Many shows can’t pull off a solid finale. However, when it comes to penultimate episodes, as in the episode that precedes the finale, there have been some superb ones.
Here are my top 10 penultimate episodes (of about the past ten years, because I'm not going to try to remember the 90s).
10. LOST – Episode 3.21, Greatest Hits: This was all about confronting realities and accepting the inevitable. It was done to perfection, allowing characters to shine above the plot. Deeply emotional on all levels. Technically this was the third to last episode but the season finale was shown as a 2-hour event.
9. GAME OF THRONES – Episode 2.09, Blackwater: This show will probably go down as delivering the most epic penultimate episodes. This one gave us the drama and action of a big budget movie. Originally I put this higher on my list but then I watched the other episodes and realized it belonged right here.
8. MAD MEN – Episode 5.12, Commissions and Fees: Many people have argued and will likely argue for many more years about the quality of the fifth season but there is no denying that its penultimate episode was one of the show’s best.
7. COMMUNITY – Episode 2.23, A Fistful of Paintballs: The first part of a fun finale set. It was thematically different from the second part and arguably better than the finale.
6. FRINGE – Episode 2.22, Over There (part 1): This episode started a frantic ball rolling that would lead the show headfirst into its third (and my favorite) season.
5. CHUCK – Episode 2.21, Chuck vs. the Colonel: Not just a great episode but arguably the best episode the show ever pulled off in its 5-season run. It has everything that made this show beloved: heart, romance, action, family, drama, and comedy.
4. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – Episode 1.12, Kobol's Last Gleaming (part 1): This show had some amazing episodes but only one penultimate makes this list. Part 2 would probably make a top 10 list of finale episodes.
3. GAME OF THRONES – Episode 1.09, Baelor: For those who hadn’t read the books, this sent shock-waves throughout the galaxy. It was one of the most surprising turn of events in television history. That is until…
1. GAME OF THRONES – Episode 3.09, The Rains of Castamere: I am going out cheap and declaring a tie for first. Book fans knew what was coming. Non-book fans did not. Both were equally blown away. After 20 episodes of waiting, we finally received the payoff to "Baelor". And yes, this show gets 3 episodes on the list... by earning it!
1. THE WIRE – Episode 5.09, Late Editions: One of the show’s best with various plot points reaching their emotional apex. If Emmy voters had actually bothered to watch this show while it was on the air, this episode would have resulted in a clean sweep of the awards. The Emmy’s need a new category: shows we were too stupid to realize were incredible until off the air.
Don't like my list? Make your own in the comments section below.
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