The best TV episodes of 2015: Gotham, The Walking Dead, The Flash, and more

There was a lot of television to watch in 2015 – as in, literally too much to watch. Back in August, FX Network estimated more than 400 television series – original, scripted prime time, English-language shows – would air in 2015. You simply can’t see it all in our lousy 365-day year, and as the new golden age of TV continues, an astounding amount of genre shows dominating the landscape.

So, we all must make tough decisions on what series to watch now, binge later, or maybe skip entirely. For us to say there are only a handful of best episodes out of that 400-plus number of shows is impossible. But – from what our Blastr crew watches – we pulled a few that stood out for us this year. These are episodes that either thrust a series forward, or were so good they stood alone.

Check out our thoughts and let us know what you think were the year’s best eps.

“The Last Laugh”
The second season of Gotham has been delightfully bonkers, and this episode sells it all. A gala for the city’s upper crust is hijacked by Jerome and Barbara (Cameron Monaghan and Erin Richards chewing scenery like nobody’s business), posing as a magic act. The duo would alone make this installment a treat, as it combines the manic tone of Tim Burton’s Batman with Batman: The Animated Series. While this show might have a hard time introducing a mysterious, psychotic character such as The Joker, the character of Jerome channels the best of Mark Hamill and Jack Nicholson as a proto-Joker, and introduces the idea that, just maybe, Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime is more an idea (like Batman) instead of just a man. Meanwhile, Richards continues to be her own version of Joker; compelling, crazy, and immensely interesting to watch. Beyond that, Sean Pertwee as a flirtatious Alfred, who still kicks butt, is a high point. And even Bruce gets to be caught up in derring-do. This is certainly an episode that establishes the kind of show Gotham wants to be from now on, and while it may have its detractors, I think it perfectly situates these characters in a bizarro Gotham City where a Batman may be needed down the road. – Aaron Sagers


"Fast Enough"
The Flash
There are more than a few Flash episodes that could make the cut, but the Season 1 finale, “Fast Enough,” lives up to its title and then some. The first season of The CW series was a guidebook for good genre television, and this episode was the culmination of a half dozen storylines coming to a head. From shocking deaths to tear-jerking, quiet moments, and one of the biggest set pieces imaginable on a television (and not to mention CW) budget, it had it all. Barry spent pretty much the entire season trying to get a chance to save his mother, and when the moment finally arrives, it provides one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the year — genre show, or otherwise. This is what Barry Allen is really about, and this show summed it all up perfectly. – Trent Moore


"Axis Mundi"
The Leftovers
HBO's Damon Lindelof series gave us a lot to love, but even more to hate, in its first season. In a world where two percent of the world's population inexplicably disappeared into thin air in an instant -- a fascinating premise -- we also had to slog through the mute, chain-smoking Guilty Remnant, a confusing subplot about a guy who cures sadness with hugs, and way too many slow-motion scenes dragged down by morose music. Ratings-wise, it barely hung on to half the audience of its strong True Blood lead-in, but that was enough for HBO execs to grant a second season. In this season premiere, Lindelof started off with a full 10 minutes of a pregnant prehistoric cavewoman surviving on her own, followed by an episode that flipped the entire Leftovers premise on its head. We're introduced to the Murphy family, who live in a town where no one "departed," and we don't see any cast member from the first season until the last scene. It was a huge narrative risk that paid off big dividends -- a much-improved second season earned widespread critical acclaim (but not better ratings). – Denny Watkins


”Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television”
The series finale for a show that survived more than a few cancellation attempts, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” is meta, beautiful, hilarious, and absolutely gut-wrenching — all at once, most of the time. The episode finds the study group grappling with the challenges of growing up, as they all pitch their own ideas for a continuation/reboot of the “show” of their lives. It sounds corny, sure, but it is Community at its finest. The fact that Community was actually able to go out on its own terms is astounding in itself, and series creator Dan Harmon took full advantage of the freedom afforded by the final season pick-up at Yahoo! Screen to close the cult hit with an episode fans would never forget. – Trent Moore


“To Ransom a Man's Soul”
Ron D. Moore’s critically acclaimed time-travel drama series ended its first season run with one of the darkest and most shocking hours of television ever. Featuring the brutal torture and rape of the series’ hero, Jamie Fraser, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” was a brilliantly acted, fearless piece of TV that didn’t shy away from what was originally written in the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books. It boasts stellar performances by the three main actors - Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies (both nominated for a Golden Globe Award) and Heughan - but it is Heughan’s performance as a physically and emotionally broken man that provided the most gut-wrenching moments of the episode as he and his wife, Claire (Balfe), deal with the aftermath of his horrifying ordeal. And yet, for all the doom and gloom, the episode ended on an uplifting note. – Nathalie Caron


 “4,722 Hours”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It took until Season 3, but Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally delivered its best episode ever. It just, you know, had to leave the planet to actually pull it off. One of the show’s weirder arcs found Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) transported and stranded on an alien world. But, the producers were playing the long game, and eventually used “4,772 Hours” to finally fill in the gaps for how she spent all that time stranded on the alien world. It was basically a two-person show, and Henstridge pulled off a fascinating character study that showed just how far this series has come in three years. Weirdly enough, the episode was nothing like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that’s what makes it so wonderfully great. – Trent Moore


“Here’s Not Here”
The Walking Dead
This 90-minute episode of TWD filled in the gaps of what happened with Morgan (Lennie James) between when he last saw him unhinged in “Clear” to his now monk-like role. The Walker-light story (and a high point for the season) revolves around Morgan’s friendship, counseling, training with John Caroll Lynch as Eastman, a man who has managed to survive the apocalypse by living according to a code of peace. Unfolding like a two-person play, “Here’s Not Here” delivered compelling performances and a deliberate pace that was a fresh narrative approach for the show. Instead of being a gory episode, there was a lot of conversation about what it means to live, and how preserving one’s humanity is the only way to truly survive. It also gave us Tabitha the goat. The only downside to this episode is that it aired a week following the Glenn cliffhanger, which was a distraction hanging over the proceedings. – Aaron Sagers


”Green Arrow”
After the third season finale essentially wrapped up most of the lingering story arcs, the Season 4 premiere had a whole lot of work to do by (essentially) rebooting the show. Boy, did it work. The episode picks up a few months down the line, and introduces us to a happy, domesticated version of Oliver Queen. The episode was also a soft reset for the tone of the series, with Oliver and Felicity pulled back into the craziness of Star City to battle the new baddie, Damien Darhk. The episode also featured an absolutely shocking flash forward, which fans are still waiting to see fully play out. – Trent Moore


Game of Thrones
Forget the cast of characters we know and love and love to hate. “Hardhome” was Season 5’s finest because of its battle sequence. Game of Thrones has had extended fight scenes before — Season 2’s “Blackwater” and the fight against the Wildlings in Season 4. But here, Jon Snow and his reluctant ally Tormund convince the Wildlings to fight with them against the White Walkers. Too soon it is too late, and we get an extended fight sequence that pitted the living against the dead. And as the dead fell, they rose up as new enemies to battle. Chilling, thrilling stuff. – Carol Pinchefsky


“Heaven Sent”
Doctor Who
Doctor Who’s Twelfth incarnation, played by Peter Capaldi, is the most caustic, least cuddly Doctor since Colin Baker’s portrayal as the Sixth. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. When his companion Clara Oswald was killed, her death became his obsession. As we saw in the remarkable episode “Heaven Sent,” he chiseled away at a diamond prison with his bare hands and died again and again, just to reach the people responsible. It took him <gulp> 4 billion years. For Clara, the Time Lord traveled through time the long way around. And with that, he became the most loyal friend in the universe. – Carol Pinchefsky


"Alive in Tucson"
The Last Man On Earth
With a weird premise that didn’t really lend itself to a series format, The Last Man on Earth had no business being as good as it is. But, here we are. Starring Will Forte as one of the last humans left on the planet after a mysterious plague, it delves into some of the funniest (and darkest) parts of what it means to be human. What would you do, really, if there were no more rules? Phil Miller gets to take whatever he wants, and spend his days lounging in a margarita pool -- and that's just the first few minutes. The pilot episode had a lot of heavy lifting to do, but it managed to build this weird world wonderfully. From this excellent starting point, Last Man on Earth grew into one of the best sitcoms of the year. – Trent Moore


The Expanse
Syfy’s new space opera series The Expanse proved itself a worthy successor to Battlestar Galactica with its fourth episode. With most (but not all) of the action taking place on board the MCRN Donnager, “CQB” is fraught with action and suspense as Holden (Steven Strait), and the members of his crew find themselves  trapped in the midst of an epic space battle when the Donnager is attacked and boarded by the mysterious ship that destroyed the Canterbury. “CQB” really kicks things into gear for the series, and features the jaw-dropping death of a character. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat going: “WTF! No effing way! Holy crap!” Featuring some very fine acting, the episode also boasted breathtaking cinematography and stunning visual effects. One of the best examples of sci-fi I’ve seen on TV in 2015. – Nathalie Caron


"Cut Man"
There are any number of episodes from the first season of Marvel's first foray into the world of Netflix original series that could have been highlighted, but there's no denying that the show's second installment was the one that grabbed hold the most. It features some great character work from Matt Murdock and Rosario Dawson, but what really sets it apart is its climax, a six-and-a-half minute one-shot of a fight between Daredevil and a bunch of mobsters holding a kidnapped child. It's awe-inspiring for its technical execution, for sure, but it also does a great job of storytelling through combat choreography, as we see the very human Murdock grow tired, rally, get beaten down, and finally triumph over the course of one violent procession down the hallway toward where the young boy is imprisoned. This scene would've impressed in a feature film - here, it was a clear indication that the folks behind Daredevil weren't messing around. - Adam Swiderski


What were your favorite TV episodes of 2015? Let us know in the comments!

More from around the web