The 18 Biggest Sci-Fi TV Moments of 2014
Science fiction had a great year on television, from well-written superhero shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, and The Flash, NFL destroyers like The Walking Dead, and straight-up prestige projects like HBO's The Leftovers. But 2014 wasn't just a year of good sci-fi television, it was a year of *big* sci-fi television, with tentpoles and newcomers alike perfecting the art of being "that show everyone is talking about the next day." Here are the craziest, buzziest, most shocking, and most evocative moments of sci-fi television in 2014.
Spoilers from The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash, Arrow, American Horror Story: Freak Show, Star Wars: Rebels, The Leftovers, Gotham, Orphan Black, The 100, Outlander, and Doctor Who follow!
18. The Flash Surprises Everyone
We were all incredibly excited for premiere of The Flash, and we were fairly certain it would be a hit, but we had no idea it would turn out to be a record breaker. When Barry Allen and Co. burst onto The CW in October, more than 4.5 million people tuned in to watch, with a further 2 million watching it at a later date. That made The Flash the biggest ever debut for a CW show and its ratings have continued to be remarkably strong, consistently outperforming the show it was borne out of, Arrow.
17. Star Wars Rebels Debuts
If The Flash exceeded everybody's expectations, it's safe to say that another highly-anticipated debut, Star Wars Rebels, was something of a disappointment. The hour-long special, entitled Spark of Rebellion, was actually incredibly entertaining. The fact that this was clearly an original trilogy show with all the sounds, uniforms and weapons that we associate with George Lucas's original creation was exciting for Star Wars fans after an exhaustive exploration of prequel trilogy canon. But once we calmed down and the series got into its regular slot, it all felt completely underwhelming. Ezra's slingshot, the bickering between Chopper and Zeb, and a total lack of direction all combined for an excruciating first few episodes. With that being said, there is hope for this show yet. Recent episodes such as Empire Day and Gathering Forces have been far stronger outings, showcasing more of what makes Star Wars a fascinating universe and delving a little deeper into the backstories of the show's protagonists. Sure, you may be disappointed, but don't write this show off yet.
16. Penguin becomes Gotham's breakout character
Penguin himself is really the "event" from Gotham, as the character and Robin Lord Taylor's portrayal have been widely acclaimed by critics and fans alike, probably the only thing about Gotham that has gotten an unqualified thumbs up. Gotham has a long way to go before it can be considered a great show, but Penguin's wonderfully ruthless ascent to power might be the only plotline that doesn't really need any work.
15. Flipper sex - American Horror Story: Freak Show
American Horror Story is known for its violence, but often its most unsettling moments involve sexuality. The "flipper sex" scene in the premiere immediately springs to mind, in which Evan Peters's character services sexually repressed young women with his webbed hand for money. It was not only a disturbing, socially loaded concept, but was also surprisingly graphic for network television.
14. Clarke wakes up in Mount Weather - The 100
There were several cliffhangers in the first season finale of The 100, but the final and craziest had to be Clarke waking up in a mysterious medical facility that we now know to be the ominous Mount Weather. Even for a show that is known for resisting any kind of status quo in the best possible way, this twist that led to a complete setting and tonal shift for season two was mind-blowing.
13. Gladys is stoned to death - The Leftovers
While Gladys as a character was not particularly important to the audience, her death had reverberating consequences for the plot of the first season, not to mention that her death sequence itself was easily the most disturbing thing to happen on an already unsettling show. Watching her be mercilessly stoned to death while she tried (and ultimately failed) to remain silent was completely horrifying, and the later revelation that the GR had likely orchestrated her death demonstrated to the audience exactly what the radicalized cult is capable of.
12. Everyone dies - American Horror Story: Freak Show
Not literally everyone, but almost. First Meep the Geek. Then Twisty. Then Dora. Then poor Matt Bomer. Then Ma Petite. Then Kathy Bates. Then Frances Conroy. Then Gabourey Sidibe. They're dropping like flies so quickly that it's difficult to keep track.
11. Tainted meat! - The Walking Dead
[Credit: Professional Fangirls]
It was a close call between this scene and the Terminus slaughter over a trough in the bloody season premiere, but tainted meat caused more of a storm among fans. First, Bob is knocked out by the Termites and wakes up to find them dining on his leg. Then, he tells them gleefully that he was bitten by a walker, so they're eating TAINTED MEAT. Then, of course, the Termites were killed approximately two minutes later, so nothing ever came of that, but it was still one of the most memorable moments on a show that excels at giving people something to talk about the next day.
10. Ward is a traitor - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The evolution of Grant Ward on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was one of the most intriguing plot points of the show's topsy turvy first season. A character who started out looking as though he would be just another network TV spy, Ward eventually became one of the show's most pivotal and complex characters. In 'Turn, Turn, Turn', it was revealed - in dramatic fashion - that Ward was a Hydra spy who, along with his mentor, Agent Garrett, has conspired to help bring down S.H.I.E.L.D. from within. From there on in, Ward's deadly abilities became fully apparent and we're still seeing his impact throughout Season 2.
9. Jamie and Claire's wedding - Outlander
Fans of the books had been anticipating Jamie and Claire's wedding - and their struggle to consummate their marriage- since the show began. Although the two are clearly love interests, they were only marrying in order to protect Claire from the nefarious Black Jack Randall, but they were still required to consummate. Critics, particularly those with a feminist lens, praised the handling of the episode, particularly the dynamic between the experienced Claire and the virginal Jamie, as well as the refreshing realism of the sex scenes.
8. "Just look at the flowers" - The Walking Dead
This topped our ranking of all the deaths on The Walking Dead, and with good reason, because it was brutal. First, Carol finds little Lizzie standing over her younger sister's dead body with a bloody knife, right before she tries to kill baby Judith. Carol tries to convince herself that Lizzie can be saved, but ultimately decides that the emotionally unstable little girl can't be expected to survive the zombie apocalypse. So she tells Lizzie to "just look at the flowers" and then shoots her in the head, execution-style. It was shocking, emotionally devastating, and daring, even for a series as violent as this one.
7. Patti kills herself - The Leftovers
Most of the performances were top-notch on last summer's The Leftovers, but aside from Carrie Coon and maybe Justin Theroux, Ann Dowd's performance as Patti was probably the critical and fan favorite. Which made it all the more shocking when she slit her own throat, leaving the GR without a leader and Theroux's Kevin, who supposedly kidnapped her, responsible for covering up her death.
6. Mockingbird Joins Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
We've written a lot about the many ups and downs of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was the subject of much fan vitriol throughout its first season, but by the time 'Turn, Turn, Turn' came around (see earlier entry), the show had begun to transform itself from run of the mill spy show, to must-watch sci-fi action TV. That transformation has been accelerated with the introduction of new cast members for season 2, but no one has done more for this cause that Adrianne Palicki's Mockingbird. Palicki dominates every shot she is in and her physicality has enabled the show to create some of the best actions scenes we've witnessed on a TV show in years. It also doesn't hurt that her turbulent relationship with Hunter has created one of the most endearing comic duos on the airwaves right now.
5. Missy is revealed as the Master - Doctor Who
Missy's identity was the primary mystery of this season of Doctor Who, and she was finally revealed to be the first female incarnation of the Doctor's archenemy, The Master, or the Mistress, Missy for short. A vocal minority was upset at the change in gender on the basis of a "canon violation" (even though this is a show about people who can reincarnate themselves in different bodies), but many were pleased about the development, and thought that Michelle Gomez's Mary Poppins from hell-type take on the character made for a perfect villain.
4. Male clones - Orphan Black
While we can't get enough of Tatiana Maslany's portrayal of what seems like a million clones on Orphan Black, the revelation that Project Castor had yielded male clones, including a character we already knew, was a great wrench to throw into the proceedings. And if this interview with director Graeme Manson is any indication, these clones will have mysterious shifting loyalties and will possibly even serve as the primary villain of season three.
3. Ra's al Ghul kills Oliver - Arrow
Killing your protagonist is probably the definition of a buzzy midseason finale. Arrow built to the revelation of Sara's killer all season, and then followed through on that promise, only to eclipse that revelation in the last few minutes of the episode, when classic DC Comics villain Ra's Al Ghul stabs him with a sword and kicks him off a cliff. Oliver is only human, so those would certainly seem to be fatal injuries. But still, this is third on the list because we all know that Stephen Amell isn't leaving the show (he's been seen filming the rest of the season). But even though his death will likely only be temporary, this still carries long-term ramifications for the show, which was relatively grounded in realism once upon a time. Bringing Oliver back to life will complete the transformation that began when Arrow was situated in the same universe as Flash and the metahumans, and move the show squarely into sci-fi/fantasy territory.
2. Skye is Daisy Johnson - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was having trouble deciding what kind of show it wanted to be at one point, it's not anymore. Not only has this season established it as one of the most entertaining shows on television right now, its revelatory midseason finale firmly established it as a Marvel superhero origin story. Skye, a character that the writers haven't always known what to do with, has become arguably the most important character on the show, as she is Marvel superhero Daisy Johnson, as well as an Inhuman.
1. Beth dies - The Walking Dead
I wouldn't put this on a "best of" list, as Beth's death wasn't handled nearly as well as it could have been, but there's no denying that it made an impression on viewers. The shocking midseason finale saw Beth, who had only recently become well-developed and endeared to the fanbase, killed with a swift gunshot to the head as her friends and love interest(?) watched. Many fans were so disappointed by the character's demise, they created a petition to bring her back, which doesn't seem particularly practical, but has garnered over 50,000 signatures so far.