The Best TV Episodes of 2021 (Part Two)

by thethreepennyguignol

Check out part one here!

5. Doctor Who – Village of the Angels

This episode might just be a few weeks old, but God knows I already love it to death. I’m not going to get into the Flux debate here (though, if you’d like to read my reviews on that, go check ’em out), but I would like to give a little love to my favourite episode of the latest Doctor Who season, Village of the Angels. It’s a fabulously fun gothic horror that pulls in these cosmic elements to really elevate some of the series’ most impressive villains. I love Doctor Who and always will, so I know that my opinions are a little elevated compare to the actual content of a given season – but this is my list, and Village of the Angels was an episode of the show which hit me with a big enough dose of televisual joy to earn a place here.

4. Squid Game – Hell

There are a few genuinely outstanding episodes in Squid Game’s first season, but it’s this one in particular – for reasons I discussed in this article – that really got the old cogs turning in my head. In short, it’s a masterful bait-and-switch that forces us as the audience to confront the issue of why people would be drawn to such a dark fate, using a wry and painfully familiar investigation of financial struggle to underline to desperation that the main characters are living with. Complex, intelligent, and slickly-constructed, it’s just a brilliant hour of TV, and a vital building block upon which the show is made.

3. Midnight Mass – Book V: Gospels

Midnight Mass is a show that I can understand people’s dislike of – it’s a bit rambling, a bit indulgent, a bit too much, at times. But I love it, and a big part of that love comes from this episode in particular. It’s a wonderfully redemptive story, wrapped up in a horrifyingly unpleasant vampire nightmare, and so gorgeously performed by the central Zach Gilsom that I can hardly stand it. Slow, thoughtful, talky, and more than anything, hopeful, it’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from Mike Flanagan’s repeated assault on my psyche that he calls his TV career.

2. Feel Good – Episode Six

The second season of Feel Good is one of those full-body, need-to-call-my-therapist experiences almost every single episode, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s dark, funny, unyieldingly complex, and painfully real in a way that few shows have the nerve to go for. The final episode of the second season, dealing with Mae’s relationship with her former abuser, is about as close to a perfect ending as I can imagine this show having: it’s cathartic without being saccharine, a relief without being straightforward or simple. Feel Good as a whole is a triumph of a show, and the fact that the finale did justice to that is reason enough for it to be on this list.

  1. Family Ties – Slasher

I thought long and hard on what to put here, at the top of this list – something serious, perhaps, something meaningful and deep and dark and meditative on the nature of human nature and the reality of our life on this planet. But when it came down to it, I just want to be true to who I am and have always been, and put the episode that gave me the most bang for my buck on sheer entertainment value.

Family Ties is an episode that I watched alone at home, half-hanging out my window so that I could actually get signal in the flagging internet of my block of flats, and even with all that distraction, it still took me into another fucking dimension. It’s the high point of this crazy season of Slasher, without a slash of a doubt, a deranged, unhinged comedy-horror of art-school escalation and insane error. Hinged on this superb and instantly-iconic performance from Sabrina Grdevich, it’s exactly the kind of high-camp horror drama that I love more than anything in the world, and for minute-for-minute entertainment, nothing topped this.

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(header image via Decider)