Our latest entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series is all about the magic of a moment. A great scene, a great line, or even a great shot can stay with us for an entire year and beyond, and 2015 gave us plenty of amazing television moments to analyze, talk about, and remember for years to come.
1. Basement Tooth Extraction (The Americans: Open House)
This might be the single best moment I saw on television not just in 2015, but in my entire TV-watching life. It was all the reasons I recommend The Americans to anyone who loves great television rolled up into one brilliant scene. On the surface, it was a moment showing the ugly realities of life as a spy—with Elizabeth needing Philip to pull out her broken tooth because dental offices were told to be on the lookout for a woman looking like her. But what could have been just a gruesome moment was actually a scene of remarkable intimacy—a look at what it means to trust your spouse enough to be completely vulnerable with them in the most brutal way imaginable. Thanks to brilliant performances from Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (I’ve never seen eye contact express so much.) and stunning direction from Thomas Schlamme, a dental procedure became the best love scene I saw on TV this year.
2. A Parks Department Reunion (Parks and Recreation: One Last Ride)
All good things must come to an end. And if Parks and Rec had to end, this is how I wanted it to happen: one final scene in the Pawnee Parks Department offices, with every love of Leslie’s life getting its time to shine—her friends, her beautiful tropical fish, her husband, and her career. Whether it was Leslie dropping everything to hug Ann or Ben announcing that Leslie was running for governor because it had always been her dream, this was a scene filled with love, light, and everything that has always made Parks and Rec feel good. This was a scene designed to spread happiness on a show designed to spread happiness, and it was the perfect way to say goodbye.
3. “I am not nothing!” (Once Upon a Time: Nimue)
The best fairytales are meant to teach us lessons we can carry into our own lives, and that’s exactly what happened when Once Upon a Time showed us Emma Swan facing the call of the darkness. When she was tempted with power that would allow her to stop being “nothing,” something inside her snapped, and the strongest version of Emma rose to the surface. “I am not nothing! I was never nothing,” she told the darkness, reminding us all that we have the power to push back against the negative voices in our own head telling us we’re nothing; we can all be our own heroes by choosing to love ourselves and believe in ourselves. It was the most empowering moment on television in 2015, and it’s one I know I’ll draw strength from in my own life for many years to come.
4. Mateo’s Baptism (Jane the Virgin: Chapter Twenty-Five)
If you want the perfect representation of everything that’s right about Jane the Virgin, look no further than “Chapter Twenty-Five” and this scene, when we were given a look at the depth of the love all three Villanueva women have for their children. As Jane read to Mateo the speech Alba gave to baby Xiomara (and Xiomara gave to baby Jane), all three women are shown at their child’s baptism, connecting them through generations by their love for and belief in their children. The performances given in this moment—especially by Gina Rodriguez—were so sincere that I dare anyone to watch this without a tear coming to their eye (or a whole deluge of tears if you’re anything like me).
5. Peggy Turns the Tables (Agent Carter: Snafu)
Agent Carter is a show that perfectly illustrates how far women have come in the workplace—and in society in general—since the 1940s, but also how much sadly hasn’t changed since Peggy’s time. For example, what woman hasn’t been the victim of men trying to place her in a neatly labeled box when she acts in a way they can’t understand? That’s what Peggy’s incredible interrogation scene was all about: revealing to all three men trying to tear her down and define her that she isn’t just some character in their story, and she’s not a character in Howard Stark’s story, either. Instead, Peggy proved that she’s her own woman with her own agenda, and she refuses to play by any man’s rules or fit into any man’s preconceived notions of who she needs to be to fit his narrative. In this moment, Peggy proved herself once again to be the hero we all need.
6. Claire Fights for Jamie’s Soul (Outlander: To Ransom a Man’s Soul)
Nowhere on television this year was there a better example of the vow to love a person “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” than this moment. After Jamie’s mental and physical torment at the hands of Black Jack Randall, he’d never been more in need of healing. Luckily, he married a healer who knew exactly how to help him. And she helped him by looking at him not with pity but with devotion, handling him not with kid gloves but with the firm embrace of someone who has made her choice—and that choice is to love her husband through whatever life throws at them. In the middle of incredible darkness, Claire’s love for Jamie was a beacon of light—both for him and for the audience.
7. Beckett Defends Herself (Castle: Hollander’s Woods)
Kate Beckett is a special character who means so much to so many women, myself included. And this scene in Castle’s Season Seven finale showed exactly what it is that makes this character so special: her deep sense of self-respect, her commitment to getting justice for murder victims, and her love for her husband. It’s rare to have a moment as a fan when your favorite character gets to articulate everything that makes them your favorite in one powerful monologue, but that’s exactly what happened in this scene. It was a “mike drop” moment written with such love and understanding by the two people who know this character best: Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller.
8. Bindi and Derek’s Freestyle (Dancing with the Stars: Season 21 Finale)
I might be biased because I’m a dancer, but I think there’s something so beautiful about watching a person learn to express their truest self and their deepest emotions through dance. And that’s what Derek was able to help Bindi do this season, culminating in their perfect freestyle—a simple, elegant contemporary routine dedicated to the memory of her father. Bindi is such a beautiful soul, a ray of sunshine who shows her strength in her choice to be a force for positivity in the world. And this dance was truly a tribute not just to her father but to the way his bright spirit lives on in her.
9. Jake and Amy’s First Real Kiss (Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Johnny and Dora)
“Johnny and Dora” employed a tried and true storytelling device called the rule of three: repeating an action three times to heighten its effect and to surprise the audience when the third time differs from the first two. In this case, Jake and Amy kissed twice while undercover, but it was the third kiss (and first real kiss) that took everyone by surprise. I love when a show is unafraid to let a pair of characters be together instead of dancing around their attraction for seasons, and that’s what this moment was all about—not playing games with the audience and letting the season end with some surprisingly wonderful romance. Who knew Andy Samberg would make such an attractive romantic lead?
10. “I’ve got you.” (The Flash: The Man Who Saved Central City)
The Flash isn’t a stereotypical piece of media about a male superhero. There’s no macho posturing or “Boys don’t cry” nonsense. Its characters are as sincere as can be, and the emotions they display always feel honest. At the center of this is Barry and Joe. In the Season Two premiere, I loved seeing this flashback to Barry’s childhood, with Joe helping him open up and express his emotions in a healthy way instead of just telling him to toughen up. And that flashback was beautifully paired with Joe sitting by Barry’s bedside, ready to help him remember once again that he can and should open up about his feelings. The world needs Barry Allen, but Barry Allen needs Joe West. And this scene was such a perfect reminder of why that is.