SFX magazine presents its top 20 TV episodes of 2018

10. The Showstopper - BoJack Horseman season 5, episode 11

Rarely has an animated series been quite so bleak as this slice of the BoJack saga. Yet it remains painfully funny as well, if you like your comedy blackest black that is. BoJack, having just landed a successful new role as a ‘cop with issues’ should be on top of the world. Instead pill-popping leads to paranoia and the boundaries between his life and his role blur in a dizzying volley of overlapping edits. And it all ends with a musical sequence and attempted murder. The Flintstones was never like this.

Read more: Think BoJack Horseman is just 'the sad horse show'? It’s secretly the most grown-up series around

9. Winner - Better Call Saul season 4, episode 10

By now we should expect the Breaking Bad prequel to defy expectations. Instead of major dramatic fireworks the season 4 finale was an oddly low-key affair, though none the less powerful for that. The bulk of it concerns Jimmy cynically socially-engineering his reinstatement as a lawyer using emotional manipulation to a degree that, by the end, leaves even Kim reeling. But the best is left for last. The very last line of the season, in fact: “S’all good, man,” says Jimmy – and a chill goes down the spine of every viewer who knows Jimmy’s destiny.

Read more: Why Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad - and what other prequels can learn from it

8. Janet(s) - The Good Place season 3, episode 10

Heaven’s AI, Janet, has to hide the series’ four fugitive, death-dodgers leads in her virtual void, where they all assume her appearance. Sure, it’s just an excuse for the wonderful D'Arcy Carden to do impressions of her cast mates, but she does it brilliantly. Plus, Chidi and Eleanor reunite. We meet the afterlife’s mind-numbing accounts department (they have a stuffed vegetable department). And, holy forking shirtballs, they make it to the actual Good Place. This show turns the bizarre into high art.

7. The Queen - Castle Rock season 1, episode 7

Stephen King megamix series Castle Rock – which pulled in various characters from the shared universe of his novels – was a curate’s egg for its first few episodes. It was difficult to pinpoint what it was actually about. Then came this brave, uncompromising installment, told from the point of view of dementia sufferer, Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek in superb form). It’s a hard watch, no question – fractured, nuanced, frustrating. But there is method in its madness, and – as became clear in subsequent episodes – it was no mere stylistic conceit.

Read more: The Castle Rock ending gave us more questions than answers - here's why that's a good thing

6. The Bent-Neck Lady - The Haunting of Hill House season 1, episode 5

Although this series is chiefly about solving the ongoing mysteries of Hill House, you could easily watch this episode in isolation and come away full satisfied. It’s a fine, old-fashioned, self-contained horror, complete with a hell of a final twist that could leave you with emotional whiplash. Brilliantly spooky, atmospherically creepy and constantly unnerving, it’s the harrowing tale of little girl plagued by a nightmare – and a medical affliction – that defines her entire life. Edgar Allan Poe dragged into the 21st century.

Read more: The Haunting of Hill House ending explained - everything you need to know after watching

5. Smart Power - The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, episode 9

While Elisabeth Moss gets deserved praise for her portrayal of Offred, an enslaved wet nurse in the feminist-crushing dystopia of Gilead, it was arguably Yvonne Strahovski who stole the second season as Serena. As the establishment wife who begins her own backroom rebellion, she reaches a turning point in Smart Power. On a goodwill tour of Canada with her husband, the Commander, things go very wrong when letters detailing the treatment of Gileadean ‘handmaidens’ are leaked to the public. The ensuing protest scenes are brutally powerful, and in some shots border on epic.

4. I Have a Thing about Bathrooms - Killing Eve season 1 episode 5

Basically, insert whichever episode of the criminally entertaining Killing Eve you prefer here. Every installment of this sassy, globetrotting cat-and-mouse pursuit between lunatic assassin Villanelle and super-sleuth Eve Polastri could have made this list, but other shows deserved some love too. So we’re singling out this episode, featuring that first great showdown between the arch rivals, with Villanelle breaking into Eve’s home and demanding dinner. “You should never tell a psychopath they're a psychopath. It upsets them,” she purrs. Sexual tension? You betcha.

3. Episode 3 - Bodyguard season 1, episode 3

The BBC’s intense political thriller was already causing a buzz by this point, but episode 3 confirmed the show’s status as a bona fide TV landmark. How? By killing off one its leads. Jaws hit floors when controversial British Home Security Julia Montague was blown to bits by a terrorist bomb. As she was played by the magnificent Keeley Hawes, we’d all assumed we were in for three more episodes of Montague shagging her security guy. Instead, the series was sent off along a very different path.

Read more: Bodyguard ending explained - everything you need to know if you're watching on Netflix

2. Teddy Perkins - Atlanta season 2, episode 6

Series creator/star Donald Glover was seemingly absent from most of this extraordinary episode of his rap-themed comedy drama. But it quickly became obvious that – although uncredited – he was playing the reclusive guest character Teddy Perkins from behind what looked like a white death mask (in what many have speculated was a parody of Michael Jackson). What begins as merely unsettling eventually develops into full-on horror, while subtly raising some uncomfortable questions about attitudes to race and the American dream.

1. Kiksuya - Westworld season 2, episode 8

Two thirds of the way through Westworld season 2 the ongoing, twisty-turny plot machinations seemingly came to a halt for an episode to make way for a touching standalone instalment that was almost Black Mirror-esque. It centred on Native American Ghost Nation chief Akecheta having an existential crisis as he realises there’s something seriously askew with his reality. Then, at the very end, there was a gut-wrenching twist that tied it all very much into the ongoing plot.

Read more: The Akecheta Westworld episode proves the show doesn't need twists to keep it entertaining... just new voices

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.