The end of 2022 brings with it the end of a truly stellar year for television, both new and returning shows. Each must-watch series has brought with it must-watch episodes, and we’ve compiled our 20 absolute favorites for you here.
The episodes on this list capture the versatile spread of TV this year, from lavish vampire masquerade balls to tense highway motorcycle chases. They will make you laugh, cry, and, in one case, potentially throw up.
Most importantly, they’ll suck you into a dizzying array of new worlds, including a horrifying sci-fi prison, a cramped restaurant kitchen, and a surprisingly musical high school reunion. The saying “there’s something for everyone” has never applied more.
Here, from newest episode to oldest, are the 20 best TV episodes of 2022.
1. Interview with the Vampire, Season 1, episode 7, “The Thing Lay Still”
Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC
All season long, this rascally and resplendent adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1976 novel has tantalized fans with graphic blood lust, sweeping queer romance, and surprising reinventions of some plot points. But the finale took liberties that had fans of The Vampire Chronicles drop-jawed in awe and thirsting for more.
Those who read the book might have had an idea of how bloodsucking siblings Claudia (Bailey Bass) and Louis (Jacob Anderson)’s conspiracy to kill their maker/tormentor Lestat (Sam Reid) might play out. (They might even have giggled at the opening callback to a familiar Beethoven tune that played a pivotal part in the 1994 movie version.) But showrunner Rolin Jones stunned us with a Mardi Gras coming-out party that surely would have thrilled Rice herself with its decadence and violence. Even as we know murder is afoot, we swoon as Louis and Lestat dance and kiss before the gawking Louisiana elite, then we relish as they rip them to shreds. But an unexpected visitor adds a breath-snatching new wrinkle to this sequence. Then, the intrepid interviewer (Eric Bogosian) grills Louis for key details he’s leaving out from that grisly night. Then, an even bigger reveal hits with three simple words, unmasking a pivotal character from the Chronicles and setting up a Season 2 that’s sure to be full of sensational surprises — and another twisted love story to obsess over. —Kristy Puchko, Film Editor
How to watch: Interview with the Vampire is now streaming on AMC+.
2. Andor, Season 1, episode 10, “One Way Out”
Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Andor‘s prison break is the single best sequence in the single best episode of the single best Star Wars show to date. With the jail on Narkina 5, Andor created its own chilling take on the prison industrial complex and how it fits into the mechanism of the Empire. After several episodes of seeing how this prison breaks its inmates, watching Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) galvanize Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) and his fellow prisoners into an escape attempt is a payoff that is nothing short of electrifying.
And as if that weren’t enough, “One Way Out” gives us two phenomenal speeches. There’s Kino Loy’s call to action; broadcast through the prison, it’s a searing indictment of the Empire’s fascism. Then there’s Luthen Rael’s (Stellan Skarsgård) heartbreaking list of everything he has sacrificed for the rebellion. He may have made his mind a sunless space, but he also gave us a show-stopping monologue in an already show-stopping hour of television. Truly, this is the episode of Andor that ruined other Star Wars shows for me, because this is the caliber I’ll be hoping for from now on. —Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Andor is now streaming on Disney+.
3. House of the Dragon, Season 1, episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides”
Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO
Picking a favourite House of the Dragon episode is like picking a favourite dragon. They’re all awesome, so where do you even start? You’ve got the tension of Daemon’s episode 3 battle with the Crabfeeder, the shock of yet another Westerosi wedding going bad in episode 5, and the game-changing dragon-chase gone wrong in the finale. All worthy contenders. We went with episode 8 in the end, though, because it’s got a little bit of everything.
“The Lord of the Tides” sees Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) journeying to King’s Landing for what can only be described as the world’s worst family reunion. There’s the suspense of watching the Greens thwarted by a last-minute arrival from King Viserys (Paddy Considine), the dinner-time tension that includes a seriously diabolical toast from the ever-dramatic Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), and the final, poignant scene between Viserys and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) as the king lays dying in his bed (a scene that ultimately has dire consequences for the fate of the entire realm). Truly House of the Dragon at its best. —Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor
How to watch: House of the Dragon is now streaming on HBO Max.
4. The Midnight Club, Season 1, episode 6, “Witch”
Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix
Based on Christopher Pike’s beloved YA books, The Midnight Club is a deeply moving teen drama that frankly addresses illness and mortality. Mike Flanagan’s series explores the lengths to which people will go to combat illness, including turning to more spiritual means and appealing to a higher power.
Though “Witch” spends the majority of its runtime on Kevin’s serial killer story, “The Wicked Heart,” the members of the Midnight Club are also faced with the very real possibility of losing one of their own. Anya (Ruth Codd) is the longest-residing Brightcliffe resident, and her health is deteriorating amid sightings of a shadowy figure. So the group decides to hold an ancient ritual to attempt to stave away the impending darkness.
At the very end of the episode, in one of the series’ most moving scenes, each has their moment of outpouring love through a “sacrifice” they’ve brought, their most treasured objects revealing their most vulnerable selves. The Midnight Club‘s talented cast truly delivers here. Throughout the series, through Codd’s impeccable performance, Anya has been a complicated nihilist, cold and judgmental with gallows humor aplenty and emotional walls sky high. But in this moment of true love, she’s finally able to admit her feelings of fear, which makes her character all the more powerful — and the next episode all the more devastating. —Shannon Connellan, UK Editor
How to watch: The Midnight Club is now streaming on Netflix.
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1, episode 6, “Udûn”
Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video
“Udûn,” the sixth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, is sure to scratch any itch you may have for an epic fantasy battle. Plot-wise, it’s the rewarding culmination of many storylines in the show’s first season, from Galadriel’s time spent in Númenor to the Southlanders’ struggles against Adar and his army of orcs. But what really tips “Udûn” over the edge is its sheer grandeur. Nothing else on television this year could top it in terms of scale and spectacle. We get Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) single-handedly destroying a tower full of orcs, the villagers of Tirharad bonding together to fight back the darkness, and the Númenorean army charging into combat on horseback in a moment that calls to mind the Ride of the Rohirrim.
Perhaps the most exciting is the episode’s end. Our heroes believe they have won. But a simple deception sets Adar’s plan in motion, detonating the mountain Orodruin (aka Mount Doom) and creating the desolate wasteland known as Mordor. It’s a bold adaptation choice, yet it pays off with an exciting promise of things to come. The cherry on top is the image of a lone Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) enveloped by volcanic ash: an unforgettable end to an unforgettable episode. —B.E.
How to watch: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now streaming on Prime Video.
6. What We Do in the Shadows, Season 4, episode 8, “Go Flip Yourself”
Credit: Russ Martin/FX
What We Do in the Shadows had another spectacular season, jam-packed with bisexual chaos, tender familial moments, and insanely good Haute Goth fashion. It’s hard to pick just one episode, but “Go Flip Yourself!” and its clever send-up of HGTV shows for a one-off about renovating the vampires’ crumbling Staten Island manse is on par with all-timers like “On the Run.”
It’s no coincidence that both episodes feature Matt Berry’s Laszlo aping human conventions; in the former, he is pretending to be a human bartender named Jackie Daytona. This time around, he’s slowly morphing into a plaid-wearing reno-bro to fit in with his reality TV heroes Toby (Jason Sklar) and Bran (Randy Sklar), clear stand-ins for Property Brother hunks Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott.
Written by SNL‘s Marika Sawyer and directed by Yana Gorskaya (who also helmed “On the Run”), “Go Flip Yourself” is a perfect encapsulation of all the things I love most about this show. But really, this is just an excuse to write about Matt Berry’s pronunciation of “New York City.” In a career full of absurd and delicious line readings, this may be his best to date. I would watch endless outtakes of Berry riffing on this line. I would fall asleep with it in my ears. If there were a way to signify how it sounds in pictographs, I would tattoo those pictographs on my body. —Jenni Miller, Freelance Contributor
How to watch: What We Do in the Shadows is now streaming on Hulu.
7. Westworld, Season 4, episode 4, “Generation Loss”
Credit: John Johnson/HBO
Westworld was tragically canceled after its twisty fourth season, but its fourth episode, “Generation Loss,” proved a reminder of just how fun — and mind-blowing — this show is at its best.
By now, Westworld viewers are no strangers to plot twists and multiple timelines. However, the third act of “Generation Loss” kicks the season into high gear, with the reveal that (spoiler!) Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) now controls humanity through her virus, and Caleb (Aaron Paul) died in their confrontation at the Golden Age park — 23 years ago.
Now a host, Caleb has to process the fact that his family is likely dead, and that he’s alone. It’s a devastating punch to the gut, made slightly better by the badass revelation that the presumed dead Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) was the weapon Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) has been searching for all along. A double whammy of emotional distress and elation at seeing the resurrection of a fan-favorite character? That’s great Westworld right there. Honestly, great TV in general. —B.E.
How to watch: Westworld is now streaming on HBO Max.
8. The Bear Season 1, episode 7, “Review”
Is “Review” the most stressful episode out of The Bear? Yes, yes it is. But is it also the best episode? Absolutely. The one-shot take of a day gone horribly wrong at The Original Beef of Chicagoland starts out with an awkward restaurant review and ends with a stabbing.
See, Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) accidentally left the shop’s new to-go feature on overnight, accumulating hundreds of orders — 78 slices of chocolate cake, 99 french fries, 54 chickens, 38 salads, and 255 beef sandwiches, to be exact — all due up in eight minutes. Throw in a Sharpie that isn’t working, a surprise bring-your-kid-to-work day thanks to Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), and two employees abruptly quitting amidst the chaos, and you have just about the worst day possible.
The episode is a suffocating, clustered mess of a morning gone feral, akin to the tension of a Die Hard bomb heist, and it encapsulates why The Bear is so good. It’s the show’s unique ability to lure you in and have you genuinely invested in the lives, and recipes, of a Chicago deli shop that truly makes it shine. “Review” is the juicy bell pepper on top of The Bear’s perfect Italian beef. —Yasmeen Hamadeh, Entertainment Intern
How to watch: The Bear is now streaming on Hulu.
9. Barry Season 3, episode 6, “710N”
Credit: Courtesy of HBO
It’s hard to know if “710N” would even exist without the unforgettable second season “bottle” episode about a martial arts pro and his uncannily skilled kid daughter. But the two half-hour slices of story sure feel like they’re spiritually linked.
Forget about the subplots. Bill Hader’s Barry Berkman carries this one, along with a gang of gun-toting motocross pros who are out for revenge. There’s not a whole lot of talking in “710N,” just a lot of gorgeous cinematography and the kind of editing that pushes viewers right to the edge of their seats. There’s plenty of magic in Barry‘s characters, but it’s also one of the most thoughtfully and consciously cinematic shows on HBO’s roster. — Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Barry is now streaming on HBO Max.
10. Stranger Things Season 4, episode 4, “Dear Billy”
Is “Dear Billy” the best Stranger Things episode ever? Quite possibly! It’s certainly the best episode of Stranger Things 4, and it’s all thanks to a gut-wrenching storyline centering Max (Sadie Sink). Max’s grief over losing her brother Billy makes her the next target of Vecna, the Upside Down’s newest bad guy. We spend much of the episode worried that we’ll lose her for good.
“Dear Billy” not only delivers the sadness of Max saying farewell to her loves ones, but also a chilling Silence of the Lambs homage that sees Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Robin (Maya Hawke) visit Victor Creel (Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund). What they learn leads to Stranger Things‘s most moving (and most epic) sequence yet, involving Max’s memories of her friends, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” and Sink giving it her all. I’m still emotional thinking about it! That’s the power of a good episode (and a good song). — B.E.
How to watch: Stranger Things 4 is now streaming on Netflix.
11. Better Call Saul, Season 6, episode 7, “Plan and Execution”
Credit: Greg Lewis / AMC / Sony Pictures Television
Halfway through Better Call Saul‘s sixth and final season circumstances have never been grimmer for our favorite Albuquerque lawyers. The Breaking Bad prequel’s farewell season was sure to be a wild ride, but nothing could have prepared me for the depths of darkness its mid-season finale, “Plan and Execution,” unleashes.
Between the opening shot of Lalo (Tony Dalton) emerging from a manhole in the dead of night and the closing shot of his depraved, deadly grin, I internally praised and cursed this brilliant, ruthless show more times than I can count. The episode delivered stunning performances from the entire cast, leaves viewers with loads of uncertainty and another major casualty, and masterfully set up the series’ most heartbreaking cliffhanger yet. — Nicole Gallucci, Senior Editor
How to watch: Better Call Saul is now streaming on AMC Plus.
12. This Is Us Season 6, episode 17, “The Train”
Credit: Ron Batzdorff / NBC
While the This Is Us series finale was a genuinely satisfying goodbye, Season 6’s penultimate episode was undoubtedly the standout. “The Train” bid farewell to the Pearson matriarch, Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore. And before the episode aired Moore revealed that she actually threw up after reading the script. After watching, we totally get why.
In addition to ushering in the end of an era and showing a merciless string of emotional scenes, “The Train” features one of the most uniquely beautiful and deeply poignant on-screen depictions of transitioning from life to death. I almost threw up 26 times while watching. I’m fine! — N.G.
How to watch: This Is Us is now streaming on Hulu.
13. Severance Season 1, episode 9, “The We We Are”
Credit: Apple TV+
Apple TV+’s mysterious workplace thriller Severance debuted one of the most compelling first seasons in TV history. But the ninth and final episode of Season 1, “The We We Are,” dialed the show’s suspense, intrigue, and meticulously crafted tension up to 11.
Fans finally got to see some of their favorite Innies in the outside world, and performances from the entire cast — especially Adam Scott (Mark), Britt Lower (Helly), John Turturro (Irving), and Patricia Arquette (Harmony) — were masterful. The episode featured stunning cinematography, a stressful score, and constantly shifting storylines that led to a major cliffhanger — and left fans with a slew of new questions. I can’t remember the last time I compulsively paused to check how much time was left in an episode or screamed at my screen, and I anxiously await Season 2. — N.G.
How to watch: Severance is now streaming on Apple TV+.
14. Pachinko Season 1, episode 4, “Chapter Four”
Credit: Apple TV+
Based on Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel, Pachinko unfolds the entrancing multi-generational saga of a Korean family who emigrated from their homeland to Japan, facing extreme poverty, overt racism, and political upheavals along the way. The first season centers on matriarch Kim Sunja, following her through her youth, adulthood, and old age. Yet it is her grandson Solomon (Jin Ha) who steals focus in “Chapter Four,” in part because he seems to hit his climax at the halfway mark of Season 1.
Growing up in a very different world than his grandmother (Youn Yuh-jung) did, Solomon carries immense privilege and generational insensitivities behind his cocky grin. After trying to opportunistically use Sunja as a bargaining chip in a big real estate gambit, the hot-shot businessman is faced with a make-or-break moment in his career, and remarkably, he chooses break. This defining — and personally devastating moment — sends him running from his office building, shedding his tie and suit jacket, rushing into the rain and then the embrace of buskers covering a song from The Cure. Much like the enchanting opening title sequence that blends despair and defiant delight, this moment is soul-shakingly profound. And it’s just the beginning of Solomon’s story. —K.P.
How to watch: Pachinko is now streaming on Apple TV+.
15. Abbott Elementary Season 1, episode 11, “Desking”
Credit: ABC/Temma Hankin
There are so many great episodes of Quinta Brunson’s phenomenal Abbott Elementary that it’s hard to choose our favorite. That being said, we’re going to give the gold star to “Desking.” It’s a delightful whodunnit that sees the teachers of Abbott band together to find out who’s responsible for bringing the viral “desking” trend to school.
Between meeting Jacob’s (Chris Perfetti) boyfriend and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) getting some sound life advice, this is an episode that expands and deepens the characters we’ve grown to know and love. What takes it over the edge is Barbara’s (Sheryl Lee Ralph) glorious delivery of the line, “Sweet baby Jesus and the grown one too, my desks have been desked!” Clearly, the Emmys took note! — B.E.
How to watch: Abbott Elementary is now streaming on Hulu.
16. Atlanta Season 3, episode 1, “Three Slaps”
Credit: Guy D’Alema/FX
Atlanta returned after four years with a Season 3 premiere that felt like reconnecting with an old friend. A lot has changed in the real world since we last left Earn and Paper Boi, but creator Donald Glover immerses us back into the show’s world like no time has passed at all. In a demonstration of fearlessness, the premiere, titled “Three Slaps,” doesn’t even involve any of the main characters. Instead, it takes viewers down a reality-bending journey, straddling fiction and non-fiction. From start to finish, the bottle episode leans into what critics are calling the new age of Black surrealism or the renaissance of Afro-surrealism in entertainment.
The opening scene begins with a dream-like vignette that tells the ultimate American ghost story: how our souls are collectively haunted by a buried legacy of white supremacy. Then we meet the main protagonist, Loquareeous (Christopher Farrar), a young Black boy whose story is clearly inspired by the IRL true crime case of the Hart family. We won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that Atlanta‘s approach to true crime reclaims much of the genre’s worst blind spots. Namely, it provides much-needed counter-programming to its obsession with dead white ladies. By re-centering the Black kids victimized by two “progressive” white women’s savior complex (which also often fuels the true-crime craze), the show sheds light on how Karens can be some of the worst perpetrators of social violence. Like the best of Atlanta, it holds up a funhouse mirror to reflect American society, revealing the harsh but true reality of who we really are. — Jess Joho, Culture Reporter
How to watch: Atlanta is now streaming on Hulu.
17. Our Flag Means Death Season 1, episode 5, “The Best Revenge is Dressing Well”
Credit: Aaron Epstein/HBO Max
At first glance, David Jenkins and Taika Waititi’s Our Flag Means Death appeared to be a tender and silly comedy about woefully unequipped pirate captain Stede Bonnet and his misfit crew — but first glances are often deceiving.
After a few episodes of seaworthy shenanigans, Stede crosses paths with the dread pirate Blackbeard and…takes him to a dinner party. A fancy dinner party. What follows is a compressed comedy of manners that contrasts the violent aggression of Blackbeard with the passive aggression of the upper crust. By the end of the episode, the envy and distant admiration that kept Stede and Blackbeard from viewing each other as real human beings have dissipated, leaving room for the two pirate captains to forge a new and beautiful relationship. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Our Flag Means Death is now streaming on HBO Max.
18. Euphoria Season 2, episode 5, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird”
Credit: Eddy Chen/HBO
Season 2 of Euphoria was a cultural juggernaut. Despite its many, many flaws, it inspired new memes and even hooked people who had never seen a single episode. In a season full of uneven storylines and frustrating writing, one episode stands out as an all-time series high. That episode is “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” Rue’s (Zendaya) nightmarish odyssey through drug withdrawal.
This is Euphoria at its best: focused, tightly paced, and genuinely terrifying. Zendaya continues to prove why she’s won two Emmy awards as Rue argues with her family, blows up Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) friendship, and hits rock bottom at a drug dealer’s house. If you’re going to watch any episode of Euphoria, make it this one. — B.E.
How to watch: Euphoria is now streaming on HBO Max.
19. The Afterparty Season 1, episode 3, “Yasper”
Credit: Apple TV+
It’s hard to pick just one stand-out episode of Apple TV+’s excellent and highly conceptual whodunit, The Afterparty. The finale is a winner because All Is Revealed, of course, but the unique format that ties the single-character focus in every episode to Hollywood genre conventions that reflect each star’s personality makes them all strong contenders in their own ways. Yet, “Yasper” still stands out.
The show’s third episode, devoted to Ben Schwartz’s fast-talking content creator is, fittingly, a musical. The Hamiltonian brilliance of “Two Shots” gets things off to a great start. But it’s Schwartz’s performance that stands out the most. His portrayal of the utterly self-obsessed Yasper is perfect, elevated even further by catchy melodies and a clue-ridden set design. The Afterparty‘s whodunit feels downright effortless by the time the season wraps up, but “Yasper” sells the premise better than any other episode that precedes or follows. — A.R.
How to watch: The Afterparty is now streaming on Apple TV+.
20. Station Eleven Season 1, episode 9, “Dr. Chaudhary”
Credit: Ian Watson/HBO Max
While this limited series delivered one of the most stunning and cathartic finales in recent memory, it wouldn’t have hit so hard without its elegiac and quietly brutal penultimate episode. Both viewers and Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) alike had been left wondering why her accidental apocalypse companion Jeevan (Himesh Patel) would leave her in a remote house alone in the middle of a savage winter, and in “Dr Chaudhary,” that story has its gaps filled in.
This episode was our best look at how what was left of humanity coped in the first year following the deadly pandemic that ended the world as we know it. A good portion is set in a makeshift birthing centre in an old big box store. There, the angry, aimless, and newly amputated Jeevan found himself apprenticed to one of the last doctors left alive and learning how to cultivate hope in himself and others. Himesh Patel anchors Jeevan’s entire journey with devastating understatement, emanating bitterness and fear and (eventually) calm, and he absolutely should have won that goddamn Emmy. —Caitlin Welsh, Australia Editor
How to watch: Station Eleven is now streaming on HBO Max.