Holy crap was there a lot of television this year. While we’ve already covered our best and worst shows of the year, there were many specific moments in these series, as well as memorable highlights from shows that didn’t make it into our Top 10 list, that we’d be remiss to not highlight—or remind you of how awful they were. Steel yourselves, here comes io9's best and worst TV moments of 2017.
It was a fight years in the making—one worthy of its own big-screen movie. And yet two of the most lethally powerful characters in Star Wars history had their final battle on television. Darth Maul’s brawl with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi was arguably the best part of The Phantom Menace, and considering the outcome, fans had been eager for Obi-Wan to get another shot at the Sith. The expectations of the fight were grand, but what we got was something much closer to how a Master Jedi would handle such a foe: A surprisingly quick duel with an even more surprising emotional resolution.
This was the most charmingly goofy sequence in “Duet,” a whole episode devoted to goofy musical numbers. Barry and Kara joyfully celebrating what great friends they are through the power of song is almost too sweet for its own good—but instead of being overly saccharine, it’s a delightful ditty to the brightest of the CW’s DC heroes. And Barry mocking Superman, who he’s never actually met, is just gosh-darn adorable.
What can we say about the big reveal without revealing the big reveal? The season-finale spoiler that turned the Kristen Bell afterlife comedy on its head is simply too good to drop here (though you can watch the clip above, and read more about what happened here). But it involves Ted Danson and one of the best laughs you’ll hear this year.
Week after week, American Gods made a big impact with its dazzling visuals. But Orlando Jones’ debut as African trickster god Anansi—a.k.a. Mr. Nancy—was electrifying thanks to the power of his performance. He delivers an impassioned rant about the lot of black people in America that burns with frightening incandescence; it’s a vital moment that grounds the trippy experimentalism that suffuses through American Gods.
This will go down as one of the best fight sequences Game of Thrones ever produced. Sure, the Battle of the Bastards was large and intense, but this one had motherfucking dragons. It was the first time we’d seen a battle like this, on Game of Thrones or any other show, and they nailed it. Every inch of the frame was used to perfection.
It’s a shame that Legion didn’t get the attention it deserved, because Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of Lenny/The Shadow King should have earned her every acting prize. Breaking away from her typical “April Ludgate” persona, Plaza showed her range by diving headfirst into the mind of a psychotic psychic being. Her dance montage in “Chapter 6” wasn’t there to be sensual or exploitative. It was to show Lenny’s power on full display, as she rampaged through and humiliated David’s memories... just because she could.
While we’re on dances, we can’t forget this new classic. David Harbour’s Jim Hopper may have turned into a meme this past year, but before his dad bod was dancing to, well, every song ever, he was just a simple sheriff trying to cheer up a young girl. Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” couldn’t have been a more fitting tune to show off his moves, and Eleven’s face couldn’t have had a more perfect reaction to it.
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow has been referencing pop culture since the very beginning, but season two’s episode, “Raiders of the Lost Art,” kicked it up a notch by bringing in George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas) as a character. Set in his early days at film school, poor George gets derailed in his life’s pursuit thanks to Damien Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn’s search for the pieces of the Spear of Destiny. That, in turn, screws up the lives of Nate and Ray, who had taken inspiration for their respective careers as a scientist and historian from his films. The Legends must work together to get things back on track for everyone which leads them to getting thrown into... a trash compactor. Amaya, Nate, Ray, and George must pull a Leia, Han, Luke, and Chewie, bracing the garbage receptacle just like in Star Wars: A New Hope long enough for George to find the missing piece of the Spear. It’s gleefully ridiculous.
Facing impossible odds against an army of Cybermen, and about to be abandoned by the Masters, the Twelfth Doctor attempts to rally two renegade Time Lords with a stirring speech about why he does the things he does. It’s the heart-wrenching culmination of the journey Peter Capaldi’s Doctor has been on for three years—from the man who thought he needed someone else to do the caring for him, to the man willing to die to save the lives of a few good people, out of the kindness of his hearts. There’s no sweeping soundtrack or grand action sequence to go with it, but it’s one of the most powerful Doctor Who scenes in years.
After three seasons, The Leftovers—about the aftermath of a rapture that snatches away a small portion of the worldwide population—offered a near-perfect series finale that answered exactly what it needed to, while leaving most things ambiguous. The meaning behind “the Sudden Departure” was never revealed, and the wild tale spun by an aging Nora (Carrie Coon) about traveling to the parallel world then deciding to return may or may not be true. But her tender reunion with Kevin (Justin Theroux) captured what The Leftovers was really about: Not mystical questions, but deep emotional connections that help broken people heal.
American Gods was our favorite show of 2017, so you shouldn’t be too surprised it’s on this list twice (or three times, really). The titular gods all seek belief, and for many, sex is another form of worship. For the ancient goddess of love Bilquis, sex is the only form of worship keeping her alive, as she picks up men and women in her hotel and lets them make love to her—love she takes to the point that she consumes her lovers through her vagina. The first scene where this happens, as the man between her legs grows smaller and smaller while never losing his passion, is both silly and horrific, as Bilquis devours his worship and his body. But it’s also beautifully, sensually shot, and highly erotic, too.
But in terms of pure sexiness, the one-night stand between hapless salesman Salim and the Djinn may have it beat. Guy-plus-guy intimacy has rarely, if ever, happened on television the way it did in that dingy hotel room. There was explicit full frontal male nudity, raw lust, poignant connection, and the bittersweet emotional hangover that comes after consenting adults do it. Having sex can be a dance of abandon, insistence, and surrender and this scene reminded us that giving yourself over to somebody is one of the most potent acts of belief you can make.
USA’s marketing warned us this episode wasn’t one to be missed but probably not for the same reason we came away with. Just before realizing he’s been fired, Mr. Robot’s trademark internal Elliot commentary is briefly given vocalization, truly a gift to the world, after having to endure his coworker Samar blather on about how much sex he got that weekend (for the hundredth time). It was a bad moment for Elliot overall but a very excellent moment for the audience, who finally got to hear him tell that gross dude just what he thought of his behavior.
While so much of Orphan Black’s story was centered on the clones, the supporting players also had vital roles. Family was always what was most important to our ragtag crew, and never was that more evident than in Siobhan’s plan to rid her children of Ferdinand. Felix’s celebration was too heartwarming and perfect, we just knew she wasn’t going to survive the night. But, in true Mrs. S fashion, she went down fighting. While it sucks Ferdinand took out several members of the family, nothing could be sweeter than Mrs. S watching him bleed out on her living room floor and sweetly saying goodbye to her “chickens” after making the final sacrifice.
Fox’s extension of the X-Men universe has been one of the stronger superhero adaptations on television, creating a grounded, psychologically tense drama that hits on the thematic richness of Marvel’s mutants. It tended to feel like the temperature was set to a slow simmer for much of The Gifted’s first season but things boiled over in creep-tacular fashion when the telepathic Stepford triplets showed up for the midseason finale. Not only did they murder a bunch of humans in the midseason finale, they appeared in a twist reveal that reminded viewers that this is a show that plays with their heads in the nastiest of ways.
As there must be good, there shall always be evil; to have light there must be dark; and for all the great moments above we have to have this nonsense...
One of the biggest sticking points from the minute we heard Inhumans was getting a TV show was Medusa’s hair. From an awful wig to even worse CGI, fans were prepared for disaster. They got something even worse than that: A truly atrocious 15-second fight scene with Medusa using her hair to full... let’s say “effect,” immediately followed by evil villain Maximus shaving her head in a bizarre scene that was almost creepily sexual in tone. Following the incident, Medusa, a character known for having hair-based superpowers, had a buzz cut for the rest of the awful series. Says a lot about Inhumans, really.
Discovery wants to be an edgy spin on Star Trek. A moody bit of lighting here, some hyperviolence and a casually uttered “fuck” there. But the show’s darkest moment came when Captain Lorca and new Security Officer Ash Tyler escaped a Klingon prison and—having spent their stint in the torturous facility being teased and betrayed by fanciful smuggler Harry Mudd—chose to maliciously leave Mudd behind. The two Starfleet officers do so without considering the cruelty of their actions for even a second. It was a dramatic and awful rebuke of the sort of moral core Star Trek has prided itself on for decades, and a low point for the series.
Game of Thrones seemed to be firing on all cylinders this year, but the fake fight between the newly reunited Stark sisters was infuriating, confounding, and ultimately a great big lie. What could have been a beautiful story of siblings rediscovering one another was instead a series of cheap thrills. At least it ended nicely.
Goddammit, Dustin. You live in a town beset by actual monsters—why would you pick up any strange, reptilian creature and decide to make it your pet? You doomed your mom’s cat the minute you brought Newt home.
Iron Fist was a bad show, but there was no worst sequence than the fight between “genius” kung fu master Danny Rand and a random drunk ninja. That’s because that ninja, played by Lewis Tan, had more talent and charisma in that one sequence than Finn Jones did in the entire series. And since Tan was briefly considered for the role for Rand, the moment offered a frustrating glimpse of what could have been.
We already mentioned this in our 2017 Highlights/Lowlights article, and it obviously isn’t fair to blame the show for its fans’ embarrassing outburst across America, but... still. Had Rick & Morty remembrance of McDonald’s’ Szechuan sauce from the late ‘90s remained another fun moment in the Adult Swim cartoon, all would be well. Instead, the fast food chain decided to capitalize on the free advertisement by briefly bringing the sauce back just in time for this year’s New York Comic-Con. But on the day the sauce was made available, scarcity at various locations led to many Rick & Morty fans throwing fits like children to the point we wish Rick had never brought it up in the first place. Hey, guys? Nobody owes you any goddamn dipping sauce.
We knew to expect a lot of wild shit from David Lynch’s return to Twin Peaks and we sure got it. While the show was brilliant overall (it made io9's TV top ten), Michael Cera’s single scene as Wally Brando—son of daffy couple Andy and Lucy—was the most painful five minutes of our year. The casting of Cera actually seemed inspired considering his usual quirky performances, but what we got was a nonsensical, dragging monologue reserved for bad theater experiences that went on four minutes too long. His poor parents.
There you have it. Those were io9's best and worst TV moments from 2017. What are yours?