The 22 Best TV Episodes Of 2018
These were the best individual episodes on TV in 2018. What were your favorites?
Here at GameSpot, choosing our top 10 favorite TV shows of 2018 was difficult enough. When it came time to narrow it down to our favorite individual episodes of the year, we knew we had even more work cut out for ourselves. Naturally, we couldn't leave it to just 10, which is how we got to the list you see before you.
This isn't limited to just the best shows of the year, either. In fact, some of the shows whose episodes we chose to highlight here were actually pretty inconsistent, like The Handmaid's Tale Season 2. But we felt that each one had a standout episode that was worth highlighting, regardless of the season's overall quality.
What were your favorite moments in TV throughout 2018? Let us know in the comments, and as always, check out more of our coverage of 2018 as a whole below.
Other Best Of lists from 2018:
1. Atlanta Season 2: "Teddy Perkins"
At the midpoint of Robbin' Season, Atlanta's stellar sophomore outing, the series surprised many with an episode that seemed out of place for the show. In the sixth episode, titled "Teddy Perkins", Atlanta veered sharply into the territory of a thriller, and offered its most unsettling and tragic episode to date. Taking place almost entirely in a mansion owned by the reclusive and off-putting Teddy Perkins--played by an unrecognizable Donald Glover, ghoulish and quizzical in appearance--Darius makes the visit to acquire a special piano, but is quickly side-tracked by the man's stories of fame and their shared fondness for Stevie Wonder.
With Darius taking the lead in this episode, the always aloof and oddball sidekick to rapper PaperBoi is now the most sane and composed perspective inside Teddy's home. As more of the extended episode goes on, the enigmatic recluse becomes increasingly unhinged as he recalls his younger years living with an abusive father, while debating the price of fame with Darius. What seems like a send-up to Psycho and Get Out, with Darius' friends even telling him to bail through text-messages, ultimately culminates into something far more somber, leaving a lasting impression on the character.
Atlanta reached new heights with Robbin' Season, and it was thanks in part to this particular episode's surprising turn, which was largely a detour in the larger plot of Earn and Al's struggles to make it in the city's music scene. At its conclusion, Darius is left to deal with the fallout of the events alone, and empty-handed. In keeping with Stevie Wonder's relevance throughout the episode, his song "Evil" plays over the ending scene and credits, offering a chillingly poignant finish to the series' most haunting episode. -- Alessandro Fillari
2. Aggretsuko: "The Duel"
As cute as the Sanrio anime Aggretsuko is, it also dealt with some serious themes, like how to deal with the fact that your boss is a literal chauvinist pig. The show always felt like it was leading toward something, and in Episode 7, "The Duel," Retsuko's conflict with her boss came to a head in the most awesome way possible.
The cute red panda's talent for death metal was unknown to most of her co-workers until the moment she finally let it all out in a karaoke battle with that hog of a boss. It was incredibly cathartic to watch, and if you're like me, you had goosebumps the whole time. Finally, the fact that the entire office party was so drunk that none of them remembered it the next day was the perfect encapsulation of why Aggretsuko is so fun: Who can't relate to forgetting what happened at karaoke the night before? -- Mike Rougeau
3. Handmaid's Tale: "First Blood"
Handmaid's Tale Season 2 was a slow burn--too slow, some might argue. And for most of its episodes, Season 2 was simply never-ending misery. The tension of living under oppression almost never let up the entire season--with one massive exception that came in Episode 6, "First Blood."
Similar to the moment in Season 1 when Alexis Bledel's character hijacked a car, Season 2's main explosion of violence--literally--took place in "First Blood" when Ofglen set off a bomb in a room full of Commanders. We would have only loved it more if the casualties had been a bit more one-sided (too many handmaids died in the blast, although if she took out every Commander like she no doubt intended, there wouldn't be a show anymore). But it was cathartic nonetheless. -- Mike Rougeau
4. Daredevil Season 3: "Revelations"
The irony of Daredevil getting canceled this year is that Season 3 was the best the show has ever been--maybe the best Netflix/Marvel show season period. And unlike most previous examples of these shows, it never felt slow across all 13 episodes. That breakneck pace came to a peak in Season 3, Episode 9, "Revelations."
The title had multiple meanings. Firstly, Matt spend the episode dealing with the revelation in the previous episode that Sister Maggie was actually his mother. Even more importantly, Agent Nadeem faced the revelation that the FBI was more compromised than he ever imagined. When the agent finally decided to do the right thing in this episode it was a huge relief--and when the rug was pulled out from under him again at the end, it was a shocking gut punch. Daredevil Season 3 was phenomenal, and Episode 9 showcased exactly why. -- Mike Rougeau
5. Legion Season 2: "Chapter 19"
Legion Season 2's multiple timelines episode was a fun experiment, and might have earned the best episodes spot if the finale hadn't been so awesome and devastating. First, Episode 11 (titled "Chapter 19") opened with the most stylish and impressive scene in the show's history, as David and Farouk faced off in the desert while their psyches did animated battle.
Then, it did something that was both impossible and inevitable: It turned David Haller into the villain. And the show did it in a way that will stick: Haller sexually assaulted Syd by psychically drugging her. Another show might have turned its protagonist into a villain in a superficial way that it's sure to undo in the next season, especially after telegraphing it for so long. But there's no going back from that. Legion Season 2's finale changed how we'll look at the show forever, for better or worse. -- Mike Rougeau
6. Maniac: "Utangatta"
Netflix's Maniac wasn't always a ton of fun. In fact, it was often downright depressing. But when it did verge fully into bizarre comedy, it really nailed it. Case in point: Episode 9, "Utangatta."
The episode took place largely in one of Owen and Annie's shared fantasies, this one a mix of Mad Men, Doctor Strangelove, and Men in Black. And while Emma Stone, Justin Theroux, and Sonoya Mizuno outshone the unusually reserved Jonah Hill for much of this series, Hill's performance as the squealing Swedish-ish diplomat Snorri stole the entire show this episode. The stakes were high, and Jonah Hill might have been as well. "Utangatta" captured everything we loved about Maniac, and it was a delight. -- Mike Rougeau
7. Riverdale: "The Midnight Club"
It was a weird year for Riverdale fans. Season 2 went awry and, to be quite honest, was bad. Season 3 is still just as weird but seems to be getting better. In the midst of all of that, though, was a practically perfect episode. "The Midnight Club" takes a trip back in time to see what the parents of Riverdale were up to in high school. To make that happen, the show's younger past plays the teenage version of their characters' parents in a move that works surprisingly well. KJ Apa is able to perfectly embody '90s Luke Perry, while Cole Sprouse nails Scream-era Skeet Ulrich.
Beyond the fun character-swapping idea, what makes the episode so good is that it's essentially nothing but exposition for Season 3 of Riverdale, but it certainly doesn't feel that way. Exposition dumps are very common on TV and in film but typically feel very forced. With "The Midnight Club," viewers are instead brought along on a weird ride for the characters of a very weird show. This is Riverdale at its best and something the show should strive for more often. -- Chris Hayner
8. The Haunting of Hill House: "Two Storms"
There are plenty of reasons to love The Haunting of Hill House and episode six, "Two Storms," perfectly encapsulates just about all of them. Staggering not only for its absurd technicality--the entire episode was filmed in a series of long, uninterrupted takes, requiring the actors to rehearse for weeks before shooting as if they were preparing for a stage play--but for its precise exploration of just what made Hill House so magical in the first place.
Aptly named, "Two Storms" juxtaposes the Crane family during two of the worst nights of their lives, one in the past and one in the present. While terrifying storms rage outside of both the modern day and the flashback timeline, the Cranes prepare to bury their youngest sibling Nell the night before her funeral while, simultaneously, coping with her mysterious childhood disappearance back at Hill House itself years and years ago. It's as terrifying as it is tragic, carefully tempering the omnipresent tension of the series with brutally honest performances of grief and loss. The end result is a masterpiece of horror television, and an art piece to be enjoyed and rewatched over and over again. -- Meg Downey
9. Castle Rock: "The Queen"
It can be tricky to build real, emotional stakes into horror stories, especially ones as grandiose and complicated as Castle Rock. Between the myriad Stephen King references, the time travel, and the murder, it'd be easy for the softer side of things to slip by the wayside--but that's exactly what Episode 7, "The Queen," manages to feature.
Carried entirely by Sissy Spacek in an achingly empathetic performance, the episode explains the workings of Ruth Deaver's mind as it slowly succumbs to dementia--with the requisite, surrealistic Stephen King twist. Blurring the lines between past and present, Ruth explores her home, watching moments play out before her like vignettes that cascade through time itself before ultimately culminating in a devastatingly tragic end. Whether or not Ruth's condition actually is just the product of her aging brain, or some supernatural mission bestowed upon her by a higher power is never quite made explicit--but the episode is all the better for it. Soft, sweet, and tear jerkingly sad, "The Queen" manages to be one of the most beautifully bittersweet character studies of the year, and the clear standout of a strong first season for Castle Rock. -- Meg Downey
10. American Horror Story Apocalypse: "Return to Murder House"
Ask any American Horror Story fan and they’ll agree--“Return to Murder House” is one of the best episodes in AHS history. In AHS Season 8, Episode 6, we returned to where it all began: the murder house in Los Angeles from season 1, home to the Harmon family and the dozens of spirits of those that died there who are trapped within it. Madison and Behold are sent to the murder house by Cordelia Goode to get information about powerful warlock Michael Langdon, who poses a threat to witches, warlocks, and the entire world. If you remember back to Season 1, Michael, the son of Vivien Harmon and Tate Langdon, was born in the murder house. The episode is a satisfying return to one of the series’ best seasons and succeeds in tying up former storylines nicely.
We also get a rare happy ending in this episode for Moira O’Hara, a maid who was tragically killed and doomed to clean the house forever. The cast of Season 1 returns, and we get to learn what happened to the Harmon family. After multiple AHS characters came back from the dead, the stakes were raised with the revelation of Michael’s abilities. “Return to Murder House” also gave us the return of the incomparable Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon. While American Horror Story tends to hold strong with its ensemble cast, the show is simply better with Lange. Impressively, "Return to Murder House " was also AHS star Sarah Paulson’s directorial debut. As one of the core cast members in multiple seasons of AHS, she knows exactly how the show should work and what the viewers want. -- Chastity Vicencio
11. Westworld Season 2: "Kiksuya"
Westworld Season 2 contains the finest episode in the series: "Kiksuya." It tells the story of Akecheta, leader of the intimidating Ghost Nation tribe that roams the outskirts of the park. Akecheta's search for his wife, who was reprogrammed and taken from him, is a gorgeous meditation on love and how much it hurts to lose it.
On its surface; "Kiksuya" reminds readers not to judge these characters by their outer appearances. Far from being the monolithic, faceless killers they were programmed to be, the Ghost Nation tribe has evolved beyond that, and have been woke for quite some time.
And despite the losses inflicted upon them, they've kept their basic humanity in tact. While Dolores cuts a bloody path to the Valley Beyond, becoming every bit the human tyrant that she hates, Akecheta is protecting Maeve's daughter and communicating with Maeve herself via the mesh network. Upon understanding humanity, these hosts are rejecting its basest tendencies for something greater. -- Kevin Wong
12. My Hero Academia Season 3: "One For All"
All Might is the strongest. All Might is always smiling. These two absolutes are what modern society in My Hero Academia is built upon. They are what have allowed All Might to become the most beloved superhero; a deterrent to villains and a symbol of lasting peace that people can rely on.
But in One For All, All Might isn't the strongest; All Might isn't smiling. His power has been in rapid decline and, matched against his arch nemesis, his body is failing. Worse still, it's revealed that, unbeknownst to him, he had failed someone that desperately needed him. His morale is crushed and the once all-powerful symbol of peace is showing weakness, and it is gut-wrenching to witness.
But even in his darkest moment, All Might finds a way. The explosive, climactic battle in this episode encapsulates everything that is great about My Hero Academia, taking viewers on a rollercoaster of emotions with heart-sinking lows and triumphant highs. This episode takes two seasons worth of characterization and emotional build-up and then delivers an emotionally poignant, bittersweet payoff. -- Tamoor Hussain
13. Bojack Horseman Season 5: "Free Churro"
From the almost completely silent "Fish Out Of Water" to "Time’s Arrow," an incredibly poignant episode where we follow two scrambled timelines through the eyes of BoJack’s mother, who is suffering from late-stage dementia, BoJack Horseman has consistently proven itself to be one of the most creative shows on television right now. Season five’s Free Churro is the best example of the show’s writers flexing their creative muscles and delivering something utterly spectacular.
Free Churro has a simple premise: BoJack delivers a eulogy. And that’s it. BoJack delivers a eulogy for over twenty minutes. Just one horse, standing in front of a coffin, delivering one of the most powerful episodes of television you’ll see all year, complete with a gut punch of a line that you’ll be thinking about for days to come. Don’t sleep on this show. -- Lucy James
14. Black Mirror: USS Callister
Black Mirror’s love letter to Star Trek was the stand out episode from the anthology series’ fourth season. Taking place both in the “real world” and aboard the simulated spaceship USS Callister, it delivered two beautifully interconnected storylines, and its cast (headed up by Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson, and Fargo’s Jesse Plemons) needed to play two versions of their character.
There was no weak link in USS Callister’s ensemble cast, but Plemons was really the one to watch as he portrayed both the odious CTO Robert Daly, and his charming, charismatic avatar counterpart: Captain Robert Daly. The reveal that Daly is ultimately not the ‘good guy’ wouldn’t be as impactful without Plemons' subtle but vulnerable performance as ‘real world’ Daly, and during his portrayal of Captain of the USS Callister, he chews on the scenery enough to make William Shatner blush.
There are so many subtle nods to both the original 1960s Star Trek and J.J. Abrams’ more recent incarnation, as well as a few references to other Black Mirror episodes that it was a true joy for sci-fi fans to pick through.
Despite its almost feature length running time, the plot never dragged, and while it had a number of dark and twisted moments (it is an episode of Black Mirror, after all), it also had its fair share of laughs, making it a true highlight of this season. -- Lucy James
15. Homecoming: "Protocol"
Homecoming was a must-listen podcast hit back in 2016, a serialised thriller with a cast that included Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, and David Schwimmer. This year it became a ten-part Amazon series--it had a different cast but was every bit as gripping. Stylishly directed by Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail, the show starred Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman, a woman struggling to remember the terrible events that happened several years earlier in a mysterious facility ostensibly set up to help pychologically-damaged soldiers deal with a return to civilian life.
The strange, paranoid atmosphere increases throughout the first seven episodes, until the stunning Episode 8, titled Protocol, finally allows a release of tension. Heidi travels to the renamed Homecoming facility with her former boss Colin--who she doesn't remember and believes is just a man she met in the diner she now works in. At the same time Carrasco, the Department of Defense investigator also trying to piece together what happened four years earlier, is hot on her trail.
The bulk of the episodes cuts between Heidi trying to locate her old office on one side of the huge building, while Carrasco is on the other, exploring at what remains of the Homecoming facility. There are some brilliantly inventive edits between the two simultaneous searches, until it reaches the moment when Heidi, Colin, and Carrasco come face-to-face. At that moment, Esmail performs his master stroke. As Heidi's memories come flooding back, the small boxed-in aspect ratio that had been used for the show's present day sequences suddenly opens out to reveal the full frame, and Heidi's life is changed forever. -- Dan Auty
16. Maniac: "Larger Structural Issues"
Every episode of Maniac offers a wealth of hilarious, sad, and bizarre delights, and Episode 6--titled "Larger Structural Issues"--is an absolute blast. After several episodes set in the hallucinatory worlds that Annie and Owen are experiencing as part of the drug trials, we return with one set almost entirely in the testing facility itself. The emphasis shifts from Annie and Owen to Dr. Mantleray (Justin Theroux), and, most importantly, his estranged mother, Greta (Sally Field)
Mantleray's computer GRTA is based on his mother's psyche, and when it starts to emotionally malfunction, he has no choice but to call Greta in to help sort it out. Their scenes together are gloriously odd. Theroux and Field give wonderful comic performances, bringing this painful, awkward, hilariously f***ed-up relationship to life.
But while they are not the center of this episode, Annie and Owen do share one of the show's most tender moments. They sit together in Owen's pod, talking about their shared experiences so far. Owen tells Annie about a fantasy in which they run away together, smiling and laughing. For the first time in a long time, he has someone truly sympathetic to talk to, and it becomes clear that this is a deep friendship forming outside the simulations. It's a truly touching scene, beautifully acted by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, that is ultimately paid off in the last episode, when the fantasy comes true. -- Dan Auty
17. Better Call Saul: "Wiedersehen"
Season 4 of Better Call Saul was the first season in which the relationship between Jimmy and Chuck was not the center of the show. Following Chuck's death at the end of season 3, creator Vince Gilligan shifted the primary focus to the relationship between Jimmy and Kim, and introduced several subplots that will have eventual payoff in its parent show, Breaking Bad. All these elements came to a head in the season's ninth and best episode, "Wiedersehen."
This episode saw Jimmy's frustration at being denied his legal license after a year-long ban explode to the surface in a fiery showdown with Kim. He accuses her of not supporting him, of only viewing him as the con-man he once was--neither of which is remotely true. But Kim gives as good as she gets, and their confrontation shows both Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn at their very best.
But the episode's true power came from the subplot involving Mike and Werner, the head of the German construction crew hired to build Gus's super-lab. Both men had formed something approaching a friendship, but when Werner is refused time off to visit his wife, he leaves the job anyway. With Gus demanding a quick resolution, the reluctant, conflicted Mike has no choice but to track Werner down and put a bullet in his head. Their final scene together in the desert, as Werner realises what Mike has to do, is truly haunting. -- Dan Auty
18. Terrace House: "A Fairy on a Split Road"
Unlike many other reality TV shows, Terrace House makes no attempt to manufacture conflict. Instead it places three Japanese men and three Japanese women into a house and allows them to live their lives, with viewers watching how interpersonal relationships develop.
While conflict isn't a driving force behind the show, romance is. Many of the housemates are single and looking for love. In A Fairy on a Split Road, a potential romance culminates in the most heartwarming way. On the one side there's Tsubasa, a tomboyish hockey player who is charming, funny, and driven. On the other, there's Shion, a classically handsome model--the kind of person you know would be very lucky in love.
The two form a bond, but romance isn't immediately apparent. Perhaps by design, thanks to editing, the pair seem to straddle the line between friends and lovers. At the heart of that uncertainty are preconceptions about Shion, who announced that he wants to be loved and adored by Terrace House viewers when he first joined. The fact that he was sidling up to Tsubasa, undoubtedly a fan favorite, made him suspicious, as it would be a surefire way to curry favor. In A Fairy on a Split road, however, Shion reveals his feelings to Tsubasa. She's fresh off a crushing defeat that would have pushed her hockey career forward, so emotions are high. Alone in a room, sat on the floor, Tsubasa reciprocates and the two share an awkward confession, gingerly lowering their barriers to bare their hearts in a way that is disarmingly heartfelt.
"If it's really me that you want, I'll be your girlfriend," Tsubasa says, her politeness belying the fact that she is clearly a wonderful, kindhearted person. "Are you sure it's me you want?" she adds, surprised by Shion's confession. "You really have to ask that?" Shion says back to her, showing the audience that he sees what makes her special, just as they do.
Reality TV romances rarely have played out in such a natural, honest way. Fairy on a Split Road is a reminder that Terrace House is the most wholesome reality TV show around, and it's moments like this that prove it's one of the best feel-good viewing experiences you can have. -- Tamoor Hussain
19. The Americans: "Start"
Many long-running shows end with a bang, particularly when they can accurately be described for most of their runs as "adrenaline-fueled spy dramas full of intrigue, sex, violence, and espionage." But when The Americans ended this year, its Season 6 finale--the FX show's final episode--went out with a quiet, emotional whimper. It culminated in a single scene--a simple conversation--that fans had been waiting to see for years. And then it was just over. It was perfect.
Throughout it all, it was never clear, even up to the very last scene, how The Americans would end. It turned out to be that rare conclusion that both wrapped the story up perfectly and left you wanting more--even though the story is over, it felt like Season 7 could debut next year and pick it right back up. The Jennings may be terrible people, but although we probably won't find out what happens to them next, I'm glad we got to know them for the time we did. -- Mike Rougeau
20. GLOW: "The Good Twin"
Everything on Netflix's GLOW was building towards this episode, and it was executed perfectly. For those not in-the-know, GLOW is about an all-women's wrestling promotion and the struggle to produce a TV show all while trying to find its voice, and it's vaguely based on the '80s wrestling show of the same name. During Season 2, the show was well under way, and viewers got to see segments being filmed, sprinkled throughout the first half.
However, the episode titled "The Good Twin" was just an episode of the fictional TV series. It was cheesy and the most '80s thing on television since, well, anything that aired during the neon-colored decade. There are even commercials for businesses that have been mentioned on the show in the past, and again, they are all very much of their time. As someone viewing this very bizarre episode of GLOW, it ultimately feels incredibly satisfying, as you're seeing the final product these characters have worked so hard on the past two seasons. -- Mat Elfring
21. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 13: "Mac Finds His Pride"
The vast majority of the time, the cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are awful to each other and the people around them. They are despicable human beings, but that's kind of the appeal of the show, even after 13 seasons now. However, the season finale this year, titled "Mac Finds His Pride," is a touching and heartwarming episode, something incredibly rare in the series.
Frank wants to recruit Mac for a float in the upcoming gay pride parade, but Mac is resistant, as he doesn't know where he fits in the world as a gay man. Before he can be comfortable with himself, he has to come out to his father, who is in prison. So Mac puts on a performance at said prison in order to out himself to his dad and try and gain his acceptance. The performance itself is breathtaking and emotional and heartbreaking as all of Mac's feelings he's had bottled up since the series began come out in the interpretive dance, and if you don't have a tear in your eye--or are full-out crying--by the end, check your pulse. This isn't the funniest episode of the series by any means, but it is certainly the most well-rounded and beautiful for sure. -- Mat Elfring
22. Titans: "Doom Patrol"
DC Universe's first original series, Titans, has been a lot of fun. It's a fantastic and unexpectedly good show, even when the first trailer showed Robin saying, "F*** Batman," which left a bad taste in many people's mouths. Trailers aside, DC is building a world here, and that all starts with Titans. More specifically, it starts with--and is very apparent in--the episode titled "Doom Patrol."
The episode splits everyone up. As Dick and Kory are off searching for Raven, she's befriended another metahuman named Gar (Beast Boy), and he takes her to his home, a mansion in the middle of the woods. We quickly learn Gar was saved/given metahuman powers by a doctor, and Gar's roommates all have that same backstory. There's a former race car driver turned into a robot, a beautiful woman who is actually some sort of weird blob, and a man covered in bandages with a secret. This group will eventually become the "Doom Patrol," which will actually be an original series on DC Universe in 2019. These characters are weird, out-there, bizarre, but because of this, Titans plants one foot firm into the sand to say, "There's more to this world than what we've presented. There is a world within this one that isn't ultra-violent and dark."
I wouldn't say the Doom Patrol is a "grass is always greener on the other side" episode, as the unease the viewer feels at time is the same as they'd feel during a horror movie, but it does present a larger, and very different, world, which is important for DC Universe's future survival in this shared universe.
In addition to all of that, "Doom Patrol" is the episode that finally brings the Titans together as a team. It is a real turning point, as Gar joins up with Dick, Kory, and Raven by the end of the episode. It's a "eureka" moment as the viewer finally has an inkling of where everything in this show is headed. -- Mat Elfring