/Response: Your Favorite TV Episodes Of All Time

(Welcome to /Response, the companion piece to our /Answers series and a space where /Film readers can chime in and offer their two cents on a particular question.)

Earlier this week, the /Film team wrote about their favorite TV episodes of all time. We then opened the floor to our readers: what is your favorite episode of television? And you let us know!

We have collected our favorite answers (edited for length and clarity) below. Next week's question: what is your favorite movie gunfight? Send your (at least one paragraph, please) answer to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com!

Alias: "Truth Be Told"

Hands down, my favorite TV episode has to be the pilot of Alias, "Truth Be Told." To my knowledge, it was the first network TV episode to air without commercials thanks to Nokia (shout out to the cherry red Nokia brick phone that Sydney so graciously showcases – ah, 2001). Which means this episode, with a runtime of 66 minutes, feels more like a movie than the foundational pilot episode of a show. From the opening scene, we're dropped smack dab in the middle of Sydney Bristow's world with zero explanation and only time jumps to help us figure out what's really going on. Jam-packed with twists and turns at every corner, fight scenes that will knock your socks off (that chair flip anyone?) and editing that is to die for, it elegantly and perfectly sets up what would become one of the best spy/family dramas on television. Simply put, it's everything a pilot episode should be. It also taught me a very important lesson: nothing good ever happens in parking garages.

Jennifer Garner is the girl next door turned badass chick, in tandem. How she is able to convincingly portray both will forever be beyond me. (Side note: I think you could make a good argument that Alias was the catalyst for the badass chick movement of the 2000's. Black Widow exists because of Sydney Bristow. There, I said it.) And let us not forget about baby Bradley Cooper. Oh baby, Bradley Cooper. If only we knew how famous you'd become. And of course, J.J. Abrams. What to even say about his genius? This was his first baby and it has his fingerprints all over it – I do believe this episode holds the very first "J.J. Abrams lens flare". What J.J. Abrams envisioned as "Felicity as a spy," would be the thing that jumpstarted his career. I've probably watched "Truth Be Told" close to 25 times and it still thrills me. I became a fan of J.J. Abrams on September 30, 2001 and he hasn't let me down since. (Jessica Ross)

Better Call Saul: "Pimento"

It might be though of as too recent an entry to make it on the list, but listen up anyway: my favorite TV episode is the penultimate episode to Season One of the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, titled "Pimento." While I was engaged with the show beforehand, this singular episode convinced me that the program's premise would work and hooked me into sticking with the series for the long haul. Not only are the scenes within the episode important to the events that occur in the forty-nine minute runtime, but the ramifications of those events echo throughout the series' entire run up to this point. Even moreso than Jimmy losing out on the Sandpiper lawsuit at Hamlin Hamlin and McGill (due to his brother Chuck's machinations) after they visit the HHM offices, the most important and most powerful scene of the episode is the conversation the brothers have afterward; it sets the entire tone for the show to come. The series is about a good man not being able to shake off the dark side within himself. When Chuck (Michael McKean) in their argument declares Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) having a law degree to be like a "chimp with a machine gun," that becomes the final straw for "Slippin' Jimmy." Without the approval of his brother, Jimmy has no reason to restrain his willingness to bend the rules; in that way, Chuck is as much at fault for the rise of "Saul Goodman" and his lack of morality as Jimmy is.  (Josh McLaughlin)

Carnivale: "New Canaan, CA"

"New Canaan, CA" is the finale of Carnivale's second season. It became the ex post facto series finale when HBO declined to renew the show. In it, the avatars of good and evil that circled each other for 23 episodes had their first and final showdown, the allegiances of their supporters were in flux around them and the fate of the world hung in the balance. Writer Daniel Knauf and director Scott Winant delivered TV that felt like a ride on an out of control Ferris wheel, but despite the episode's pace, it allowed for powerful moments from nearly all of Carnivale's outstanding ensemble. Clancy Brown's Brother Justin is one of the most imposing villains in modern television. Michael J. Anderson is at his finest as Samson, giving Ben plain-spoken wisdom ("When it comes to livin', dyin' is the easy part."). Clea DuVall's performance as Sophie and her character's betrayal of Tim DeKay's lovable Jonesy are heartbreaking. The family dynamics and romantic relationships on display in the episode grounded the mystical, apocalyptic themes that promised to drive the series forward. It all ends with Ben's survival uncertain, Sophie's powers ascendant and her unholy union with Brother Justin apparently consummated. It is a perfect example of an episode that would make you lose an hour of sleep to see what happens next. Sadly, we'll never get the chance. (Dennis P. Kisyk, Jr.)

Community: "Introduction to Finality"

Dan Harmon's Community has been hailed as a postmodern masterpiece. Throughout its six seasons, it consistently pushed the boundaries of broadcast television with its genre homages and meta-narratives. The show's best episode, however, transcended its postmodern label and delved into what Abed Nadir himself once called "the post-postmodern world."

In "Introduction to Finality," the study group is separated. Jeff is representing Shirley in a farcical court case against Pierce over their shared sandwich shop, Abed is using his therapy session with Britta to bring evil into the world, and Troy is trying to escape the cultish Air Conditioning Repair School. Every character is exclusively seeking his or her own interests. But when all seems lost for Shirley, she tells Jeff to throw her case to save his career. Suddenly, a series-arc lightbulb goes off for Jeff.

The postmodern worldview that informs Community is characterized by relativism and skepticism toward absolute truths. This is what defines Jeff's character in the pilot when he tells John Oliver's Professor Duncan, "either I'm God, or truth is relative." But "Introduction to Finality's" push toward post-postmodernism is summed up in the "Winger Speech" from the end of the episode: "Guys like me will tell you there's no right or wrong, there's no real truths. And as long as we all believe that, guys like me can never lose. Because the truth is, I'm lying when I say there is no truth. The truth is—the pathetically, stupidly, inconveniently obvious truth is—helping only ourselves is bad and helping each other is good."

Harmon said he wrote this ending for Season 3 because he knew either the show or its creator would be axed before a fourth season (he was right, and it was the latter). But "Introduction to Finality" still stands as the best representation of what Community was all about—its heart. #sixseasonsandamovie indeed. (Jonathan Higdon)


Doctor Who: "Blink"

Doctor Who has aired nearly 150 episodes since the shows return in 2005, and countless more before that in its 54 year history. It is a show that can sometimes be daunting to jump into because of its long history, which includes 36 seasons, a handful of spin-offs and a TV movie. But there is one episode that anyone can watch at any time. It is masterfully written, directed, acted and edited. The main characters aren't even in it much (they were filming another episode, it was a way to get an extra episode on a small budget). Steven Moffat crafts a nearly perfect time travel narrative, which makes you care about characters you've never seen before (a then relatively unknown Carey Mulligan makes it easy) and haven't seen since. He also puts all the exposition needed to explain time travel to the new characters in fun, interesting and entertaining ways – all in 45 minutes. At the same time, he introduces some of the scariest villains to ever grace the show. Steven Moffat is very good at making everyday things scary:  shadows, noises under the bed, etc. This time it is statues. While I am a grown man who knows the difference between fiction and reality, statues still creep me out because of "Blink."

For a show that revels in its history, it is rare to find a complete standalone episode that you need little to no background for. This is my favorite episode of Doctor Who to show people, because it captures the essence of the show, yet at the same time can stand by itself as one of the most entertaining pieces of sci-fi ever produced. (Matt Vernier)

Doctor Who: "The Girl in the Fireplace"

This question immediately brings to mind all of the beloved episodes from dozens of series, from the pilot of Northern Exposure to "The Carpet" from The Office. But if I'm forced to pick just one, I would have to go with "The Girl in the Fireplace" from series 2 of the Doctor Who revival.

Way back in 2006, Steven Moffat wrote the occasional episode (see also, "Blink"), which was usually in contrast to Russell T. Davies' campy and silly monster-of-the-week episodes. They were usually full of emotional depth and, in the case of "Girl..." introduced a one-off character that you came to know and care for, all within the confines of a single episode. What makes this episode so wonderful is that it gives us a peek behind the curtain of David Tennant's Doctor. It shows his familiar gravitas, but it also shows his capacity to let someone in, which he is hesitant to do.

As far as the story is concerned, it spans nearly the entire life of Madame de Pompadour and is ultimately a story of the "road to Hell being paved in good intentions" when a group of clockwork robots are attempting to repair their ship in the best way they know how. It's funny and moving and features that signature Billie Piper tongue-bite. What's not to love? (Jacob Dixon)

Friends: "The One Where No One's Ready"

Growing up, Friends was probably one of my favorite shows to watch every week. But "The One Where No One's Ready" will always be a standout episode for me. The story takes place in real time, a departure for the series. Ross is trying to get everyone ready for a function at the museum, and they have to leave in exactly 22 minutes (gotta account for those commercials).  Meanwhile, everyone is dealing with various petty problems causing Ross to become more and more anxious.

The best part of the episode is Joey walking into the apartment wearing every piece of clothing that Chandler owns after Chandler hid his underwear.  I lose it every time Joey starts doing lunges while going commando in those clothes. (Chris Blanchard)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "Charlie Work"

Nestled unassumingly in the middle of this FX staple's tenth season is a triumphant gem of an episode. It's by no means the show's most outlandish or boundary-pushing installment, but it represents a high water mark for the creators' innovation of sitcom standards.

As the episode opens, the gang is already knee-deep in one of their usual absurd schemes, but Charlie has just learned of an impromptu health inspection of the bar, and with only minutes to prepare, has no time or patience for "the plan." He immediately goes into action, not only tackling the problems inherent in making their seedy dive presentable, but also dealing with the antics of his petulant pals, which are constantly at cross purposes to his mission. As Charlie goes from one crisis to the next, the kinetic energy and hilarious tension are so high that it might take you a while to realize you've been watching a 10-minute uninterrupted tracking shot.

Okay, well, not really...some tricks were used to "cheat" and make it appear as such. But about 6 of these 10 minutes were actually filmed as a traditional, uncut long shot. Add to this the percussion-heavy jazz score providing detailed punctuation to the action and this all might be starting to sound a little familiar. It's a parody of Birdman, right? Well, as it turns out, although the episode did air in February 2015 during all the buzz surrounding Alejandro G. Iñárritu's film, it was conceived and shot before the creators were aware of the future Oscar winner. Yup, that's right, Sunny nailed a spot-on spoof of the year's Best Picture...unintentionally.

This is not to say that "Charlie Work" owes its success to Birdman. Rather, it stands alone as an impressive feat of digital and practical wizardry that couldn't have been easy on a sitcom budget. As Charlie juggles everything from a carbon monoxide problem to live chickens, director Matt Shakman had to orchestrate green screen work, subtle match cutting, and brand new additions to the set built just to make it look like all the rooms of the bar are connected (they're not).

And all this was accomplished without skimping on an ounce of the show's unrelenting and insane humor. There's an ingenious gag with a barstool that's established near the beginning and doesn't pay off until the end...but it's well worth the wait. (Jordan Hart)

The Leftovers: "International Assassin"

One of my personal favorite TV episodes of all time is "International Assassin" from the second season of The Leftovers. Here is a show that isn't afraid to push the boundaries a bit, especially during the second season. We follow Kevin into a purgatory state inside a hotel and it all comes down to a final confrontation with Patti. I don't know of any episode on television that has dived into these realms of the unknown while still packing such an emotional punch at the end. Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse lay out a perfect episode of TV, with suspense, drama, and a lot of "what the fuck is going on?!" It's perfect. (Luc Trottier)

The Sopranos: "Pine Barrens"

The unexpectedness of the season three episode "Pine Barrens" makes it one of, if not the greatest, television episodes of all time. An episode circling around two characters fighting for survival in a subzero forrest couldn't be more out of place on a show about North Jersey mobsters. "Pine Barrens" shocks the audience from start to finish.

When Paulie and Christopher go to make a simple collection from a Russian associate, things quickly spiral into a violent struggle which results in the Russian's "death." They drive to the deep South Jersey woods to dispose of the body and it's revealed that the Russian isn't actually dead. After a brief chase, the Russian vanishes and Paulie and Chris find that they are completely lost in the snow covered woods. With a nod to "Fargo," the entire episode alternates between dire circumstances and comic relief. Paulie hilariously loses his shoe in one scene only to realize that he could lose his foot to frost bite in the next. Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico deliver A+ performances where they make the audience laugh then sober up in quick succession. James Gandolfini also completely steals the episode when he doubles over laughing at the hunting outfit that Bobby is wearing when they go to search for their friends.

Eventually, Chris & Paulie get rescued, but the audience is shocked one final time by the end of the episode, as it's never revealed what became of the Russian. David Chase left the ending open to interpretation, and I for one think that makes it all the more memorable. (Nicholas Van Winkle)

all good things

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "All Good Things"

I have never been able to get over the feeling I had as a kid on the couch with my dad saying good-bye to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the epic two-part finale "All Good Things."

The episode is perfect. Firstly, it's a fun time travel adventure that takes place in three distinct time periods: the first time the characters all met (the pilot), the present, and 30 years into one possible future. Captain Picard is the only one aware that he's jumping through time, and has to convince the other characters of his plight. In the past, they don't know him or trust him yet, and he has to contend with strangers being very unsure of his decisions. The opinion of the crew in the present, to paraphrase Buffy, is "if the captain is jumping through time, it must be Tuesday," and the confidence these characters have built over the series makes this the easiest period for him to navigate. In the future, he's senile and most of the crew believe he's dealing with a rare disease that's basically space dimensia, and they have to each decide for themselves if they owe their old captain one last adventure. It's a classic Star Trek plot, full of action, science fiction, and adventure.

The reason this is my favorite epsiode is it's second trick. Hidden beneath the time travel structure, Captain Picard, a tough man who has almost never let himself open up to others, is thrown into a situation that isn't about diplomacy or military strategy, but friendship. He has to face his biggest fear, and open his heart to the people who are closest to him. He comes to realize that in this possible future he's stuck in, the reason it's so difficult to convince the others to believe him is his own fault: they all consider him their old captain, and not their old friend. The last scene of the episode still makes me tear up just thinking about it. The department heads are all in Riker's quarters playing poker and talking about the adventure they just wrapped up, as they have done many times before over the series, when there's a knock at the door. Picard enters and everyone stands at attention, awaiting orders, but Picard reveals there's nothing wrong, and if it's okay with them, he'd like to join the game. In the final seconds of the seven year run, Picard's character has his biggest arc, and writers Ron Moore and Brannon Braga leave us with the hope that even if we don't get to see it, there's at least another seven years of adventures in store for these characters.

Hooray! Space friends! Also John de Lancey triumphantly returns as Q, and since it's the finale they let him eat all the sets, which is awesome. He even says the words "star" and "trek" in a sentence. (James Gingold)

Veronica Mars: "Pilot"

Sure, I'm crazy, submitting a pilot for consideration as a Best TV Episode. And frankly, there are some other episodes, which could claim this title. I think because of the degree of difficulty, this one is perfect. Most pilots, dramatic or comedic or even dramedic (sure, that's a word), spend their time finding their footing, introducing a raft of characters, and setting up their premise. So does this one. It features a lot of familiar high school show tropes, a guy even ends up taped to a flagpole. But it's the way it handles its premise and fully-drawn characters that make the Veronica Mars pilot stand out.

We're introduced to Neptune, California, a town that is alternately shiny and seedy, and one that will be a perfect backdrop for the murder-danger-fun-drama that comes later. In the pilot, we learn of not 1, but 2 season-long mystery arcs and neither feels rushed or overly explained. There's a tease, but the plot isn't driven by mechanics, it's shown through character developments. I don't want to give too much away because everyone should watch it.

Despite the existence of Brick (and now Riverdale), a high school noir was a fresh idea when the show premiered. Pair that with the female lead character and we've got something exciting and new. We get to know Veronica as tough, savvy, and clever. We meet her best friend/sidekick, the unshakable Wallace, and her rock, her dad Keith Mars. We even meet the bad boy we'll come to love, Logan Echolls. The characters are such a strong part of the reason I've come back to this show so many times that it nearly startles me how perfectly they're set up here.

I have watched this pilot no less than 20 times and even to this day, it holds up. I just wish more people had seen it too. (Seth Finck)

The Wire: "Middle Ground"

Though there are a plethora of stellar episodes that have earned HBO's The Wire its commanding status in the pantheon of "Greatest TV Shows of All Time," "Middle Ground"—the penultimate episode of the third season—remains the series' crown jewel. It's an exemplary hour of dramatic storytelling (as most episodes of The Wire are) but "Middle Ground" is something all the other episodes are not: a stand-alone hour of television. All the major plotlines of Season 3 come to a head, and that narrative propulsion brings a unique energy to the episode. George Pelecanos – who earned the series' first Emmy nomination for writing the episode – imbues simple conversations with palpable energy that weighs heavily on the viewer, especially those emotionally invested in these characters and their narrative arcs since the pilot. From the Spaghetti Western-inspired standoff between Omar and Brother Mouzone (featuring a deft visual style from director, Joe Chappelle), to the tragic beauty that is the balcony scene between Stringer and Avon, "Middle Ground's" writing is layered with incredible dialogue and textured moments between characters that are just as weighty the show's thematic subject matter.

That's why "Middle Ground" earns "The Wire" its status in the television pantheon. It delivers small and intimate character moments that are as powerful as the series' sociopolitical ideals. A lot of Prestige TV™ nowadays tend to default to shocking twists and bombastic story beats for their penultimate episodes (weirdly enough, some of them are on HBO...) but The Wire channels dramatic propulsion by simply trusting its characters, and "Middle Ground" is a paragon of human drama in episodic television. (Mike Silangil)