Here, Variety selects some stand-out small-screen segments from the Emmy-eligible 2017-18 TV season.
“The Great Patriotic War”
Season 6, Episode 5 (FX)
A father and daughter fight isn’t the kind of thing that should be celebrated but, especially in this climate, it is one that leaves a mark. No pun intended. Philip (Matthew Rhys) told Paige (Holly Taylor) he was training her, but as the subsequent fight proved, he was also taking out his frustrations and trying to assert the authority he felt he lost on her.
“North of the Border”
Season 2, Episode 9 (FX)
The Teddy Perkins episode of Donald Glover’s comedy stirred a lot of chatter. But in a season full of big swings and standalone character moments, actually seeing the core guys sharing scenes was memorable in and of itself. After a surreal frat house party, Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) fired Earn (Glover), delivering a one-two punch of comedy and tension.
Season 2, Episode 10 (FX)
The second-season finale of Pamela Adlon’s comedy saw eldest child Max (Mikey Madison) graduating from high school, only to be stood up by her father. But her mother came through with an unforgettable gift: Sam (Adlon) led the rest of the family in a jubilant, celebratory dance sequence. As Max said, it was a “fever dream” — one from which we didn’t want to wake up.
Season 4, Episode 6 (Netflix)
Each episode of “Black Mirror” was more chilling than the one that came before, and perhaps none more so than “Black Museum.” Featuring glimpses of the technology from every episode that came before it, the scariest twist came in the final moments, when Nish (Letitia Wright) turned the tables on a roadside museum proprietor (Douglas Hodge), revealing she was the daughter of the convicted felon who served as his main attraction.
Season 4, Episode 1 (ABC)
Kenya Barris’ family comedy has never shied away from tackling thorny topics, but the fourth season premiere broke its usual comedy format to include a “Hamilton”-inspired musical. Watching his kids perform in a school play about Christopher Columbus made Dre (Anthony Anderson) want to tell a lesser-known story — that of June 19, 1865, when Texas got the news that slavery was finally abolished in America. And so the Johnsons did — in an unforgettable homage to Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical hit.
Season 5, Episode 4 (Fox)
The Fox comedy has always delivered special Halloween-themed episodes featuring its characters engaged in heists. But while the episodes are usually one-off standalones, this one paid off a long-running character relationship arc with Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy’s (Melissa Fumero) surprise engagement.
Season 1, Episode 1 (Showtime)
Lena Waithe’s freshman drama started with a compelling bait-and-switch, following a sweet young man named Coogie (Jahking Guillory) as he witnesses a kid gunned down on the South Side of Chicago. But by the end of the first episode, he, too, became a victim of gun violence — an act of retaliation from the murdered boy’s father that would have tragic ramifications.
“Josh Is Irrelevant”
Season 3, Episode 6 (The CW)
After a misguided attempt at revenge and a spiral into depression that culminated with a suicide attempt, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) was all set to receive a new diagnosis, which spurred a quintessential new song. She was so hopeful as she sang about not only finally belonging but also finally healing that you realized just how
broken she had been this whole time.
“Dear White People Vol. 2”
Season 2, Episode 2 (Netflix)
Justin Simien’s comedy put a very complicated human face on the alt-right in its second season with the arrival of Ricky Carter (Tessa Thompson) on campus. As she stepped on stage, she was met with an audience of predominantly African-Americans — whose protest was written all over their faces, forcing her to confront what she allowed herself to become. Nothing could have flustered her more or made their point stronger.
Season 5, Episode 7 (Showtime)
The series finale of the Hollywood-skewering comedy took its meta nature to a whole new level by having fictional writer duo Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) create a show based on their own experiences in Lalaland. Despite their longtime steadfast disinterest in casting big names, they booked some famous British players to portray themselves. And they reteamed with Matt LeBlanc, who, really, was their muse in the first place.
“Fresh off the Boat”
“B as in Best Friends”
Season 4, Episode 1 (ABC)
Nicole (Luna Blaise) came out to eldest Huang son Eddie (Hudson Yang) in a touching moment that showed her vulnerability and allowed them both to prove their maturity.
“Maybe It’s All the Disco”
Season 1, Episode 8 (Netflix)
The Netflix comedy hit a narrative peak with this powerful installment, which featured Ruth (Alison Brie) deciding to have an abortion. Although she was asked a lot of uncomfortable questions, she got through it with relatively no complications — or judgments. She was determined in what she knew was best for her, and she was allowed to carry out her choice.
“The Good Fight”
Season 2, Episode 9 (CBS All Access)
Robert and Michelle King’s legal drama has gone all-in on tackling some of the seemingly surreal politics and headlines the world finds itself dealing with having Trump as president. But nothing was as visually surreal as witnessing various characters watch the alleged, infamous “golden shower” tape. Their faces said a lot, but the glow coming from their computer screens said even more.
“The Good Place”
“Leap to Faith”
Season 2, Episode 8 (NBC)
Michael (Ted Danson) may be a demon, but here he picked the good guys’ side once and for all. After Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto) and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) were officially sentenced to the real bad place, Michael delivered an epic roast that seemed perfectly mean on the surface but was actually peppered with clues for how his friends could escape.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
Season 2, Episode 1 (Hulu)
June (Elisabeth Moss) not only reclaimed her name, but also attempted to reclaim her life in the second season premiere of Hulu’s dystopian drama. She literally ran for her life — even going so far as to cut the GPS out of her ear that branded her as a handmaid. The final shot of her face, with blood dripping down her neck and a look of steely resolve in her eyes, brilliantly set the tone for what was yet to come.
“Enemy of the State”
Season 7, Episode 1 (Showtime)
President Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) was never a perfect leader, but the seventh season opener of the terrorism drama established that she wouldn’t hesitate to get her vengeance when she orders the death of the man who’d planned her assassination attempt. But nothing was creepier than the hour’s final moments — a nearly silent sequence following Carrie (Claire Danes) as she spied on the president’s right-hand man.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
Season 15, Episode 118 (ABC)
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel made the political personal last year when he first shared how his young son had a heart defect that required surgery days after his birth. But it was in September that he used his platform for advocacy, walking the audience through what the healthcare legislation from Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham would mean for medical costs and coverage options.
“The Last Man on Earth”
Season 4, Episode 11 (Fox)
The Fox comedy killed off characters before, but never did one go out in such a satisfying way as cannibal Karl (guest star Fred Armisen). Karl finally solved the Rubik’s cube Tandy (Will Forte) and the gang had taken from the cartel leader’s house earlier in the season. It was a moment of triumph, followed by a huge explosion, paying off a looming threat from the first act of the season in a big (and messy) way.
“Late Night With Seth Meyers”
Season 5, Episode 99 (NBC)
Seth Meyers got personal in April when he recounted his wife’s delivery of their son in the lobby of their New York City apartment building. Meyers infused the tale with his trademark humor — noting she looked like she was trying to smuggle a baby on a plane — but also plenty of sentimentality.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Season 1, Episode 1 (Amazon)
The premiere episode of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino’s period comedy made it clear that Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) wasn’t just another 1950s New York housewife. Her feisty spirit really came through when she stepped on a comedy stage for the first time after being dumped by her husband. The raw, stream-of-conscious outpouring of emotion set the tone perfectly for the rest of the season.
“One Day at a Time”
Season 2, Episode 13 (Netflix)
The second-season finale punched its audience in the gut by putting Lydia (Rita Moreno) in the hospital. As she experienced a surreal reunion (and dance) with her deceased husband (Emiliano Diez), her family members came in one by one to tell her how much she meant to them. Thankfully, it wasn’t goodbye for good, but it still ran the audience through the ringer of emotion, especially for a sitcom.
“Orange Is the New Black”
Season 5, Episode 1 (Netflix)
The fifth season of Jenji Kohan’s prison comedy picked up in the immediate moments after Daya (Dascha Polanco) pulled a guard’s gun in the fourth-season finale, answering just how far she’ll go — not only for #JusticeForPoussey but also to reclaim some control for all the atrocities faced within the prison walls. She shot Humphrey (Michael Torpey) in the leg, starting a full-on riot and launched a season of high stakes, media attention and blood-boiling tension among the women of Litchfield.
“To Gay or Not to Gay”
Season 1, Episode 4 (Netflix)
The new Fab Five helped a young man named AJ not only make over his house and wardrobe, but also come out to his stepmother in the fourth episode of the Netflix lifestyle reality series reboot. Previously compartmentalizing different aspects of his personality in order to “be one person at work and one with friends,” AJ kept his boyfriend from meeting his family. Until now. And though his father passed away before he could learn his son’s truth, his stepmother seemed proud enough of AJ for the both of them.
“Saturday Night Live”
Season 43, Episode 18 (NBC)
Bill Hader returning to his “SNL” stomping ground meant one thing would be certain — Stefon would be making a comeback, too. And Hader did not disappoint, sitting back down at the Weekend Update desk to guide tourists through St. Patrick’s Day hotspots in New York City. But then he brought out his lawyer and “conceptual piss artist” Shy, played by former “SNL” writer John Mulaney, paying off a long-running reference from when Hader originated the role.
Season 5, Episode 5 (HBO)
The tech comedy got in on the #MeToo movement in a way only this show could do — with a robot. Once Richard (Thomas Middleditch) connected his newly awakened android to the larger internet, she humanized to the point of realizing that how her creator treated her was not OK.
“Run, Bridgette, Run or Forty-Eight Burnt Cupcakes & Graveyard Rum”
Season 1, Episode 5 (Showtime)
Inspired by the film “Run Lola Run,” this genre-bending episode of Frankie Shaw’s freshman auteur comedy explored multiple fantasy sequences as Bridgette (played by Shaw) considered a few different options for how she should react to her baby’s father (Miguel Gomez) baptizing her son without her permission.
“Chapter Three: The Pollywog”
Season 2, Episode 3 (Netflix)
The Duffer brothers created “Dart,” a demogorgon that Dustin (Glen Matarazzo) kept as a pet in the second season of their supernatural drama.The real joy came from watching Dustin with his new friend, so trusting it would not turn out to be a demonic creature from the Upside Down. He was wrong, but it was nice to see, even after all he and his friends had been through already, that he could maintain some innocence.
“This Is Us”
Season 2, Episode 15 (NBC)
Episodes of Dan Fogelman’s tear-jerking family drama can be split into “Before Jack Pearson Dies” and “After Jack Pearson Dies,” and this was the first that set off the later storytelling. The Pearson family said goodbye to their patriarch as Rebecca (Mandy Moore) learned to step up and be the sole parent in the household. Her pep talk from beloved Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) delivered powerful performances as well as emotions and perfectly proved the work Rebecca had ahead
“Akane No Mai”
Season 2, Episode 5 (HBO)
The introduction of the Shogun World in the fifth episode of the second season of HBO’s sci-fi western thriller more than lived up to the hype. The character types in the new park paralleled the backstories for the hosts the audience had already become attached to — just in a new setting. And while Maeve (Thandie Newton) may not have been able to save this daughter during the soon-to-be infamous dance sequence, in liberating at least one of the geishas, her resolve firmed even further to find her own offspring.
“Will & Grace”
Season 9, Episode 6 (NBC)
The reboot of NBC’s “Will & Grace” reunited the main cast with one notable exception — Karen’s put-upon housekeeper, Rosario (Shelley Morrison). And in this episode, she got the send-off she deserved, with a touching funeral, a rare opportunity to glimpse Karen’s (Megan Mullally) more human, let alone downright vulnerable, side.