10. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Ep. 43, “Jan 8, 2014”
SCENE: Jon Stewart takes New Jersey Governor to task.
WHY: From The Sopranos to Boardwalk Empire, Hollywood has a habit of glamming up New Jersey corruption. But leave it to Stewart—himself a former Garden State resident—to take something as pedestrian as Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal and thoroughly undress it in a sly, righteous, mad-as-hell speech that said everything short of “Argo fuck yourself.” —Rahman
9. Veep (HBO)
Ep. 4, “Clovis”
SCENE: Clovis CEO Craig (Tim Baltz) puts a smart watch—a.k.a. a Smarch—on VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and attempts to share info with his own.
WHY: Veep has truly mastered theater of the awkward, and it was a special breed of wicked fun to see a pretentiously casual, enlightened, and coddled tech billionaire CEO like Craig (no, it’s Craig) try to show off the features of his next-level, sure-to-change-the-way-we-interface-with-technology-and-each-other watch, only to have the whole thing descend into some fruitless hand-shaking that resembled everything from tree-sawing and cow-milking from Selina’s perspective. Yes, this revolutionary device can take you anywhere you want to go on the web… if where you want to go is a list of Sea World’s opening times. “We have a saying here at Clovis: Dare to fail,” spins Melissa (Mary Grill), the Clovis CFO. “Well, then that’s a job well done,” quips Meyer, to which we say: Job very well done, Veep. —Snierson
8. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Ep. 6, “Brave New World”
SCENE: Margaret (Allison Janney) is interviewed to join the Masters and Johnson sex study.
WHY: The most surprising thing to come out of Showtime’s first season of Masters of Sex was Allison Janney, who recurred as Margaret Scully, the deeply troubled wife of a closeted college provost (Beau Bridges). In a Masters season best moment, Margaret attempts to join Masters and Johnson’s hospital sex study, but after her pre-screening interview, her denial from the study is only half as painful as the reason why: her heartbreaking realization that she’s never had an orgasm. It’s a powerful moment for Janney, and launches one of the show’s most devastating and emotionally impactful storylines. —Snetiker
7. Louie (FX)
Ep. 4, “So Did The Fat Lady”
SCENE: Vanessa (Sarah Baker) sets Louie (Louis CK) straight on plus-sized women.
WHY: For anyone who ever felt too heavy to be loved, this was a hallelujah moment, the kind that makes you shout “YES!” at your TV screen. There’s so much truth to the writing, whether Vanessa is scolding Louie for denying that she’s fat—as if “fat” was the worst thing he could call her—or insisting that hot guys flirt with her, but average-looking guys don’t, because they’re afraid they should date her. But credit really goes to Baker for making Vanessa pity-proof. “Some people might feel bad for [my character],” the actress told EW. “But some people might be like, ‘Oh, she’s a cool chick. He’s the one who’s got the issue.'” —Maerz
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Baker explains how she got the role.
6. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
Ep. 11, “Tall Men with Feelings”
SCENE: Crazy Eyes’ lament.
WHY: Famous for peeing on the prison floor and singing the “chocolate and vanilla swirl” song, Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) was always the comic relief on Orange—until she asked Piper (Taylor Schilling) why people always make fun of her. Suddenly, with a heartbreaking confession—“When I get mad, I go to the loony jail”—and a sad, wide-eyed stare, Aduba made us wonder why we ever laughed at all. —Maerz
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Aduba talks bringing Crazy Eyes to life.
5. Sherlock (PBS)
Ep. 2, “The Sign of Three”
SCENE: Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) delivers his best man speech for Watson (Martin Freeman).
WHY: It’s not just that, when Sherlock raises his glass, he makes the wedding guests laugh (“big, squishy cuddles!”) and blink back big, squishy tears (“I never expected to be anybody’s best friend.”) It’s not just that he solves one mind-bending mystery in the process, and recounts a few others, including one that involves a poison-dart-blowing dwarf. It’s that he delivers a genuinely poignant tribute to one of the all-time great loves—not the one between the bride and groom, but the one between Sherlock and Watson, a friendship so intimate, its kind is rarely seen between men on TV. All of this, plus Sherlock somehow manages to use the words “doom of… our entire species” without ruining the wedding. Best men everywhere, take notes. —Maerz
4. True Detective (HBO)
Ep. 5, “Secret Fate of All Life”
SCENE: Rust Cohle (Matthew McConnaughey) tells interrogators “time is a flat circle,” and that every action—including brutal murders—inevitably repeats.
WHY: The most perfect (and most quoted) example of the show’s mad scientist mash-up of character, philosophy, and crime, hauntingly delivered by a world-crushed Matthew McConaughey. —Hibberd
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Creator Nic Pizzolatto lists his inspirations for the speech.
3. The Good Wife (CBS)
Ep. 5, “Hitting the Fan”
SCENE: Upon learning that Alicia (Juliana Margulies) is leaving to start her own firm, Will (Josh Charles) walks into her office without warning, and sweeps everything off of her desk.
WHY: Many fans have clung to the notion that Will and Alicia belonged with each other, but her act of betrayal (which was more about self-preservation than good business) was the final blow to their already tenuous love affair. Alicia’s decision to make a clean break set into motion the most satisfying—though arguably most depressing, no thanks to Will’s unexpected shooting death—season yet of this Emmy-starved drama. —Rice
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Creators Robert and Michelle King talk tension.
2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Ep. 6, “The Laws of Gods and Men”
SCENE: Tyrion’s raging outburst while on trial for his life.
WHY: Having long endured callous abuse, unjustified mistrust, murderous plots, and cruel manipulations—and that’s just from his own family—Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) finally tells the King’s Landing court just what he thinks of them when his ex love Shae (Sibel Kekilli) is called to cruelly testify against him. “Please don’t,” he begs her in a weary last-ditch attempt to prevent his heart from being broken, before launching into a rising epic tirade that’s equal parts thrilling and self-destructive. “Every scene with Tyrion, every interaction, was all leading up to this moment,” says writer Bryan Cogman. “I keep coming back to how piercing his gaze is throughout that speech—he’s just stabbing daggers into every person he’s talking to.” —Hibberd
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Read the script.
1. Breaking Bad (AMC)
Ep. 14, “Ozymandias”
SCENE: Walt (Bryan Cranston) tries to get the family to run.
WHY: You could argue that the whole series was building to this moment. Since the first episode, Walt has argued that he got into selling meth to protect his family. Hank has to die before everyone finally realizes the truth: the family needs to protect itself from Walt. It’s hard to pick the most devastating shot. Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) throwing a scrawny arm in front of his mom (Anna Gunn) to save her from his dad? Skyler, framed between a telephone and a set of knives, forced to choose whether to call the cops on her husband, or kill him herself? Baby Holly screaming as Walt kidnaps her, while Skyler drops to her knees, screaming in the middle of the street? Maybe the worst thing is that this gruesome scene is only happening because Skyler believes Walt killed Hank. After all the truly monstrous, evil things he’s lied about, the one thing she’s willing to kill him for is the one thing he didn’t do. —Maerz
MORE ON THE MOMENT: Co-executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett, who penned the episode, talks that scene and more.
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