There were some truly great animated episodes of television this year. It was tough choosing only 15, but here are my choices for the best animated TV episodes of 2015.
15. “Vision Quest” (Archer)
It shows the strength of Archer‘s characters and the ability of the show’s staff to write dialogue that this episode simply throws all the characters in an elevator together and let’s things unfold between them until they descend into chaos. The result is incredibly funny. Even without a mission of the week, this episode packs in entertainment and never feels slow.
14. “Just Friends” (Regular Show)
This was a satisfying episode that explores the relationship between Mordecai and Margaret. It comes to the simple, obvious conclusion that the should just be honest with each other and seems what happens. It’s a nice, earnest little look at friendship and romance.
13. “Total Rickall” (Rick and Morty)
In this incredibly funny episode, a parasite enters the house that takes the form of different whacky characters that the main characters are convinced they’ve always known. This episode packs in so much from Jerry’s feelings for Sleepy Gary, to Rick’s inability to harm anyone named Pencilyvester, to the ending which is annoyingly devastating for something involving a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole.
12. “Make New Friends But Keep Discord” (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)
This is a funny, sweet episode that lets the relationship between Fluttershy and Discord shine. It was a standout episode that went back to the most important part of this show: exploring friendships and compassion.
11. “Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled” (Bob’s Burgers)
Bob’s Burgers stands out from other adult-aimed animated shows because of its big, pure heart. This episode has Bob in his element, showing off how the series protagonist tries to be generous and patient with people even as that spirit is tested. One of my favorite recurring themes on the show is how much Bob loves Thanksgiving despite it being terrible every year. It always rings true. This episode is a perfect look at family and obligation that ramps up the second-hand stress to great effect.
10. “Keystone Motel” (Steven Universe)
This is a brilliant look at relationships and family. Ruby and Sapphire’s fight is wonderfully even-handed. Greg’s attempts to keep everyone happy through the conflict are incredibly sweet.
9. “The Comet” (Adventure Time)
This is a thoughtful episode full of surprising turns. The climax of this episode highlights a fundamental difference between Finn and his father: Finn doesn’t want to give up on things while his father is always content to walk away. The striking difference gets to the heart of something real.
8. “Not What He Seems” (Gravity Falls)
This turning point in the series gives some major clues about what’s going on in Gravity Falls and puts Mabel to the test in one of the most tense sequences on TV this year. If any viewers didn’t care about the major mystery of the show before, this episode brings them in by striking an emotional chord and showing how all this matters to Dipper and Mabel.
7. “The Nice-capades” (Bob’s Burgers)
Louise often seems like an unflappable evil genius, but it’s always wonderful when we’re reminded that she is a young girl, who is capable of being naive and vulnerable. This episode is driven by her unquestioning belief in Santa. It’s an incredibly endearing episode and the ending where everyone assures Louise that she’s a good person is touching without being saccharine.
6. “Edie’s Wedding” (Archer)
It’s always fun when Archer really plays with the relationship dynamics. This episode centers on my personal favorite pair, Archer and Pam. Archer agrees to pretend to be Pam’s date to her sister’s wedding and we get to see how funny and sweet their friendship can be. In its sixth season, Archer is showing no signs of slowing down.
5. “A Rickle in Time” (Rick and Morty)
This episode has one of the most heart-wrenching sequences of the series, when Rick sacrifices himself for Morty, saying, “Be good, Morty. Be better than me.” In a demonstration of how well this show handles tone, it’s able to move from that to one of the goofiest endings of any episode, with Jerry taunting Rick with b-level jokes.
4. “Can’t Buy Me Math” (Bob’s Burgers)
The brilliance of Tina Belcher’s character is that she’s prone to getting caught up in girlish fantasies while also being wise beyond her years. This episode is a perfect example of that. She agrees to pretend to be Darryl’s boyfriend and fully buys into the romance formula of it all. But, by the end of the episode, she’s calmly explaining that there are no leagues and we should all be more braver and more confident when it comes to relationships with an incredibly clarity.
3. “Hank After Dark” (BoJack Horseman)
This episode is one of the sharpest, most poignant satires I’ve seen. Early in the episode, Diane lists a slew of celebrities who have continued having careers despite being abusers. What makes this sequence so incredible is that the show names names, brazenly calling out A-listers. It’s a jarring sequence that makes you realize how toothless a lot of satire really is. The episode continues on this brilliant and sharp path, showing how everyone turns on Diane for saying things they don’t want to hear.
2. “Alone Together” (Steven Universe)
This is a short masterpiece. It takes you on, as Garnet would say, an experience that explores relationships, gender and growing up. It’s a beautiful piece of art that is a must-watch. Stevonnie immediately became a fan favorite and there’s no question as to why.
1. “Wedding Squanchers” (Rick and Morty)
This is one of the funniest, whackiest episodes of TV I’ve ever seen. Imaginative jokes like the planet where everything is on the cob, down to the cellular level, make it a joy to watch. But, what puts it over the edge is the devastating, emotional ending. It’s an amazing piece of storytelling that will make you amazed at the character development on display. Even before you get to that ending, you have Morty standing up to Rick which hits me hard every time.