The 15 best TV shows of 2016

5. Star Wars Rebels season 3

Star Wars Rebels started out fine and stayed that way for two seasons. It looked like Star Wars, sounded like Star Wars, and occasionally felt like Star Wars, but something about it just wasn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s impossible to enjoy Ezra and Chopper’s antics when you know that kid’s going to meet an unpleasant end by the time Luke Skywalker’s an angsty teen. Maybe it’s the fact that Sabine and Ezra feels painfully market tested as rebellious-but-safe young people. Whatever it was, Simon Kinberg and his creative team worked it out because season 3 doesn’t just feel like Star Wars - it is Star Wars. Ezra’s struggle with the Dark Side is more potent than anything in the prequels, Wedge Antilles makes an appearance that doesn’t feel like fan service, and the whole crew acts more like people rather than archetypes. It even makes Darth Maul interesting which I thought was impossible. Anthony Agnello

4. Daredevil season 2

Daredevil season 2 was always going to be a case of 'tricky second album' syndrome. After a first season - so perfectly paced and entirely complete in the sharp, intelligent delivery of its intent - how the hell was it going to follow up? The method seemed initially shaky, with the introduction of both The Punisher and Elektra threatening overcrowding, but in truth - a couple of jarring tonal shifts notwithstanding - Marvel and Netflix nail it, smartly splitting the second season into an unofficial three-act structure to build an escalating web of interest and spiraling stakes. Daredevil manages to cram a hell of a lot in without bloat or narrative bleed-through, maintaining control of all of its various spinning plates without a hint of struggle. Also, Jon Bernthal is bona fide perfect as a believably burnt-out, decidedly human Frank Castle, and Matt Murdock still beats dudes up real good. David Houghton

3. Stranger Things season 1

From the moment the trailers waved their '80s influences, Stranger Things had everyone’s attention. It nails everything you remember about the period, with its story of kids fighting monsters and evil government grown ups, but it’s the children that really seal the deal. From the moment they appear they are the stars: broadcasting the sort of youthful enthusiastic ensemble talent that doesn’t happen often. From Dustin’s buffoonery to Eleven’s stoic caution, Stranger Things’ young stars make that show their own as they battle the unsettling Demogorgon from the mysterious realm of the Upside Down. That’s not to say the cast is lacking elsewhere, as almost every actor earns their screen time, from old pros like Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, through to newer faces like Shannon Purser, making her debut as meme-tastic breakout, Barb. Leon Hurley

2. Game of Thrones season 6

Previously, the further Game of Thrones strayed from the narrative of the books, the sadder hardcore fans became. Why did Barristan have to die in a gutter? Why was Joffrey, somehow, even more repellent on screen? Where the hell is Lady Stoneheart? The opposite happened in season 6. Freed from the laboured pace of the books, we got some of the best TV that’s ever been made. The Battle of the Bastards depicts clashing fantasy conflict as it should be: filthy, grim and claustrophobic, with bludgeoning crescendos of sickening violence. The return of The Hound was glorious, somehow keeping alive those distant hopes of Cleganebowl (seriously, it’s a thing). And the season finale sets a new standard for the, 'holy shit, did they actually do that?' ending. That’s without even mentioning Jon Snow’s rebirth, Sansa’s long-sought revenge, or the crushing, noble explanation behind Hodor. Amazing telly. Matt Elliott

1. Westworld season 1

Westworld is the surprise hit of 2016. It not only asks a bunch of very smart, very relevant moral questions, but it’s also incredibly well crafted and superbly acted; its twists and turns subtly woven into the fabric of each episode. Those are the key ingredients of glorious 'watercooler TV', the raw stuff that makes you talk excitedly about each show with friends and colleagues (and spam spoilers all over Twitter). Not bad for a series based on a movie from the ‘70s, about a robot-cowboy theme park. Stand out performances from the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Thandie Newton really elevate this first season, but it’s the sense of place and the atmosphere of secrecy and paranoia that really makes Westworld shine. The show reveals its shocks and surprises at its own pace, giving us answers at the critical moment, when the viewer starts to realise what’s actually happening - it’s wonderfully paced. Andy Hartup

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