Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm in Mad Men's "The Strategy"
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By James Poniewozik
December 2, 2014

My list of the top 10 TV episodes of 2014 is now up here at time.com. You can see my post about my 10 best series of 2014 list for an FAQ explaining my general principles of listmaking, but here are a few more specific to my episodes list.

Wait a minute. How come none of your 10 best series have episodes on this list? Well, it’s really a testimony to the deep bench of great TV shows this year–

I don’t believe you. That’s not a question.

Sorry, let me rephrase: I don’t believe you? All right, fine. That answer was mostly true. But also, this list is sort of a cheat. It’s true that, as I worked on it, I found I had many candidates that were not on my best-series list. And I’ve always tried to favor shows on this list that were not already on Best Shows, because a Best Episodes list made up mostly of the same series would be dull. This year, I realized I had enough episodes worthy of this list that I could–for this year, anyway–rule out all the series from my Best Shows list, so as to honor more of the great things TV has done this year.

So why did you put Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias” on your list last year, when the show was on Best Series? Because I would have had to have my head examined if I didn’t. This year, there wasn’t a similar situation. Last year I had a few shows overlap between the two lists. Next year, I may do something different again! That’s what makes life exciting!

I loved True Detective‘s “Who Goes There,” but how could you not also put on “The Secret Fate of All Life”? I’ve only got 10 slots, and there’s a lot of TV, so one show, one episode.

How can you say “_____” is better than “______”? Honestly, even more than with the Best Series list, this one is apples and oranges. I used a finely calibrated ranking system involving gut instinct, alcohol, and a 10-sided die.

You forgot “______.” You know what? I probably did! A TV critic can watch every major new series that comes out in a year, but it’s physically impossible to watch all of TV, so it entirely possible there was a kick-ass night of The Strain that I missed, and if so, I apologize. (Also–as with my Best Shows list–I had to finalize this list early in November, which I am well aware leaves out nearly two months of TV.)

Now, the short version of the list (see the full feature for my longer reviews of each episode):

1. Mad Men, “The Strategy”
2. The Leftovers, “Guest”
3. Bob’s Burgers, “The Equestranauts”
4. True Detective, “Who Goes There”
5. Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose”
6. Masters of Sex, “Fight”
7. Review, “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes”
8. Outlander, “The Wedding”
9. Girls, “Flo”
10. The Knick, “Get the Rope”

And here’s a by-no-means-complete, no-particular-order list of other standout episodes from the year:

High Maintenance, “Matilda”
Happy Valley, “Episode 4”
Silicon Valley, “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”
Veep, “Debate”
Community, “Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality”
True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All Life”
Transparent, “Best New Girl”
Fargo, “Buridan’s Ass”
The Americans, “Echo”
Louie, “In the Woods,” “Pamela (Part 3)”
The Good Wife, “The Last Call,” “Oppo Research”
Orange Is the New Black, “We Have Manners. We’re Polite”
The Affair, pilot
The Leftovers, “Two Boats and a Helicopter”
Boardwalk Empire, “Devil You Know”
“Too Many Cooks,” Adult Swim

Be sure to add your own in the comments!

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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