The small screen is silver: The best TV episodes of the year

Graphic by Georgi Presecky
(Clockwise from top left) Driver and Dunham beautifully say goodbye to their characters on “Girls.” Hartley and Brown give Emmy-worthy performances each week as brothers on “This Is Us.” The CW’s “Riverdale” brings a new spin on the traditional Veronica-Archie-Betty (Camila Mendes, KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart) triangle. Highmore somehow made Norman Bates even creepier than before in the series finale of “Bates Motel.”

Georgi Presecky, Editor-in-Chief

The phrase “golden age of television” has been in use for almost two decades, but the current number of outstanding television series is higher than ever. Veteran TV critic Maureen Ryan wrote about how modern shows are broadening their cinematic horizons in an April 2016 Variety piece on what she calls “peak TV.”

“TV, that wily beast, continues to challenge the outer limits of form and technique on a weekly basis,” she wrote. “It’s widened the array of protagonists it’s willing to follow.” From network to cable shows and dramas to comedies, the caliber of today’s television rivals modern cinema. With an overwhelming list of possibilities for viewing, these Emmy-worthy outstanding episodes have already made 2017 an exceptional year for television.
“Girls” – What Will We Do This Time About Adam

One of the final episodes of this HBO comedy is an homage to the doomed relationship between Hannah (show runner and star Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver). The pair’s chemistry and history is brought back to the surface as they wander the streets of Brooklyn, pondering what’s next for them in a special 22-minute capsule. Heartbreaking, hilarious and realistic, this episode stands apart from the rest of the show as a commentary about moving on, and it gives future Oscar winner Driver his due as a dynamic, brilliant actor.

“This is Us” – Jack Pearson’s Son

You’ve heard about “This Is Us” – it’s marketed as a tearjerker, following the lives of the Pearson family through different points in their past and present. There’s so much more to this NBC drama than the tissues – although those are necessary pretty much every week. It boasts a diverse, multifaceted cast and manages to be consistently poignant without ever venturing into sappy territory. In this episode, Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) must make an important split-second choice to advance his acting career or be there for his anxiety-ridden brother (Sterling K. Brown). He thinks about “what my dad would do,” and the choice is easy.

“Bates Motel” – The Cord

A&E’s “Bates Motel” is essentially a five-season prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho.” But the series takes it one step further than the infamous shower scene in this series finale, determining the ultimate fate of serial killer Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) after he breaks out of jail for the murder of Marion Crane (Rihanna). This ending is chilling, sad and takes a more modern approach to Norman’s mental health than the original 1960 film. If Highmore isn’t nominated for best actor in a drama series for this performance alone, the Television Academy might as well cancel the Emmys this year.

“Riverdale” – Pilot

The first episode of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s “Riverdale” accomplishes a rare feat. The story originates from the Archie Comics and its characters, but the series establishes a darker tone in its pilot when Riverdale’s residents are shaken by a local murder. The episode’s perfect exposition lays the groundwork for an excellent first season, in which we learn more about these characters’ lives aside from the mysterious death. The Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica we grew up with might look a little different, and their town may have changed, but this show still makes it a very entertaining place to live.

Georgi Presecky
Georgi Presecky is a senior public relations/advertising major with a minor in social media. She is Editor-in-Chief of The Flyer after spending two years as a layout editor. She aspires to be Rory Gilmore but is actually much more like Paris Geller. She has accepted this.

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