There are a lot of good and even great TV episodes, but these are the TV episodes that are actually perfect. Everyone has their favorite TV shows, and within that their favorite TV episodes, which makes attempting to gauge what is a perfect installment of television a tricky task, but not an impossible one.
After a question posed by @TwitterTV to name a perfect TV episode sparked a debate, it begs the question not only of which TV episodes are perfect, but what makes them so. After all, most of the best TV shows have a number of classic episodes and memorable moments, so there needs to be a means of identifying what a perfect episode of TV actually is.
Generally speaking, most TV episodes will follow the A/B/C narrative rule, with a main plot, a big sub-plot, and then a more minor sub-plot. A lot of great episodes might have a stellar A plot, but could lose things with the sub-plot, so a perfect TV episode needs to have all of its story strands be extremely strong and, ideally, work cohesively as part of the bigger whole. For serialized shows, there’s an added pressure in that it should develop either the characters and/or the overarching plot of the season.
Making it even more difficult to create a perfect episode of TV, though, is that as well as usually needing to fit into a season as one piece of the puzzle, they need to stand apart to some degree too. This is where most Netflix series, for example, fall down: since they’re crafted for binge-watching, rather than seeing one episode a week, it means the storylines and installments often blur into one, making it even harder for a specific episode to actually get noticed and be remembered beyond singular moments.
Often, a perfect TV episode is one that either exemplifies the form, or pushes it further in ways it’s never gone before. That means it either needs to be flawless in its plotting, character work, direction, dialogue, acting and so on with a clear structure in either 30, 45, or 60 minutes, or do something that twists the form in a surprising fashion. It should do this for the TV series it’s a part of too: a perfect episode should be one you can point to as having all the hallmarks of what makes a certain series so great, whether that’s including running gags or summing up the core themes, while still managing to be its own special thing. Taking all of these factors into account, these are the TV episodes that are actually perfect.
- “Eye Of The Beholder” – The Twilight Zone
- “Dinner Party” – The Office
- “International Assassin” – The Leftovers
- “Middle Ground” – The Wire
- “Last Exit To Springfield” – The Simpsons
- “Ozymandias” – Breaking Bad
- “Pilot” – Twin Peaks
- “Pine Barrens” – The Sopranos
- “The Constant” – Lost
- “The Contest” – Seinfeld
- “The Body” – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
- “The One With The Embryos” – Friends
- “The Winds Of Winter” – Game Of Thrones
- “Time’s Arrow” – BoJack Horseman
- “Two Cathedrals” – The West Wing