Author Bonus: Heaven Sent (Doctor Who)

This is an author add-on, but I don’t feel like figuring out what number it would be. When I saw this episode, I knew I loved it, but it took me re-watching it to realize something important about it. I’ll get into that in a minute.

Quick Recap of the show:

The premise of the show is that there is a being called the Doctor that travels through time and space with various companions to fight evil. He’s an alien from a race called the Time Lords who lives and journeys in a 60s British Police Box called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Sometimes he fights aliens, sometimes he eats hot dogs, sometimes he meets famous historical figures. Honestly, he just kind of travels, but the TARDIS tends to take him where he needs to be. Sometimes he changes history, sometimes he can’t, depending on the writing. At the time of this episode, there had been 12 doctors, and the current one was played by Peter Capaldi. His companion at the time was a woman named Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who had been killed moments before this episode started, and he was forcibly teleported away.

Yes, he plays the guitar.


The episode begins with a wounded figure walking through a castle, as the Doctor’s voice-over talks about the fact that Death is always following. You run, it walks, but it’s always coming. Then, one day you sit still too long, and it catches you. The unidentified figure flips a switch, writes the word “Bird” in the dirt, expires, and disintegrates into a skull just as the Doctor is teleported into the same room.

The Doctor speaks, assuming that whoever brought him here can hear him, telling them that they should be very afraid right now, if they had any part in Clara’s death, and that he will never stop coming for them.


The Doctor finds himself inside of a castle in the middle of an ocean which constantly reforms and shifts around him. He determines from the teleporter that he can only be within 1 light-year of the Earth, so he knows that, when the sun sets, he can use the stars to tell his location. However, he also finds out that he is not alone. There is a monstrous figure of a veiled old woman, covered in flies, which slowly comes after him. The Doctor quickly realizes that the figure is from his childhood, from a funeral of an old woman he knew, where the heat was so great that the flies attacked her veiled corpse. Someone is using his oldest fear against him.


Trapped at the end of the hallway, the Doctor confesses that he is afraid to die, which causes the Veil to stop, allowing the Doctor to escape. He realizes that the figure will stop when he confesses a deep truth. It’s not trying to kill him, it’s interrogating him. The Veil shortly catches up to him again, but he escapes by jumping out of a window.

DoctorWhoTardisThen, the scene shifts to the Doctor inside of the TARDIS, talking to himself. It turns out that, due to the extremely advanced nature of his brain, whenever he has to make a quick decision, he goes into a mental version of the TARDIS where he can make calculations about the situation that would take hours outside in the span of seconds. Calculating the time of impact to the water, the Doctor avoids breaking his neck and the shock.


As he awakens under the water, he sees that the ocean is filled with skulls. Mountains of skulls. He makes his way back to shore and begins investigating the castle. For days, the Doctor explores the castle, avoiding the Veil. He discovers a message to him: “I AM IN 12.” The Doctor escapes the Veil again by confessing another fact: He ran away when he was younger because he was scared. He realizes that the Veil walks so slowly that, if he lures the Veil to one end of the castle, then runs to the other, he has 82 minutes before it catches up.


After more time passes while he works to find room 12 in 82 minute increments, the Doctor returns to the starting room, and sees the word “Bird” written in the dirt, as well as the skull of the figure from the beginning. A passage opens, leading upward. The Doctor stands on the roof of the castle, looking at the stars, and observes that, by their movement, he has traveled 7,000 years into the future. He then accidentally knocks the skull into the water, when avoiding the Veil again. The Doctor confesses one more fact to the Veil: He knows the identity of the greatest fear of the Time Lords – “The Hybrid.” He doesn’t disclose who the Hybrid is, however.


This confession finally reconfigures the castle so that the Doctor can access Room 12, where he finds the TARDIS behind a wall of crystal. This crystal is Azbantium, a substance 400 times harder than Diamond, and the wall is 20 feet thick. Then, the Doctor thinks back to the word “Bird” and finally remembers everything. More on that in a second.

The Doctor realizes that “Bird” is a reference to the fable “The Shepherd’s Boy” by the Brothers Grimm. And this breaks him, causing him to beg to be allowed to lose. To quit. Not to be the hero this time. However, a memory of Clara makes him press on.


So, with the veil approaching him, the Doctor starts punching the wall until the Veil catches him, and mortally wounds him. Dying, the Doctor crawls back up the stairs to the teleporter room, and uses the re-setting of the room to create another version of himself as he expires. The new Doctor then begins to recite the speech from the beginning of the episode.

doctorwhocapaldidying-e1521148401528.jpgWhat follows is a montage of doctors re-living the same sequence we just watched, over, and over, and over again. For FOUR AND A HALF BILLION YEARS, as he slowly punches through the wall, a punch or 3 each lifetime. Then, he is mortally wounded again, and has to agonizingly limp back to start the whole cycle over with his last breath. However, we watch as the Doctor slowly tells the Veil the story of the “Shepherd’s Boy,” in one of my favorite sequences in the show’s history.

“There’s this emperor and he asks this shepherd’s boy, “How many seconds in eternity?” And the shepherd’s boy says, “There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it! Every hundred years, a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed! You must think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird.”

The Doctor finally breaks through the wall and escapes, revealing that he’s been inside of his confession dial, basically a Time Lord will and testament, the entire time. And he sees that he’s on Gallifrey, and that his own people, the Time Lords, were the ones that put him there. He tells a small boy “Tell them I’m back. Tell them I know what they did, and I’m on my way. And if they ask you who I am, tell them I came the long way around.”


This scene of eating soup is amazing. Really.

Okay, so, this paragraph will probably kill me: Peter Capaldi is the best actor to portray the Doctor thus far. I’m sorry, but I genuinely believe that. I love David Tennant, and I think he is the best Doctor, and he is definitely My Doctor, but Tennant is behind Capaldi in terms of actual acting ability. This episode proved it. Capaldi explores every aspect of the Doctor in this episode, and he does it with such a level of subtlety and skill that he manages to get you to forget how relatively little actually happens in this episode. Tennant may have loved the role enough to bring it life that no other Doctor has (sorry Pertwee, Eccleston, Smith, and the Bakers), but dammit, this episode is up there with Martin Sheen in The West Wing or Elisabeth Moss in the Handmaid’s Tale. This is the sh*t people get awards for, and it’s an episode of DOCTOR WHO, a usually lighthearted sci-fi show. It’s the same reason why I love Captain Picard the most, because Patrick Stewart could bring you in with his performances when he was the focus. Capaldi just… f*cking nailed it.

The Groundhog Day-esque loops at the end are amazing, and it really does serve to show exactly how slow the Doctor’s progress is as he punches his way to freedom. Watching him die over and over again really makes us feel uncomfortable, because this is our protagonist undergoing agony dozens of times before our eyes, and billions more offscreen.


Also, the final remembrance. That’s the part that I think sets this episode apart. See, he’s not just realizing what “Bird” means, he’s remembering all of the times he’s done this before. He’s realizing that he’s suffered this sequence thousands of times, and that he’s going to have to do it billions of times to get free. He wants to quit. He wants to give up. This is a torment that no mind should be able to bear, being chased, tortured, and killed for basically as long as the Earth has existed, but he just quickly resolves that he’ll do it, he’ll bear it, he’ll persevere and he’ll triumph, because that’s what he has to do. He even realizes that he could be free in an instant just by confessing who the Hybrid is: But he refuses to do it, because it’s an important secret that should be kept (it’s later revealed to be a friend of his). He’s willing to undergo hell to protect that secret. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, as a better author said.

This episode is one of the best hours of Doctor Who, and it is just watching the Doctor through triumph, agony, failure, regret, and overcoming the odds, all in short order. It explores levels of the character that we rarely touch upon, and it rests largely upon Capaldi’s performance combined with some excellent writing and cinematography. Truly, this was wonderful.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Reader/Author Bonus: Battle of the Bastards (Game of Thrones)

Alright, so, I will freely say that I actually like the episode of Game of Thrones that made the list more than this one. But, I also can’t object to this being on the list. Since several people have asked if this was going on the list, and I was on the fence about just adding it myself, it’s getting an entry.

“Battle of the Bastards” is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on TV. The sheer scale of the episode is almost beyond belief. While it does almost nothing in terms of dialogue or several of the metrics I usually use to weight episodes here, it doesn’t matter, I still have to concede this is one of the greatest episodes of television of all time based almost entirely on its incredible acting, challenging cinematography, and enormous scope.

BACKGROUND (Reduced beyond the point of usefulness)

… It’s Game of Thrones. Do you really expect me to explain 5 huge books and a full season or two of TV just to give you the background for this? Oh, sure. Here you go:

A Place

There’s a place called Westeros. The King gets killed. His wife’s family tries to take over. A bunch of people oppose that. All of them die. Most of the wife’s family dies. The main family, the Starks, all get separated when their home, Winterfell, gets taken over by a later-dickless traitor, then taken over again by a giant festering wankstain named Ramsay “the Bastard of” Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), a Stark bastard son, dies, gets brought back to life, goes home to the North with an army to take it back. Jon’s sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) requests the help of some guy named Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) who wants to bang her super badly. In the meantime, some naked chick does stuff with dragons over on another continent and some zombies are walking down from the North Pole, having presumably killed Santa. Also, there’s Peter Dinklage, who is a treasure.


Okay, so, I’ll separate this into the two locations. Esteros and Westeros. Guess which one is to the East?

So, in Esteros, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter “I’m basically changing Hollywood through sheer force of awesome” Dinklage) are dealing with a large group of slavers that they recently pissed off who have brought a fleet to block her from sailing to Westeros. She brings the heads of the fleet before them, where they tell her what terms they’d accept. She responds by reminding them what happens when you have dragons and nobody else does: Dragon. Beats. Everything. (for another season).


It really isn’t even much of a contest. Dragons can breathe fire (which, given the level of heat displayed, should be a blue or just contains a ton of sodium, because it’s clearly above 3000°F) at a greater distance than even much of the ballista available at the science level of Esteros, can fly at speeds that appear to be in excess of 100-200 MPH, are immune to most other kinds of attack, and are capable of lifting weights in the tons. It’s basically a high-speed flying tank with a never-ending flamethrower against people who don’t have guns. She proceeds to burn the entire fleet in a matter of minutes, kills most of the slavers, and pretty much massacres everyone else who has been challenging her by the end of the day. Then, the pair procures another fleet to bring them to Westeros. And, I assume, go to the spa to get matching mani/pedis to relax.

You know Tyrion likes the pumice stone. Dany’s into hot rocks.

Which brings us to Westeros, where the meat of the episode happens. Not to say that the Dragons Gone Wild scenes weren’t awesome, they absolutely were, but Winterfell is where it’s at. So, the important characters on Jon Snow’s side meet with Ramsay “I made Joffrey look good, and he was basically Hitler’s wet dream” Bolton. Ramsay offers to “pardon” Jon if Jon hands over Sansa Stark (Jon’s not-quite sister). Jon offers to fight one-on-one, Ramsay rebuffs him and says that he has Jon’s youngest not-quite brother, Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), as a captive. Sansa tell Ramsay, her rapist and ex-husband, that the next day they’ll attack and Ramsay will die. Ramsay says that he’s been starving his hounds in anticipation of feeding Jon to them, because he’s the worst.

GameOfThrones Rickon.gifThe armies meet up the next morning, and Ramsay brings out Rickon. Ramsay tells him to run to Jon and starts to shoot arrows at him. Just before he reaches Jon, Rickon is struck by one of Ramsay’s arrows and dies.  Jon then gets angry at the whole “dead brother in my arms” thing, and starts to charge, and the army follows shortly.

The battle scene that follows is almost incomprehensibly huge. I recommend watching the entire episode to really get the feel of it, but what’s amazing is that it manages to also GameOfThronesJonbe so intense and personal when it focuses on the important characters. The sad realistic elements are also there, such as where there are literal mountains of corpses formed from the fighting. At one point, Jon Snow is almost buried by a poorly-timed movement of his own forces, and the show really manages to convey the suffocation he’s experiencing from nothing more than a giant, writing mass of panicking warriors. You won’t even realize that you stopped breathing until Jon pulls himself out. Finally, as Jon’s forces are surrounded and it appears they’ve lost, Littlefinger arrives bringing the cavalry with him, literally.

Ramsay retreats, and Jon follows into Winterfell, his ancestral home. Ramsay kills off Wun Wun (Ian Whyte), a giant in Jon’s army, and Jon squares off against him. Ramsay attempts to kill Jon with an arrow, but Jon blocks it and proceeds to attempt to beat Ramsay to death, only stopping when he sees Sansa. However, this is quickly revealed to not be any form of mercy, as Sansa meets with Ramsay in his own kennel. Ramsay tells her that his hounds will never harm him, even though he hasn’t fed them in a week, because “they’re loyal beasts.” Sansa reminds him of the truth: “They were. Now they’re starving.” She summons the dogs, who proceed to brutally devour their master face-first. Sansa walks away, smiling.

It’s the little things in life.


GameOfThronesRamsaySo, thematically, this episode is pretty weak, and, honestly, since almost everyone that dies in it is a character that had a tragic flaw which led to it, that makes this more of a traditional tragedy than Game of Thrones usually has. However, I’ll be damned if almost everything in it isn’t fun to watch. Dragons finally truly kicking the amount of ass that the show had promised for 6 seasons, a battle whose scale exceeds almost any movie taking place in the middle ages, intense, personal shots of the chaos of a battlefield, unbelievably powerful moments of the leads, and Sansa Stark, the most shit-upon character in Game of Thrones, finally gets to take brutal vengeance upon the greatest monster the show has ever had (and I’m including the Night King).

It’s not an episode that teaches any real kind of lesson or reveals any deep truths to the viewer, but a lot of episodes on this list don’t do that, even high-ranking ones. Sometimes, television is just about showing you something that you can’t see anywhere else, and this episode is all of that and more.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Author Bonus: 22a) Holly Jolly Secrets/I Remember You (Adventure Time)

Hey, guess what? YET ANOTHER ADD-ON. This makes 5, and this one’s actually a double. Aren’t you folks lucky that you’re getting so much more content that I’m pretty sure nobody reads? (Update: Okay, so, I do have readers now. And they’re all smart and attractive.). While one of these, “Holly Jolly Secrets,” did air before I wrote the original list, despite its merit, it didn’t become one of the best episodes ever until its emotional set-up was finally, truly, cashed in on by “I Remember You.” Since this is an add-on, I’m going to just go ahead and pair them. It’s my list, I do what I want.

And I’m wearing this outfit

Adventure Time started as the single most generic fantasy show ever. It takes place in the enchanted land of Ooo, which is populated largely by princesses, magic creatures, and

He was cuddly

whatever random thing can have a face drawn on it. However, it also is one of the best examples ever of the term “Cerebus Syndrome.” Cerebus Syndrome is named after a comic called Cerebus the Aardvark which started off as light and fun stories of a mischievous aardvark, then eventually revealed that all of the light and fun stuff had actually had huge consequences resulting in literal genocide, and ends with the main character being dragged off to what appears to be Hell. Basically, it’s when something moves from “kids’ show” to “adult,” or, if you’re from my generation, it moves from “90s Don Bluth” to “80s Acid-tripping Don Bluth.” The whole process of tone shift starts when it’s revealed that Ooo is not a different world, it’s actually Earth after the “Great Mushroom War,” which is revealed to be the nuclear war that blew a visible chunk out of the world and poisoned everything. Again, kids’ show.

We ask the REAL questions here

The main characters are: Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada), a young boy, later a young man, originally believed to be the only human; Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio), his shapeshifting “brother;” Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), the science savvy but ethically-challenged-at-times ruler of the Candy Kingdom; Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), the 1000-year-old half-demon rock goddess; BMO (Niki Yang), an artificial intelligence robot with a child-like mind; and the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a crazy wizard with ice powers and an obsession with kidnapping princesses.



“Holly Jolly Secrets” starts off with Finn and Jake digging up a box of VHS tapes that the Ice King had buried. They return home to watch them, only for the Ice King, who doesn’t adventuretimeholly.pngremember burying them, to find out that Finn and Jake are watching “secret tapes” and wants to join them, unaware that they’re his. The episode mostly focuses on Finn and Jake listening to these tapes, which turn out to be Ice King’s boring video diary, while Ice King schemes to get into their house, using various Christmas themes (despite the fact that Christmas doesn’t exist in Ooo). Eventually, however, they get to the last tape, and the episode suddenly shifts. The last tape shows a man who vaguely resembles the Ice King. The man identifies AdventureTimeSimonhimself as archeologist Simon Petrikov, a man who bought a crown and put it on as a joke for his girlfriend. It turns out that the crown is cursed, and, while it gives him ice magic, it also drives him slowly insane. As the tape plays out, we are shown a man slowly losing his grip on reality, his form shifting more and more to resembling the Ice King, and the background showing us the apocalyptic war, until finally, Simon is shown screaming that he knows he’s going to “do things that hurt [people]”, and he begs their forgiveness because he can’t help it. At the same time, we’re shown that he also is screaming for his lost “princess,” his fiancé Betty, explaining why he feels a compulsion to kidnap princesses.


Now, up until this point, the audience didn’t really know much about the Ice King except that he’s weird and often the antagonist. In this episode, we find out that he’s literally the victim of something out of his control, and he’s screaming for help from within the labyrinth of his mind. A later episode shows that this is literal: His mind lives inside a maze in the crown that he cannot leave. It’s rare for any show to so completely re-contextualize a character, and this show does it in 30 minutes. An amazing accomplishment, managing to show that the villain is just another victim, and reminding the audience that the people we think are evil may just be in pain. This would be a fine set of laurels to rest upon with Ice King, but the writers decided to one-up themselves hard in the episode “I Remember You.”


“I Remember You” starts with the Ice King wanting to write a song in order to get the princesses to like him. This is a weird, but childish premise. He then decides to grab a AdventureTimeMarcybunch of his “old lyric notes for inspiration” and solicit Marceline the Vampire Queen for help. When he arrives, he is confronted by Finn and Jake who try to drive him off before being told by her that Ice King can stay. Finn and Jake leave, and Ice King starts to sing a song about his love of princesses, which slowly devolves into him crying about how alone and unloved he feels before randomly lashing out. Marceline tells him to “stop acting crazy,” and the Ice King flees her, scared. Marcy sings the song “Nuts” which reveals that she has spent AdventureTimeNuts.jpg1000 years periodically trying to hang out with him, but that his insanity inevitably drives her away until he tracks her down again. But, despite that, she still loves him and is happy to see him, leading her to question if she’s actually the one who’s crazy for her lack of self-preservation instincts. She then confronts him with his real identity, Simon Petrikov, only to find that despite his predisposition to find her, he doesn’t actually remember their history together or even his own.

Okay, so, this is pretty sad so far, but not into “I’m going to drink another beer and two shots after writing this review” sad. But, unfortunately for my liver, Marceline then finds that, among the papers that Ice King brought over is a letter addressed to her as a child, Adventure_Time_-_I_Remember_You.pngapologizing for what he is going to do.  Ice King, not realizing it’s a letter, convinces her to sing it, leading to one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard, including the chorus “Please forgive me for whatever I do… when I don’t remember you.” The audience is then treated to a flashback of a child Marcy standing alone in the wreckage of the nuclear apocalypse, being given a stuffed animal by a still only partially cursed Simon Petrikov, with us knowing what he’ll eventually deal with.


It’s Alzheimer’s. The episode is about Alzheimer’s. The writers may not have intended it, but they nailed it. Ice King’s condition, while it makes him feel sad and alone, is more torturous on those who love him and have to see how he is just an unstable shadow of his former self than it is on him. You will hold out hope that maybe they can see you and remember you, and maybe for a few minutes you can feel like they do, but then they slide back into delirium and it breaks your heart all over again. Sometimes they’ll be afraid of you because you’re a stranger to them. Sometimes you’ll see them believe that there’s nobody who loves or cares about them because they just don’t remember it. And sometimes you’ll be standing in front of someone, knowing that they’re here, but not really here. You’ve lost them without losing them. This episode does in 12 minutes what entire books on the subject have trouble doing. If you aren’t heartbroken at the end, I don’t know if you’re human.

PREVIOUS – 23a: BoJack Horseman

NEXT – 20: Chappelle’s Show

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Nuts/I Will Remember You:

Author Bonus: 30a) Not what He Seems (Gravity Falls)

The second of my add-ons, and this one might be the most controversial of them.

Gravity Falls is not the most well-known show, but it deserves to be. It’s only 40 episodes, but, and I say this with total sincerity, it’s one of the only shows where I don’t think there’s a bad episode. With most of the shows on this list, I can think of at least one episode which I either didn’t like, thought didn’t fit within the show, or even absolutely hated. Even the Twilight Zone sometimes had a miss. I’ve even fought over whether or not there is a bad episode of Breaking Bad, and I go with “probably.” But, I don’t actually think the quality of Gravity Falls varied much from a very strong start. If you like the first episode, you’ll like the rest of the series, and it just keeps getting better until it reaches one of the greatest series finales ever, featuring one of the best villains in fiction.

Behold, the face of Evil!!!! Yes, really.

However, this is not that episode. You should watch that too, as well as the rest of this show, but this isn’t it. This is the only episode of the show I thought was more memorable and more touching than the finale.

The show follows two siblings, Dipper and Mabel (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal), as they spend the summer with their great-uncle “Grunkle” Stan (Alex Hirsch) in the town of Gravity Falls, a place notable for the huge number of dangerous supernatural occurrences which are still mostly kid-friendly. The strength of the series is that, unlike many other shows with similar set-ups, the focus is on the development of the characters, and the over-arching mythos of the series is built at a consistent pace. There’s also a lot of “show, don’t tell,” something that a cartoon can theoretically do better than live-action, but rarely does. This episode is when all that character development pays off.

Dipper is a nerdy kid who is obsessed with the weird. Mabel is the ridiculously upbeat girl who always sees the good in everyone (and has a grappling hook, because she’s awesome). Stan is the epitome of the con-man, whom the audience knows has a huge secret, and the entire season has been building to its reveal. A reveal that we get in this episode, but which has nothing to do with the two things that make this episode amazing.

Three of the best characters ever written. Yes, really.


First of all, this is the only episode of Gravity Falls where gravity actually does fall. Gravity periodically reverses itself throughout the episode. It’s a neat thing to finally see, since it was a part of the show’s opening theme up to this point, and the gimmick is used well throughout the episode. But it’s the second thing that sets it apart. In an episode that is, up to this point, the ultimate culmination of the show’s plotlines, most shows would choose to ramp up the speed and intensity to make the plot climax as intense as possible. But not Gravity Falls.

Instead, the show slows down and focuses on how the stress of the plotlines has affected the relationship between Dipper, Mabel, and Stan. Dipper and Mabel find out that Stanhas been lying to them about what he’s been doing. More than that, they find evidence that he may not even be who he says he is.

One of the most realistic explorations of emotions on television. Yes, really.

Now, the audience sees Stan wanting to tell the kids something important, but he gets arrested before he can. However, we also see that he does care for them deeply. Then we see the kids find Stan’s collection of fake IDs and forged documents, and realize that they might have been lied to. More than that, we get to see how two very different people respond to the situation. Dipper, who is all about finding out the truth, is angry because he was deceived by someone close to him. Mabel, who loves everyone and believes in the best in people, is heartbroken that someone she trusted may not be who she thought she was. Anger and questioning, two very human responses portrayed by 12-year-old kids.

When the kids finally find the machine in the basement that Stan has been keeping secret, Dipper comes to the conclusion, based on the show thus far, that the machine is dangerous and going to potentially destroy the world. As he tries to hit the shutdown button, Stan returns and stops him. Stan keeps trying to explain what happened, but Dipper refuses to listen. However, ultimately, Dipper and Stan, along with Stan’s employee Soos (Hirsch), are pinned against a wall and Mabel is the only one who can hit the button. Dipper tells her to hit the button, and Stan begs her not to. Mabel, who always wants to give people a chance, tells him that she doesn’t even know who he is. Dipper points out that if he’s lying, the world might end. Stan responds by saying that, while he’s done some bad things, everything he’s doing now is for his family. Mabel looks him in the eye, and with just a few seconds left, chooses to let herself float away from the button, saying “I trust you.”

One of the most tearjerking moments in television. Yes, really.


It’s impossible not to feel everything they’re feeling in that moment. The music, the pacing, the animation, and Kristen Schaal’s epic voice acting as Mabel all come together to the point that you honestly might forget you’re watching a cartoon, because you will be so drawn in. And despite the significance of the ending, the climax of the episode isn’t the part where they reveal what the machine does, and answer two huge questions from the show, the climax is just Mabel choosing to believe in someone, to put her faith in the goodness of another, despite the fact that she can’t even articulate why. I know that a lot of the world is going to beat you down, and make it hard to think the best of others, but it’s nice to know that at least one show is trying to remind us that sometimes putting your faith in people will reward you. It takes strength to trust another, and Mabel is perhaps the strongest of us all. Be stronger, trust more: It’s a message that needs to be spread.

Love everyone like Mabel loves this pig. Yes, really.

Also, it has one of my favorite jokes: “It’s the final countdown! Like they were always singing about!!!” Gets me every time.

PREVIOUS – 34a: Black Mirror

NEXT – 30: Frasier

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Update: So, after writing this, I started watching the Nostalgia Critic and found out he did the “11 best episodes of Gravity Falls” and he not only picked this as the best episode of the series, but also picked it for basically the same reasons. I’m not saying he hacked my computer from the past and published it 2 years before I wrote it, but… I’m not NOT saying that. Either way, check out his channel if you grew up in the 80s. Some of his stuff is really funny.

Author Bonus: 34a) San Junipero (Black Mirror)

If you’re confused, read my post on add-ons. So, now that we’re through that, here’s the review:

Black Mirror is designed to be a British Twilight-Zone-like anthology about media and spectacle. The screen we look at, the screen upon which this is read, the screen upon which it is written, these are all the black mirrors in which we look to see ourselves, others, and ourselves through others. For the first 2 seasons, the show usually had about 1 great episode in 3, with another 1 being good/really good, and another being okay. After Netflix took over, I think the quality rose a bit in season 3, if only because they managed to produce this episode.

Or because they have funding now!

“San Junipero” is, in a lot of ways, the opposite of a Black Mirror episode. The episodes usually take the point of view that the “Screen” is bad. That our virtual lives and obsession with spectacle are actually hurting our existence and our society. They manage to convey this through exaggerated scenarios, ranging from the contemporary to the dystopian future. To be fair, there are a few episodes in which the screen is not entirely negative, such as using it to punish pedophiles or child murderers through psychological torture, though in those episodes they point out that the pedophile and child murderer both used screens to commit their offenses. The closest they’d had to a positive episode was “Be Right Back,” which features a woman replacing her dead husband with an android copy… and it’s not super happy. This episode completely goes the other way and shows the absolutely magical potential of social technology through something that everyone can understand: Falling in love.


You know the look

The episode starts in the 80s-est 80s that ever 80s-ed, in the beach town of San Junipero. The audience is then introduced to two women, the timid virgin Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and the bisexual party-girl Kelly (Gugu “I deserve much more work” Mbatha-Raw), who admits she was previously married to a man. The two form a quick, complementary relationship, which ends with the two having sex. When Yorkie returns the next week, she seeks out Kelly, but is unable to find her. Yorkie is advised to “try a different time.” She then searches  through bars in the 1990s before finding Kelly

The 80s were her time

in the 2000s. Kelly brushes her aside, leaving Yorkie crushed, until Kelly finally seeks her out to inform her that she is dying, and is just trying to avoid finding any real connections before she passes on. Kelly then asks to meet Yorkie in her real life.

At this point, it shifts to the Real World, where we are introduced to the real Kelly, an elderly woman with terminal cancer in a nursing home, and the real Yorkie, a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state since she was 21 years old, 40 years ago, when her religious parents’ rejection of her sexuality led her to drive her car off the road. Now that San Junipero exists, Yorkie is trying to get euthanized so that her consciousness can be permanently uploaded to the program. In order to overcome her religious family, Kelly agrees to marry Yorkie to authorize the procedure. However, afterwards, Kelly reveals that she doesn’t want to spend eternity in the program, because her daughter and husband won’t be there. She acknowledges that she doesn’t believe she’ll be with them in the afterlife, but she also thinks that it would be breaking a promise to them if she stayed in San Junipero. Ultimately, though, Kelly chooses to join her new wife in their digital afterlife, together forever.

And yes, it’s set to “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle.


As I said, Black Mirror doesn’t do happy endings. Usually, their take is that technology is leading society to revel in spectacle, rather than actually living. But, this episode points out that spectacle isn’t always bad. Yes, San Junipero isn’t exactly the best place for deep introspection, but that’s not what they’re using it for. This isn’t the story of two young people using it to avoid living their lives, it’s the story of two people who can only really live through it. It isn’t replacing their real world, it’s giving them a chance to have a real world. It gives them a chance to really be with people in a way that life hasn’t or no longer does.

There’s a shirt.

Some people probably complain of the ending, because it is somewhat cheesy and unbelievably upbeat, but here’s the thing: Unless you die young and fast, there will come a time when you have to rely on something beyond yourself. It’s a part of mortality. You will look for something more to deal with the fact that you aren’t going to be here anymore. Several episodes on this list deal with that very thing. You might find faith, you might find peace in nihilism or existentialism, but, ultimately, you’re going to want something. This one just picks a different thing in the end. It’s a heaven of man’s own creation. It’s the ultimate showdown of science v. religion, because in this science has managed to replace the afterlife, the biggest and best “spectacle” religion has to offer. One day, this episode’s premise may be a reality, and we’ll have to see what people choose.

It’s on Netflix. Watch it.

PREVIOUS – 31: Doctor Who

NEXT – 30a: Gravity Falls

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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The Author Add-Ons are Coming

As a big part of my metric for putting things on here is “impact on culture/television,” most of the episodes on here tend to be older, because older things tend to show more impact. It’s also why The Twilight Zone was by far my most nominated show. It’s had time to show how far it’s spread into our media. As such, it was originally designed not to include more recent shows, with very limited exception for shows that managed to impress me sufficiently at the time of this writing, some of which I’ve removed in retrospect. However, after I created this list, a few episodes managed to convince me to go ahead and add them. Rather than re-do the list, I have just supplemented them at the number which I believe they probably would have merited, and they are all within the 20s and 30s, so as not to influence my top 15. As of this writing, there are only 5, so this shouldn’t be too burdensome. Also, I imagine the readership of this to be around 10 people (update: Okay, so, monthly it’s about 500 now… I have no idea what most of you are thinking, but to those of you reading this, thank you!), so anyone complaining can go ahead and tell me directly that my policy has broken their heart. I will console your pain.

In the meantime, enjoy God’s greatest creation

These are not to be confused with the Reader Requests, which are NOT part of the list. They’re just there to reward my fans.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.