8 traditional ‘stand-alone’ TV episodes, together with that ‘The Final Of Us’ heartbreaker

As your complete web fell in love with The Final of Us‘ Invoice and Frank this week, a aspect dialog broke out: how wild is it for a present to commit its third episode ever to a standalone story? In its third week of airing, HBO’s hit adaptation of the online game franchise panned away from the primary narrative to spend nearly all of its 80-minute runtime fleshing out and sweetening the backstory of a aspect character from the sport — and it paid off massively. And when TV exhibits swing for the fences on this means, it typically does. Whether or not it’s within the first or the ultimate season, luring audiences away from the grind of countless serialisation and cliffhangers to inform a self-contained story could make for a number of the most satisfying viewing.

A aspect be aware on labels: As Vulture’s Kathryn Van Arendonk has identified(Opens in a brand new window), some people have referred to those as “bottle episodes”. Generally a standalone episode may additionally be a bottle episode, however not all of them are simply because they’re largely self-contained tales — in a bottle episode, it’s the characters who’re contained(Opens in a brand new window), not the narrative. Van Arendonk urged “departure episodes” for these instalments that break with the standard storytelling of a sequence, whether or not it’s focusing solely on one character, group, or subplot, an episode-length flashback, or perhaps a musical episode.


‘The Final of Us’ modified Invoice and Frank’s story, right here’s why

Right here, we’ve targeted on episodes that actually may be loved with out the context of the episodes that grew to become earlier than it. There are anthology exhibits the place just about each episode is like this — they don’t rely right here. There are episodic and serialised exhibits designed for brand new viewers to have the ability to drop in and choose up the thread of the story at any level; and there are nice episodes of TV the place somebody goes on a self-contained journey that also merely doesn’t land with out the broader context of their arc and character improvement (e.g. Breaking Unhealthy‘s traditional bottle episode “Fly”, directed masterfully by Rian Johnson).

These usually are not these. These are episodes that, even in the event you’ve by no means seen the present they’re from, you’ll be able to go and watch proper now and benefit from the tales they inform, like a very short-ass film. For those who love what you see, by all means, return and take a look at the remainder — or don’t. There’s lots of TV on the market.

Credit score: Liane Hentscher/HBO

Whereas not technically a real standalone episode, because it begins and ends with Joel and Ellie’s persevering with journey, “Lengthy Lengthy Time” delivers one of many best single-episode arcs of latest years. “Lengthy Lengthy Time” chronicles the connection between survivors Invoice and Frank, who handle to fall in love and construct a satisfying life on the finish of the world. Anchored by phenomenal performances by Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, this episode is the apocalyptic tv equal of the Up “Married Life” montage — candy and devastating in equal measures. The episode might have simply aired, however it’s already one for the ages. — Belen Edwards, Leisure Reporter

The place to observe: The Final of Us airs Sundays on HBO and streams on HBO Max.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

Cristin Milioti and Jake Johnson, two white actors, as their characters Doc and Beans in a 90s-set episode of Mythic Quest

Credit score: Apple TV+

Precisely midway by Mythic Quest‘s chaotically humorous, nine-episode debut season, the present slowed down for the devastating one-off flashback to the early days of the online game trade. It follows twenty years within the groundbreaking profession of a married inventive group, identified to us solely as Beans (Cristin Milioti) and Doc (Jake Johnson), and the eponymous sport that makes and finally breaks them. The easy genius of Darkish Quiet Loss of life, the sport, makes “A Darkish Quiet Loss of life”, the episode, strips the primary story’s theme of fixed, messy rigidity between creativity and commerce down to what’s basically a two-hander — however the episode’s solely connection to the broader world of MQ is a Darkish Quiet Loss of life shirt {that a} character wears within the current day. For those who beloved Gabrielle Zevin’s 2022 guide Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, give this a watch ASAP. — Caitlin Welsh, Australia Editor

The place to observe: Mythic Quest is now streaming on Apple TV+.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

Ladies, Season 2, episode 5, and Season 6, episode 3, “One Man’s Trash”/”American Bitch”

Whereas loads of folks would possibly nominate “The Panic In Central Park” as their favorite one-Lady-only Ladies episode, its reliance on callbacks to Marnie’s series-long journey means it doesn’t fairly work as a standalone in addition to these two. Popping up within the second and final seasons respectively, each pair Hannah (creator Lena Dunham) with a well known, older male actor for a talky two-hander. Within the first, twentysomething Hannah spends a weekend hanging out and getting bare with a newly separated, Ken-doll good-looking physician (Patrick Wilson) in his fancy brownstone – a type of anti-romantic Earlier than Dawn the place she will get to attempt on a life she’s undecided if she desires.

And in “American Bitch”, she’s invited into one other man’s home, this time for a confrontation: middle-aged author Chuck (Matthew Rhys) desires slightly chat a few piece Hannah wrote about his sexual harassment allegations, however the two discover themselves connecting as writers from completely different generations. Airing mere months earlier than the Me Too motion was in full swing, it’s among the many smartest, most nuanced scripts of the present’s total run and will virtually work as a stage play — till the peerlessly surreal closing shot. – C.W.

The place to observe: Ladies is now streaming on HBO Max.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

BoJack Horseman, Season 3, episode 4, “Fish Out Of Water”

An animated scene of BoJack, an anthropomorphic bay horse, looking worried in an underwater city plastered with his own image.

Credit score: Screenshot/Netflix

It’s one of many BoJack Horseman episodes that followers convey up quite a bit, the self-contained odyssey below the ocean, written by Elijah Aron and Jordan Younger. To be able to make BoJack’s (Will Arnett’s) huge comeback film Secretariat a reputable awards contender, “Oscar Whisperer” publicist Ana Spanakopita (Angela Bassett) must ship him to a significant movie pageant. As Cannes and Sundance have barred BoJack for his characteristically unwelcome feedback, he’s off to the Pacific Ocean Movie Competition (POFF), the largest underwater movie pageant on this planet. BoJack has one job: get to the premiere on time. However there’s a spanner within the works, as fired Secretariat director Kelsey Jannings can also be attending, so his purpose as a substitute turns into first avoiding her in true BoJack model, then monitoring her down and making issues proper. What follows is a chaotic journey by the underside of the ocean towards appreciating connection and asking for forgiveness, whether or not it’s obtained or not.


All the main points in that ‘Bojack Horseman’ whiteboard scene you’ll have missed

With gloopy, dreamy music from Jesse Novak and a muddled audio soundscape, the episode is totally set underwater the place speaking by speech is unavailable to BoJack, who wears a bubble helmet to breathe. This implies nearly all of the episode has virtually no dialogue, with all communication executed by gestures, physique language, written phrases, and sound results. Titled “Fish Out of Water,” the episode sends BoJack into full tradition shock, as he’s plunged right into a world the place he doesn’t converse the language or hasn’t bothered to learn up on native customs. However when he’s thrown means off beam by a misplaced, babbling seahorse child, BoJack sees far more of the underside of the ocean than he bargained for. There’s one significantly beautiful sequence during which the wee seahorse will get him out of a deep, darkish sea cave by bouncing gentle and sound. Stunnin’. – Shannon Connellan, U.Okay. Editor

The place to observe: BoJack Horseman is now streaming on Netflix.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

Not each character is able to carrying an episode of tv all by themselves, however Avatar‘s Zuko isn’t any strange character. All through “Zuko Alone,” we find out about his relationship together with his mom and see him reckon with what the Fireplace Nation has executed to the Earth Kingdom. It’s an ideal alternative to discover his internal battle between doing the correct factor and doing what his father expects of him. The following episode is mature, introspective, and a significant turning level for Avatar. For those who couldn’t see Zuko’s redemption arc coming earlier than “Zuko Alone,” this solidified his upcoming (but nonetheless emotionally difficult) hero’s journey. — B.E.

The place to observe: Avatar: The Final Airbender is now streaming on Netflix.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

Barry, Season 2, episode 5, “ronny/lilly”

A young woman clings to the top of a moving car, which has two men in it.

Credit score: Aaron Epstein/HBO

All hell breaks free in Barry when hitman-turned-actor Barry’s goal Ronny seems to be a martial artist grasp. Then, even extra hell breaks free when Ronny’s younger daughter Lilly turns up and beats him down with an otherworldly depth. As Barry wrestles together with his ethical code — is he going to must kill a toddler? — Lilly growls, bites faces, and jumps onto automotive roofs, making for an episode as surreal as it’s darkly humorous. “ronny/lily” is a violent journey by suburbia that by no means lets up, pushing reminders of Barry’s darkish previous on him with explosive outcomes. All hail “feral mongoose” Lilly for placing this excellence in movement. — B.E.

The place to observe: Barry is now streaming on HBO Max.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)

Physician Who, Season 3, episode 10, “Blink”

It’s terrifying to comprehend what you can lose within the blink of an eye fixed. In one in all this beloved Britsh sequence’ most chilling episodes, intelligent Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan, pre-An Training) is tasked by way of cryptic messages from the stuck-in-time Physician (David Tennant) to fight a mysterious new risk to mankind. “Don’t blink,” he warns earnestly by way of a DVD dispatch, “Blink and also you’re lifeless!” In a singular spin on the haunted home narrative, “Blink” not solely took audiences on a devilishly scary journey but additionally launched one of many franchise’s most iconic villains: the weeping angels. No marvel this one gained Stephen Moffat a BAFTA Craft award for writing. — Kristy Puchko, Movie Editor

The place to observe: Physician Who is now streaming on HBO Max.(Opens in a brand new window)(opens in a brand new tab)