a perfect summation of the show as a whole. With surrealism, action, romance, silliness, somberness, and good tunes, “Come Along With Me” brought the end of Finn and Jake’s televised journey, but showed us that they’ll keep living on as will we. Nothing ever truly ends as stories get passed from person to person, year to year. There will still be time for adventure beyond this episode. –Sam Quattro

2) “Free Churro”, BoJack Horseman

“Free Churro” is the prime example of BoJack Horseman keeping itself fresh by way of episode structure experimentation, because on paper it’s just “BoJack does a 22-minute standup routine at his mom’s funeral”. But Will Arnett’s lone voice weaves seamlessly between banal anecdotes about BoJack’s 80s sitcom, harsh jokes about his God-forsaken mother and his deeply rooted insecurities developed from never feeling what a healthy family structure was supposed to be like, all coming together in one of the show’s strongest combos of comedy and emotional depth. –Alex Bonilla

1) “A Single Pale Rose”, Steven Universe

The #1 selection was a tough call between “Free Churro”, “Come Along with Me”, and this one, all incredible episodes that will stand the test of time. “A Single Pale Rose” though is the episode that elicited the biggest reaction from me, the one that completely shifted my experience in viewing one of the best shows on TV. The Rose is Pink Diamond revelation alone would be enough to make “A Single Pale Rose” unforgettable. It’s one of the best twists I’ve ever seen, masterfully built up for years with the show’s entire mythology based around it. But “A Single Pale Rose” reveals that twist in the context of the best episode ever for the show’s best character, Pearl. The dive into her psyche to eventually end up at a place where the twist could be revealed was brilliant framing and is what catapults this episode to an animation all-timer. –Dylan Hysen

 

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