Hello, everyone! I’ve been re-watching Season 2 of Hannibal this week and it got me thinking about memorable television scenes. They’re not necessarily the most shocking moments, but the ones that have remained in my head long after I’ve seen them. The reason I mention the Hannibal television show is because nearly every scene in that show is specifically composed with longevity in mind. The show aims for eternity rather than for the present, which I find to be such an amazing form of craftsmanship. So, with that in mind, I decided to compile a list of the most memorable scenes (in my opinion) that I’ve seen on television. **Mild to extreme spoilers ahead. **
1. Mad Men Season 3, Episode 12: “The Grown Ups”
There are many memorable episodes from Mad Men, but “The Grown Ups,” which deals with the death of JFK, has always stuck with me. Maybe it’s the way that the country’s descent into chaos mirrors the disintegration of Don and Betty’s marriage, or maybe it’s the raw fear in Betty’s voice when Oswald is killed, but that episode, and especially this scene, are moments I always come back to. The one line that really gets me is when Betty says “What is going on?!” It’s a sentiment that all of us have felt at one time or another when life has really gone to shit, and I think this scene expresses the overwhelming sense of helplessness that comes from that type of situation.
2. Parks and Recreation Season 4, Episode 6: “Smallest Park”
Leslie Knope has often acted like a caricature throughout various season of Parks and Rec. When she had to break up with Ben to pursue her city council dreams, it was heartbreaking, but she wouldn’t let go, often stepping over his own feelings in order to prolong their relationship. The “Smallest Park” episode shows Leslie at her most exaggerated level of bulldozing insensitivity, but it also redeems her with this lovely, poignant scene. Amy Poehler’s plea is so heartfelt and so heartbreaking that you almost forget you’re watching a comedy and not some AMC drama. And though Ben and Leslie have had many beautiful moments, this bittersweet scene is the one I remember the most.
3. Happy Valley Season 1, Episode 3: “Episode Three”
Happy Valley is hands-down one of the most gripping police dramas I’ve ever seen. Despite it’s (ironically) cheerful name, it’s horribly bleak from one moment to the next. But perhaps the bleakest and most shocking scene is the murder of Catherine’s young protegé Kirsten. I’m not faint-hearted about TV murders (I love Hannibal ffs), but Kirsten’s death was so brutal and unexpected that it completely changed the way I viewed Happy Valley. It was no longer just a drama, but a harrowing account of one woman’s journey through brutality. And poor Lewis’ face gets me every time. Like Kirsten, he’s caught completely by surprise by Tommy Lee Royce’s violence. All of the characters are struggling against unpredictable events, a fight which I think is exemplified in this scene. And if you think this is horrifying, just know that this video is an edited version of the original footage, which showed poor Kirsten being run over multiple times.
4. The Office Season 9, Episode 20: “Paper Airplane”
Ooh boy, this one is a tearjerker. The love story of Jim and Pam will go down in history as one of the most realistic, romantic relationships shown on television. Their relationship had been like a roller-coaster which reached it’s peak happiness around season 5 and started to decline in season 8. By season 9, only my faith in comedies having happy endings persuaded me that they would remain together, because from Jim’s callous behavior and Pam’s refusal to share her emotions, it seemed like they wouldn’t last. Then this moment happened and everything that was wrong became right again. I’m a sucker for blast-from-the-past voice overs , so the pairing of Jim and Pam’s wedding ceremony with Jim’s attempt to hug Pam was just beautiful. It perfectly encompassed all of their struggles in a very simple action. And honestly, I was surprised that The Office, which had decreased in quality by Season 9, was still capable of pulling off an emotional punch like that.Excuse me while I get some tissues.
5. Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3, Episode 21: “Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang”
When I first watched ATLA, I was only around eleven. I was familiar with our time’s rendition of the hero journey. Harry Potter saves the world by killing Voldemort. Frodo saves the world by destroying the ring. Luke saves the world by dueling Darth Vader. All of these hero journeys ultimately ended in the destruction (in some manner) of their antagonist. But for Aang, whose airbending culture is inherently pacifistic, destruction is not an option. I can’t remember exactly my feelings after seeing Aang defeat Ozai in this pacifistic way, but I do recall feeling as if this episode had opened my eyes to a whole new kind of story telling. And maybe, since I was young, I exaggerated the mind-blowing nature of this episode, but that’s how I remember it. That’s the thing: out of all of the fantastic scenes in ATLA, this is the scene I will never forget. And of course, there’s the wonderful music to accompany it.
Since this post is getting lengthy, I’ll end it here, but stay tuned for part 2 of the most memorable TV moments. There will be tears! And probably blood!