It’s been an up and down decade. But one thing consumers have reliably counted on are quality television shows.
The world burns around us, but damn if we don’t have some fine TV.
Here are five of my favorite episodes from the past ten years.
Watchmen – “This Extraordinary Being” (S1.E6)
Why not start with the episode that inspired this list? And this aired only a few days ago.
Why is it good? I don’t believe I’ve seen a show tackle the deep-rooted and systemic racism in America in such an effective and powerful manner. The show launched with the Tulsa race riots, an event that had been effectively white-washed from our history. From that, we see the origins of the mysterious Hooded Justice (the only superhero not outed in the original Watchmen comic).
The camera work, the script, the acting…all brilliant.
Black Mirror – “White Bear” (S2.E2)
So this one comes from one of the most culturally significant series of the decade.
Why is it good? Admittedly, this is a love it or leave it kind of entry. For me, I see it as a perfectly paradoxical examination of morality, voyeurism, and cruelty. Does the punishment fit the crime? Probably. Is the punishment cruel? Probably. Are the people exacting the punishment just as bad as the criminal? Probably.
There are no easy outs, no easy answers. A wonderful example of using technology to tell a great story.
The Leftovers – International Assassin (S2.E8)
This show is criminally underappreciated. I blame too much peak TV.
Why is it good? At this point in The Leftovers, it would be a tall task to describe what is happening that would make any sense to you. Let’s leave it at this: the show’s protagonist is transported to a weird purgatory where he is assigned to assassinate the show’s antagonist. He accomplishes his goal but is forced to do so in a horrifying, grotesque fashion.
Characters from the series’ universe show up as different people…except for Kevin (the protagonist—though he’s a lawman in the show and an assassin here). It’s quite a twist done with style and panache and filled with powerful dialog.
Doctor Who – “The End of Time: Part 2”
Scandalous confession–I stopped watching Doctor Who in the second season of Capaldi’s run. For whatever reason, he didn’t appeal to me and I’ve not gotten back around to the show. Despite that, there are several episodes that could have made this list from Matt Smith’s run. But it is David Tenant who sneaks in with this episode that ran on January 1st, 2010.
Why is it good? David Tenant puts on an acting clinic and reminds us of why we love the Doctor. When the show’s reboot was in its prime, it had a way of making us love the characters despite the crazy plot and cheesy effects. There’s nothing cheesy in this scene as Tenant made many viewers bring out the waterworks.
Atlanta – “Teddy Perkins” (S2.E6)
You’ll gather by this list that I like off-beat shows that take narrative chances.
Why is it good? This might be my favorite piece of horror from the 2010s. The premise is simple: Darius goes to pick up an antique piano from Teddy Perkins. It quickly spirals into nightmare material. We also learn about Darius’s two regret life limit pact.
There are deeper issues being addressed: abuse, cultural coding, etc. But the brass tacks of it is that it’s just damn entertaining.