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Best TV Show of 2014 Nominees
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman
Airs on BBC, BBC America
Doctor Who got off to a rocky start this season as it introduced Peter Capaldi as a grumpier take on our favorite Time Lord. The season also fleshed out Jenna Coleman's character of Clara in some great ways, breathing life into a character that felt pretty two-dimensional in recent years.
Of particular note is the episode "Flatline," which is some of the best sci-fi we've seen on TV all year. Excerpts from Elizabeth Harper's review:
While many episodes put both The Doctor and Clara at risk, it's rare that you actually feel there's a danger: with The Doctor often acting over-confident, it's hard to think that they won't make it. But here, with The Doctor on his own there are moments when he clearly doesn't think he's going to make it, going so far as to try to encourage Clara she can save the group without him and giving a dramatic goodbye speech when life support in the TARDIS starts failing. "You made a mighty fine Doctor," he tells Clara without being sure she can hear him... and anyone watching would have to agree, because being in charge is something she manages extremely well (aside from constantly bungling things with Danny). And, after seeing this version of The Doctor be thoroughly uncaring this season, it's good to see that he's not entirely immune from feeling and fear.
"Flatline" isn't just a great Doctor Who story, it's a great hour of innovative science fiction. The episode's thoroughly strange story is backed up by compellingly creepy visuals -- no bubble wrap monsters here -- that make it a treat, both narratively and visually.
Legend of Korra
Stars: Janet Varney, David Faustino, P. J. Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Mindy Sterling, Seychelle Gabriel
Airs on Nick
Rebel Spirit [HD]
The final two seasons (or books, in Korra-parlance) of Legend of Korra have aired in rapid succession in 2014 which means we've had lots of episodes to love... though it also means we won't have more of this Avatar sequel to enjoy next year. Still, we're greedy enough to take what we can get.
Our favorite episode of Book 4 is probably "Korra Alone," which follows Korra's attempts to heal after a devastating fight at the end of Book 3. We'll let Mike Hoffman's review explain what makes this episode of Korra so great:
Everything about this episode makes it one of the best, even if it is lacking in the supporting cast both ATLA and LoK do so well. Korra's journey is emotional and every moment lands thanks to a brilliant script, masterful music, beautiful visuals, and perfect pacing.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Stars: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood
Airs on ABC
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1 [Blu-ray]
The second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has really upped its game. (In fact, the show's been much more watchable since Captain America: The Winter Soldier upended its premise.) This season's character dynamics are better, the villains are more threatening, and every episode is packed with the kind of Marvel arcana that fans (like us) love.
Just why have we fallen in love with this season of Agents? We'll let Bob Chipman explain, from his look at what season 2 has done right:
Yes, it was a bit refreshing that in the first season the heroes were a Scooby Gang of happy-go-lucky misfits, but that kind of "aw shucks" dynamic can only extend so far before you start undermining tension. Season 2 has taken the events of both the first year's finale and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as an occasion to make everyone a little bit more interesting by "breaking" them all, just a little bit (or a lot, in some cases). Examples: Fitz/Simmons as platonic BFF's finishing each other's sentences? Cute. Fitz/Simmons as friends who used to finish each other's sentences but now don't because one's romantic crush on the other came out in a dark moment? Interesting.
Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Laurence Fishburne, Gillian Anderson
Airs on NBC
Hannibal tells the tale of serial killer Hannibal Lector, showing us his earlier days, when he's a practicing psychologist who helps the FBI with tough cases. Though the entire premise begs the question of why one would try to recreate a character that was so beautifully portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, the show's high style and refusal to back away from even the most gruesome content makes it stand on its own. Mads Mikkelsen makes for a thoroughly terrifying Hannibal as we watch him charm and manipulate the show's characters to his whims.
We can't call out any particular episode as the best: really, you should watch them all. Phil Hornshaw sums up season 2 in his review:
How does a monster make a friend? In the case of Hannibal Lecter, he has to create another monster, one which understands him and which he can understand. Hannibal Season 2 focuses intensely on Hannibal's attempts to make a killer out of Will Graham in hopes of finally being less alone in the world.
Stars: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin
Airs on The CW
The Flash - CW
Somehow one of our least favorite premieres of 2014 has turned into one of our favorite shows of the year. Bucking the trend of all DC Comics adaptations aspiring to be Christopher Nolan's grim Batman universe, The Flash has an inherent sense of optimism which is lacking from the universe's other recent cinematic outings. Its light-hearted nature is a little goofy at times, but it works when you're dealing with a character whose superpower is runs really fast and it also seems to offer the show an opportunity to roll out a crazy cast of villains who just wouldn't work in DC's grimdark cinematic universe.
The Flash doesn't appear capable of letting me down. It's definitely the best superhero show on TV, among the greatest comic book adaptations of all time, and damn fun television to boot. Binge the entire season and then watch this episode twice.