As our dear readers will already know, the good Drs at Abbey Research are firm advocates for learning and growing through art. Having discussed relevant social issues in two of the years biggest TV shows (Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale and HBO's Big Little Lies), we are often keen to take what personal and professional lessons we can from the shows we love to binge! With that in mind, I (Dr. Hinson) have comprised a list ('tis the season for year end listicles after all) of my top 10 tv episodes. These episodes are a mirror into issues facing us all, and therefore, I've drawn on some lessons from these shows that we can bring into our personal and professional lives moving into 2018!
Warning: SPOILERS AHOY - if you have yet to catch up on any of these shows, beware, I will be openly discussing what takes place and possibly referencing major spoilers.
1. "New York, I Love You" - Master of None (Netflix), Season 2, Episode 6. Aziz Ansari has produced some of the most poignant short stories on television throughout this series. From handling Indian-American stereotyping in acting, to the award-winning Thanksgiving episode, he frequently tackles difficult issues with grace and humor. "New York, I Love You" is an ode to the city and the diversity of people that inhabit it. The episode reminds us all that we don't know what is going on in other people's lives, and that everyone has a story to tell.
2. "Chapter V" - Dear White People (Netflix), Season 1, Episode 5. The show follows a group of black students who grapple with life on a college campus following a racist event. "Chapter V" (directed by Barry Jenkins of Moonlight fame) includes one of the most powerful scenes in television this year. Campus police are called to a party after a fight breaks out between two students. The students (one white and one black) are arguing over the singing of the n-word in a song. The police arrive and immediately draw their guns against the black student. What transpires is painful, frightening, and sad. The episode is a stark lesson about the power of fear and the importance of empathy.
3. "Sing It, White Effie" - Orange Is The New Black (Netflix), Season 5, Episode 5. Intersectionality in incarceration is not a popular topic, but statistically women, and women of color most especially, suffer starkly at the hands of the prison industrial complex. The central arc of Season 5 is a prison riot following the murder of a black inmate by a prison officer. In this episode, one of the main characters, Tasha "Tasty" Jefferson delivers an emotional speech about the necessity of the riot, arguing passionately that, "Our fight is with a system that don't give a damn about poor people, and brown people, and poor, brown people." This episode showed that telling your own truth takes bravery.
4. "To Right the Wrongs of Many" - Orphan Black (BBC America), Season 5, Episode 10. This show is worth watching for the performance of Tatiana Maslany if nothing else. She masterfully portrays upwards of 10 clones throughout the series, bringing to each woman great depth and humanity. Many things happen in the series finale, but the most poignant scene for fans is when the remaining "sisters" gather together at the end, to celebrate their victories. This episode taught us that there is strength in difference and finding your tribe is one of life's greatest joys and necessities.
5. "Late" - The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu), Season 1, Episode 3. Dr. Donnelly and I already featured the Golden Globe Nominated and Emmy Award Winning breakout show in a lengthly blog series (catch up here!), but for me the third episode was the most significant. Introduced to the dystopian society of Gilead in bits and pieces, it's the third installment where we see through flashbacks how American society descended into a coup that created the restrictive new world. Offred's narration of “Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen" prompted us to consider what we are asleep to in our lives and how we can be more "awake" to our world.
6. "The Dragon and the Wolf" - Game of Thrones (HBO), Season 7, Episode 7. Perhaps one of the most anticipated episode of television this year, the finale for season 7 of HBO's big budget success did not disappoint. Riddled with themes of family, revenge, power, deceit, betrayal, manipulation and a handful of other delightful topics, for me, the best part of the episode was witnessing the Stark siblings unite to defeat a longtime enemy. When Arya, Sansa, and even Bran came together to expose the meddling Lord Baelish, many GOT fans rejoiced. In this episode we learned that you shouldn't underestimate the bonds of family.
7. "Chapter 9: The Gate" - Stranger Things (Netflix), Season 2, Episode 9. Banking on the high-level of nostalgia as a major selling point, the pop sensation is known for it's dynamic cast and gripping plot lines. Relying heavily on the main theme of good versus evil (with both everyday and extraordinary examples), the show's second season finale converges several story lines, and wraps up an eventful Autumn in Hawkins, Indiana. As the main characters unite once again to fight the bigger evil from the Upside Down, this episode reminded us that we all need help to fight our battles, and it's often through community that we are victorious.
8. "You Get What You Need" - Big Little Lies (HBO), Season 1, Episode 7. This year, Dr. Donnelly and I discussed the central themes of HBO's award winning adaptation of Liane Moriarty's bestseller. In the series finale we finally find out who dies, who raped Jane, and what happened to the 5 women who's lives are most impacted. In a year full of headlines about assault, harassment, and #metoo, this episode shows us the pervasiveness of this problem and that strength can be found in uniting women's voices, and believing them.
9. "Faith, Hope, and Charity" - Victoria (PBS), Season 2, Episode 6. Technically this episode hasn't yet aired in America, airing in the UK on ITV this autumn. Continuing our pop culture fascination with the British royals, the series follows the life of Queen Victoria and the modernization of Britain. One of the most controversial and acclaimed episodes was "Faith, Hope, and Charity" which dealt with the crown and parliament's contradictory reaction to the Great Irish Famine (1845-52). Billed as the greatest disaster in modern British history (prior to the First World War), the failure of the potato crop and the inaction by the British government resulted in the death of 1 million Irish and the further immigration of 1 million more. The reaction of the British public to the episode, most of whom admitted to ignorance on the topic, reminded us of the importance of knowing our history and context.
10. "Tape 6, Side A" - 13 Reasons Why (Netflix), Season 1, Episode 11. The show was featured in our Pop Culture Spotlight earlier this year, covering multiple narratives, smart devices, and rape culture. As the main protagonist, Clay Jensen, listens to all the tapes left by Hannah Baker detailing the reasons for her suicide, we gain insights into the impact of bullying, isolation, and assault. This episode is heartbreaking, because it's Clay's tape, detailing how Hannah perceived his shyness, insecurity, and inaction as complictness. This episode showed us how, even unknowingly, we can impact people's lives and decisions, and that we all struggle with our own demons.
That concludes my list of 10 best tv episodes! We certainly feel that these lessons can be applied to our lives at home or at the office. Is there an issue you're facing where context or background would help with clarity? How can you build a 'community' of support with your employees? Do you provide an empathetic and inclusive space for your staff? If you're struggling with any of these issues, please contact us and we'd be happy to help!