Mid-Year 2017 Top 15 Episodes of TV
By: Dylan Hysen
We’re reached the halfway point of 2017 which means it’s time to check in on my top episodes of the year so far. This is a twice a year tradition for me here at Overly Animated, with me 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 year end lists from 2016 and 2015, and now on to the list!
Honorable Mentions: “Face the Music”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “Starcrushed”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; “The Trial”, 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; “Elements Part 2: Bespoken For”, Adventure Time; “Hostage Situation”, Girls; “Come to Jesus”, American Gods; “The Eaters of Light”, Doctor Who; “World Enough and Time”, Doctor Who; “The Rickshank Rickdemption”, Rick and Morty.
15) “Islands Part 8: The Light Cloud”, Adventure Time
Adventure Time has been really good lately, but it may have reached its late-era peak with the “Islands” miniseries, detailing the history of Finn and the humans in the AT world. It’s features legitimately great episodes that can stack up again some of the best from the show’s history. “Part 8” features a great culmination of Finn’s backstory that has resonant emotional depth and really ties the whole miniseries together.
14) “Just Friends”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
13) “Raid the Cave”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
There’s a lot of Star vs. the Forces of Evil on this list. Four episodes worth, more than any other show. Star broke out this year with a particularly strong second half to its second season, and it did so with break-out episodes, which is what this list tracks. “Just Friends” features some incredible character work with two of my favorite sequences of the year and “Raid the Cave” ends in a stunning scene that stands out even among the heavy hitters of this list.
12) “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.
11) “The Bounce”, Girls
Girls had a strong final season, one that concluded one the very best shows of the past decade. It featured some great narrative choices, including having an episode mostly focused on standout side character Elijah. Elijah always shines on this show and particularly did in this very funny and emotionally effective episode.
10) “Chapter Fifty-Four”, Jane the Virgin
9) “Chapter Fifty-Five”, Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin made a bold show-altering shift mid-way through this year’s season. 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.
8) “Baby”, Star vs. the Forces of Evil
Certainly one of Star‘s elite episodes this year, “Baby” features a memorable one episode appearance by Melissa Rauch, incredible characterization for Star, and a stunningly beautifully animated climax that will go down as one of the show’s best scenes.
7) “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, American Gods
6) “Git Gone”, American Gods
American Gods recently concluded its eight episode premiere season 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 seen and I absolutely loved them.
5) “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 manages to tell an weave an incredible past narrative in the midst of a large 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.
4) “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 that I’ve ever seen.
3) “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. Mark “Running With Scissors” as the episode of animation to beat this year.
2) “Extremis”, Doctor Who
Sometimes Doctor Who can just stun with a brilliant entry. It did it last season with “Heaven Sent”, and Steven Moffat has struck gold once again with “Extremis”, even in the midst of a medicore 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.
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 and will be very hard to top in the second half of the year. 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.
The most surprising thing in this list is probably a lack of Steven Universe. I do think SU has had somewhat of a down year so far, but really there just wasn’t any one episode that stood out to me. The Trial was the closest, and maybe by year’s end it will grow on me enough to make the Top 25.
Overall it’s been a very strong first half to 2017 with a top five episodes that’d be a strong group at year’s end. For the rest of the year I’ll be looking forward to shows like Black Mirror, Game of Thrones, and Rick and Morty, with more SU and Star to come.