5. Weeds - Season 8
Well, where to begin? The final season of Weeds had a lot going against it, mainly a concept that had grown tired, relationships that had grown predictable, and a concept that had gone so wildly far from the first season that it was almost unbelievable. However, with all that said, creator Jenji Kohan found a way to bring the story of Nancy (Mary Louise-Parker) full circle. I wasn’t sure where the first few episodes were going, and by the last episode, I was shaking my head in disbelief. Still, they managed to pull off an amazing final episode, possibly the best series finale to any show, ever. All the characters come back to catch us up to where they’ve made it to in the finale, and fans that have been watching the entire series are kindly rewarded for doing so. The last episode is still so unbelievable that many will be consistently asking themselves “What the hell!?” during the run time, but trust me, it all pays off, and it makes up for the weaker seasons, of which there are a few. Those shocked by Season 7′s beginning haven’t seen anything, but the entire series is well worth the investment of time, which is something that can’t be said for every TV series. An aside, some may complain that this should be considered under comedy shows, but I felt there was enough drama, enough satisfying conclusions, and statements about the characters to consider it as a drama.
4. Breaking Bad - Season 5 Part 1
Oh, Breaking Bad. The show that has captivated the nation’s consciousness due to its portrayal of a meth dealing teacher is winding down with the first half of its last season, and for everything that made the fourth season incredible and unpredictable, there are moments in this season that made me cringe with their predictability. There is a certain inevitability in this show that makes certain overarching themes and threads painfully obvious, but there is enough great acting from Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk, and Jonathan Banks to make it all worthwhile. I believe there are still a few surprises left from Vince Gilligan‘s drama, but I believe I already know the ultimate ending, and it’s disappointing to realize that. However, I’ll give the show a chance to surprise me, and I hope it does, but it’s not the best show on TV like so many seem to be claiming.
3. Game of Thrones - Season 2
George R.R. Martin‘s set of novels about the Kingdom of Westeros have enjoyed a surprising successful transition into a moderately budgeted TV show (alternately, a series of movies would be a billion-dollar undertaking) on HBO. While many complained that the first season felt “small” with the limited sets and series of speeches in small rooms, the second season ramped up production value with a lot more location shooting, and an extended look at Westeros, the North, and overseas. Threads begun in the first season are resumed with aplomb, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is ruling as King, while his mother Cersei (Lena Headley) continues to pull the strings of political power in the city. Meanwhile Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is preparing for war against the Lannisters for what he believes is his rightful seat on the throne. He raises an army, and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is doing the same. His son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is trying to find his place among his father’s army, where his brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the star warrior. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke) is finding her way as leader of her barbarian nation in the wake of her husband’s death. All the threads of war come together toward the end of the season, but there is still much to be resolved (especially since Martin has not even finished writing the novels) and that makes it all the more pleasurable to finish this season off. I can’t wait for March 31st, where we get some new Game of Thrones.
2. Homeland - Season 2
Last year’s Emmy winner for Best Drama comes back with another season full of insane twists. Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is back, and this time he’s not exactly the bad guy that the first season led us to believe he was. Like all characters on the show, he is a complicated guy, and he has a lot more to think about than the day to day struggles of most US citizens. His past comes back to haunt him, while Carrie (Claire Danes) has finally found a way to beat her past. As the CIA closes in on Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), all their personal wars on the home-front tend to get in the way of the terrorist hunt. Many have complained that the season was unrealistic in too many spots, but I think that’s more of a product of the fact that most citizens don’t realize what actually goes into the fight against terror in the upper echelons of homeland security. While some of the complaints may have a solid foundation in truth, it’s a consistently entertaining show, and about as unpredictable as they come. It makes for gripping television, and that’s all I ask for in a drama.
1. Boardwalk Empire - Season 3
Far and away the best season of what is continually the best show on TV. Or, as they say, it’s not TV, it’s HBO. Steve Buscemi has stepped up his game, going from one of the best characters on TV, to easily the best. His diplomacy wears thin early in the season, and late in the season, he ends up resorting to all out war with Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), who makes a deliciously evil turn as this season’s primary villain. Al Capone (Stephen Graham) is up to his own devices in Chicago, and Graham keeps the character fresh and interesting all season until he comes in handy in Nucky’s war. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) is left drifting without Jimmy’s leadership, and he ends up playing an integral part in various threads throughout the season, even getting his own arc that lets us learn a bit more about Richard. The season is extremely violent, which it has been in spots in the past, but this season, the stops are pulled out as the war brews, and acts of retribution for past violence end characters we expected to see for a lot longer. On the flip side, a lot of characters are given arcs and screen time that let us learn a lot more about them, and Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is left to make mistakes, and pay for them, while she attempts to clear her conscience through good deeds. Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) deals with her inconsolable grief in ways that will never end well for her, however she doesn’t seem to care much. What keeps this the freshest show on television is the vast array of interesting characters, the magnificent acting all around, exciting twists, and build ups that pay off in the most satisfying of ways. This show is engineered in such a big picture way that each season is almost indefinable individually, because the entire show will stand as a statement itself, which is something that has made the legends of The Sopranos and The Wire stand head and shoulders above every other TV show in the medium’s history. I can’t wait for next season.