10 Best TV Episodes of 2013
10. Inside Amy Schumer, ''Real Sext'' and The Mindy Project, ''You've Got Sext'' (TIE)
Schumer: Comedy Central, season 1, episode 2; Mindy: Fox, season 2, episode 8
Amy Schumer, speaker of lady truths, nailed what women really want out of sexting in ''Real Sext.'' Dressed in a tragic cat shirt, she responds to a come-on about what she wants with ''Tell me what all my remotes do?'' Meanwhile, in ''You've Got Sext'' (written by Mindy Kaling), Peter (Adam Pally) and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) use Mindy's phone to sext a guy she's interested in, telling him she's wearing ''a tasteful cardigan, corduroy slacks, and a breast cancer awareness pin. And no panties.'' As if Mindy would wear slacks. —Jessica Shaw
9. Scandal, ''White Hat's Back On''
ABC, season 2, episode 22
A breakneck, don't-you-dare-DVR-it-'cause-Twitter-is-spoiling-it-in-real-time episode: Olivia (Kerry Washington) rebuffs Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), who returns, genuflecting, to First Lady Mellie (Bellamy Young) and her hair (Bellamy Young's wig). Jake (Scott Foley) saves Olivia from an assassin, gets a kiss out of it, but ends the episode in a B613 ditch. David (Joshua Malina) leverages the Cytron card for a job as D.C.'s U.S. Attorney, and the card itself is destroyed. All seems okay in Liv's world until she exits her apartment to find a slew of paparazzi who have been tipped off that she's the president's mistress. Two men usher her into a limo and, like Luke Skywalker and Sydney Bristow before her, Liv comes face-to-face with a very bad parent: ''Dad?'' —Henry Goldblatt
8. Black Mirror, ''The Entire History of You''
DirecTV, season 1, episode 3
This U.K. import (it aired in Britain in 2011) feels like a modern-day Twilight Zone: Married couple Liam (Toby Kebbell) and Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) record their memories with a microchip implanted in their heads, but replaying the past for each other ultimately destroys their relationship. It's a brilliant postapocalyptic O.Henry story, but in the age of Instagram, it's also frighteningly timely. Now that we care more about sharing memories than experiencing them, this isn't a sci-fi fantasy. It's just like real life. —Melissa Maerz
7. The Americans, ''Trust Me''
FX, Season 1, episode 6
Soviet spies Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys), masquerading as happily married suburbanites in '80s-era America, suffer a bruising Mother Russia loyalty check, which bleeds into a test of their increasingly sincere, inconveniently real love. Meanwhile, their kids accept a ride from a predator in a chilly tale that plays like a stranger-danger myth. ''Trust Me'' was a proof-of-concept showcase for this smart, ironic gem about cold wars and homeland insecurities. —Jeff Jensen
6. Orange Is the New Black, ''WAC Pack''
Netflix, season 1, episode 6
Nothing else on TV tackled race and class with the honesty of this episode, which should be subtitled ''Tell Us How You Really Feel, Ladies.'' Between Piper's mother (Deborah Rush) insisting that debutantes don't go to jail and the prisoners' cafeteria real talk (blacks can't float, Hispanics have more kids than the Irish, whites don't make noise during sex), it was all kinds of wrong — and hilarious and true to the way stereotypes work. When you don't have the luxury of crying about injustice, you laugh. —Melissa Maerz
5. Veep, ''Helsinki''
HBO, season 2, episode 5
Maybe it's just that everything's funnier in a Finnish accent. But when VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) visits the stone-faced prime minister of Finland (Sally Phillips) to exchange ridiculous gifts (that Angry Birds clock!) and gets felt up by the First Husband (Dave Foley), it's the best satire on American diplomacy since the ''Texts From Hillary'' meme. —Melissa Maerz
4. American Horror Story: Asylum, ''Madness Ends''
FX, season 2, episode 13
The audacious anthology's second-season capper was a gore-lite, emotionally rich fantasia about the aftermath of '60s America and the power — and limits — of family and redemption. You didn't need to see the 12 episodes that preceded it to appreciate director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's dynamic storytelling; Tim Minear's deep, tough, narratively daring script; and the stellar performances. Jessica Lange's deathbed scene. Sarah Paulson's brilliantly hard alterna-world Barbara Walters, and her staggering final act of violence. A masterpiece. —Jeff Jensen
3. The Good Wife, ''Hitting the Fan''
CBS, season 5, episode 5
An action-packed, pulse-pounding hour, and not a mad terrorist or marauding zombie in sight. Watching Will (Josh Charles) and Diane (Christine Baranski) fire Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) for plotting to start their own law firm — and then war over client Chumhum (Wife's stand-in for Google) — made for thrilling drama. Great writing and great acting combined to invest you in both sides and want the impossible: for everyone to win. ''Hitting the Fan'' floored its own fans with something equally incredible: a fifth-year show fielding its best-ever stuff. —Jeff Jensen
2. Game of Thrones, ''The Rains of Castamere''
HBO, season 3, episode 9
We've seen plenty of TV characters perish. Yet we've perhaps never before witnessed a sequence that unleashed so much creeping terror, then visceral shock, then existential dread. Lord Frey's (David Bradley) betrayal of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) at his uncle's nuptials left viewers shattered — even those who knew this horrific twist was coming from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels. The hour is cagily titled ''The Rains of Castamere,'' yet instantly it became known by another name: The Red Wedding. —James Hibberd
1. Breaking Bad, ''Ozymandias''
AMC, season 5, episode 14
It began with a flashback to more innocent times that contained Walt's (Bryan Cranston) first lie. Next, it bore witness to Hank's (Dean Norris) last stand (''My name is ASAC Schrader and you can go f--- yourself!'') and Walt's frigid-blooded handoff of Jesse (Aaron Paul) to the neo-Nazis. And then ''Ozymandias'' delivered a thoroughly devastating chapter in the saga of chemistry teacher?turned?drug lord?turned?desperate man Walter White, one in which his family — plus a large chunk of his blood money — slipped out of his vicious grasp forever. That knockdown, knives-out fight with wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). That rejection by once true-believing son Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte). That brutal yet layered call to Skyler on a presumably tapped line intended to distance her from his meth mess. ''Ozymandias'' resonates as a gripping hour of heartbreak and consequences, if not the finest installment of TV's Baddest and boldest drama. —Dan Snierson