This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive look at television in 2018, a year overflowing with a seemingly endless amount of new shows coming from a seemingly endless number of platforms. Instead, this is just an attempt to highlight a few of my absolute favorite moments from some wonderful shows. I made a concerted effort to avoid spoilers but, of course, there are some small ones. 2018 was, if not a banner year for TV, certainly a pivotal one. We’re in the plurality now, as no monolithic shows aired an episode this year (Game of Thrones, the only remaining monolith, skipped 2018 so people would watch Killing Eve). With no further ado, I hope you enjoy some of my favorite TV moments from this year.
Jimmy and Kim
Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul doesn’t need to exist (and it certainly doesn’t need to be as good as it is), but we are better off living in a world where it does. A wonderful, textured story about the slow descent of a decent man, seasons of Saul play out like individual novels, each a sprawling and thoughtful classic in their own right. Season 4 has settled in on the Saul-Mike-Nacho triumvirate as the primary POV characters, and Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks could play their characters at Emmy caliber in their sleep. It’s a pleasure to watch them so effortlessly glide from scene to scene in the characters that made them famous, even if they don’t get to share too much screen time. The newcomers are mostly all pitch-perfect too – Michael Nando’s Nacho and Patrick Fabian’s Howard are both as good as ever.
But Saul is, and has always been, the story of Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler, mailroom sweethearts who bring out the best and the worst in each other. Rhea Seehorn is the show’s beating heart, and the stakes are high for Kim. Her story’s ending has always seemed predestined, but there’s no show without Kim because there’s no Jimmy without Kim. The breadth of her performance and her character in season 4 is extraordinary, and Seehorn’s work sings. In the 7th episode, “Something Stupid,” months pass in a relationship defining montage that marks a high point for the season.
The Bent Neck Lady
Haunting of Hill House
Perhaps no show was more of a surprise than Haunting of Hill House, a breathtaking work from Mike Flanagan that ostensibly adapts Shirley Jackson’s novel and turns it into a big family drama. Haunting is a necessary work of 2018, and it is so in part because of the most haunted ghost on the show’s impressive roster: the Bent Neck Lady. The Bent Neck Lady haunts Nell (played in a revelatory debut by Vicotria Pedretti) and the moment the reason for said haunting is revealed is one of the seminal moments of television this year.
Number One Boy
Just when we got comfortable thinking Succession was a biting satire of the Murdochs, showrunner Jesse Armstrong threw the Kennedys at us. The show is usually at its best in the small moments – characters all thrown together in a room for some cooked up reason or another interacting in alternately humorous and scintillating ways. But the small moments only work because of the machinations in the background, and no one is better at making machinations than Kendall Roy, the “favorite” son of his tycoon father. Kendall tries to wrest control of the family company from his aging father a number of times, but the final time looks like it will be a genuine success, until it very much doesn’t. Kendall was bred for success, but in a much realer way he was bred for failure: born with a silver spoon dangling from his mouth, Kendall has all the smarts of his father and absolutely none of the chutzpah. The show’s tragic protagonist, Kendall’s failures are interwoven into the show’s fabric, and no failure is more gut-wrenching than his last one.
I See You
No show takes its audience to a darker place than Bojack Horseman, an unflinching look at the depths of depression masquerading as a talking horse comedy (?). In one of the show’s biggest risks yet, an entire episode is dedicated to Will Arnett’s Bojack giving the eulogy at his mother’s funeral. It’s a devastating monologue, a strange blend of levity and hubris and heartbreak that takes a look at the strained relationship between a no-good son and a perpetually miserable mother.
The Queen is Dead
By design, Barry, the hitman turned struggling actor Bill Hader vehicle, is a show built on moments and no moment is bigger than the acting class’ showcase in the penultimate because Daniel Meldman, from Gersh, is in attendance. Sarah Goldberg is marvelous as Sally who, ironically, is a mediocre actress whose free spirit attracts the PTSD laden Barry. Barry sees acting class as a kind of release valve, something that he can be good at that doesn’t involve tearing his soul to pieces. But, of course, Barry is a terrible actor. Except at the showcase, when he has exactly one line, which he delivers with such raw conviction that it elevates Sally’s performance to new heights so that Daniel Meldman, from Gersh, notices her. “The queen is dead,” Barry sobs, but of course it’s not about the line so much as it is about Barry’s journey to it. This episode, and the show as a whole, is a wonderfully blended mix of tones that reaches its apex right as Barry delivers his line.