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.