2019 Year-End Reviews: Episodes

This isn’t a critical review of what makes an episode flawless, it’s a list of the TV episodes I found myself either revisiting after completion or the ones that I couldn’t look back on  that continued to haunt me long after the credits stopped rolling. These are the episodes that left me in complete and utter awe. They’re the episodes filled with the most evocative performances and the most beautifully moving moments that touched my heart in a way I won’t forget easily.

1. “Pandemonium”
The Good Place 

One year later, and I still think about this episode at least a few times a month. It is without a doubt my favorite episode of The Good Place and the one I could potentially write an entire thesis on. “Pandemonium”, and especially the final few moments of the episode were utter chaos. “Embrace the pandemonium, find happiness in the unique insanity of being here, now.” There’s a great amount of happening in this episode like Michael panicking and then freaking out when he sees the soul squad together. There’s beauty in the montage created for Chidi and Eleanor. There’s beauty in Jason promising he won’t let Eleanor down. There’s beauty in Eleanor taking charge even while she’s afraid.There’s beauty in Tahani realizing what she’ll have to do when face to face with the person who’ll bring out the worst in her. There’s beauty in the humanity that’s found its way into Janet’s life. And there’s beauty in Michael’s faith in his Soul Squad.

The episode is simply put, special. It forces us to look within ourselves and confront the whys. It forces us to question existence, life, and even the afterlife. But it’s the perfect, most unique way of saying, smile because it happened. And I feel it’s safe to assume that we all know that’s nearly impossible to do, anything but the words we actually want to hear in a moment of sheer of frustration; however, it is what it is. Life is pure, unbelievably unfair chaos sometimes, and the only way to get through it is to embrace what’s bound to make us better. As mere mortals who are incapable of understanding what the afterlife entails, it’s also easy to just believe that we’d grow just fine without trials in our life, but the reality is, we don’t know that. We don’t know why life has to be the way that it is, but we’re here because of it, and there’s a whole lot of beautiful in between those tragic moments, which The Good Place captures perfectly in “Pandemonium”. While it is without question one of the saddest episodes on The Good Place, it succeeds in also being the most hopeful.

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2019 Year-End Reviews: Platonic Relationships

We celebrate the gifts that are our families and friends far too infrequently. There’s a specific day set in calendars for couples, and Leslie Knope coined the perfection that is Galentine’s Day (February 13), but even still, while it’s progressive and amazing, it’s just not enough. If a TV show or film doesn’t have a solid, incredible friendship or some sort of platonic relationship, I can’t get into it. As someone who’s so inspired by the people in her life, it’s the one thing I look for in the media I consume. It’s the one thing that keeps me engaged and invested. It’s the one thing that results in excellent character development.  And this year especially, I’m happy to report there were too many gorgeous relationships to choose from. I’d rather have too much than not enough to even fill this category, which is always a bummer. We are not created to be alone as human beings, it’s the relationships we form throughout our lives that effortlessly shape us into the people we become and when we’re surrounded by people who believe in us, there’s nothing we can’t do.

1. The Rose Family
Schitt’s Creek

rose family

When I first started Schitt’s Creek, I could have never imagined how much I’d adore this family and how far they’d come. The Roses are exceptional because they’re absolute weirdos in the most normal way in this ridiculous town, but they stand out because of the love that’s come into their hearts throughout their stay in Schitt’s Creek. This doesn’t just include the immediate Rose family, but Stevie, Ted, and Patrick, too. The family that once only wanted towels and a car out of this town have extended their hearts to the people around them, welcoming them with open arms and a promise to never abandon them. It’s Moira’s belief in Stevie as an unofficial second daughter. It’s the family’s undying love for Patrick and Ted. And it’s Alexis realizing just how much she’s grown to love spending time with them. The series wouldn’t be as brilliant if it weren’t for the family growing to appreciate one another without ever changing their outlandish dynamic and calling one another out on their craps.

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2019 Year-End Reviews: Performers

We don’t all agree on everything, but I feel it’s safe to assume that the majority of us in this community of writers are under the rightful belief that this has been a stupendous year for performances. Especially where limited series are concerned. Vulnerability isn’t an easy emotion to master when acting, but the people who’ve excelled this year mastered it with impeccable and inimitable nuances. Some of these names are familiar ones, but a large majority of the performers in this category are new faces to Marvelous Geeks. Their performances have stood out beautifully throughout the year making my absolute honor to write about them.

The Actresses

1. Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Fleabag

fleabag
I’ll be frank, I didn’t see the appeal in Fleabag while watching the first season, but the moment season two began, I was floored and ready to give every single award to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is simply put, a mastermind — the brilliant meticulous decisions in her performances throughout the year have been strikingly moving and filled with flawless range. We see prodigious growth in Fleabag throughout the season, while Waller-Bridge ensures that her charm is stapled inflexibly and rightfully in every corner. The work she does in “Episode Four” alone is unparalleled and should stand as the very example of what it means to find the balance between comedy and drama. In Fleabag’s ways of breaking the fourth wall, Waller-Bridge enlightens viewers with brilliant ease that connects us further to the unbelievably relatable chaos inside her mind. It’s in her eccentric mannerisms and potent transparency that make her such a vulnerable character we’ve all found ways to connect to. Fleabag isn’t perfect, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performances surely are and her expressive features deserve a category on their own, for the breakdown of every compelling look could result in a full length novel. Waller-Bridge leads the audience towards captivating profundities and astonishing pinnacles throughout the course of six episodes, which alone deserves continuous praise for its exclusivity in the world of television.

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2018 Best of the Year Reviews: 10 Episodes

This is always the hardest category to write about but simultaneously my absolute favorite. The best part of it is remembering the very first time I watch the episode and think, “Yup, I need to talk about this for year-end reviews.” But it’s interesting because I was a little stumped this year. I didn’t want to repeat episodes from shows and I wanted a wide variety. We can thank Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place for making my choices so hard with a ton of amazing episodes. Oh how I adore the comedies on TV right now.

For more end of the year reviews, check out our Top 10 Performers, 10 Characters, and 10 Relationships.

  1. “Start”
    The Americans

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I don’t know how Katie (Nerdy Girl Notes) would cover this show weekly because I could never find the right words. And I especially can’t find the words for “Start.” The final episode of The Americans needs to be seen by every single TV enthusiast in the world. I can understand that the genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in all honesty, at times, it was even too heavy for me, but I’m grateful to know that I’ve seen the best thing on TV. (This sentence was not meant to rhyme, but we’re sticking to it.) “Start” was the perfect conclusion. It wrapped the series up in the most finely crafted bow I’ve ever seen, tying loose ends so wondrously not many before it have mastered. It gave its audience some of the most haunting images to hold onto and I’m sure, without even trying, rendering many of us utterly speechless. Maybe eight years from now when I’m less distraught over “They’ll remember us. They’re not kids anymore.” I’ll be able to talk about just how encompassing “Start” was, but today’s not that day. Or maybe when I’ve finally gotten Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s meticulously somber expressions and the stoic, yet crumbling physicality out of my mind, I’ll be able to talk about it more. But for now, let this just serve as my plea to get you all to watch The Americans because it’s truly unmatched. There are no words that could rightfully encapsulate the magnitude of this finale’s greatness.

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2018 Best of the Year Reviews: 10 Relationships

After I’ve found characters whose lives I’m invested in, my brain then automatically goes towards intricately analyzing the relationships they’ve got — both platonic and romantic because I’m a big believer in the fact that no one should ever be alone in this world. No one can accomplish anything alone. And ultimately, we as people aren’t meant to be alone. Each of the relationships chosen for this category are ones that have done an exemplary job of teaching viewers what it means to compromise, to trust, to believe, and to love deeply. Each, in their own unique ways, have effortlessly made people better. Heck, Marvel’s T’Challa wouldn’t be as successful as Black Panther if he didn’t have such a loving team on his side.  Relationships shape us, break us, and teach us some of the greatest things we could ever learn in the world. And to love with a profound intensity in our hearts often does the trick in bringing our souls to ease even when nothing else is going our way.

For more end of the year reviews, check out our Top 10 Performers, 10 Characters, and 10 Episodes.

  1. Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop
    A Discovery of Witches

A witch and a vampire walk into a library. . .If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be sitting here today writing about a fantasy romance between a witch and vampire, utterly compelled by their story I would’ve told you you’re crazy. But yet here we are, wine in hand, crying into the glass over the relationship I didn’t know I needed in my life. Matthew and Diana are magic together. (I kid you not, friends, the show’s theme song just came on shuffle. Magic.) Personally, a brooding man who hasn’t known love for centuries finding light and wonder in a woman is right up my alley of tropes, for it tells the all-consuming story of what it truly means to be destined for someone, bound by an unseen but potent line that’s been fortified through time and continues to grow beautifully when it begins to intertwine with adoration. There’s so much that could be said about how beautifully their meeting plays a significant, inspiring role in their lives, specifically, at this point in time, Matthew’s love for Diana, which has brought out the magic in her. And in retrospect, how effortlessly she’s brought light back into his life. The laughter, the sincerity, and the unshakeable belief in one another continues to stun me. Matthew and Diana have found something powerful with each other that’s helped them both not only see the greatness in themselves, but the resilience, too. Belief from another person can serve as unparalleled strength and inspiration, thereby, the tireless choices they each make to hearten and challenge one another has made their story that much more captivating. I can’t conclude this without paying homage to Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer’s exquisite chemistry with one another, each playing on the other’s emotions beautifully in a poetic rhythm, which results in each moment, even the quiet, most delicate spectacles of intimacy feel like a work of art.

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2018 Best of the Year Reviews: 10 Characters

For the past few years, this category’s been the most difficult — trying to pick through my favorites without too much repetition from past years and the desire to give other characters the opportunity to be on here as well. But my inability to choose could’ve been due to the fact that there just weren’t that many options in the first place. And this year’s special — in both the TV verse and cinematic. And these ten characters are ones I’m certain I could not love more even if I tried. Some old with exceptional growth and some new pushing me into a state of gratitude for just how great TV’s been this year.

For more end of the year reviews, check out our Top 10 Performers, 10 Relationships and 10 Episodes.

 

The Ladies

  1. Lucy Preston
    Timeless
Timeless - Season 2

Source: NBC

I don’t think there’s ever been a character as adored as quickly as Timeless’ Lucy Preston. And season two pulled the darling historian through the darkest of revelations only to have her come out of it even more generous than before. Lucy’s heart is inexpressible –there hasn’t been a character like her in a while, and it’s been a stunning ride watching her continuously open her heart despite the fact that the one person she trusted most in her life turned out to be the villain in her story. Whether it was fighting alongside the women who were to be executed during the Salem Witch Trials, standing with Suffragette Alice Paul, or welcoming Jessica to the team despite her feelings for Wyatt — Lucy’s benevolence is selflessness in its most evident form. She is nobility personified, for even when she could be choosing for herself, fighting for her own future, the other person’s effect is always taken into deep consideration, too. But the thing I appreciate most about Lucy is that even with all the compassion running in her veins, she’s not one to allow anyone to take advantage of her — she understands that goodness and naiveté aren’t the same thing. She’s fought back when she needs to. She’s cried when she’s been in pain. She’s doubted. She’s believed. She’s gotten excited. She’s shown viewers a wide range of emotions authenticating the fact that women are beautifully complex. She’s many things, but above all, she’s a woman who’s walked through fire and instead of letting it burn her, she’s used it to fuel the good fight instead. She’s walked out with the flames as phoenix feathers — stronger, wiser, and even more compassionate than before.

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2018 Best of the Year Reviews: 10 Performers

There’s nothing I appreciate more every year than performances that make me want to ramble and scream about over rooftops. Performances that are so well done, words suddenly become nonexistent. And this year especially, the top performers were so fascinating, I couldn’t even choose as easily as I often do. I almost added more than I could write for because there were a far more than 10 of them I wanted to talk about. 

For more end of the year reviews, check out our Top 10 Characters, 10 Relationships and 10 Episodes.

The Actors

  1. Matthew Rhys
    The Americans

The Emmy winning performance of the year. (It gives me unbelievable pride and joy to say that, as if I know Rhys myself and he is some distant uncle of mine.) But truly. There’s been nothing quite like this year’s most intensely gripping performance that I’ve yet to find the words for. Phillip caught a bit of a break from the spy life this season, but that meant a lot more work for Rhys in order to show us sides of him that we’d not known in the last five years. And while Phillip was seemingly calmer, Rhys was actually showing us a more frantic angle, especially when it came down no longer understanding his wife or being able to converse with her. It was during the simplest, most quiet moments that Rhys was reminding us of just how much is at stake and just how fleeting this new life of his would be. But then the final few moments of the series happened and just when you think Rhys has probably outdone himself, the confrontation we’ve all been waiting for takes place, and the greatest mic drop in TV history occurs. The Americans excels in a number of ways, but its strongest suit has been the carefully nuanced performances, and although this was the scene we’ve long waited for, I don’t think any of us could’ve imagined the vulnerability it would’ve been filled with. Vulnerability we should’ve probably been prepared for, but at the end of the day, we could never — or rather, at least I couldn’t have. The sheer pain and utter shame Rhys projected while they “confessed” everything to Stan was nothing short of brilliant. The faint break as he states “I finally got caught” or the most sincere reveal throughout the confrontation, “You were my only friend in my, in my whole shitty life” shattered me. Finales in the espionage genre often have their actors go out with a bang, but with The Americans, the bang surprisingly doesn’t involve a gunshot, instead, “Start” concluded with a man and a woman on a bridge, in a country they can no longer call theirs, trying to remain hopeful. And hope is an emotion The Americans has had a special way of revealing. Rhys’ tensed jawline, the palpable dejection in his eyes, and the damaged, hollowed spirit that stood before us was the very paradigm of greatness. Matthew Rhys (And Keri Russell) have always spoken far more in silence than they have with words, and such robust silence can only be described with so few words, it demands to be felt. And it was. 

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