Five Episodes I Like

Reminder: MLP Liveblog tomorrow. Details go up at noon EST, actual liveblog chat thingy is at 2 p.m.

Something I’m toying with doing on occasion: Here’s a list of five really good episodes of television. It’s not a top five list or anything, although the intention is for the episode mentioned to be at least a contender for best episode of its show; they’re just five episodes I really, really like, with a brief explanation of what’s so good about them. No pattern, just the first five I think of.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Once More with Feeling.” Buffy has enough truly great episodes to easily fill one of these lists on its own–“The Body,” “The Gift,” “Surprise”/”Innocence,” “Graduation Day,” “Hush” all come to mind swiftly and easily–but my postmodern heart swells with joy at “Once More with Feeling,” a musical wherein the protagonists’ main goal is figuring out why they keep singing their feelings and making it stop, while the villain uses the inability to feel without singing about it to torment them and disrupt their relationships. On top of this, unlike most musical episodes (a trend it more or less invented) it is not a one-off; it continues plot and character threads established in prior episodes and is a vital turning point for several of the season’s major plots. Plus it’s a genuinely good musical in its own right!
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “In the Pale Moonlight.” It’s the best episode of the best Star Trek, and the one that goes farthest in exploring the moral ambiguity that characterized (most of) DS9. Trekkies who hate DS9 frequently cite it as their go-to example of how the series betrayed the founding values of Star Trek, to which my response is that yes, it absolutely does, and it’s amazing.
  • Veronica Mars: “Pilot.” This is, quite simply, the best first episode I’ve ever seen. It is confident, well-acted, engaging, and not bogged down in exposition; it’s the kind of episode a series has at the start of its second or third season, not its first. Plus, how often do you get to see a rape victim tell her own story for herself and define it for herself? I flung myself headlong into Veronica Mars late last year, and this episode is the main reason why.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: “I Won’t Rely on Anyone Anymore.” Ten episodes into a twelve-episode series is not, usually, when you completely recontextualize every event of the series so far, up to and including the meaning of the opening credits. But Madoka doesn’t do things the usual way. This episode is, by turns, unsettling, heartbreaking, and fantastic, and it blows open the path to the end of the series in an utterly spectacular way.
  • Babylon 5: “Sleeping in Light.” One of the most satisfying, heartbreaking, bittersweet series finales ever shown. I cannot make it through this dry-eyed; there is one musical track in particular that I cannot hear without tearing up. My father died in 1992; that was the last time I cried until I saw this episode for the first time in 1998.

What are some of your favorites?

ETA: Fixed a couple of typos in the last two bullets: Madoka is a twelve-episode series, not thirteen, and “Sleeping in Light” was the series finale of B5, not just a season finale.

Veronica Mars again…

Just a quick reminder, there’s another liveblog for the new MLP episode this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. EST. We’ll be meeting up at http://webchat.freenode.net/ in the channel ##rabbitcube. Last time had some technical difficulties, so this time we are waiting later in the day so we can use prerecorded versions of the episode.

Content Warning: Rape and Rape Culture

So, was there a major change in writers at the beginning of Season 3 or something? I’ve only watched the first half of the season, but it’s suddenly gotten all anti-second wave. Which is… deeply weird? We have all these young early-2000s college students acting like a caricature of 1970s college students, treated narratively as the main villains while the actual rapist–and, more dammingly, the actual victims–are barely acknowledged by the story. Part of what made the first season so powerful is that Veronica got to tell the story of her own rape, to own it and define it for herself, but then the very end of second season snatched that away, and followed it up with this ugly mess of a storyline where the fake rape victim (because somebody would willingly invite on themselves the nightmare of community scorn, police questioning, and ostracism that our society imposes on rape victims) gets more screen time than the actual rape victim, and the college “greek” system (which genuinely is an enormous facilitator of rape culture on college campuses, along with the existence of college police departments answerable to the college rather than the larger community) is unfairly maligned and innocent.

I really hope the second half of the season picks up. It looks like the main plot for it is a maybe-suicide probably-murder, so that’s promising.

Veronica Mars Season 1

Just a quick reminder, there’s another liveblog for the new MLP episode this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. EST. We’ll be meeting up at http://webchat.freenode.net/ in the channel ##rabbitcube. Last time only had a couple people show up–hopefully we’ll get more this time!

Holy crap, y’all, I finished Veronica Mars season 1 last night and it is so good. How did I miss this show when it was airing? (Answer: I was in college, and the TV was therefore dedicated to video games, anime, The Daily Show, and occasionally Conan O’Brien.) (Second answer: It had no science fiction or fantasy elements, and I used to be a genre bigot.)