The 25 best TV episodes of 2023

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Looking for some TV episodes that will stop you right in your tracks? That will have you rewatching over and over again? Then you've come to the right place.

2023 has gifted us a lot of outstanding TV shows, and with those have come episodes that became more than just weekly installments of a series. They were events that dominated the cultural conversation. We've picked some of our favorites of these "events," as well as some underrated gems that everyone should check out.

From apocalyptic love stories to cannibal banquets, epic battles to laugh-out-loud crossovers, here are the 25 best TV episodes of 2023.

25. Jury Duty, Season 1, episode 5, "Ineffective Assistance"

Two jurors fist bumping in a courtroom.
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Freevee

One of the biggest surprises TV had to offer in 2023 was the uproariously funny and soul-salvingly sweet "reality" show Jury Duty. To the hoax sitcom's unwitting star, Ronald Gladden, this was to be a documentary about what it's like to serve on a jury in the U.S. What he doesn't know is that everyone around him — from his fellow jurors to the lawyers, plaintiff, judge, and bailiff — are actors, being directed by a room of writers just out of sight. And for added wow factor, James Marsden is playing a parody of himself as a Hollywood asshole. 

What could have come off as a cruel, psychologically scarring prank became a heartwarming and hilarious adventure thanks to Gladden's sincere integrity and enthusiasm. Whatever creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky threw his way, he handled with an open heart and a great attitude. No better example is offered than in "Ineffective Assistance," in which Ronald is asked to do a series of favors, including helping James Marsden prepare for an audition, taking the blame for a horrendously clogged toilet, and helping a couple of jurors hook up. It's a weird and winsome episode that comes to its comedic climax when Marsden hops on a bed… To say any more would be to spoil the fun. Trust Ronald: "This is gonna be awesome."Kristy Puchko, Film Editor

How to watch: Jury Duty is now streaming on Amazon Freevee. 

24. The Afterparty, Season 2, episode 4, "Hannah"

A woman in an orange beret looks through a pair of binoculars.
Credit: Apple TV+

The Afterparty has never failed to deliver on its genre-bending premise, capturing the nuances of everything from rom-coms to Hitchcockian thrillers from episode to episode. But the murder mystery series goes to a whole new level with its Wes Anderson-inspired "Hannah." Not only does the episode change the game with the revelation of Hannah (Anna Konkle) and Grace's (Poppy Liu) secret love affair — it also pays tribute to Anderson's distinct style with hyper-specific flair. Whimsical cinematography and lovingly crafted costuming and production design make this a total feast for Anderson devotees and whodunnit fanatics alike. AI parodies could never.Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: The Afterparty is now streaming on AppleTV+.

23. Am I Being Unreasonable?, Season 1, episode 6, "Episode 6"

Two women sit on a chair. One has her hand on the other's shoulder.
Credit: Alistair Heap / BBC Studios / Boffola Pictures

Daisy May Cooper and Selin Hizli's comedy/drama is fantastic throughout, but the reveals in the final episode really take things up a notch. Taking place at the memorial of Alex (David Fynn), her husband's brother and the man Nic (Cooper) has been having an affair with, we cut between Nic's stumbling attempts to give a speech in the present day and her repressed memories of Alex's death, which finally show us what really happened between the two of them when he died. Like the series as a whole, episode 6 deftly mixes comedy, drama, mystery, and psychological thriller. A brilliant, twisty conclusion to a twisted and brilliant series. — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor

How to watch: Am I Being Unreasonable? is now streaming on Hulu.

22. Silo, Season 1, episode 3, "Machines"

A woman wearing a headlamp repairs a generator.
Credit: Apple TV+

Though it's been an anxious year of The Bear, Succession, and The Last of Us, few episodes have shown us perfect high-stakes stress more than the third episode of Apple TV+ hit Silo. Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Ingrid Escajeda, episode 3, "Machines," sees tough engineer Juliette Nichols (the impeccable Rebecca Ferguson) faced with a conundrum — how to save the subterranean Silo's tempestuous generator before it blows up and eliminates the main power keeping the city alive. The stakes are towering: high possibility of living underground in darkness. Forever.

Watching the Mechanical team fix the Silo's colossal, towering source of power while the entire city waits in near darkness is an outstandingly tense piece of television, the stuff of blockbuster action movies. The real beauty of the episode? The time window the team has to make the fix is almost the same as the remainder of the episode, meaning it feels like you're on the edge of catastrophe in real time. Though it's a victory for the Mechanical team and the citizens of the Silo, it's a tragic end for secret sweethearts Mayor Ruth Jahns (Geraldine James) and Deputy Sam Marnes (Will Patton). Ups, downs, heart attacks, and air punches, this episode is one of the absolute winners of the year. — Shannon Connellan, UK Editor

How to watch: Silo is now streaming on AppleTV+.

21. The Fall of the House of Usher, Season 1, episode 2, "The Masque of the Red Death"

A woman wearing a skull mask, a red cloak, and black lingerie walks through a rave.
Credit: Eike Schroter / Netflix

Mike Flanagan's rapturous re-imagining folded in horrors from across Edgar Allan Poe's works. Devotees of the spooky author had a clue going into every episode on how an Usher might die, based on their allusionary titles alone. And while there were plenty of WTF moments unfurling in this tale of opioid barons, none were as nakedly outrageous as the fate of poor, party-loving Prospero. 

The youngest of Roderick Usher's brood, Prospero — aka Perry (Sauriyan Sapkota) — is eager to make his mark by throwing an epic orgy for the city's most wealthy and decadent. Netflix allowed Flanagan to showcase plenty of nude flesh in his climactic warehouse sequence, but with the arrival of an uninvited guest (Carla Gugino, crushing it), that flesh is doomed to melt into muck, blood, and gore. The episode also provided an early window into the fatal flaws of Prospero's siblings, like a hunger for hard drugs, a demand for control in sex and business, and an insatiable yearning for respect. Plus, flashbacks gave us a deeper insight into a young Roderick's dark path to this doomed present. But once those bodies hit the floor, Flanagan dared audiences to look away, or hang in for one hell of a wild ride. "The Masque of the Red Death" was a litmus test, grisly and grand. — K.P.

How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.

20. Our Flag Means Death, Season 2, episode 3, "The Innkeeper"

A man and merman float in the middle of a dark ocean.
Credit: Courtesy of Max

By this point in Season 2, the breakup of Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and Ed Teach (Taika Waititi) has landed both in very unexpected places. The Gentleman Pirate is (reluctantly) serving at the pleasure of Pirate Queen Zheng Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian), while Blackbeard is deep in the Gravy Basket — sailor speak for a purgatory between life and death. While the Revenge crew has been reunited — in scenes sweet, silly, and sometimes awkward — Stede longs to reconnect with his lost love. But first, Blackbeard must confront his feelings — and an old captain he loathed — before he might return to the land of the living. 

The episode offers many of its pirates a chance at growth and healing, emphasizing the optimism that keeps this historically inspired show buoyant even in its darker waters. But the best bit of this ep is the hard-fought reunion of its central lovers. On the queen's ship, Stede apologizes, cries over, and pleads with Ed to wake. Then, in the ocean of the Gravy Basket, Stede appears before the drowning pirate as a golden merman, radiant and rescuing. Over this spectacular scene, Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" sings a song of love and hope that is a balm for the broken-hearted. — K.P.

How to watch: Our Flag Means Death is now streaming on Max.

19. Happy Valley, Season 3, episode 3, "Episode 3"

A blonde policewoman with a bloody nose.
Credit: AMC

Although Happy Valley is a turbulent ride for most of its characters, one relationship that's been mostly solid is that of sisters Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) and Clare (Siobhan Finneran) — or at least it was, up until Season 3. The third episode begins with Catherine confronting Clare about secretly taking her grandson to visit his horrible father, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) in prison. The scene takes place in a cafe in Sheffield, and it's every bit as brutal as it is tense, with Catherine's anger bubbling away below the surface while both struggle to hold back tears. Moments like this are why Sally Wainright's bleak drama is so fantastic: As much as it's about the crime, it's also mostly about the character relationships. In episode three, the acting, writing, and directing are all at their best, and the result is some seriously gripping television. — S.H.

How to watch: Happy Valley is now streaming on Acorn TV and AMC+.

18. Only Murders in the Building, Season 3, episode 8, "Sitzprobe"

A man in a grey suit sings onstage during a musical rehearsal.
Credit: Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Bringing heaps of star power, Meryl Streep stole our hearts as long on-the-brink-of-breakthrough actress Loretta Durkin. For much of this season, she was a bit of a mystery with a curious scrapbook, but she finally laid bare her story in this dynamic episode. Turns out, Loretta wasn't obsessed with the late Ben Gilroy (Paul Rudd); she's the long-lost mother of his adopted brother, Dickie (Jeremy Shamos). 

With opening night around the corner, "Sitzprobe" is supposed to be the rehearsal where Death Rattle Dazzle's music and murder mystery come together. But soaring singing collides with the Gilroy case with the return of Detective Donna Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who storms back onto the scene with the stage presence of an epic diva. This leads to a dramatic climax in which Loretta nobly delivers a rousing false confession on stage to save her son. It's the big moment we didn't see coming. Yet amid the mayhem, maternal sacrifice, and madcap comedy, the most thrilling moment is Charles (Steve Martin) finally nailing that diabolical patter song! It was a victorious moment that deserved a standing ovation. — K.P.

How to watch: Only Murders in the Building is now streaming on Hulu.

17. The Wheel of Time, Season 2, episode 8, "What Was Meant to Be"

A group of warriors rushes across a castle battlement.
Credit: Jan Thijs / Prime Video

Every alliance, every betrayal, every whispered prophecy of Season 2 of The Wheel of Time was leading to this finale. And boy oh boy, did it deliver. Between Egwene (Madeleine Madden) breaking free from her Seanchan captors, Mat (Dónal Finn) blowing the Horn of Valere, and Rand (Josha Stradowski) declaring himself the Dragon Reborn in fiery fashion, "What Was Meant to Be" is chock-full of heroic moments that will have viewers on their feet cheering and screaming. With its stunning action sequences and cathartic character beats, there's no doubt that this is a fantasy battle for the ages. — B.E.

How to watch: The Wheel of Time is now streaming on Prime Video.

16. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Season 2, episode 7, "Those Old Scientists"

A woman and man in red and black uniforms stand in the lab of a spaceship.
Credit: Michael Gibson / Paramount+

If you're not watching Strange New Worlds or Lower Decks, this crossover episode demands you binge both series to fully appreciate its brilliance. Lower Decks is an animated comedy series that follows a foursome of eccentric ensigns who frequently mess up missions and social interactions to hysterical effect. Strange New Worlds is a more dramatic live-action series that focuses on Spock, pre-Kirk, when he was hot and emotionally embattled, and hot. In "Those Old Scientists," these two very different eras and styles of Star Trek overlap. And it is simply delight distilled.

When Lower Decks' bumbling Brad Boimler (a hilariously harried Jack Quaid) and his badass bestie Beckett Mariner (Tawney Newsome) accidentally activate a time-travel portal, they're transported back to the heyday of heroes like Spock (Ethan Peck), Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), and Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). Plotwise, the crew of the USS Enterprise has to get this daffy duo back to the future before they accidentally endanger it by changing the past. And that's a serious challenge because Boimler is basically Starfleet's most excitable fanboy. (Think Tom Holland on any MCU press junket.) There's plenty of fun watching Quaid and Newsome masterfully bring their chaotic cartoon characters to live action. But then there's the dizzying joy of watching the typically serious Enterprise thrown into a silly spin by the promise of the future — and a comedic tone that is more fast-paced and far less reverent. It's like Star Trek made its own fan fiction. And it's truly the funnest frontier. — K.P.

How to watch: Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks are now streaming on Paramount+.

15. The Great, Season 3, episode 6, "Ice"

A man and woman in elaborate fur coats smile in a snowy forest.
Credit: Christopher Raphael / Hulu

The Great finally did the inevitable in Season 3, episode 6, "Ice," and killed Peter (Nicholas Hoult). However, the former Russian Emperor didn't go out by Catherine's (Elle Fanning) hand the way you might have assumed from the start of the show. Instead, he dies in a sudden, gut-wrenching accident, falling through ice after one last argument with Catherine.

Without a doubt, it's The Great's biggest, most shocking plot twist yet — but the show doesn't treat it like an end-of-episode cliffhanger. Instead, it marks the end of "Ice"s first act, leaving us to stew with Catherine as she processes the death of her great love. From simply pretending it did not happen to playing a rousing game of badminton with herself, Catherine's spiral is one of the most compelling portrayals of grief on TV this year — and Fanning has never been better. — B.E.

How to watch: The Great is now streaming on Hulu.

14. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Season 1, episode 3, "Ramona Rents a Video"

Two young women lay on the floor of a video rental store while sprinklers rain down on them.
Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Props to series creators Bryan Lee O'Malley and BenDavid Grabinski for the big swing they took with this animated adaptation of the former's beloved graphic novel series. Rather than another retelling of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, complete with the Toronto twentysomething facing off against the seven evil exes of his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off pulls a major twist at the end of ep one that sent the season spiraling into a whole new direction. 

While there's a lot to admire in this remix, from new collisions of characters to brilliant voice casting across the board and chaotic cameos, my favorite element of this cartoon series is how it did right by Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman). In the movie, her romance with Ramona was swiftly discounted with a "bi-curious" slam. But in "Ramona Rents a Video," the show digs deeper into their college relationship, with Ramona taking ownership of its falling apart and thereby validating Roxy's "bi-furious" heartbreak. They don't just battle, they also deal with their "emotional business." From there, the show opens up for more queer stories and healing, and gives greater depth to its female characters — including Knives, Ramona, Kim, and Julie — than the live-action adaptation dared. Plus, the location-leaping battle in Kim's video store was pretty badass. — K.P.

How to watch: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is now streaming on Netflix.

13. Yellowjackets, Season 2, episode 2, "Edible Complex"

A group of young women in winter clothes look at the corpse of a young woman on a funeral pyre.
Credit: Kailey Schwerman / Showtime

We finally watched the Yellowjackets do the thing. THE thing. The moment we've all been waiting for since the show's very first episode — the moment their special wilderness menu finally included humans. While a lot went down at Camp Yellowjackets this season, episode 2 was a massive turning point for the show as a whole. With Jackie (Ella Purnell) dead, and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) clinging onto her corpse, the team decide to finally intervene and let Jackie's body rest by cremating it on a pyre. But the wilderness had other ideas (naturally), and sends a gust of snow that blankets Jackie's body, and yes, slow-roasts her instead. What ensues is a Grecian-inspired fest with the entire team, save for Coach Ben (Steven Krueger), hounding around Jackie's corpse and munching it right up, bones and all. 

Like the ringing chorus in Yellowjackets' theme song, episode 2 was the point of no return for the team. From first acknowledging that this might be a thing they need to keep doing to sustain themselves to the more jarring realization that they actually enjoyed it, eating Jackie was the moment the Yellowjackets' time in the wilderness officially switched gears and became the haunting experience we know they're still grappling with as adults. There's no going back for them anymore, and it's all thanks to "Edible Complex." — Yasmeen Hamadeh, Contributing Entertainment Writer

How to watch: Yellowjackets is now streaming on Showtime.

12. Black Mirror, Season 6, episode 1, "Joan Is Awful"

A woman in pigtails with a penis drawn on her forehead storms into a church while wearing a red and white cheerleading uniform.
Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

It's the most meta TV episode of the year, so you wouldn't find it anywhere else than Black Mirror. Season 6 of Charlie Brooker's existential dread-inducing series kicked off with "Joan Is Awful," a relatable satire on the nature of streaming services, AI-generated content, and the rights to your digital likeness. Nothing less than a too-real mindfuck, the episode stars Annie Murphy as Joan, who finds her life dramatized on the overtly Netflix-like Streamberry service, changing narrative course in real-time correspondence with her own thanks to the company's AI-happy quamputer. Beyond the episode's likeness to a real-life story, the whole thing was so close to our own reality we even delved into Netflix's actual user agreement to check whether our likenesses would end up on the service. Netflix's own marketing team made sure our fears were kept well-stoked.

But beyond the theatrical, Salma Hayek-led comedy of Black Mirror's episode, "Joan Is Awful" could not have been more timely, landing shortly before Hollywood fought the studios IRL over the problematic use of AI during the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. As Mashable's Kristy Puchko wrote in her review, "As screenwriters are waging war against studios and streamers that would underpay them and undercut them with AI, Black Mirror Season 6 hits Netflix with a middle finger pointed firmly at a Hollywood studio system that doesn't give a shit about humanity." — S.C.

How to watch: Black Mirror is now streaming on Netflix.

11. Castlevania: Nocturne, Season 1, episode 3, "Freedom Was Sweeter"

A priestess in a white robe with white face paint performs a Vodou ritual in front of a fire.
Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Castlevania: Nocturne entirely reinvents the character of Annette (voiced by Thuso Mbedu) from the games, making her a skilled sorcerer and fighter from Saint-Domingue. The show's third episode dives deep into all the changes that come with that reinvention, exploring Annette's traumatic upbringing as a slave, her magical abilities rooted in Haitian Vodou, and the bonds she formed with other Haitian revolutionaries. It's a rich character study rooted in historical and cultural specificity, one that expands the world of Castlevania and proves that radical changes from source material can often be rewarding. — B.E.

How to watch: Castlevania: Nocturne is now streaming on Netflix.

10. The Other Two, Season 3, episode 5, "Cary & Brooke Go to an AIDS Play"

A young man and woman reach around a theater popcorn machine to hold hands.
Credit: Courtesy of Max

This jam-packed episode of The Other Two has everything: a Romeo + Juliet parody, a days-long play (titled 8 Gay Men With AIDs: A Poem in Many Hours), Kiernan Shipka, Twitter blackmail, and Lukas Gage. With all its characters crammed into a theater for days at a time, "Cary & Brooke Go to an AIDS Play" allows The Other Two to create a wide-ranging satirical farce that skewers everything from the play The Inheritance to celebrity PR relationships. It's The Other Two at its hilarious best, culminating in an ultra-serious, heartbreaking argument between Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Lance (Josh Segarra). Leave it to The Other Two to have you cracking up in one moment only to devastate you the next. — B.E.

How to watch: The Other Two is now streaming on Max.

9. I'm a Virgo, Season 1, episode 4, "Balance Beam"

A woman hugs a naked giant.
Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video

The award for the TV episode with the wildest tone shifts goes to I'm a Virgo's "Balance Beam," which toggles between this year's most out-there sex scene and the grief-fueled protests following Scat's (Allius Barnes) easily preventable death. The former gives us a sweet, superpowered display of intimacy between giant Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) and speedster Flora (Olivia Washington), while the latter makes space for rage in the face of capitalism and inequality. The tension between that joy and that anger is what lies at the heart of I'm a Virgo, as Cootie finds himself experiencing the full spectrum of what the world has to offer — good and bad — at an accelerated pace. Boasting some of the year's most impressive (and surreal) sequences, "Balance Beam" is a showstopper of an episode that sets the stage for Cootie's growth, and for the rest of the crazy ride that is I'm a Virgo. — B.E.

How to watch: I'm a Virgo is now streaming on Prime Video.

8. Bupkis, Season 1, episode 2, "Do as I Say, Not as I Do"

A priest wearing glasses.
Credit: Peacock

The first episode of Pete Davidson's semi-autobiographical series, Bupkis, is crass to the point of unbearability, so much so that if you didn't want to watch more after that, I wouldn't blame you. Luckily, the show's second episode, "Do as I Say, Not as I Do," steps in to provide a thoughtful examination of Davidson's youth, all without sacrificing an ounce of humor.

The episode takes place at Pete Davidson's (played by himself) Uncle Tommy's (Bobby Cannavale) wedding, not long after Pete's father died in the 9/11 attacks. Pete and his family's grief allows for far more introspection than we got in the first episode, including a poignant look at how he uses humor as a kind of coping mechanism, as well as his relationship with Tommy in both the past and present. "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" also offers some wildly funny moments, like a misguided speech about mortality from a priest (Steve Buscemi). These moments, combined with the episode's thoughtfulness, help provide a better roadmap for what Bupkis will be, all while delivering a genuinely great episode of television. — B.E.

How to watch: Bupkis is now streaming on Peacock.

7. Dead Ringers, Season 1, episode 5, "Five"

Two doctors in red scrubs and masks look at a newborn baby.
Credit: Niko Tavernise / Prime Video

Dead Ringers trades New York for Alabama in "Five," where it quickly delivers one of 2023's most disturbing episodes. There, twin obstetricians Beverly and Elliot Mantle (both played by Rachel Weisz) encounter gynecologist Marion (Michael McKean), the head of an all-twin family who lectures the Mantles on the beginnings of the field of women's health. He discusses the "father of gynecology" J. Marion Sims, whose experiments on enslaved Black women root the field in a disturbing, racist history.

That history lurks beneath the surface of "Five" until Beverly has a ghostly vision of Anarcha, one of the young Black women Sims tortured. Played by Brittany Bradford, Anarcha delivers a hauntingly circular monologue that digs deep into the parts of Sims' story that McKean's Marion so casually brushes aside. Thanks to Bradford and director Karyn Kusama, this deeply captivating, relentless sequence proves the perfect climax to "Five" and elevates it to one of the year's best episodes. — B.E.

How to watch: Dead Ringers is now streaming on Prime Video.

6. Poker Face, Season 1, episode 9, "Escape from Shit Mountain"

Two men, one holding a gun, stand over an unconscious body in the snow outside a motel.
Credit: Phillip Caruso / Peacock

Honestly, you could make a case for any of Poker Face's episodes being one of the best of 2023 — each presents an intricate, satisfying puzzle box with its own rules and a new cast of guest stars. However, I have to give the title to Season 1's penultimate episode, "Escape from Shit Mountain."

After eight episodes of human lie detector Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) solving other people's murders, she becomes a murder victim in her own right — well, almost. Our intrepid outsider survives a hit and run and being buried alive only to find shelter at a snowed-in motel with a group of shady characters played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Castañeda, and Stephanie Hsu. There, she'll endeavor to solve her own attempted murder as well as a decades-old cold case. With its isolated environment and truly despicable villain, "Escape from Shit Mountain" puts a fun twist on Poker Face's already-twisty formula that dials its suspense up to new heights. — B.E.

How to watch: Poker Face is now streaming on Peacock.

5. Reservation Dogs, Season 3, episode 6, "Frankfurter Sandwich"

A man helps a teenage boy prepare a fishing rod.
Credit: Shane Brown / FX

We're spoiled for choice when it comes to great Reservation Dogs episodes, so picking out the "best" is a tough call. Season 3 highlights include the haunting exploration of Deer Lady's (Kaniehtiio Horn) backstory at a Native boarding school, and the Richard Linklater-esque reunion between Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs) and her father (Ethan Hawke, of course). But it's "Frankfurter Sandwich" that keeps me coming back. 

The episode centers on a bonding trip between Cheese (Lane Factor) and elders Brownie, Bucky, and Big (Gary Farmer, Wes Studi, and Zahn McClarnon). Watching the generations of Reservation Dogs bounce off each other is always a comedic treat, but there's a deeper undercurrent here of caring for friendships, one that's all the more resonant here thanks to the way Reservation Dogs has woven Maximus's (Graham Greene) story throughout the season. It all culminates in some sage advice from Cheese and a sobfest from the elders. Cathartic, hilarious, and a perfect continuation of Reservation Dogs' exploration of grief, "Frankfurter Sandwich" may be the perfect distillation of this phenomenal final season. — B.E.

How to watch: Reservation Dogs is now streaming on Hulu.

4. Barry, Season 4, episode 4, "It Takes a Psycho"

A group of men take a selfie in a silo full of sand.
Credit: Merrick Morton / HBO

One of Barry's best episodes ever, "It Takes a Psycho" barely features the show's title character — but that's the point. Barry's (Bill Hader) escape from jail sends his L.A. connections like Sally (Sarah Goldberg) and Gene (Henry Winkler) into a tailspin of paranoia. Since no one — including the audience — knows where he is, Barry lets our worry simmer all the way to the episode's final, horror-tinged scene.

But it's the narrative risks "It Takes a Psycho" makes that allow it to stand out. Take Hank's (Anthony Carrigan) brutal move to eliminate his competition. (I will never look at sand the same way again.) And what about the massive time jump at the episode's end? These are some of Barry's wildest swings to date, and the show executes them flawlessly to set up Barry's brutal endgame.B.E.

How to watch: Barry is now streaming on Max.

3. The Bear, Season 2, "Fishes" and/or "Forks"

Two images side by side, one of a young man in a blue and white polo shirt, the other of a man in a white button-up and tie tasting food in a restaurant kitchen.
Credit: Mashable composite: Chuck Hodes / FX

Few things divided Mashable's staff quite like the question, "What was the best episode of The Bear Season 2?" Was it "Fishes," the eternally stressful Christmas blowout? Or was it the surprisingly mindful Richie-centric "Forks"? (Personally, I'm biased toward a third option: the Denmark-set "Honeydew," a quiet, lovely interlude that reminds us why people find joy in cooking in the first place.)

The "Fishes" vs. "Forks" debate grew so fierce we had to break it out into its own piece — what side are you on? — B.E.

How to watch: The Bear is now streaming on Hulu.

2. The Last of Us, Season 1, episode 3, "Long, Long Time"

Two old men in suits hold hands at a piano.
Credit: Liane Hentscher / HBO

Television episodes don't come much more perfect than this. Acting as its own contained story, The Last of Us' third episode introduces Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), a couple hunkering down in an abandoned town while the post-Cordyceps world spirals into deeper chaos around them. Spanning 20 years from the couple's first meeting to them dying together by suicide in Bill's bedroom, the story is a mixture of hopeful and heart-wrenching, proving love is still possible in a ruined world before forcing us to watch as it's eventually snuffed out. The little details, from the clever jumps forward in time to the poignant use of Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time" — a song which bookends the couple's story — make this an episode to remember. — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor

How to watch: The Last of Us is now streaming on Max.

1. Succession, Season 4, episode 3, "Connor's Wedding"

Three siblings in black formal wear hug each other.
Credit: Courtesy of HBO

If you're going to kill off a character as central to a show as Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was to Succession, you need to deliver. Thankfully, Succession did so, producing a show-stopping, show-defining episode that changed the entire course of Succession's final season.

"Connor's Wedding" is a brilliant Trojan horse of an episode: It lures us in with promises of Connor (Alan Ruck) and Willa's (Justine Lupe) nuptial drama, only to sucker punch us with Logan's death. While his body lies on a plane floor thousands of miles from New York, all the Roy siblings can do is huddle around their phones and try to process a torrent of complex emotions. Thanks to excellent performances and restraint about what parts of Logan's death we actually get to see, "Connor's Wedding" is an instant classic, and a remarkable episode for the history books. — B.E.

How to watch: Succession is now streaming on Max.

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