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.
Don’t forget to share your favorite TV moments of the year in the comments! And check out the Best of 2015 lists our friends have made over at MGcircles and TVExamined for even more fun!
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.
What I would count among my favorite TV moments of 2015 are the Sioux Falls massacre in Fargo that lived up to the hype and beyond due to a surprising twist, Emma being forced to kill Killian in Once Upon a Time, and Hannibal and Will’s fight with Francis Dolarhyde that led to the fateful fall off the cliff as the song “Love Crime” is being played in the background.
I would also add the scene from The Flash when Joe tells Iris the truth about her mother. Jesse L. Martin gave such a moving performance.
Thanks for sharing your picks with us, Justin! Now you’re making me want to start Fargo!
You should watch the show. The first season is good. The second season raises the bar. If you didn’t know, Fargo is a crime anthology show like True Detective but Fargo is better at that format, especially during its second season.
You should Justin is absolutely right! I am just getting caught up on Season 2 and it’s stellar.
I got choked up just by you describing that Joe and Barry scene, so that tells you my feelings on that one lol.
I loved the Beckett scene so much, I remember I was fuming at the way they insulted her, and then she just outright destroys them by being proud of herself and of her husband, and it was perfect. I would also add from that episode the final scene, where Castle makes the lovely speech about all the important people in his life, and ending with the conversation between that group around the circular table, which I still feel would have been a perfect ending for the series.
I would also agree with Justin that the scene between Joe and Iris when he reveals the truth about her mother is one of my favorites from this season of The Flash. Iris and Joe’s relationship has always been one I enjoyed but this season it has really become even better, and the actors are really shining in such emotional scenes.
One of my other favorite moments from this year is in Elementary’s first or second episode of this season, where Joan tells Sherlock that she specifically values working with him, not just their job. Their partnership is one of my favorite things on TV, and this most recent season is so strong because it has kept the focus on their relationship and those two supporting each other.
I love all the love for Joe and Iris in this post! I totally agree with you about their dynamic getting even better this season. Their scenes together have been brilliant, especially the ones involving Iris’s mother.
I also can barely think about that scene at the end of “Hollander’s Woods” without crying, so that should tell you how I feel about that one. 😉
I LOVE THE SCENE YOU CHOSE FOR AGENT CARTER! So glad someone is talking about this scene because I’m too emotional over Steve and Peggy not to have chosen the final scene, but this one is so powerful and you spoke about it wonderfully. Perfect words for a perfect scene. Honestly thank you for writing that and reminding me of how epic that moment was.
I also really appreciate the fact that you spoke about Bindi and Derek again! It’s always so nice reading a dancer’s perspective, but honestly I think this dance will be something that’s remembered for years to come. As always love what you said about The Flash, B99, and The Americans (!!!?!?! I cannot even deal with the fact that such a scene exists and I can’t wait to get to it). Excellent list, lovely!
You are going to love that scene from The Americans SO MUCH. Seriously. You think the show is good now, just wait. 😉
And I almost chose the scene where Peggy talks to Howard about Steve because I am still a trash heap of Steggy feelings, but the moment I chose had such a profound impact on me when I watched it that I knew I had to include it. I remember actually clapping when it was done. Is it time for Agent Carter to come back yet? 😉
First, I love that both Castle and Jane the Virgin made this list. For so many reasons, none more that your ability to celebrate tradition, triumph and joy. Love it. I also co-sign onto Justin’s pointing out of the Sioux Falls Massacre in Fargo.
For me the episodes that stand out include:
Jane the Virgin – Chapter 20. When Jane accidentally sets a small fire in her room, only to fall asleep and be confronted by a frightened Alba what happens next is pure Gina Rodriguez magic. Her confession and wave of emotion of the reality that sinks in about what it is going to mean to be a single parent is raw, honest and true. I remember that moment that all the planning, reading, preparing could not change the reality of what was about to happen and how scary it was to realize that while you are not alone, you are in many unspoken ways. The scene makes me cry even to think about it and is a testament to Jennie Urman’s commitment to authenticity on this show.
Justified – The Promise — Here is a show that delivered on this title. The final conversation that Boyd Crowder shares with Raylan Jenkins is so meaningful and well acted there are no words that do it justice. As a fan of both actors and the show, it is a love letter to the fans. One of the best moments of 2015 on TV.
Kennedy Center Honors 2015 — I realize that everyone left that 2 hours of television talking about Aretha Franklin’s performance and for good reason. However it will come as a surprise to ABSOLUTELY no one that the bookends of Gina Rodriguez and Lin-Manuel Miranda paying homage to Rita Moreno was one of the great moments on TV for me. As the little girl who idolized Rita Moreno from the moment I saw her in that purple dress at the age of five. This honor from the Kennedy Center, an institution who has been woefully behind the curve in highlighting Latino/as contributions to the arts, was one I had truly waited all my life to see her receive. It did not disappoint.
Steven Colbert – Joe Biden’s Appearance — In a world ripe with vitriol, I don’t think I will soon forget the grace, humility and poignancy of Joe Biden speaking about his son on Colbert’s show. I said it then and I will say it now. The world would be a much better place if we had more Joe Bidens running around in it.