Best of 2013: Top Ten Television Episodes


There is an embarrassment of horror riches on TV these days. In some ways, that makes it easier to choose ten best episodes, because you have a ton of options to choose from. In other ways, it makes it more difficult because there are so many options to choose from, and you have to sift through the bad (like Under the Dome and the disappointing final season of Dexter) to get to the good. Last year a fair amount of series made my list; this year, I limited it to an episode or two. Sometimes that is because I thought a season as a whole was not worthy of being “best of;” sometimes it is because the whole season was good, but there was one or two episodes that really stood out.

Enough yammering. Let’s get to the picks. In no particular order....

Hannibal Episode 109: “Buffet Froid”

I have been championing Hannibal as my favorite new show of last season since it premiered, so it was hard for me to narrow down a favorite, but I think “Buffet Froid” has to be it. It was a chilling episode that embodied everything you love about a good, taut horror movie. This episode had more “scares” than others, but not “jump out at you” scares. More like the creeping, omnipresent horror that you waited for with baited breath until it crawled out from the bed again.  It was a sophisticated and effective way to bring in “monsters under the bed” and “zombies” without turning it into a free-for-all.

Honorable mention goes to episode 106, “Sorbet.” I don’t know what it was about that episode, but it really got to me.

Teen Wolf Episode 306: “Motel California”

First of all, this episode wins just because it is set in a creepy, run-down motel. All the best horror movies happen in cheap motels; anytime I see a cheap motel on the side of the road, I call it a “murder motel.” And the motel at the center of this certainly had that going for it. There is plenty of insanity and weirdness here, told almost in vignettes. Add to the generally creepy location with a haunted history, you have living creatures trying to escape from human beings; people trying to cut themselves open with power saws; frozen ice girls; and explosions.

Supernatural Episode 811: “LARP and the Real Girl”

This episode had it all: Felicia Day. Respectfully nerdy portrayals of LARPers (Live Action Role Players). Porn jokes. I know - and respect - several real-life LARPers, yet the whole thing just seems absurd to me. This episode found a good balance between respecting LARP - but making fun of it.

Honorable mention goes to episode 813, purely for the title: “Everybody Hates Hitler.”

The Walking Dead Episode 406: “Live Bait”

The Governor carries this episode with a quiet intensity that is both chilling and heartbreaking. It’s hard to feel bad for him because this comes in the aftermath of a massacre of his people. The episode shows him clearly trying to come to grips with what happened: losing his utopia, killing people he considered family and friends (or maybe just subjects), and realizing that the two people he allowed to live didn’t want to live with him. He is trying to find a new place to belong, a reason to keep going - and he does so with very, very little dialogue.

Bates Motel Episode 106: “The Truth”

Amid violence and bloodshed and chaos, the truth finally comes out. Norma learns the truth about her boyfriend; Dylan learns the truth about his mother’s second husband; and why she is so overprotective of Norman. On top of that, there was lots of action, violence, and a healthy splash of blood.

“Toy Story of Terror”

This Halloween special from the Toy Story characters was really impressive. Toy owner Bonnie and her mom are on a roadtrip (with the toys, of course) when they get a flat tire and are forced to stay the night at a creepy roadside motel. (Remember: roadside motels are always creepy.) There are lots of references to horror classics here: Night of the Living Dead, Predator, Aliens, Silence of the Lambs, Godzilla, offering a great blend of smart horror for adults and cute scares for kids.

The Vampire Diaries Episode 418: “American Gothic” and Episode 419: “Pictures of You”

I couldn’t narrow it down. Both episodes were crammed with insanity, violence, torture, humanity, and humor. The end of season four was pretty insane. I wish some of that awesomeness had transferred to season five.

The Originals Episode 105: “Sinners and Saints”

I love The Originals - I think that it is stronger than The Vampire Diaries has been this year. “Sinners and Saints” was especially enjoyable to me, because we learned the chilling truth about the witches. It was a great backstory and took Marcel from being a sociopathic egomaniac to a fully fleshed-out character with a compassionate side, while it knocked the witches off their high-and-mighty pedestal. For me, it was a real turning point in the series.

The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror”

As per usual, the annual Simpsons Halloween outing was hit-and-miss. I really liked the ode to Tod Browning’s Freaks (one of my favorite movies) but the centerpiece of this season’s Halloween episode was the opening credits done by Guillermo del Toro. With dozens of horror movie references ranging from Nosferatu, Blade, Hellboy, Frankenstein, Robot Monster, Phantom of the Opera, Night of the Living Dead, The Birds, The Shining, and The Day the Earth Stood Still (to name a mere few), that opening sequence was a horror fan’s wet dream.

The Following Episode 101: “Pilot”

The show became a little ridiculous as the season wore on, but the pilot was intense. More was crammed into that one episode - a pilot, no less - than some shows cram into an entire season. Series creator Kevin Williamson managed to fit a prison escape, manhunt, capture, multiple murders, a kidnapping, and a good foundation of back story all in one episode - and made it feel natural. 

What did I miss? Did your favorite make the list?