As 2016 comes to a close, the Uproxx staff will be chiming in on some of its favorite things about television from the year. The selections will be presented in no particular order. Like lists, but also not. Today, we present our Best Episodes of 2016.
“The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” The Americans
In 1983, “illusionist” David Copperfield stunned the world by making the Statue of Liberty vanish. But that’s nothing compared to FX’s The Americans, which pulled the show’s best-ever episode out of its hat last season with “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” It starts with a silent cold open where we say goodbye to a “poor” audience surrogate; it continues with Elizabeth forcing Paige to observe Pastor Tim and Alice because “that is all that stands between us and this family being destroyed”; and it ends seven months later, with Paige’s heartless monitoring now simply part of her routine. “The Magic of David Copperfield V” is tense and tragic, introspective and unexpected, perfectly acted and subtly scripted. It’s near-perfect television. The only thing missing is the show’s real hero: Mail Robot. — Josh Kurp
“The Threshold,” Halt And Catch Fire
The best under-watched drama on television, Halt and Catch Fire started out as a somewhat callow Mad Men retread, and evolved in its next two seasons into a profound meditation on ambition, the duality of professional success and failure, and the arc that relationships take over the course of many years. In the series’ second season, Halt and Catch Fire took on an feminist bent by shifting the focus from Joe (Lee Pace) and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) to the women they had once overshadowed, Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishe). Cameron and Donna’s bond became the crux of the whole series, but in season three, small cracks began to form, until “The Threshold,” when things finally fell apart.
The episode’s climactic business meeting, in which the precarious state of the burgeoning online community Mutiny swings unexpectedly toward salvation and oblivion before winding up at an inevitable conclusion, was one of the great recent TV depictions of a marriage dissolving in real time. Halt and Catch Fire is littered with marriages and couplings, both literal and figurative, that thrive for a time and then start to fail due to faulty coding in one or both of the principals. What starts out with good intentions always turns to deep resentment by a series of small disappointments. Hardly the easiest thing to dramatize, but Halt and Catch Fire did it with style and a swelling sense of melancholy that became overwhelming by the time of “The Threshold.” — Steven Hyden