NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Moments

Orphan Black's big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

Orphan Black’s big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

This year was a great one for television, featuring plenty of memorable moments to keep us talking from the beginning of 2014 to its end. Whether those moments were happy or tragic, they stayed in our hearts and on our minds long after the episodes that featured them were over.

Today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series features my picks for the 10 best moments on TV this year. I hope you all share your picks in the comments because there are so many excellent moments to talk about!

1. Clone Club Dance Party (Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried)
Orphan Black is a thrill-a-minute kind of show, but it was at its most impressive when it took a deep breath and allowed its characters to simply have fun dancing together. What made this moment the best of the year, though, wasn’t just its happy tone in the middle of chaos, it was the technical brilliance that went into making that scene. Besides the wonderful Jordan Gavaris, every other character in this scene was played by Tatiana Maslany. The way Maslany was able to convey the distinct personalities of each clone through their dance moves speaks to her incredible talent. There’s no one on television like Maslany, and there was certainly no scene on television in 2014 like this one.

2. Will Gardner Dies (The Good Wife: Dramatics, Your Honor/Last Call)
Death often blindsides us, and The Good Wife’s ability to blindside its audience with the death of one of its lead characters was one of the most talked-about happenings in the television world this year. In the two episodes surrounding Will’s death, The Good Wife delivered the most emotionally resonant hours of television in 2014. Every actor rose to the challenge, giving each scene weight and ensuring that no one would end either hour with dry eyes. Will’s death made everyone who watched The Good Wife think about the senseless nature of tragedy and the unanswered questions left behind when loved ones die. But even more than making us think, watching these characters grieve made us feel—and that’s what great television is all about.

3. Castle and Beckett Get Married (Castle: The Time of Our Lives)
I love a good wedding. And after months of waiting, Castle gave its fans a great wedding. Cheesy backdrops aside, everything about the scene was beautiful—from Beckett’s perfect wedding outfit and the way Castle looked at her in it to every word of their deeply personal vows. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic put such joy and love into their performances in that scene, and it created a beautiful moment of joy for casual viewers and longtime fans alike. And as someone who has been invested in this relationship since the show’s pilot first aired, I can say this wedding produced more happy tears than any other scene I watched on television in 2014.

4. Diamond Dan (The Mindy Project: We’re a Couple Now, Haters!)
When Chris Messina dances, you put it on your Best Moments of the Year list. There’s not much to say about this moment except “Whoa, Nellie!” Kudos to The Mindy Project for proving so perfectly that there wasn’t going to be any issue keeping the heat between Messina and Mindy Kaling alive after their characters got together. I’m sure I’m not the only one who watched this scene an embarrassing number of times. It was one of the sexiest moments on TV in 2014, and here’s hoping we get another “dancing Danny” moment for me to put on my 2015 list!

5. Ann and Chris Leave Pawnee (Parks and Recreation: Ann and Chris)
“Ann and Chris” was an episode that focused on the beauty of friendship, which is so rare to see on television. It gave ample time to celebrate the loving, genuine friendship between Ben and Chris, but it really hit an emotional home run in the way it handled the monumental importance of Leslie and Ann’s friendship. From Leslie telling Ann how she “totally changed her” to their genuine “I love you” exchange as Ann got ready to ride away, the heart of this episode was the pair of emotional scenes between Leslie and Ann devoted to showing the ways our best friends can be our first life-altering loves. I will always be thankful for those moments, which celebrated female friendship for the supportive, positive force it is in so many of our lives.

6. Zack and Aaron Tap to “Piano Man” (So You Think You Can Dance: Top 4 Perform)
If you’re looking for the most purely entertaining moment on television this year, look no further than this duet from the two best tappers So You Think You Can Dance has ever seen. The choreography was impressive for its creativity and intricate rhythms, but it was the way this routine was performed that made it so memorable. Both Aaron and Zack brought such a sense of joy to this routine, and it was a true reflection of the happiness that can be expressed and shared through dance. If I needed a smile this year, this was the moment I turned to over and over again.

7. Ingrid Sacrifices Herself (Once Upon a Time: Shattered Sight)
I was skeptical at first about bringing the world of Frozen to Once Upon a Time, but it turned out to be the one of the best things this show has ever done. And no small part of the success of this storyline was the way it wove the story of Frozen and the original Snow Queen fairytale together with the character of Ingrid, played perfectly by Elizabeth Mitchell. Her work all season was wonderful, but it was her performance in Ingrid’s final moments that made me ugly-cry in a way that I was not expecting at all. Ingrid’s character arc was handled so well, and her ultimate sacrifice was rooted in the kind of love Once Upon a Time is all about. A well-written redemption arc isn’t easy to create, but Ingrid’s death capped off the most satisfying redemption arc this show has ever had. I wept not only because I didn’t want to lose Mitchell as an actress but because I didn’t want to lose Ingrid as a character, and that’s the sign of a fantastic final scene.

8. Oathkeeper (Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper)
This year on Game of Thrones, there were even more examples of deceitful, unhealthy, and manipulative relationships between men and women. But in the middle of all of those was the moment Jaime sent Brienne on a quest to find Sansa Stark—a moment of true respect and genuine warmth. From the moment Jaime gave Brienne blue armor, I knew this scene was going to be even better than it was on the page, which is saying something because it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book series. There was even more intimacy to the television version of this moment, which was because of the incredible performances Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau can give with just their eyes. The emotion on Coster-Waldau’s face as Brienne tells Jaime she wants to name his sword Oathkeeper still gives me goosebumps because you can tell he’s never had a moment of genuine respect like that in his life, and he gave that same respect to Brienne by sending her on this quest in the first place. This was a moment of true equality, genuine understanding, and real love—in whatever way these characters are willing to admit they love each other. And in the world of Game of Thrones, a moment like this is as rare as a dragon—and just as precious.

9. Donna Shares Her Fears (Suits: Pound of Flesh)
Suits brings to life a high-rolling world most of us will never inhabit, but when Donna opened up to Louis about her insecurities about acting, the show took a turn for the universally relatable. There was something so painfully honest in the writing of Donna’s confession to Louis about there being a certain safety in not chasing your dreams because then you can let yourself believe you could have been good enough. It’s a truth that’s hardly ever acknowledged that chasing your dreams is terrifying because there’s a real chance you might not actually be able to succeed. And I love that Suits was brave enough to state that truth and that Donna was brave enough as a character to face that truth and still chase her dream anyway. It was a watershed moment for this character and for Sarah Rafferty as an actress, and it was a highlight of what was a fantastic year for Suits.

10. Annalise Gets Vulnerable (How to Get Away with Murder: Let’s Get to Scooping)
Vulnerability is scary—it’s scary for characters, and I’m sure it’s also scary for actors. So the scene where Viola Davis took off her wig, eyelashes, and makeup onscreen was a moment that made everyone sit up and take notice. The realism of that moment—a woman getting ready for bed looking like a real woman getting ready for bed—was part of its brilliance, but the real reason it resonated with people so strongly was because the outward vulnerability of the moment reflected the emotional openness Annalise displayed as she asked her husband about his incriminating pictures on a dead girl’s phone. It was one of those moments where a heightened-reality drama suddenly got real, and those are the kinds of moments I love as a television fan.

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22 thoughts on “NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Moments

  1. I think also Ingrid’s end was the most satisfying to watch because for once, she got what she always truly wanted which was her sisters love and redeemed herself for undoing the spell. And Mark Isham’s score in that scene, omg, it was just amazing.

    I hope a new volume of the soundtrack gets released soon.

  2. I will be back with more but I know this one is going to be long so I figured I should start here.

    The Oathkeeper scene. You and I had been waiting for this moment for quite a while and then the 3rd episode happened and I was afraid they would screw it up terribly. It is my most-watched moment of the year and I’m still not over how much was said in not a lot of words. Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau can speak volumes without ever saying a word and that’s what this scene needed. Jaime and Brienne can hardly look at each other when they are being particularly sincere, let alone come up with words.

    These two give each other something no one else in their lives has been able to – complete trust. Jaime has trusted his greatest secret to Brienne and he continues to trust her to make him be the man he knows he can be. For his complaining about vows in the past, he puts a lot of stock in the one he made to free the Stark girls and even more so since Brienne put the weight of the vow on his shoulders in “Bear and the Maiden Fair”. He needs to keep this one and he knows Brienne will not only get it done because of her own vow but also because she knows what it means and represents to him. In return, Brienne trusts in Jaime’s goodness. She sees him for the knight he was and still is under his title of Kingslayer and sees the man who killed the king to save the city. She believes in him when others won’t.

    This rare trust has led to the most beautiful relationship of mutual respect. They are so sincere with each other in this scene that you get the impression that it’s nearly painful for them. They live in a world that rejects both of them but with each other they can be their truest selves. Brienne may be a fierce fighter and a knight by actions if not by title but underneath that armor lies a romantic heart. It’s that heart that is so deeply touched by Jaime’s thoughtfulness in having armor crafted to match her eyes. We see it again when Pod calls Brienne “ser”. Westeros may see Brienne as masculine but Jaime sees the woman underneath. She’s not a lady by Westerosi standards but it doesn’t make her any less of a woman and Jaime gets that.

    I don’t think Jaime will ever stop being shocked at the amount of respect Brienne shows him. To him, she is t embodiment of all that is good and pure in this world and to have her recognize him as someone worth honoring is astonishing. He makes the same face here that he does when she calls him “Ser Jaime” for the first time. He just doesn’t know what to do with her and the feelings she brings up in him.

    To conclude my lengthy explosion of feelings, that final look. In that one moment, as Brienne rides away from him, Jaime realizes how much she has changed his life. He realizes everything she means and represents to him. He may not understand those feelings or even fully accept what they may mean, but he knows they are there.

    • ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME WITH FEELINGS? 😉

      I can always count on you to write the most beautiful things about this relationship. You are 100% right when you say that they give each other things that no one else has even thought to offer them. While the rest of the world only sees the surface (the Kingslayer, the freak of nature), they see each other for the people they’ve always wanted to be seen as. Brienne sees Jaime as a man of honor, which is what makes her naming the sword Oathkeeper so important. And Jaime sees Brienne as both a woman and a knight, which is what he’s telling her through his gift of quite possibly the world’s most beautiful armor. The looks on both of their faces in those moments are so perfectly similar. They’re moved beyond words at the fact that someone sees who they want to be but are afraid to show to the rest of the world.

      I still can’t believe this moment still happened as perfectly as it did after what happened with Jaime in the episode before it, but I’m so glad. It was everything I could have wanted and so much more.

  3. Some of my other favorite moments of the year that weren’t on your list.

    1) The Americans – I won’t get into specifics because I don’t want to spoil you, but there is a scene in s2 that is stunning. The scene composition is gorgeous and the acting is outstanding. It’s hard to watch but everything about it is so well done.

    2) Masters of Sex – Also along the lines of beautifully shot TV, there is a scene in the early part of s2 that has stayed with me through the year. Bill still hasn’t told Virginia about his bedroom performance issues that arose from finding out he had a boyfriend so he’s doing is best to hide them. She’s standing and he’s kneeling in front of her ready to please her and the shot pans out and goes through the hotel rooms until it’s just a tiny piece of the frame. It’s both gorgeously shot and so symbolic of the power Virginia has over Bill.

    3) Penny Dreadful – the first possession scene. It’s terrifying and mesmerizing all at the same time and Eva Green is incredible in it.

    4) The Big Bang Theory – Sheldon saying “I love you” to Amy. This show can get a lot wrong and doesn’t go for the sincere emotional response quite as often as I would prefer but this was a great moment. It was a beautiful switch for Jim Parsons to get to play a sincere yet uncertain Sheldon and Mayim Bialik is truly his perfect scene partner.

    5) Parks and Recreation – Everyone singing “5000 Candles in the Wind” at the Unity Concert. It was a perfect tribute to this perfect show. The hologram Lil Sebastian just made it even better.

    6) Chicago Fire – Severide watching the video tape of the pact he and Shay had made to each other. One day I will stop talking about this but not yet apparently. Taylor Kinney was fantastic throughout this arc but this scene is the one that made me cry the most.

    7) Hannibal – basically the last 20 minutes of the s2 finale. It was crazy and everything happened and we finally got to see the scene the first ep of the season opened with and the reveals and fake-outs and surprises just kept coming.

    8) True Detective – the famed long tracking shot. It was less exciting or emotional to me than a lot of other things on this list but a good moment of TV nonetheless.

    9) The Mindy Project – Mindy telling Danny she would be OK with him. This was such a huge moment for her character and I’m still so proud of her. This is the self-confident Mindy I’ve always wanted to see because I knew she could get there and it was so satisfying to see.

    10) Selfie – It’s tied between two different musical moments. On a lighter note, Henry singing and dancing to “Runaround” was perfect and brought me an incredible amount of joy. On a more serious note, Eliza singing a heartbreaking rendition of “Chandelier” as she decides to be the person everyone things she is already.

    I am undoubtedly forgetting more so I may be back again 🙂

    • This list is perfection. Your Parks and Rec moment was my second choice, and I debated for a very long time about choosing that or Ann moving away. Every time someone sings “5000 Candles in the Wind,” I happy cry. It’s a prove fact.

      Your Mindy Project pick was also wonderful because it showed just how much Mindy has grown. We both know I love feeling proud of my favorite fictional ladies, and I was so proud of Mindy in that moment.

      I’ve heard a lot about the Masters of Sex scene you talked about, and I’m excited to get to the point where I can watch it! And you’ve piqued my interest for that moment from The Americans. Knowing how much I’ve loved the show so far, I can only imagine that I’ll agree with this pick once I see that moment.

  4. Annalise’s vulnerability in that scene was amazing – certainly the most powerful moment I saw on TV this year. I was genuinely shocked by seeing the stripping away of her armor. I’m glad we have such amazing actresses as Viola Davis on TV shows these days.
    (And Chris Messina, another actor who we are lucky made the jump to TV)

    • You won’t get any disagreement from me about feeling lucky to be watching TV at a time when great film actors are making the jump to television. It’s such a great time for acting on television.

  5. Hi there. Have to agree with the Clone Club Dance Party. It was amazing to watch, and even more so when you watch the making of video. That 2-3 minutes scene took 2 days to film. Loved it, and it’s something I’ll watch when I need a little pick me up…

  6. I feel like I’m being repetitive, but maybe it’s because I’m writing all my comments on your 2014 posts in one day lol.

    All the kudos to The Good Wife for the way they handled Will Gardner’s death and the consequences. It blew me away without me even knowing the history behind all these characters, and I am sure it was some of the best television of the year.

    I loved the whole of Time of Our Lives, but Castle and Beckett’s wedding specifically brought me to tears. I am so happy and grateful to the Castle team for giving us this moment of joy and happiness in such a beautiful way.

    I had forgotten about that tap dance! Thank you for adding the link because I watched it and it made me smile a lot. Such wonderful dancing.

    I think Ingrid’s arc has been the most satisfying antagonist arc the show has done thus far, so bravo to OUAT for getting that one right! I was pleasantly surprised by the way the show had Ingrid realize her mistakes and attempt to make up for them by helping Emma and Elsa.

    Annalise is such an intriguing and complicated character for me, and I too loved that moment of vulnerability and what it meant not just for the character but for the world who was watching it on their TV screens. Moments like these are what tell you the show is truly thinking about its impact and I love when shows do things like this that add a realness to their characters that is not always often seen. How To Get Away with Murder has been one of my favorite shows this year purely for the complexity of all its characters, and Viola Davis has been fantastic as Annalise.

    • No worries about being repetitive—I’m replying to all of these comments in one day, too, so I’m probably being even more repetitive! 😉 I’m just so excited to read all of your thoughts about the year that was in TV.

      I love when TV shows can handle a story arc so well that even casual viewers can see its perfection, and that’s exactly what it seems The Good Wife did with Will’s death. I’m pretty sure those episodes were what took my sister from very casual viewer to almost as big a fan of the show as I am.

      Also, one big YES to everything you said about Ingrid’s arc. Her big moment of self-awareness was so important to her redemption arc, and it was so beautiful to see that she was willing to die in order to make things right. Once Upon a Time has always stressed that words are important but actions are even more important, and the fact that Ingrid did what needed to be done in order to honor the love her sisters had for her and the love she felt for Emma, and Elsa, and Anna was so powerful.

  7. I loooove the Diamond Dan scene, but is anyone else curious as to what Chris’s reaction to that scene was? I’m really wondering how all that came about, whose idea it was, and how quickly they all fell into hysterical laughing after filming!

    • I need an interview with Chris Messina where they ask him about the moment he learned that he was going to be doing a striptease. If there is one, I need to find it ASAP, and if there isn’t, then what good is TV journalism? 😉

  8. Diamond Dan was the single most wonderful thing…ever! I wonder how many takes that took cause I was between shock and glee! You made me want to get back on Castle. Great Post.

    • Thank you! I’m always happy to find fellow Diamond Dan lovers. 😉 And this was a really great year for Castle, so I would strongly recommend watching at least some of it again!

  9. Great list Katie! I honestly dont know how you can pick all these top ten lists, I feel like I have the TV memory of a goldfish, and if it didnt happen in the past 3 months I have completely forgotten about it.

    I am going to co-sign on your Mindy Project, Parks and Rec, and HTGAWM pics. As far as the other shows I watch, I think I will add the following:

    The scene where Emma seduces past Hook in the OUAT Season 3 finale. There have been a lot of great scenes on the show in the past year, especially between these two, but this whole scene just gave me so much joy from beginning to end that I have to pick it. I know I said this when the episode first aired, but I loved the fact that Emma actually got to let loose and have some FUN and not have to worry about the consequences. And the dumbstruck look on past Hook’s face when he first sees Emma is perfect. Ugh, there are so many times on this show where I am left wanting more, or I wish the dialogue could have been a little different, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about this whole scene (or maybe even the whole episode). Runner up: the “I’d love to know more about your beginnings” scene at the end of ‘Breaking Glass’.

    If I am picking an Orphan Black moment, it would be when Helena finally gets to meet her other sisters. I went from being really annoyed by Helena to loving her by the end of last season. And that moment was my favorite of the season.

    My favorite GoT moment is Sansa’s testimony about her Aunt’s death. It was such an empowering moment for a character that has had so much crap happen to her. And on this show, where there is so much angst and tragedy, these small moments of triumph will always be my favorite.

    I want to pick pretty much every scene between Barry and Joe in ‘The Flash’, but I guess if I had to pick one, it would be when Joe tells Barry that the world needs the flash, but he needs his Barry. It was just such a heartfelt scene, the acting was flawless as usual, and it made me tear up for sure. “You’ve seen more darkness than any man will in a lifetime and you never let it dim your soul. So there I was thinking that I’m changing your life by taking you in, but the truth is, you changed mine. So don’t lose that light, now, Bar. The world may need The Flash, but I need my Barry Allen.” Joe West is right up there with Burt Hummel in the best TV dads ever department.

    • First of all, that dialogue from The Flash made me get all choked up, and I don’t even watch the show. Great TV dads get me every time.

      I love your picks, Shauna! Your GoT one was my second choice for that show. I am a longtime Sansa lover, so that moment was so triumphant for me to watch. It was also such a great moment for Sophie Turner as an actress. This show really did a a great job with casting very talented young actors.

      Also, your OUAT was wonderful. That scene made me so happy because it clearly made Emma so happy to let loose and have a little fun in the middle of the insanity that is her life. I will forever be in love with the moment we got to see just how much she’s into his hook. 😉 And the “I’d love to know more about your beginnings” is my favorite scene Emma and Hook have ever shared, so if I get started talking about it, I’ll never stop. In one scene, they managed to show everything that’s healthy and good and right about this relationship, and they did it with such quiet intimacy and subtlety that it blew me away. There were so many layers to that moment, and each one was handled with such care. I’ll save any further analysis of that moment’s perfection for one of the essays I’m planning for later on in this hiatus. 😉

  10. OK, I love when I read your lists, nod, tear up and feel compelled to YouTube things to relive those moments. This entire list did that for me. That Clone dance was everything. It might have been my favorite moment on television this season – unexpected and pure joy.

    I will also co-sign on Heather’s mysterious statements about the Americans because I suspect I know what scene she is speaking about and it is a fantastic moment inside a stellar season 2.

    To add to my favorite moments:

    1) Jane the Virgin — Talk about repetitive, but I can’t say enough about this show and my deep love of it. And when Xiomara and Jane have their first conversation on the porch screen it is everything. I understood both characters viscerally and was filled with emotion over the authenticity of that scene in shaping who these women are and honoring the culture I am so proud to be a part of as a daughter and now a parent.

    2) Justified — The final scene on the bridge last season is one of the best set ups I have ever seen to a battle that will be the showdown for this show’s final season. I love Raylan and Boyd and I am living for this final run of episodes like few shows.

    3) I would have said this 10 days ago, but it’s even more significant now, but Stuart Scott’s Espy’s speech was one of the most salient, moving and honest moments on television last year.

    • You and Heather are making me even more excited for my journey through Season Two of The Americans because I’m so intrigued by what this scene could be. Trying to figure out what this scene is will be like a fun little game for me as I watch. I feel like the characters in the show would applaud your secrecy and restraint, by the way. 😉

      And now it’s my turn to tear up at a moment you mentioned. Stuart Scott’s ESPY speech was so profoundly moving. I sobbed watching it when it aired, and I’ve sobbed every single time they’ve played it since his passing. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live…” R.I.P.

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