Hello there! You guys might remember me? I may not get around to writing about it as much as I used to, but I still watch my fair share of television, and 2013 was a huge year for television. Here I will quickly break down my own personal list of favorites that aired in the last 12 months. Please note that this year had TONS of great content which could not all make the list, so don't feel slighted if it's not listed here. You can comment down below and give your own lists and thoughts as well!
10 Parks & RecreationLeslie Knope and co. continue to deliver hysterical, heartfelt, comedy without fault. Even with the changing cast happening in the background and the political fallout of Leslie's time in office (let's face it, the people of Pawnee are just idiots who don't deserve Knope!) there's just so much to enjoy week-to-week on Parks.
9 JustifiedThis season of Justified threw their tried and true formula out the window for a good ol' fashioned mystery: Who is Drew Thompson? This year we saw all the opposing pieces on the board in Harlan County move towards one goal: apprehending Drew Thompson, a former drug dealer who somehow managed to create a new life in Kentucky. Whoever brought him into his scorned boss was to be paid handsomely. Throughout the season, this led to tense standoffs and huge twists left and right. As stakes continued to grow, we still were treated to the quick-witted dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor this show has always handled so well. Also throughout the season the hunt for Ellen May--the most unfortunate character in this show by far--led to some emotional payoff and had her become one of my most unexpected favorite characters of the year. Who else could have convinced Limehouse to keep her safe in the middle of such turmoil?
8 Orange is the New BlackJenji Kohan's newest comedy was released for binge-watching on Netflix this year. An unfettered look into the world of an all-female prison, complete with "fishbowl" socio-economic constructs and blood feuds. Oftentimes it was fairly brash, but over time spent with each of the characters ranging from Piper Chapman to "Crazy Eyes" you get a look into the lives of these inmates which serve as thoughtful glimpses into many cultural and societal problems that are still rampant in today's world. Outside of social commentary, there's a great share of hilarity as well as heartbreak in this narrative that build to a fantastic finale! (I NEED SEASON 2 NOW)
7 Game of ThronesAnother 10 fleeting episodes of HBO's epic aired this year, even more grand and violent than the previous installments. Lurid and visceral, the long-awaited "Red Wedding" served as a turning point in the series, and left millions' mouths agape--even if they HAD seen it coming, as readers of the books. The gorgeously rendered violent spectacle of this show and its fantastic cast made it one of the most memorable series of the year -- again. (However, the ending scene with Danaerys being worshipped by those people was ridiculous both from a story-telling standpoint (hokey as hell) as well as the implicit "white savior" complex that was going on...??)
6 House of CardsI don't even know where to start with this one, folks. Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood is just pure emmy-bait (as well as the rest of the cast: Corey Stoll! Robin Wright! Kate Mara!) as we're taken through the well-constructed world of capitol hill revenge and power plays which often feel just like pure debauchery taking place over the slow-burning first season. It starts simple enough, as Underwood is seemingly betrayed in not clenching the seat for Secretary of State. However, as things develop we get an increasingly deeper glimpse into his motives, and what he'll sacrifice to achieve his prize. (Here's a hint: almost anything)
5 Person of InterestPoI was initially a strongly entertaining procedural with a fairly easy premise: computer spits out a number, they either save or stop the person who could be involved in future danger. However, the second half of season 2 saw the team expand to have more characters and meld into a great team, with intrigue and conspiracy added to each layer, like a carefully-crafted maze. With all the different forces opposed to the quiet team of vigilantes that range from the HR corrupt-cop group to a shadowy organization that seems bent on revealing the secrets of Finch's machine, the plot threads became more and more complex and even more satisfying. Then, the first half of season 3 happened... I won't go into details, but it should be known that much like the situations themselves in the episodes, the writers and producers played with viewers' expectations on how the big assault on HR would play out, and I am STILL not over the fallout of "The Crossing"... All that drama infused with open action sequences and heavy emotional scenes, it was just too much!
4 Mad MenThis was the season that the cracks started to crack and crumble into holes in Don Draper's armor. Fatigued by his own self-loathing, the questioning naiveté of his wife, his increasing obsession with mortality, and realizing the source of all this self-deprecation, he flat out stated that his life was a lie and went on a heartbreaking rant about his childhood afflictions to a prospective client, in front of all the other partners in the firm. Followed up with taking his children to see the brothel that he was raised in, it rang in the beginning of the end of Don Draper. Of course nothing served more as the catalyst for this breakdown than his own daughter walking in on him plowing the neighbor's wife. Outside of Don, characters like Peggy Olsen had rather odd situations come into play and she ended up in an affair as well (I would say "we thought you were better than that, Peggy" but she's "one of the boys" so I suppose its to be expected) but my favorite thing by far was Betty's acknowledgement of what Don was, and her using him just the way he used to use her just to spite him. Somehow, even this late in the game, Mad Men remains primed for the fallout that is to come in the final 7th season next year.
3 HannibalLike a well-tailored suit with a small bloodstain on the lapel, Hannibal was delectably mysterious, visually stunning, perfectly executed, and was easily the best new show of the year to me. I often wondered how in the world NBC let Bryan Fuller air such incredibly gory, violent scenes. And how every single frame felt like it was hand-painted to painstaking perfection. The cast is brilliant all around with cold and well-dressed professionals mixed in with the crazy, the sociopathic, and the cannibalistic. This show felt like both a realized and fantastic adaptation of the world of Hannibal Lecter as well as a much higher quality brew of police drama wherein we see the intense effect of letting in such grisly imagery and thought into someone's mind--especially the delicate, yet strong-willed Will Graham. I cannot speak enough about the layers of meaning and depth embedded into each and every scene. It felt as if every line, every camera shot was poised exactly to meet its mark and it did so wonderfully. I would also like to speak on the horror element of the series, no show on television had me questioning the safety of sleeping in my own bed quite like this show.
2 The Good WifeAlright, I think that if the producers don't relent and are able to keep the manic, well-written, and expansive character drama that is unfolding on this show every season, then in the long term this could end up being my favorite show of all time. This year was a true turning point in the series. It's always been a strong ensemble drama that never had to try too hard to make you care for the characters, as they're continually placed in situations that require them to wrack their brains, their resolve, their integrity, and their ambition and then do the best they can in that scenario, trial and error, until an outcome is achieved. We see this time and time again from Alicia's tentative climb in the ranks at Lockhart/Gardner, to Kalinda's violent and tumultuous past brought out to drag her down time and time again. Season 4 marked the point at which the main affair between Alicia and Will being over, many of the emotional or character driven issues resolved or put to bed, and had me worried that we'd end up back in the middle of the love triangle again. Except when Alicia opened the door to the mystery man at the end of the season 4 finale, it wasn't Peter or Will accepting her invitation for a "quickie," it was Cary, who was there to discuss leaving Lockhart/Gardner to establish their own new firm. From this point on, the entire show and each of the dynamics between characters, etc. all were turned upside down. Having 4 season's worth of character development being used to go down an entirely new path is a powerful narrative tool. Better than ever, season 5 of The Good Wife has everything from tension-filled court scenes fraught with embedded meaning, to an NSA ongoing plot line in which analysts listen in on every phone call surrounding Lockhart/Gardner for "suspected terrorism" allegations.
1 Breaking BadAll Hail The King. Just as soon as it seemed Heisenberg was finished, a woefully placed book with a certain dedication brought it to Hank's attention that the whole time he'd been searching for his own brother-in-law. So begins the end. In the final episodes of Breaking Bad, the truly horrifying and jaw-dropping consequences of the rise of Heisenberg made themselves apparent. Every episode seemed to uncover another buried tragedy that had happened during Walter's reign in the meth business, which sent Jesse even further down a tailspin as he tried to keep his hatred and fear of Walter in check as he worked with Hank to take Heisenberg's empire down. Inadvertently, this called the might of the neo-nazi henchmen down on Jesse, Hank, and Gomez in what spilled out as a gun-slinging shoot-out in the middle of the desert.
The climax of the entire series, "Ozymandias" was simply a masterpiece. Walter lying half submerged--a broken visage in the sand--was the perfect realization of the namesake poem, and captured the tragedy that was to follow. After the shootout, Walter exacts his revenge on Jesse by telling him how Jane died, and has to quickly formulate his escape plan before he is tracked down by his former employees.
"What the hell is wrong with you!? We're a family!"
Skyler, bloodied and screaming on her knees in the middle of the street for baby Holly was the second breakdown of the episode, in which she realized that her whole life, her baby could all be taken and gone with the whim of her drug-dealing, mass-murdering husband. However, his intentions were back on the side of preservation, and in this case, he meant to distance himself from Skyler in order to preserve her "innocence" to the investigators that would come knocking on the door. The phone call where he had to adopt an abusive and disgruntled persona with her took so much from him, you could see it on his face. When confronted about Hank's whereabouts, he had to spin it like it was his doing (which it was, even if not his express intention) "You're never going to see Hank again" he spit out as well as he could. This sent Marie to her knees and cemented Walter's status as a murderer and a felon for the police.
In the final 2 episodes, Vince Gilligan could have done any number of things, even have Walter unceremoniously die of his cancer in the middle of the turmoil. But somehow, in the midst of the unfolding tragedy around him, Walt still was able to plan and execute a well-calculated surgical strike that allowed him to make amends (more like finally tell the truth) with Skyler, free Jesse, kill off all the neo-nazi miscreants, and keep his family financially secure in a fairly straightforward finale that ended in what could only be described as close to a happy ending as you could possibly get in the world of Breaking Bad. The writing, the cinematography, the acting, the production values, the locations, the artistic direction were all on their A-game for 5 full seasons, and never let up on the throttle until "Felina" aired late this summer. "We're done when I say we're done." - Vince Gilligan (not really, but yeah really)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
So there are my picks for the top series of 2013, what are yours!?