The Walking Dead (AMC)
The song: Ben Howard, ”Oats in the Water”
The episode: ”Internment” (405)
The hook: As they say, you never forget your first. (Though I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean zombie killing?.) With illness overtaking the survivors’ prison on Nov. 10, bringing a fresh crop of zombies, Hershel (Scott Wilson) had to accept that it was time to put down his first walker. As Hershel put a knife through the head of a man he’d been nurturing just minutes before, Howard sang, ”You’ll find loss, and you’ll fear what you found.” Though Hershel proved surprisingly bold and strong until his last breath on Dead‘s fourth season, his impromptu theme song also revealed his humanity, playing again at the end of the ep as he sat down and wept — for his lost companions and for what he’d just lost.
Read Maricela Gonzalez’s recap
Breaking Bad (AMC)
The song: Badfinger, ”Baby Blue”
The episode: ”Felina” (516)
The hook: Vince Gilligan chose Badfinger’s 1971 rocker to close out the series and represent Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) love for the blue meth on which he built an empire. In Bad‘s final moments on Sept. 29, lead singer Pete Ham crooned, ”Guess I got what I deserve” as Walt lovingly caressed the cooker he and Jesse had created, then settled on the floor as his life fell away.
Read Denise Warner’s recap and find out what Badfinger member Joey Molland had to say about the song popping up in Bad
The song: Lou Rawls, ”You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”
The episode: ”Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” (307)
The hook: November 14 saw major revelations for the Beltway’s own Lady Macbeth. Rawls’ 1976 track played over a White House dinner, which, in the moment, highlighted suspicious glances between Chief of Staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and his reporter husband James (Dan Bucatinsky). On a deeper level, the tune spoke volumes about FLOTUS Mellie Grant’s (Bellamy Young) limitless devotion to her husband Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) after flashbacks showed she’d leveraged her own rape by the the future president’s father as a means to boost her husband’s confidence and advance his political career. So calculating, so sad, so indispensable.
Read Katie Atkinson’s recap
The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
The song: David Gray, ”The Other Side”
The episode: ”Dead Man on Campus” (508)
The hook: TVD on Nov. 21 was very much fixated on ”the other side,” whether that meant Bonnie’s (Kat Graham) new — and painful — role as an anchor to help the recently deceased cross over from this realm or whether it involved one vamp’s attempt to force her own transition. After taking the cure, beaten down by her own mortality, Katherine (Nina Dobrev) tried to kill herself, only to be saved by Stefan (Paul Wesley). Gray’s 2002 meditation on death, failure, and relationships was a spot-on accompaniment to Katherine’s rock-bottom moment — particularly when a pitiless Stefan told Katherine to ”suck it up.” Tough love has never been so hot?until the next episode, when Katherine saved Stefan right back, and they made out to Santigold’s ”My Superman.”
Read Mandi Bierly’s recap
The song: Lorde, ”Royals”
The episode: ”Confession” (303)
The hook: The Kiwi teen phenom’s megahit played all over the airwaves this fall, but could there have been a better jam for an Oct. 13 housewarming party Chez Nolan (Gabriel Mann) than this cheeky musing on ”Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash”? If only Lorde had included a whale figurine shout-out!
The song: Lea Michele, ”Make You Feel My Love”
The episode: ”The Quarterback” (303)
The hook: Michele sobbed her way through a gut-wrenching performance of the Bob Dylan-penned ode on Oct. 10, offering a layered, emotional tribute to her late on- and off-screen boyfriend Cory Monteith, who passed away unexpectedly from a drug overdose in July.
Read Erin Strecker’s recap
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
The song: Simon Helberg, ”If I Didn’t Have You (Bernadette’s Song)”
The episode: ”The Romance Resonance” (706)
The hook: Even as ”Bernadette’s Song” name-checked every geek totem from String Theory to Buffy, Nov. 24’s heartfelt ode from Howard (Helberg) to Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) — written by comedy singer-songwriting duo Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome — was a refreshingly poignant moment amid Bang‘s yuk-yuk universe.
Check out Sandra Gonzalez’s breakdown of the song’s lyrics
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
The song: Otis Redding, ”Try a Little Tenderness”
The episode: ”The Lighthouse” (908)
The hook: Robin (Cobie Smulders) may have been going through some wedding-related mama drama at the end of the Nov. 4 ep, but it was delightful and drama-free for the series’ most important Mother (Cristin Milioti) when Ted (Josh Radnor) proposed in a huge payoff moment for fans that was set to soul star Redding’s 1966 classic.
Read Sandra Gonzalez’s recap
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
The song: Noah Gundersen, ”Day Is Gone”
The episode: ”A Mother’s Work” (613)
The hook: In the pitch-dark Dec. 10 finale, the spare, unsentimental voice of Seattle folkie Gundersen punctuated one of the series’ most emotional scenes, as Jax (Charlie Hunnam) cradled a bleeding-out Tara (Maggie Siff) in his arms. Laced with regret, ”Gone” — co-written by Gundersen, SOA creator Kurt Sutter, and Music Supervisor Bob Thiele — underlined the many mistakes that led Jax to this moment of devastating tragedy. All he could do was say over and over again, ”I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Read Mandi Bierly’s recap, her postmortems with Jimmy Smits, Rockmond Dunbar, and Theo Rossi, and her definitive guide to the series’ many, many deaths, plus Sandra Gonzalez’s answers to all your Burning Questions
American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
The song: Dr. John, ”Right Place Wrong Time”
The episode: ”Burn, Witch. Burn!” (305)
The song: Myrtle (Frances Conroy) debatably had the right intentions, but she got mixed up with the wrong woman in Fiona (Jessica Lange), and Coven closed its Nov. 6 ep with an ironic inclusion of the New Orleans funk man’s 1973 tune, which played as the flame-haired witch was set ablaze. Of course, that’s only after she spat out some scorching words to the girls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy: ”You’re all a bunch of little toads in a pot Fiona is slowly bringing to boil. You won’t even feel it until it’s too late. I’d rather burn than boil.”
Read Darren Franich’s recap and Tim Stack’s exclusive postmortem with creator Ryan Murphy
The song: Cyndi Lauper, ”At Last”
The episode: ”The Woman in White” (906)
The hook: A five-hanky moment came Oct. 21 during the wedding of Bones (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz). Just after Booth admitted he’d been ready to marry Bones for years, she walked down the aisle to the smoky-smooth voice of Lauper as the aptly named psychic Avalon Harmonia. Just like the singing seer, we knew this day was coming, and we loved every second of it.
Read Sandra Gonzalez’s reaction to Bones’ vows (SPOILER: There were tears) and her exclusive videos of the rehearsal dinner, then check out Lindzi Scharf’s style scouting report and listen to David Boreanaz’s interview on EW Radio
The Originals (The CW)
The song: Phantogram, ”Black Out Days”
The episode: ”Fruit of the Poisoned Tree” (106)
The hook: We were as powerless to resist this sexy siren song as Rebekah (Claire Holt) was against the advances of Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) at the end of the show’s Nov. 5 installment.
New Girl (Fox)
The song: Britney Spears, ”Work B**ch”
The episode: ”Menus” (308)
The hook: Nick (Jake Johnson) wanted a hot body, so Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) showed him how to work, b**ch. New Girl‘s Nov. 13 episode featured a roll-on-the-floor-hilarious (or just roll on the floor, in Nick’s case) use of Britney Jean’s latest club thumper during a workout montage meant to shed Nick’s ”boyfriend 15.” If the song and the subject alone didn’t get you, consider this. Case closed — or Coached, as it were.
Read our recap
The Blacklist (NBC)
The song: Pearl Jam, ”Pendulum”
The episode: ”Anslo Garrick, Part 2” (110)
The hook: At the end of the Dec. 2 midseason finale, Eddie Vedder’s plaintive lyrics (”Understand what we don’t know, this might pass, this might last?”) expressed Lizzie’s (Megan Boone) uncertainty about her bio-dad’s identity when Red (James Spader) absconded to the Big Apple and left her hanging…or should we say swinging?
Read Jodi Walker’s recap
The song: Chvrches, ”Science / Visions”
The episode: ”Frame by Frame” (1405)
The hook: The procedural celebrated its 300th episode on Oct. 23 with a propulsive crime lab thumper from the Glaswegian synthpop outfit.
Reign (The CW)
The song: The Lumineers, ”Scotland”
The episode: ”Pilot” (101)
The hook: The folkies’ 2009 strummer kicked off the series on Oct. 17 and eventually became Reign‘s theme song, its urgent, old-world sound conveying the life-and-death stakes involved in the royal ascent of Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane).
Read Erin Strecker’s reaction to the premiere
The song: Josh Ritter, ”Joy to You Baby”
The episode: ”Election Night” (509)
The hook: Kristina (Monica Potter) didn’t win Berkeley’s Mayoral election on Nov. 21, but she won in many other ways. For starters, after giving a classy concession speech, she met a young deaf girl whose life she’d changed. But it went both ways — Kristina’s life had been changed, too — win or lose. Paired with this life-affirming scene, Ritter’s tranquilly ”Joy”-full track underscored how Kristina has embraced life anew after her illness and recovery. The election wasn’t the end-all-be-all, just another step along the way.
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
The song: Laura Mvula, ”She”
The episode: ”Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” (1009)
The hook: Mvula’s ”10 steps back and one step forward” appropriately accompanied flashback-heavy episode on Nov. 14. In the present, Callie was on trial for malpractice; in the past, personal drama was affecting her performance at work. As these events intersected, Callie found an opportunity to take stock and admit she’s only human. As Callie was acquitted, Mvula sang, ”She’s tired, but she don’t stop.” Battered but not beaten, Callie will have to find a way to take the fragments of her life — her strained marriage, her failed attempt to start a family, her professional embarrassment — and put together a new one in which she can move forward.
Read Annie Barrett’s recap and Samantha Highfill’s interview with Ramirez about the Callie-centric episode
The Good Wife (CBS)
The song: Gin Wigmore, ”Black Sheep”
The episode: ”Hitting the Fan” (505)
The hook: Never mix work with pleasure? Pshaw! When Peter (Chris Noth) paid an Oct. 27 visit to his newly empowered wife Alicia (Julianna Margulies) — who’d departed from Lockhart/Gardner and set up a temporary law firm HQ in her home — he found her moxie irresistible. Cue a quickie to the New Zealand singer-songwriter’s bass drum-thumping track. Underlings just a room away? Who cares? As Wigmore howls, ”Everybody’s doin’ it!”
Read Breia Brissey’s recap
Masters of Sex (Showtime)
The song: Elvis Presley, ”Love Me Tender”
The episode: ”All Together Now” (107)
The hook: A bit of ironic musical foreplay, the King’s 1956 ballad played over a sequence of ”just for research” copulation between Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and his associate Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). The question of whether it was, indeed, strictly clinical was up to debate by the end of the Nov. 10 ep, but those first few moments were anything but ”Tender.”
The Mindy Project (Fox)
The song: Aaliyah, ”Try Again”
The episode: ”Christmas Party Sex Trap” (111)
The hook: With an unexpectedly thoughtful Secret Santa present for Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) on the Project‘s Dec. 3 midseason finale, Danny (Chris Messina) showed off some seriously impressive moves — and made good for Dr. L’s own botched attempt at ”Santa Baby” during an uncomfortable office holiday party (wine bra, Maria Menounos, and all).
Watch Messina get his groove on