Written PostJosh’s Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017 — Part Four!

Josh’s Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017 — Part Four!

Welcome back!  We’re about to enter the TOP TEN of my list of My Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!  Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.

And now, onward…!

10. Silicon Valley: “Terms of Service” (season four, episode two, aired on 4/30/17) — A comedic highlight of the fourth season of Silicon Valley, and the show as a whole, was this brief, beautiful moment in which Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) ascended to CEO of PiperChat … and then flamed out spectacularly.  Mr. Nanjiani has been a secret weapon on the show since the beginning, and he killed it in this spotlight episode.  I loved watching the arrogant, drunk-with-power Dinesh, but the brilliant comedic beauty of the moment in which Dinesh realized how badly he had bungled things and just how far over his head he was, was astonishing.  It was one of the funniest moments in any TV show all year long.  (The continual pinging sound effect throughout the scene, as more and more under-age users sign up for PiperChat and Dinesh finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble, took a great scene and made it amazing.  It’s a piece of comedic genius.)  The entire ensemble was on fire in this episode.  Throw in the welcome return of Matt McCoy’s sad-sack lawyer (“My shame will linger long after my voting rights are restored”) and a great final moment with series villain Gavin Belson as his triumph turns to ash (when he realizes the truth about PiperChat) and you have a winner of an episode.  (Click here for my full review of Silicon Valley season four.)

9. Sherlock: “The Final Problem” (season four, episode three, aired on 1/15/17) — What just might be the final episode of Sherlock that we ever see (though I hope that’s not the case!) was one of the series’ darkest and most nail-bitingly intense.  After a lot of teasing, this episode confirmed that the big bad villain of the season was the never-before-seen third Holmes sibling.  Sian Brooke was terrific as the dangerous and insane Eurus Holmes.  For the first time in the series, both Sherlock and Mycroft seemed truly outmatched.  This episode wrought tremendous tension out of Eurus’ torturing of her brothers and John Watson, as she presented them with a series of increasingly impossible challenges.  This was as grim as the show has ever gotten, as time and again our three heroes were powerless to stop innocent people from being murdered by Eurus all around them.  I could hardly believe what I was watching.  The show has never looked better — every aspect of the production seemed to be firing on all cylinders, making this the most visually impressive episode of Sherlock I had ever seen.  I loved that closing montage of the show’s characters, and the final image of Sherlock and Watson rushing off to new adventures.  (Also great: Mary’s final summation of Holmes and Watson: “a junkie who solves crimes to get high, and a doctor who never came back from the war.”)  If this is the last we ever see of these characters, I am satisfied.  (Click here for my full review of Sherlock series four.)

8. The Deuce: “Pilot” (season one, episode one, aired on 8/25/17) — I have said it before and I’ll say it again: The Wire was the greatest TV show ever made.  And so any subsequent work by David Simon will always have my full attention, and The Deuce did not disappoint.  I adored this show, which tells the story of the rise of the porn industry in New York City in the seventies.  That is a bizarre, eyebrow-raising subject matter for a TV show, but as usual, Mr. Simon and George Pelecanos have crafted a wonderful tapestry, telling a rich story that digs deeply into the complicated mix of politics and crime in a major American city.  Their eye for the detail is extraordinary.  The show is astonishingly well-realized, recreating the look and feel of a very specific area of New York City during this very specific era.  But the reason the show works as well as it does is because, once again, Mr. Simon has created a show filled with an expansive array of fully-realized characters from many different walks of life, backgrounds, and economic situations, each with distinct personalities and wildly differing perspectives.  I can’t believe how many wonderful characters we got to know and love (or hate) in just these first eight episodes.  It’s an extraordinary achievement.  This double-sized premiere was dazzling, allowing us to get drawn into this world and these people.  I love the relaxed pacing, and the way the show blends very funny comedic moments into the mostly-sad stories being told.  There are so many great performances, especially Maggie Gyllenhall’s work as a prostitute without a pimp, Eileen (street name: “Candy”), and while I have enjoyed James Franco’s work ever since Freaks and Geeks, I don’t think he’s ever been better than he is here in the dual role of brothers Vincent and Frankie.  It’s an incredible performance, made all the more impressive by the absolutely seamless visual effects that bring it to life.  Amazing.  (My full review of The Deuce season one will be coming soon!)

7. Legion: “Chapter 7” (season one, episode seven, aired on 3/22/17) — Loosely based on story-lines written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz in the X-Men spin-off comic book The New Mutants from the 1980s (as well as some key issues written by Mr. Claremont in the main Uncanny X-Men book), Legion tells the story of David Haller, a young mutant with incredible psychic powers whose apparent schizophrenia makes him an enormous danger to the people around him and perhaps the entire world.  I never ever thought I would see this relatively obscure piece of X-Men comic book lore brought to life on screen, and in my wildest dreams I never conceived that the result would be such a gloriously head-spinning concoction, filled with such wonderful characters, bizarre imagery, and multi-layered, interlocking narratives.  Fargo’s Noah Hawley has created a masterpiece, one that was able to use the comic book story-lines as a jumping-off point for a joyously original creation, while at the same time remaining shockingly faithful to Mr. Claremont’s original stories.  This episode was the epitome of that, as the series full-on jumped into aspects of the original comic books that I had been cautiously hoping would come into play.  I was over the moon when this episode confirmed that the series’ villain, played so amazingly by Aubrey Plaza, was actually Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King!!  I always loved this villain and his role in the X-Men comic book backstory, as crafted by Mr. Claremont.  I never expected to see this character depicted on screen, so I was incredibly happy that the show went there and brought this classic X-Men villain to life.  This episode was a master class in how to unload a whole heck of a lot of backstory and exposition in a manner that remained creative and engaging.  I loved that whole blackboard sequence!  Many other TV shows — cough Lost cough — could have taken notes at how skillfully Legion presented answers to many of the mysteries it had established.  As if that wasn’t enough, there was the way that this episode confirmed, for the eagle-eyed comic book fans, the identity of David’s father.  This was well-established in the comics, but I had assumed that the show would ignore the issue of David’s parentage (because that would connect the show to the larger X-Men universe in a way I suspected they didn’t want to go).  To my delight, this episode went there.  For the attentive viewer, the clues were there to tell you exactly who David’s father really was.  I was delighted.  (Click here to read my full review of Legion season one.)

6. Better Call Saul: “Chicanery” (season three, episode five, aired on 5/8/17) — Who would ever have believed that the Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul, would prove to be as good as (if not, gasp, maybe even better???) Breaking Bad itself??  Not I, that’s for sure.  And yet, here we are!  I can’t believe how great Better Call Saul is.  The emotional climax of season three came in this episode at the season’s half-way point, as Jimmy and Chuck confronted one another in court.  Things had been building to this since the very beginning of the show, and it was incredible to see the two brothers finally do battle with one another, and in such a public way.  In an incredibly astute move by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, and their writers, they finally gave Jimmy an unabashed win over his brother, exposing Chuck’s mental illness for all to see, while at the same time making sure they didn’t allow the audience or the characters to relish this victory.  In fact, this “victory” now looks to be one of the central tragedies of the show, and one of the key events that turned Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.  This was an acting showcase for the show’s main leads: Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Michael McKean as Chuck, and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy.  The slow build of Chuck and Jimmy’s confrontation in the courtroom, and Jimmy’s con-within-a-con that he pulls on Chuck, leading to Chuck’s explosion and downfall, was extraordinary.  This was a magnificent hour of television, thrilling and heartbreaking.  (Click here for my full review of Better Call Saul season three.)

I’ll see you soon for my TOP FIVE favorite episodes of TV of 2017!