Den Of Geek's top TV episodes of 2013

Odd List Den Of Geek
20 Dec 2013 - 07:00

As nominated by Den of Geek writers, here are our favourite individual TV episodes of 2013…

Contains mild spoilers for some episodes.

A fortnight ago, Den of Geek's writers were asked to channel their inner Rob Gordon and select their top five favourite TV episodes of 2013 so far (anything airing in the second half of December wouldn't be eligible). Now, after much arduous mathematics and tallying up, the results are in. 

So broad was the range of nominations, we've bumped up the top ten to a top fifteen this year, and included a bonus extra list at the end of every programme that appeared on the writers' lists of personal favourites.

Here we are then, the Den of Geek writers' favourite fifteen TV episodes of 2013...


15. Arrow – Sacrifice

What our reviewer said:

"But this was as entertaining and satisfying a finale as Arrow could ever have delivered, which is even more impressive for a show only in its first year. It was bumpy and uneven ride with lots of great elements and some not so clever plots/characters introduced but, with its last hour, the show more than lived up to its initial promise. It’s still early days, but this might be one of the best season finales of the year, with a shock ending that makes the wait for season two almost unbearable."

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: This was the only Arrow episode nominated this year, but it won enough support to squeak in to the top fifteen.


14. Luther – Finale

What our reviewer said:

“As finales go, that was pretty damn good wasn’t it? We got the return of Alice, a fraught cat-and-mouse chase with a compelling villain, and a fitting bittersweet ending. Last week’s episode of Luther was an uneven thrill ride with an emotional crescendo that really delivered. This was a high-octane blast from start to finish. There was no let-up, and no padding. It also provided a highly satisfying end to the Luther story”.

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: Episode three was also nominated, but the finale totted up more collective votes.


13. Hannibal – Savoreux

What our reviewer said:

“It’s been a hell of a season.

Generally speaking, the first season of most shows, even the good ones, tend to be their worst. Babylon 5, Star Trek: The Next Generation, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer: looking back, you wonder how they ever got renewed. Only a handful have come roaring out of the gates from the very start. Hannibal has been one of those few. And it has ended its first season as strongly as it began.

[…] If we had any doubts whatsoever about the depth of the game that Hannibal has been playing, of the sheer scope of his machinations, then Savoureux would definitely quell them. I’m not sure we've ever seen Lecter, in any of his incarnations, devise something as complicated or downright thorough as this.”

Read the full review, here

Also ran: Buffet Froid also attracted some votes, but it was the season finale that pipped it to the post.


12. Being Human – The Last Broadcast

What our reviewer said:

The Last Broadcast was a wonderful closer to a fantastic series that not only managed to provide us with a brilliant hour of entertaining telly, but also with a meaningful ending to a show that was, at its heart, about nothing more than the desire to be human. This is, after all, what made Being Human so special in the first place.

[…] Series five has been a step up from the previous year in so many ways, and it’s clear from this episode that a level of care has been taken with the finale that too often isn’t applied. This doesn’t just wrap up loose ends – in fact there’s an argument for it doing the opposite – but also encompasses the meaning and legacy of the show’s previous thirty-five episodes in one short hour.”

Read the full review, here

Also ran: This was the only Being Human episode nominated. Farewell, old chum.


11. Wizards Vs Aliens – The Thirteenth Floor

What our reviewer said:

We didn't review the second series of Wizards Vs Aliens (read our series one reviews here) so Cameron K McEwan, aka Blogtor Who has kindly stepped in to explain why The Thirteenth Floor deserves recognition:

"Originally intended for The Sarah Jane Adventures, this incredibly impressive, distinctive and emotionally flooring two-parter from Wizards Vs Aliens co-creator Phil Ford (co-writer of Doctor Who, The Waters of Mars) displayed just how good children's television is at the moment in the UK.

The second series of the show, which Ford dreamt up with former Doctor Who show runner Russell T Davies, was already a marked improvement on the first (which was, in itself, an absolute corker) but The Thirteenth Floor was the pinnacle of its considerable achievements.

During the fifty minutes, a young wizard enters a hostile realm with an alien enemy and the two enter into a relationship and even begin a family. Lost in this magical world, known as the Neverside, Tom Clarke and Lexi of the Nekross brought up their son only for Tom to kill Lexi's brother (albeit unintentionally) and for the pair to lose their boy as they returned to our world. The words "Greek Tragedy" and "Shakespearian" don't quite do the tale justice.

Despite their memories fading of the adventure (another heart-breaking trait of the story), the emotional resonance of the episodes were to linger on right through to the climactic and brilliant finale. A masterstroke from Ford and Davies.

The Thirteenth Floor is a testament to the talents of the magnificent cast, crew and writers behind Wizards Vs Aliens. In it they managed an interspecies relationship, with a hefty age difference, which resulted in a child and its subsequent death. The team are to be lauded for so sensitively handling the issues therein and for producing such an important drama; one which, for me, was the most powerful and affecting piece of television I watched in 2013."

Also ran: This was the only WvA episode nominated in this year's poll, and the sole CBBC episode to make it into the top fifteen.


10. Utopia – Episode One

What our reviewer said:

“What a welcome distraction from the January mire is Utopia. A nasty conspiracy thriller with a glint of humour and a stomach for violence, it’s just the tonic for swilling out the aftertaste of Christmas Specials and TV talent contests.

Episode one performs the required set-up neatly, taking all of Utopia’s pieces out of the box and placing them on the board in preparation for the five weeks to come.

[…] Set in an alternative present where a food shortage is beginning to threaten the West and a shady conspiracy infiltrates the lives of previously unrelated people, Utopia’s title follows in the grand ironic tradition of Huxley’s Brave New World, and Swift’s A Modest Proposal. This is nobody’s vision of a perfect world.”

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: Utopia's atmospheric, tantalising, and extremely violent opening episode received multiple nominations, but it was the only one in the series to do so.


9. Boardwalk Empire – Erlkonig

What our reviewer said:

“Erlkönig sets out the symbolism that will dominate an episode concerned with temptation and the decisions the people take when presented with two masters. The title is borrowed from Goethe, whose original poem (later set to music by Schubert) tells the story of a father and son riding home through a storm. The boy believes the Erlkönig, the ‘Elf’ or ‘Alder King’ is chasing them and trying to tempt him away from his father. The man, in the lines quoted above, dismisses these impressions as nothing more than the mist and the sound of ancient willows in the wind, but the boy is hurt by the Erlkönig and is dead by the time they reach home.

The Erlkönig is symbolic of temptation. The poem is quoted by Agent Knox and echoed by Eddie, but it supplies a motif that resonates through every storyline. The episode is constructed as a series of pairings, each featuring one party seeking to corrupt another”

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: It's been a tremendous season for Boardwalk Empire, and in addition to this episode, The Old Ship Of Zion also popped up in our nominations, but it was Erlkonig that garnered enough votes to make it onto the list.


8. Mad Men – For Immediate Release

What our reviewer said:

For Immediate Release put a gag in the mouth of anyone who complains that nothing happens in Mad Men. Accounts were lost and gained, relationships were severed and forged, and a brand new enterprise was created.

I wouldn’t want to jinx it, but there’s a whiff of Shut the Door, Have a Seat excitement in the air at this point in the season. With Don acting the feudal lord, Pete blowing his last fuse, and SCDP about to be hit by Peggy’s press release bombshell, Mad Men’s sixth series is seriously motoring.”

Read the full review, here

Also ran: The Flood was the only other contender from Mad Men's sixth season.


7. The Walking Dead – Clear

What our reviewer said:

“This just might have been one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead of this entire season. From top to bottom, front to back, in all aspects, this was probably the best constructed episode since the first season, maybe the best since the pilot itself. Part of this is the return of a long-awaited character, and part of this is simply because the show turns back in on itself and revisits the locations from the original pilot. What could easily be a bad idea - reminding us of the show at its highest point - turns out to be one of the better ideas The Walking Dead has come up with during its run.”

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: Too Far Gone and Live Bait were also amongst the nominations.


6. Broadchurch – Episode eight

What our reviewer said:

“The last few weeks have been fun, haven’t they? We’ve enjoyed being armchair detectives, discussing evidence, swapping theories on Twitter, making topical jokes about suspecting Thatcher/Vince the Labrador/Justin Bieber of having killed Danny Latimer. We’ve played excitedly along with our enjoyable game of find-the-killer, like a pack of yelping dogs worrying a rabbit.

Then came tonight’s finale, a chastening bucket of cold water thrown on our snapping muzzles. It’s not a game, writer Chris Chibnall reminded us. Broadchurch wasn’t meant to be played. It wasn't Poirot, or Sherlock, or Jonathan Creek. I didn’t set out to trick you.”

Read the full review, here

Also ran: Episode five and episode seven received votes, but not as many as Broadchurch's much-anticipated finale.


5. The Returned – Camille

What our reviewer said:

“In short, it’s tremendous television. Mysterious, beautiful, and unusual, The Returned is certainly the best-looking new drama to arrive this year, and if early signs don’t lie, we’ll soon be able to snip off that compound adjective’s second half.

[…]By the end of episode one, it’s clear that The Returned is no more a zombie show than Let the Right One In was just a vampire flick. Its slant so far is on the emotional reactions of the living to the return of their loved ones, not slashing and splashing undead brains."

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: The Returned's beautiful opening episode was the only one nominated, but enough writers placed it high enough in their list for it to make the top fifteen. 


4. An Adventure In Space And Time

What our reviewer said:

“As can be expected from a BBC production, the attention to period detail is superb, and effortlessly plunges the viewer right into the era even without the aid of the TARDIS console's date readout.

[…] As we move into Hartnell’s final year working on the programme, there's suddenly a startling poignancy at play. It's first evident when Hartnell realises that, just as he's fallen in love with the series, almost everybody who began the journey with him is departing – culminating in one utterly spellbinding scene in which the actor, mid-shooting, exhibits increasing despair and anger at not only everyone else's apparent inability to understand the show the way he does, but also at his own gradually failing faculties. It requires a performance that's nothing short of magnificent – and Bradley is up to the task.”

Also ran: As a one-off special for the fiftieth anniversary year, there was no team-mate competition for this one.

Read the full review, here


3. Breaking Bad – Ozymandias

What our reviewer said:

“It clung to its theme of decline and collapse with the same kind of intensity that it has lent the tense games of cat and mouse between Walt and his nemeses in previous series; the difference here being that instead of going after your nerves this went for straight your heart and your stomach. It was – again – physically punishing, with a surreally nightmarish quality

[…] What follows is one of, if not the best-written and most powerfully-acted scenes in the history of the show. It is a masterpiece of nuance and complexity that I really believe you could watch over and over again and come to a different conclusion about Walt and Skyler’s motivations each time.”

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: Felina, Breaking Bad's impressive finale came second to Ozymandias, an episode that achieves the accolade of being ranked number one on every nominations list on which it appeared, proving that Den of Geek's writers didn't merely like Breaking Bad, they loved it.


2. Game Of Thrones - The Rains Of Castamere

What our reviewer said:

“If the pivotal ninth episode had failed to live up to the hype, it would have been a down note on an otherwise great third season. Fortunately, that was not the case as The Rains of Castamere proved to be quite possibly one of the most stunning events since Ned Stark's noble head rolled in King's Landing. 

[…] Even with a vague idea of what was supposed to happen, watching the events actually play out live was incredible. There's just the right amount of menace, just the right amount of utter shock, and just the right amount of bloodshed to make it a cringe-worthy, brain-melting moment of complete and utter insanity. Despite kind of knowing it was coming, I still wasn't prepared for it.

[…] This might be the high water mark for the series.”

Read the full review, here

Also ran: And Now His Watch Is Ended received one nomination, but the majority was overwhelmingly in favour of the Red Wedding episode, The Rains Of Castamere.


1. Doctor Who - The Day Of The Doctor

What our reviewer said:

“It felt like a real treat, a gift to Who fandom, but more importantly, a strong episode in its own right.

[…] The Day Of The Doctor is already an episode that's clearly going to reward multiple viewings. But that's not just because of the little touches and details laden within it. Primarily, it's because it's an strong, ambitious episode of Doctor Who. Moffat when he's on top form writing Who blends comedy and narrative expertly, and this was one of his better adventures.

[…] The Day Of The Doctor really was, even with one or two really minor quibbles, terrific. Really great fun, its own Five Doctors in its own way, and pulsating with comedy, ambition, and top to bottom entertainment. Happy birthday, Doctor...”

Read the full review, here.

Also ran: Unsurprisingly, Doctor Who was well represented across the Den of Geek nominations, with votes coming in for mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, Peter Davison's anniversary special, The Five(ish) DoctorsThe Name of the DoctorHidei and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. The winner though, by an enormous margin, was The Day of the Doctor. Topping many voters' lists, the anniversary special racked up exactly double the votes of the second most popular episode, so nothing even came close to toppling it from first place. Happy 50th, Doctor Who


The best of the rest

Not restricted to any category, nominations for the best episodes of the year come in for a wide selection of the year's television. To reflect the individual choices that didn't receive enough votes to make it into the top fifteen list then, here is every single show nominated by our lovely writers:

Comedy: 30 Rock, Archer, Ambassadors, Arrested Development, Bob’s Burgers, Count Arthur Strong, Him and Her: The Wedding, How I Met Your Mother, The IT Crowd, Maron, New Girl, The Office: An American Workplace, Orange Is The New Black.

Drama: American Horror Story: Asylum, American Horror Story: Coven, Banshee, The Blacklist, Black Mirror, Continuum, The Fall, House Of Cards, In The Flesh, Midsomer Murders, Misfits, The Newsroom, Orphan Black, Peaky Blinders, Siberia, Spartacus: Vengeance, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Under The Dome, The Vampire Diaries, What Remains.

Factual: Newsnight on the 7th of October 2013, Imagine - Doris Lessing: The Reluctant Heroine.

Family: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wolfblood, Yo Gabba Gabba, Yonderland.

Merry Christmas one and all!

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