Okay, so there wasn't a new season of Game of Thrones in 2018. But despite the lack of dragons and White Walkers, genre TV had a pretty amazing year.
Mythical polar bears hunted doomed British sailors in the Arctic, Jodie Whittaker's Doctor Who traveled through time with a fresh perspective and meet some real-life heroes, Daredevil's battles with Wilson Fisk (and his own Catholic guilt) reached new heights, and Westworld finally gave us some answers — along with a whole bunch of new questions.
With so much TV, it's difficult to choose which episodes stood out amidst all the binge-watches, but SYFY WIRE rounded up the best genre TV had to offer.
'The Queen,' Castle Rock
Sure, Stephen King can write a scary clown, but the true horrors in his works are the more grounded fears — alcoholism and being a bad father are more gutting terrors than The Shining's ghosts. So it's fitting that the best episode of the King-inspired Castle Rock harness another such fear: Alzheimer's. Sissy Spacek explores her past, present, and future thanks to her ailing mind in an episode that’s profoundly moving and strangely, sadly beautiful, behind the horror. — James Grebey
'Rosa,' Doctor Who
There were so very many ways that this episode could have gone wrong, but it soared. Writer Malorie Blackmon (with Chris Chibnall), guest star Vinette Robinson, and Jodie Whittaker had children all over the world asking about Rosa Parks after watching. If for no other reason than that, this was one of the strongest episodes of genre television in 2018.— Brian Silliman
'The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,' The X-Files
It unfurls like a deliciously bonkers B-movie fever dream as Mulder and Scully explore the false memory phenomenon of The Mandela Effect… sorry, I mean The Mengele Effect. Perfectly paralleling '50s era paranoia with the weirdness of current times, the episode mocks Mulder's entire conspiracy theory existence by bringing in a guy named Reggie (Brian Huskey), who is adamant that he's the duo's third partner they've forgotten. It's a laugh-out-loud funny installment with stellar comedic work by Duchovny and Anderson. — Tara Bennett
'Two Storms,' The Haunting of Hill House
At its heart, Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House is a horror story that explores family legacy. What sticks with us through the years? What do we inherit from our parents? What do we really remember of our childhoods? "Two Storms" acts as a sort of turning point for the series, seamlessly melding past and present. As children, the Crains spent a night at Hill House during a window-shattering storm. They briefly 'lost' their youngest sister Nell — a sort of warning for what was to come — and their mother officially started scaring their father.
In the present, the remaining members of the Crain family have gathered for Nell's funeral. As another storm whips about outside, the siblings tear into one another and their father with abandon, placing blame and teetering on the edge of a break. They drink and yell their way through a single-shot scene that is easily one of the best television moments of 2018. From this episode, the plot shoots forward, as tragedy after tragedy befalls them once again. — Caitlin Busch
'Blindsided,' Marvel's Daredevil
Daredevil has a 'single-shot' fight scene in every season, but Episode 4 of Season 3 is the most impressive yet. His prison escape looks brutal, and the way it drags on, the camera unflinchingly following his haggard battled in real time, makes the stakes feel real in a way that most Marvel properties just can't. Other things happen in the episode, yes, but the prison escape is so long, impressive, and plot-moving that it's more than enough to elevate "Blindsided" to best-of-season status. — J.G.
'Come Along With Me,' Adventure Time
The Adventure Time finale was a celebration of the entire series — wildly imaginative and madcap, but never random for the sake of randomness. Our last look at the Kingdom of Ooo was fittingly bizarre, but also heartfelt, bringing the stories of Jake the Dog, Finn the Human, and all their friends to an optimistic and kind end. Plus, It's hard to overstate how important Princess Bubblegum and Marceline's kiss was. Back when Adventure Time started, their relationship could only be vaguely hinted subtext, making "Come Along With Me" a celebration of how much times have changed in the real world. — J.G.
Westworld spent the better part of two seasons pondering the humanity of its synthetic hosts, often with murky results, and then "Kiksuya" came along like a heartbreaking thunderbolt. The story of the Ghost Nation warrior Akecheta's quest to reunite with his lost family, the episode is a stunning meditation on love and the persistence of memory, all wrapped up in a clever sci-fi premise and led by a haunting performance from Zahn McClarnon. — Matthew Jackson
'We Are Gone,' The Terror
After nine intense hours of watching the men of the doomed HMS Erebus and HMS Terror Arctic expedition die from the elements, the effects of botulism, cannibalism and an ever-lurking mystical creature, the fates of the last survivors all come down to this devastating finale. While there’s a dramatic climax involving the maniacal Hickey and the Tuunbaq, the most haunting moments come from the quiet resolutions of characters like Dr. Goodsir, Lady Silence, and even Captain Crozier as he sits silently on an ice flow. Their stories linger on in our minds long after the fade to black. — T.B.
'The Shame Wizard,' Big Mouth
In its second season, Big Mouth has delved even deeper into the American preteen’s hormone-soaked psyche. Season 2's best episode by far is "The Shame Wizard," the introduction to an all-important, rat-mustached creep voiced by David Thewlis. Every fantasy, every uncomfortable question, every step to becoming an adult is questioned by the Shame Wizard, who acts as a sort of societal check in the form of judge, jury, and executioner by way of public humiliation. That the Shame Wizard is introduced in the same episode that explores the "friend zone" pushes it over the top. — C.B.
Look, we could say Maniac's penultimate episode is great because of the emotional breakthroughs Annie and Owen have as they complete/free themselves from the study. But, even if your mileage may vary on how much Maniac's magical realism moves you, you can't deny this madcap adrenaline rush that’s Snorri's escape. Emma Stone makes a deadly secret agent and Jonah Hill is a delightful, delighted Icelandic alien-killer. It's the best single-shot action scene Cary Fukunaga has ever done, and yes we're aware of the competition. — J.G.