20 Best TV Moments of 2013 - Rolling Stone
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20 Best TV Moments of 2013

Red Weddings, Sex ed. in the 1950s, bitchy veeps, Russian sleeper agents and Bret Michaels’ RV makeovers ruled the small screen

What a year for TV – so many moments of audacious creativity, from groundbreaking dramas like Game of Thrones to that VH1 flick about TLC. From the Red Wedding to "Red Light Special," these were the greatest TV moments of 2013: Russian spies, New Orleans witches, bloody swords, sex doctors, prison, politics, Stephen Colbert getting lucky and Walter White saying goodnight.

By Rob Sheffield

Masters of Sex Lizzy Caplan

Patrick Wymore/SHOWTIME

4

Lizzy Caplan Plays Doctor

Masters of Sex, Showtime

Remember when Lizzy Caplan was the struggling actress on Party Down, ranting, "I'm not mom material, man! I'm an acerbic twentysomething! The funny but fuckable waitress!" Well, look at her now. Masters of Sex is easily the year's best new show, with Caplan and Michael Sheen digging deep into the heart of American sexual repression. No matter how hard they try, they can't keep their hearts in check – especially in the pivotal scene where he officially promotes her to research assistant and she officially takes her top off.

Mad Men

Jamie Trueblood/AMC

3

Don Draper Hits Rock Bottom

Mad Men, AMC

Mad Men's darkest season had its ups and downs – Sterling Cooper's merger with the rival ad firm of Tedious & Turtleneck was a dramatic void that threatened to swallow the rest of the story. But the season ended with a flurry of great episodes, as Don Draper trashed his career as well as his marriage. The final scene was a real heartbreaker: Don hits the road to show his teenage daughter the whorehouse where he grew up. They stand there on a street corner in Pennsylvania, looking like a couple of lost kids, to the sound of "Both Sides Now." She lifts an eyebrow at this dad she hardly recognizes. He wonders if she's as doomed as he is. Neither says a word. What an unforgettable moment.

Breaking Bad

Ursula Coyote/AMC

2

Walter White’s Endgame

Breaking Bad, AMC

It's all over now, Baby Blue. Breaking Bad gave Walter White a bang-up farewell tour, as the desert-noir meth king battled with the Nazis, the cops, and his own poison conscience. The final season had week-to-week suspense, from his Skyler phone call to the awesomely cartoonish shoot-outs. (Hey, Walt gets out of a jam by inventing the Car That Shoots People! All other scientists now look like lazy-ass punks.) The scene that hit hardest: Walt holes up in his New Hampshire cabin hideout, surrounded by miles of ice and snow, begging Robert Forster to sit and keep him company. He offers ten thousand dollars for a couple of hours of playing cards. Forster talks him down to one hour. For Walter White, this is what his whole criminal empire comes down to – hiring a fellow crook to make him feel like a regular guy for a few minutes.

Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan/HBO

1

The Red Wedding

Game of Thrones, HBO

Damn – they could have just sent a crockpot or something. The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones had to be the year's most intense TV "wait no this can't be happening" shocker, pitched somewhere between The Wild Bunch and the "November Rain" video. On the spectrum of emotional torment, it made Ned Stark's beheading look like Liz Lemon's wedding. Fans who'd read the novels thought they knew what was coming, but they got sucker-punched along with the rest of us. Talk about the wedding bell blues.

All season long – and in case you missed it, beware spoilers ahead – Thrones kept throwing in weird glimmers of old-school heroism. Like Daenarys busting out a few words of Valyrian, or Jaime jumping into the bear pit to stand by his woman. (A very Anchorman thing to do.) But man, that Red Wedding.

The brilliant part was how the moment captured the authentic boredom of a wedding, when dinner's over and everyone sits around itching to leave. Then you notice the band is playing the wrong song – hey, isn't that "The Rains of Castamere"? And the dullard you got stuck next to at dinner – why is he wearing armor? Then it all starts to go wrong. Oh, it goes so wrong. A monster climax from a monster season. The North will never forget. Neither will we.

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