The Ford On Film Awards 2017: Best TV Episode
We’re officially a week into the Ford On Film Awards 2017, and it’s time to wrap up the television section of this year’s awards with my prize for Best TV episode. This is another competitive category; so many shows released killer episodes last year, including programmes that didn’t make my top ten but had at least one outstanding episode within them. Sorry Detectorists and Game of Thrones, you came close but not quite close enough to secure a top ten spot. Apologies also to Charlie Brooker and Black Mirror – Hang the DJ was the best episode of season 4, but I saw it too late to be included in this countdown.
From hilarious comedies to devastating dramas, rewarding character studies to abstract nightmares, it’s been a diverse year for television, and a brilliant one at that. In a year of quality television, these ten episodes stood out the most, with one in particular being so great, it’s taken home the prize for Best TV Episode of 2017. Here’s how the list looks:
‘Late’ – The Handmaid’s Tale
The bleakest episode of the bleakest show of the year, Late shifted its focused from lead June (Elizabeth Moss) to Ofglen (Alexis Bedel) as she is put on trial and subjected to the most horrific punishment imaginable. The scene in which her lesbian lover is forcibly parted from her and sentenced to death is the among the most disturbing images ever shown on television.
‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ – Inside No. 9
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton remain Britain’s most fiendishly clever writers, and The Riddle of the Sphinx is so confident and mind-bogglingly ingenious, it’s almost annoying. Mixing ruthless mysteries with endless twists, The Riddle of the Sphinx was the highlight of the very good third series of Inside No. 9.
‘Morty’s Mind Blowers’ – Rick and Morty
When is a clip show not a clip show? When it’s Morty’s Mind Blowers, a hilarious episode of Rick and Morty in which Morty discovers Rick has been making him forget their darkest adventures. Like every great Rick and Morty episode, Morty’s Mind Blowers is a series of increasingly funny jokes climaxing with a grim punchline. Bonus points for the post-credit sting in which Jerry accidentally kills ET.
‘The Law of Non-Contradiction’ – Fargo
It’s always great when a popular show goes experimental; The Law of Non-Contradiction is easily the weirdest episode of Fargo to date, as Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) investigates her mysterious stepfather in LA, a young sci-fi writer gets ripped off in the 1970s, and an animated robot gets left behind on Earth. Weaving the children’s story of the heartbreaking robot in with flashbacks of a sleazy crime and Gloria’s ambiguous encounters with a mysterious stranger played by Ray Wise, The Law of Non-Contradiction may feel like a narrative dead-end, but it’s actually the definitive episode of Fargo season 3.
‘Crazy Whitefella Thinking’ – The Leftovers
Every episode of The Leftovers’ final season was completely different and equally brilliant, so you could randomly pick any episode and make a case for its inclusion here. I decided to go with Crazy Whitefella Thinking, an utterly-bizarre episode that features none of the regular cast, instead focusing on Kevin Garvey Sr. (Scott Glenn) as he attempts to learn an Aboriginal raindance to save the world. Disorientating, funny, cruel and heartfelt, it’s The Leftovers in a nutshell.
‘The Return Part 8’ – Twin Peaks: The Return
The most aggressively avant-garde hour of television ever broadcast. Even David Lynch’s most surreal fans were left scratching their heads after sixty minutes of ghostly woodcutters, “the” Nine Inch Nails, mushroom clouds, magical orbs, little girls eating disturbing insects, and crushed heads. All together now: “Gotta light?”
‘Finding Frances’ – Nathan For You
Though it originated as a more satirical and subversive taken on the prank show, Nathan For You’s two hour season finale Finding Frances was an often-hilarious, poignant documentary following ‘Bill Gates impersonator’ and aging actor William Heath as he attempts to track down his lost love. Turning the camera towards host Nathan Fielder as he romances a prostitute, Finding Frances blurred the lines of truth and fiction, making audiences question everything and offering no easy answers.
‘Time’s Arrow’ – Bojack Horseman
You’re always guaranteed at least one gut punching episode of Bojack Horseman per season, and season 4’s Time’s Arrow was the most upsetting episode yet. Depicting the slow downward spiral of Bojack’s mentally ill mother Beatrice, Time’s Arrow experimented with disturbing animation and a bewildering non-linear narrative, showing the fractured mind of Bea and the horrific events that caused her mental collapse. Building up to another devastating ending, Time’s Arrow was yet more confirmation that Bojack Horseman is the best animated series around.
‘Michael’s Gambit’ – The Good Place
To reveal why Michael’s Gambit is so, so brilliant is to spoil the fun. Ending The Good Place’s first season in perfect fashion, Michael’s Gambit is perhaps the most audacious season finale imaginable.
‘New York, I Love You’ – Master of None
Though Master of None is about Aziz Ansari’s Dev, the best episode of the show, New York I Love You, barely features him at all. Instead, it portrays the lesser-seen minorities that make up Dev’s home city, from a patronised hotel doorman to a frustrated deaf woman to a fun-loving taxi driver. As always, the writing is impeccably sharp (the deaf woman’s argument about oral sex with her husband is seen by a horrified family of sign language readers, the taxi driver has the new Nicolas Cage film spoiled by self-obsessed teens), but it’s the joyous ending in which the taxi driver’s nightlong mission to party finally comes to fruition in an after-hours restaurant that really seals the deal. Triumphant and hysterical, New York, I Love You is Master of None at its diverse, hilarious best.
Congratulations Master of None (and well done Aziz Ansari for winning Best Comedy Actor at the Golden Globes last night) for its well-deserved win. Tomorrow, I’m finishing off my round-up of the year with a topic I’ve never covered here at Ford On Film: Music. Join me then for my Best Albums and Best Singles of 2017.
By Harry J. Ford
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