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The 9 Best Television Episodes Of 2013

By / 12.31.13


Parks and Recreation, “Leslie and Ben” — Few shows strike the balance between sweet and funny as expertly and consistently as Parks and Recreation, and Leslie and Ben’s wedding was a prime example. Building off the foundation of the previous episode (Leslie and Ben decide to get married in a spur-of-the-moment ceremony during a big gala for the town), the episode somehow took me on an emotional journey from giggling like an idiot about a drunken city councilman interrupting the festivities with stink bombs he smuggled in inside what appeared to be a version of Ryan Gosling’s scorpion jacket from Drive, to real, actual tears as the two of them said their vows. “I love you and I like you.” Damn. The Ghost of Lil Sebastian approves. — DG


Rectify, “Jacob’s Ladder” — No episode of television in 2013 gut-punched me as hard as the season finale of the little-seen, too-little appreciated Sundance Channel series, Rectify, which comes from character actor Ray McKinnon (Sons of Anarchy) and, not coincidentally, two producers of Breaking Bad. The series follows Daniel Holden (Aiden Young) in the weeks after he was released from death row after DNA evidence called into question his conviction for rape and murder of his girlfriend 19 years prior, and the trick the series pulls off is in never letting us know whether he actually was guilty or not, making us deeply sympathize with him but with some reservation. At a certain point, it almost doesn’t seem to matter whether he was guilty or not: He’s a gentle, kind soul, and what the people of his small town do to him in the wake of his release is harrowing, traumatic, and unforgivable. The final moments of “Jacob’s Ladder” are as close as I have ever felt to experiencing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. — DR


Orange Is the New Black, Every episodeHouse of Cards premiered and Arrested Development returned this year with a flood of hype that threatened to drown the Internet with Kevin Spacey fourth-wall-breaking and Fantastic Four musical GIFs. But it was Orange Is the New Black, the show that people were less excited for than even the horrific (and not in a good way) Hemlock Grove, that ended up being Netflix’s greatest triumph. The reasons have been well covered — the mix of comedy and drama, the diverse cast, the number of minor characters who an entire series could be built around, the chicken, etc. — but I don’t recall any individual episodes that stood out (they were all good), only moments, like Crazy Eyes’s pissing on the floor. And the chicken. So I’m saying the best episode of Orange Is the New Black is, all of them. They were all watched in one big sleepless blur, anyway. — JK


Nathan for You, “The Claw of Shame”Nathan for You made me laugh harder than any show on television this year. I could have selected almost any episode for this list and felt totally justified. The only reason I’m going with “The Claw of Shame” is because it was the only one centered in on a single unifying idea, which, as a reminder, was that the show’s star created a huge robotic contraption that would remove his pants in front of a group of children — and a police officer who was prepared to arrest him and charge him with crimes that would result in him having to register as a sex offender — unless he was able to free himself from handcuffs to shut it off. The “Gas Station Rebate/Caricature Artist” episode was probably funnier from beginning to end, but, I mean, I feel like we should give this one bonus points for originality and gusto, if only for the stakes. — DG


Archer, “Fugue and Riffs” — To be honest, this selection’s kind of a cop-out. There was so much great TV this year — a partial list of excellent shows not included on this list: Mad Men, Orphan Black, New Girl, The Returned, Top of the Lake, Masters of Sex, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Middle, that scene from Dexter with the treadmill — that our top-10 could have been a top-50. Hence, “Fugue and Riffs,” which combined two of the best shows on TV, animated or otherwise: the salty Archer and the sweet Bob’s Burgers. Is it the best episode either series aired in 2013? Probably not, but it did have Ron Cadillac and the most violently funny fight scene in the show’s history and Cheryl tripping bear balls and the Bob’s Burgers kids in the premiere and the voice of the Bob’s Burgers kids in the equally excellent finale and … what I’m saying is, H. Jon Benjamin is everything. — JK

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