2013 is almost through, so it’s about time for Year’s Over, HEAVEmedia’s look back at all things pop culture in the past year. Keep checking back all week for our thoughts on TV, film, and more.
1) “Ozymandias” – Breaking Bad
Once Rian Johnson was attached to this episode, there should have been a clearer feeling that this would “the episode” in season 5B. Never has Walter White been so horrifying. He is a king, broken with his face in the sand. He has lost everything he worked for because of one miscalculated wild card. Hank could have had this entire episode to struggle and say goodbye. Breaking Bad, however, is not so merciful. Like Uncle Jack, “Ozymandias” runs on a series of instinctive impulses. All bets are off. Mindsets that seemed concrete can blow away like sand. Gilligan’s message runs through: it’s never too late to be a sinner or a saint.
2) “The Rains of Castamere” – Game of Thrones
Although the Song of Ice and Fire is not quite done, The Red Wedding is a hard moment to top. I recall closing my book and contemplating what the point is now. Who do I want on the Iron Throne? The most important thing, though, is that the Stark children see each other again. The rebuilding of Winterfell and those who call its halls home is what drives this saga throughout. When given the chance to see Jon, Bran makes the difficult choice. Although broken, Bran is determined to carry on and be an asset to the future of Westeros. That is the most wishful thinking a Stark bannerman can do, these days.
3) “Finale” – The Office
In the end, this was going to be my inevitable #1 comedy, no matter what else aired this year. Despite the amazing starts to many new shows, 2013 gave us cause to look back at the 2005 midseason replacement that became a pop cultural phenomenon. One year after the doc crew packed up, Dunder-Mifflin Scranton gathers for a Q&A. It’s a rare treat to see people asking their favorite characters how they felt about being on a TV show. Filled with dozen of memorable moments from every single one of the massive ensemble, The Office makes sure to say goodbye in a regular Irish fashion: long and inclusive of everyone.
4) “In Care Of” – Mad Men
For those not on the train, Mad Men is quite the haul, and its penultimate season was no exception. Constantly in a dark, arthouse frame of mind, 1968 could not feel more dismal. MLK, the riots, and RFK all act as the background. As much as the history of that year has extreme value, Don Draper’s experience with it is frustrating. A season full of mistakes and returns to bad habits, Season 6 is a work of art, but one can have trouble understanding why. “In Care Of” offered some much-needed light at the end of the tunnel. The women in Draper’s life rarely get the full picture. His wives and mistresses get shards of the man. Finally, Don figured out that the most important woman in his life, Sally, deserves to understand her father, and he is finally opening the door. Simply boiled down to the best pitch Hersey will ever hear, Don is sick of hiding. Season 7 will bring truth and, hopefully, peace.
5) “Confessions” – Breaking Bad
Yes, Breaking Bad got two spots on this countdown. To be fair, one of the most acclaimed dramas in TV history deserves a list all for itself. Jesse has had to endure so much over four and a half seasons, but “Confessions” allows him to wise up. Stupidity has never been Jesse’s tragic flaw; his is denial. Jesse has pushed himself into the devil’s work, refusing to see the sin. After the events of Season 5’s first half, Jesse lost most of who he was. No amount of magnets or train heists would replace the lives he helped take. Solace in Alaska almost felt like enough. With the pieces all in front of him, Jesse becomes rabid. Complete with a final shot that makes your blood boil, “Confessions” is the juncture where everything comes tumbling down.
6) “Last Lunch” – 30 Rock
While The Office always reached for viewers’ heartstrings, 30 Rock was a more cerebral experience. That’s why, rather than focusing on saying goodbye with flashbacks, Liz and the TGS staff closed up with callbacks. Binge-watching this show will benefit the diehards, as there were jokes and running gags from three seasons ago that paid off. And yes, Liz and Jack finally had “their moment.” No, they never needed to be romantic; they just needed to say how they felt. Light, airy, but filled with flavor, 30 Rock really was a treat.
7) “Boyz 4 Now” – Bob’s Burgers
It takes a keen intellect to understand just how family members can shape one another. Many will highlight the child/parent relationship, but the sibling one is just as valuable. Bob’s Burgers’ writing experiences a touch of puberty just as Louise does the same. Louise has never really cared for anyone previous to this episode (anyone human, at least). And boy, the songs on this show! If One Direction’s entire purpose was just so Burgers could parody them, I accept their existence and fame. “Boyz 4 Now” cracks through that little girl surface into the inevitable woman Louise will become, and the writing starts to show how even the most maniacal girl with a bunny hat can be humanized.
8 ) “The Oath” – The Americans
And you thought your wedding was awkward! Undercover as a lovesick analyst, Phillip must marry a second woman he doesn’t love while his “actual wife” watches. The Jennings’ marriage may be a cover-up, but the connection they have developed is a unique one. It’s hard to earn sympathy for the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and yet, here Phillip is getting his life signed away for the second time, and there’s no one who deserves more pity. The freshman season of The Americans teaches a lot, but the most central point is that these Russian sleeper agents have to endure a lifelong task that no one deserves.
9) “Beginnings” – The Legend of Korra
In many ways, “Beginnings” is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf for Korra. Her stubbornness and partiality put her in hot water for the first half of the season, and in the spirit of her predecessor, Korra journeys into the past to better understand her destiny. Drawing from almost every human culture, “Beginnings” is a beautiful genesis story of the first Avatar, Wan, as Korra’s vision quest allows her to see the bigger picture. Some have issue with the rapid changes Legend of Korra makes over time, but “Beginnings” will always be a reminder of what made not only Aang or Korra, but any Avatar, possible.
10) “Keaton” – New Girl
When a character like Schmidt comes along, one can question where all of his charisma comes from. How has he endured life’s crises so well? Enter Michael Keaton. The concept of Schmidt’s mom and Nick pretending to be Michael Keaton writing Schmidt a letter is silly at the surface level, but then the episode plays out and there’s little doubt this could happen. Of course Schmidt can handle things so smoothly! It’s not the Halloween any show but New Girl could pull off, but as Nick Miller says with a smile, “it was one of the strangest days of my life.” Good strange, though.
Honorable Mention: “Legs” – Archer
Step 1: Spend three seasons building a trained killer’s one fear. Step 2: Give him the idea that his colleague’s new robot legs will make him the Terminator. Step 3: Enjoy. Archer’s paranoia of machines has always been more humorous than worthy of our empathy. That being said, Archer does not let anyone stop him from gearing up for World War III as Ray is surgically enhanced. As what would be a bottle episode on a live-action show, Archer comes to collect on years of tension as the spy’s uneasiness ruptures into hilarity.