This has been a tremendous year for TV drama with an oncoming rush of new dramas, including returning series such as Homeland, Breaking Bad, The Paradise, Call the Midwife, American Horror Story, Silent Witness, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, and new series such as Broadchurch, The Fall and Breathless. Broadchurch, Chris Chibnall’s stunning whodunit, especially captured the attention of the nation, with some groups of friends hosting ‘Broadchurch Parties’ where they all crowded round a big TV screen and placed bets just before the identity of the murderer was revealed. There have also been some stunning one-off dramas and (to use that ghastly American term) ‘mini-series’, with The Politician’s Husband, Lucan, The Great Train Robbery, The Thirteenth Tale (airing 30 December) and The Escape Artist as the big high points. So what were the best TV drama moments of 2013? Take a look below!
PLEASE NOTE: Of course, revealing the best moments of some series involves making plot details explicit. If a show crops up that you would prefer to remain unspoiled (particularly if you have the boxset on your Christmas list because some nasty so-and-so deleted it off your Sky planner when it was originally broadcast) you are advised to move on to the next and not look too closely!
Broadchurch (Series 1, Episode 6, ITV)
“It was Joe”
Olivia Colman is a great actor – she proved this in Paddy Considine’s 2011 film Tyrannosaur and series two of Jimmy McGovern’s drama Accused. Here she gives us another astonishing turn as DS Ellie Miller. The best moment of the series was not the revealing of the murderer (which everyone was waited for) but the scene where her colleague DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) tells her it was Joe, her husband. The disbelief, the shock, the realisation and the acceptance all pass over her face. Serious, adult, television doesn’t get better than this.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain (Series 13, Episode 5, ITV)
The Death of a Legend
After 25 years, the great David Suchet gave his final performance as Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. ITV aired five new films (of varying quality), but Curtain – the very first screen version of the final Poirot story – was excellent. Directed by Hettie Macdonald, the film was a cold and soul-searching affair, a million miles away from the cosy days of Poirot in his first outing in 1989 (the ‘U’-rated story The Adventure of the Clapham Cook). The moment where Poirot clasps at his rosary and asks God for forgiveness before passing away was superbly done, touchingly brought to life by both Suchet and Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings who finds Poirot’s body shortly after talking to him moments before.
The Fall (Series 1, Episode 4, BBC TWO)
The office suicide
As well as Broadchurch, the other landmark crime drama event of 2013 was BBC Two’s The Fall. Set in Belfast, the show sees an English police officer (Gillian Anderson) brought over to assess a previous investigation before being caught up in a series of grisly crimes committed by a grief counsellor (Jamie Dornan). There are loads of scenes one could highlight from this mesmerising piece of fiction, but the most striking is probably a scene that occurs on the side lines. Involving the suicide of a guilt-ridden and quietly terrified detective Rob Breedlove, brilliantly played by Michael McElhatton, who shoots himself whilst being questioned by his colleague (Stuart Graham) about a recent shooting. The scene, which is portrayed very realistically, with no music and in shaky cinema vérité, is incredibly powerful. Credit should also go to Graham (seen if the fourth still above) who gets his character’s shocked reaction pitch-perfect.
Game of Thrones (Series 3, Episode 9, Sky Atlantic)
The Red Wedding
The crescendo of violence that explodes during a particularly harrowing wedding celebration in HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones set social networking sites ablaze. The way a load of major characters were wiped out within minutes was staggering and the final gory shot left audiences silent with shock. The best part, however, comes before all the blood-spillage, when Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) realises what is about to happen but is powerless to stop it. With a palpable sense of dread she slowly pulls back the sleeve of Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, to find that he is wearing chainmail. Her futile attempts to warn her son Robb are painful to watch. By coincidence, this key moment also features The Fall’s Michael McElhatton as Bolton (how does he get all these amazing roles!), and it is the knowing look in his eye that is truly terrifying.
Homeland (Series 3, Episode 5, Channel 4)
Romeo and Juliet
Claire Danes, bless her. We all love her (at least, many do… I hope). But she is forever cursed by the ghost of Juliet in Baz Lurhman’s 1995 version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. So instead of avoid this, the writers of Homeland decided to be particularly clever/funny/sadistic (delete as applicable) and made a reference to it during a very tense exchange involving Danes’s ex-CIA agent doing some Pretty Serious Acting With Wide Eyes. When the other agent tries to convince her the disappearance of a teenage girl and her boyfriend is just a bit of fun “like Romeo and Juliet” she snaps at him “You do know how Romeo and Juliet ends, right? Not well!”
Downton Abbey (Series 4, Episode 6, ITV)
“Aren’t we the lucky ones”
This little scene, one which may have been overlooked by some, came when three heartbroken people, all mourning the death of a loved one, shared their happy memories of them. Helped along by John Lunn’s lush music score, the moment is both poignant at heartbreaking. As all three – Tom Branson, Lady Mary and Mrs Crawley –realise that though their loved ones have left them the experiences they shared with them live on, Lady Crawley says “Well, aren’t we the lucky ones!”. Of course some would say they are not lucky – far from it – but it’s this attempt to appreciate that they have experienced true love, even if it has been taken from them, that makes this scene rather special.
The Following (Series 1, Episode 3, Sky Atlantic)
The bloody and often frightening crime thriller starred Kevin Bacon on the hunt of an escaped murderer (James Purefoy) and his cult of violent followers was a real exercise in suspense. So it may come to a surprise to some that one of its best moments was actually something rather intimate rather than gory (though it did occur between two of the aforementioned violent cult members). Two apparently heterosexual young men have to live together and pretend to be a couple so as to gain the trust of someone in their apartment complex. And what happens when non-couples pretend to be in love (at least in Hollywood)? They fall in love. Well, perhaps not in love (complications, including girlfriends, ensue) but the scene where Paul and Jacob kiss on the sofa is well acted by Adan Canto and Nico Tortorella. Their passion is almost electric.
The Politician’s Husband (Episode 1, BBC TWO)
The Wife’s Betrayal
MP Aidan Hoynes (David Tennant) steps down as part of a planned bid for leadership, and describes his party’s views on immigration as too extreme for him. His wife (Emily Watson), also a politician, swiftly replaces him (with his support, believing she will back his reasons for quitting). However, during an interview on Newsnight, she is asked outright if she agrees with his reasons for resigning and she says she does not. The tension in this scene mostly comes from the look on Aidan’s face (proving, once again, what a versatile actor Tennant can be). And there is some blood, thanks to a wine class crushed out of anger.
Criminal Minds (Series 8, Episode 12, Sky Living)
The death of Maeve
Criminal Minds often packs an emotional punch, and does so in ways that you might not expect. Whether it makes you weep for the death of a serial killer, or leaves your heart in your throat as a father desperately searches for his young son after finding his wife dead, the cast and writing of the show has been utterly convincing through its eight season run. This year it was the opportunity for Matthew Grey Gubler, as Dr Spencer Reid, to show his impressive acting skills, as the first time he sees his long distance girlfriend is shortly followed by her death at the hands of her long time stalker, in a murder suicide. Michelle Trachtenberg is fantastic, and Gubler’s expressions say it all.
Words by Rebecca James.
Breaking Bad (Series 5, Episode 16, Netflix)
The final visit
The season finale of Breaking Bad was one of the most talked about moments in television history. This moment in the finale ‘Felina’ sends shivers down my spine; Walter White visits his wife Skylar for the last time. A sinister revealing of truths occurs and is superbly acted by Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn. We see Walt reveal the all important GPS coordinates for Hank’s burial site, but more importantly we see him confess that his actions have never been ‘for the family’ but instead all for himself: Walt says, calmly, ‘I did it all for me. I was good at it.’ We see Walter White complete his transformation into Heisenberg and this accumulates into one of the most chilling scenes in television history.
Words by Megan Downing.
Top of the Lake (Episode 5, BBC TWO)
The death of Jamie
The death of an innocent child, especially one trying to protect another innocent child, is tough subject-matter. The moment Jamie plunged to his death from the mountain is one viewers of Top of the Lake will probably never forget. This hauntingly beautifully and deeply affecting BBC drama from Jane Campion gave us many memorable moments, but the look on actor Elizabeth Moss’s face as she sees the body (who she believes to be that of a missing girl) fall from that great height is very powerful. Her distress at finding out the child’s identity is even more difficult to stomach and the scenes of grief from the boy’s mother that follow left viewers reeling.