If 2014 was a year of great television — and indeed, it was — much of that was built around memorable moments.
How can that be culled down to a comprehensive list? It can’t. But there are certain scenes that tend to stick to your ribs, which — amid the haze that comes with watching thousands of hours of television — might be the best barometer of what qualifies. Needless to say, there will be blood, laughs and spoilers.
Here are the 10 best moments of 2014 in alphabetical order:
The Affair. Noah (Dominic West) and Allison (Ruth Wilson) have a chance encounter on the beach, setting their you-know-what in motion. But their respective recollections on how the meeting went, and who initiated the flirtation, differ, establishing the template for the series to come.
The Big Bang Theory. In a disarmingly tender moment, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) tells Amy (Mayim Bialik) that he loves her, too. The big “Aw” from the audience was doubtless echoed in millions of homes.
Boardwalk Empire. In a flashback sequence from the finale, the young Nucky (Marc Pickering) betrays Gillian by pimping her out, essentially, to the pedophilic Commodore, thus setting events in motion that go back to the show’s very beginnings — and foreshadow its end.
Game of Thrones. The Viper faces off with the Mountain, standing in as champion for the accused Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). And once again, mother is proven right: Never take time to deliver a monologue during a fight.
The Good Wife. After the tragic death of her partner Will, Diane (Christine Baranski) receives pressure from a demanding client. In a cool demonstration of righteous fury, she proceeds to fire him first.
Masters of Sex. The third episode was almost a two-character play, featuring the sex researchers/lovers Masters and Johnson (Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan) together in a hotel room. Perhaps not a better written or played individual hour all year.
The Missing. Driven half-mad by concern about his missing son, Tony (James Nesbitt) confronts the shady businessman (Ken Stott) who has ostensibly been trying to help him.
The Strain. FX’s vampire series built toward a climactic showdown with the mysterious the Master, who surprised the group that had seemingly cornered him by scurrying away – in broad daylight. That even shocked the dogged vampire slayer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), whose battle with the Master and his chief henchman, the one-time Nazi concentration camp officer (Richard Sammel), has spanned decades.
Transparent. Having hidden her desire to become a woman from her three grown children, Mort/Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) labors to tell them the truth, while they begin to speculate whether dad might be dying.
The Walking Dead. With the gang on the chopping block to become somebody’s dinner in the aptly named worst-destination-resort ever known as Terminus, Carol (Melissa McBride) paints herself in zombie guts, and saves the day.