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The Best TV Moments Of 2021

It hasn't been an easy year. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it feels like things haven't improved a whole lot since it all began in 2020. Still, one constant has remained in our lives that's given us endless entertainment –- sweet, sweet television. We really are in the golden age of TV, with new shows arriving every week. It can be overwhelming to navigate what's worth watching, as network television and streamer services are releasing content at a seemingly record pace.

One thing's for sure, though: 2021 has delivered an awful lot of excellent programming. A number of great shows ended with heartwarming (or heartbreaking) finales, and plenty of exciting new shows entered the world across a wide range of genres. Others changed things up, offering new twists or character revelations to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, and, as always, a slew of prestigious limited series brought tight, compelling stories to our screens.

In honor of all the wonderful television we've enjoyed this year, here are the very best TV moments of 2021. Warning — spoilers ahead!

Wanadvision reveals that it was Agatha All Along

While Marvel has dominated Hollywood for the last decade, it hasn't had much of a foothold in television. It's had a few successful shows, to be fair, including "Daredevil" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," but nothing that could match the impact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had on film. That may be about to change, however, as Marvel has released a number of series through Disney+ in 2021, but none were as significant as the limited series "Wandavision."

The series starts as a classic 1950s black-and-white sitcom, starring Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as a happily married couple. The series quickly evolves into something undefinable as things get complicated, and the picturesque neighborhood Wanda and Vision inhabit may be something else entirely. The biggest surprise in the show comes in Episode 7 when Wanda's dear friend Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) is revealed not to be a friend at all but rather the mastermind behind all of Wanda's and Vision's problems. The reveal comes in a musical number, "Agatha All Along," which was both a hilarious and shocking way to deliver the revelation. "Agatha All Along" has proven to be a huge cultural moment, and Kathryn Hahn's outstanding performance as Harkness has helped the character earn her very own spin-off.

Deborah and Ava's relationship strengthens in Hacks

"Hacks" was something of a surprise for HBO Max, as the series quietly premiered on the streaming service and ended up being a big hit, winning three Primetime Emmy Awards, including lead actress for Jean Smart. Smart plays Deborah Vance, a longtime stand-up comic whose career is stalling.

In Season 1's standout episode, "New Eyes," Deborah and Ava (Hannah Einbinder) share a touching and hilarious experience. While Deborah is recovering from plastic surgery, she and Ava bond over edibles. The two reveal deep truths to each other –- Deborah admits that she never actually burnt her ex-husbands' house to ashes, and Ava reveals that she possesses feelings for a guy she slept with who ended up killing himself. The two bond by pulling off a hilarious prank on Deborah's nurse, and their relationship strengthens further over some delicious McDonald's french fries. Perhaps most importantly, Deborah and Ava's experience over the episode helps inspire Deborah's new material, providing a vital stepping stone in the plot.

A child's game of Red Light, Green Light shocks in Squid Game

We're not sure if a single show captured the world more than "Squid Game" in 2021. Netflix struck gold with the Korean drama thriller, which took the creators over a decade to get made. The show was a shocking critique of class and wealth disparity, as the series is centered around a group of debt-ridden people who are invited to play a series of children's games with a massive, life-changing cash prize. What they don't know until it's far too late, however, is that losing the games has fatal consequences.

While the show has a seemingly endless array of shocking moments, but the very first game –- Red Light, Green Light –- is the most disturbing of all. A simple game soon turns deadly when a player moves on the red light, causing their immediate death by gunshot. Everyone is completely shocked as the consequences of their situation become immediately evident. Most people try to run away, but they are all mercilessly gunned down. A cover of "Fly Me to the Moon" is brilliantly used to contrast the horrific violence in this brutal, unsettling, and utterly sublime scene.

Superstore gets the wonderful ending it deserved

Season 6 of "Superstore" takes things in a bold direction when it tackles the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. While many shows opted to avoid even mentioning words like coronavirus, it made a lot of sense for "Superstore" -– after all, the show is about a group of retail workers at a Wal-Mart-like store, Cloud 9. Real-life issues were laid bare on screen, and instead of repelling viewers, it gave audiences a chance to feel a bit more at ease with everything going on in the world and take the opportunity to laugh at the very things that were scaring them.

The central romantic relationship of the entire series was Jonah Simms (Ben Feldman) and Amy Sosa (America Ferrera), which was upended when Ferrera left the show after Season 5. However, "Superstore" pulls out all the stops for the Season 6 finale as Ferrera returns for the show's very last episode. In the final episode, the Cloud 9 store closes for good, and Amy and Ben end up back together, fulfilling the fan's wishes. Garrett (Colton Dunn) delivers a touching and heartfelt final announcement to the store's customers, as a montage shows us a glimpse of the future for the characters of "Superstore," including a wonderful barbeque showing that most of the Cloud 9 employees still get together from time to time.

An emotional and fitting end to Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Over eight seasons, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" has had quite the journey. The show aired on Fox for five seasons and received a rather surprising cancellation. NBC, however, was more than ready to snap "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" up and gave the series its home for the show's final three seasons. The two-part finale, "The Last Day," fulfilled fans' expectations with emotional resolutions and plenty of laughs, giving a fitting end to a host of beloved characters, including Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher).

The two-parter focuses on Holt and Amy Santiago's (Melissa Fumero) last day as part of the Nine-Nine, before they set off in their new roles tackling police reform. To celebrate the occasion, Peralta gets permission to hold one last heist. Holt gets one of his best lines of the entire series when he says, "I will always cherish our time together ... but not as much as I will drowning you all in your own blood. It's the final heist, and I will chop off your limbs and feed them to your young." The line is emblematic of everything that makes the finale special -– emotional vulnerability, belly laughs, and some good old-fashioned competition.

Tanya scatters her mother's ashes in The White Lotus

Mike White's "The White Lotus" enchanted audiences over the summer. The HBO series takes us to the beautiful White Lotus hotel and follows a group of guests and hotel staff through a satirical comedic mystery. White is no stranger to great television, having written for shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Freaks and Geeks" while developing the vastly underrated "Enlightened" starring Laura Dern. "The White Lotus," created, produced, directed, and written by White, may be his masterpiece. The show gave us an exceptional cast of characters, played by actors including Murray Bartlett, Sydney Sweeney, Alexandra Daddario, and Connie Britton. None, however, shone brighter than Jennifer Coolidge, who played Tanya, thanks to her unforgettable performance.

Tanya arrives at the White Lotus with one thing in mind –- to scatter her mother's ashes in the beautiful Hawaiian waters. Doing so proves an immense obstacle to her, however, due to her complicated relationship with her mom. This is especially obvious in Episode 3, where Tanya takes a boat trip to try and scatter the ashes but fails to do so after becoming overwhelmed with emotions. In the final episode, Tanya finally achieves her goal and appears positively jubilant when throwing the ashes into the air. While most of the guest's journeys are turned upside down in the shocking final episode, Tanya achieves a genuine emotional catharsis, even if it means betraying the woman who helped her get there.

A brutal, heart-stopping train sequence on Invincible

One of the breakout television series of 2021, Amazon Prime's "Invincible," brought new levels of brutality to the superhero genre. This animated show stars superhero Invincible, aka Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun). Invincible's father Nolan (J.K. Simmons) is Omni-Man, the most powerful superhero on the planet.

In the final episode of Season 1, "Where I Really Come From," epic revelations are laid bare, and thousands in Chicago are slaughtered. It turns out that Mark's father, Nolan, was sent to conquer the earth, which leads to a vicious, violent faceoff between Invincible and Omni-Man.

In the show's single most horrifying moment, Nolan holds his son up to a moving train, causing his indestructible child to inadvertently massacre everyone on board. It's difficult to watch as the screams of the fallen fill your ears and blood and gore fill the screen, but it's definitely one of the most remarkable moments in TV in the year 2021. Despite the shocking finale, there is plenty more on the horizon for "Invincible," as the show was renewed for a second and third season.

Angel and Papi finally tie the knot in Pose

"Pose," created by Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Falchuk, takes place in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s and explores the glorious ball culture of the queer community paired alongside the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. The series received great critical acclaim and has won four Primetime Emmy Awards, and lead actress Mj Rodriguez became the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for the lead actress Emmy. While the third season feels a bit rushed at times, it repeatedly delivers on key moments, and none felt more special than when Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) get married in a beautiful, heartwarming ceremony.

When Papi starts his vows, reciting to the lyrics of "I Swear," and soon breaks into song, it's a moment so full of love, passion, and joy, that it's impossible not to sing –- and cry -– along. "Pose" regularly nails its most dramatic and emotional moments, and watching two of the show's most loveable characters declare their love for each other in such wonderful, although admittedly cheesy, fashion is magical. The glorious scene is also a powerful reminder that transgender people are not one iota less deserving of love than anyone else, and "Pose" is a potent reminder of this.

The opening scene of Hellbound starts things off with a terrifying bang

Korean series "Hellbound" has been another great success for Netflix. Fans have devoured the first season's six episodes, and the internet abounds with fan theories. A genuinely shocking ending left plenty of unanswered questions, especially regarding the truly stunning final moments. While "Hellbound" certainly had plenty of shocks and surprises in its final episode, one of the best TV moments of 2021 happens in the show's very first scene.

"Hellbound" opens with a group of people on their phones, viewing viral footage of mysterious creatures beating someone to death and sending them to hell. Though some of the group is concerned, it's clear to the majority feel that it's not to be taken seriously and that it's simply more fake nonsense on the internet. A clever pan of the camera reveals a man sitting in the same cafe, terrified, looking at the time on his phone. Suddenly, the monsters laughed off moments ago appear and are terrifyingly real. They wreak absolute havoc, though they only target one man. The demons chase the man through the busy city streets of Seoul before ultimately catching him, brutalizing him, and sending him straight to hell. It's a great way to get viewers hooked, and the hyperviolent scene is one of 2021's finest.

A lipsync for the ages in RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 6

No show is an unabashed celebration of queer existence like "RuPaul's Drag Race." The reality show features a group of drag queens competing in weekly challenges for a chance at the crown and a $100,000 cash prize. In the "All Stars" version of the show, past contestants return for a second chance at victory. The rules are different, though –- the queens eliminate each other, and each week, the winner of the challenge lip syncs against a surprise "lip sync assassin" to win a big cash prize, along with the responsibility of eliminating a fellow competitor. It's all tremendously high stakes drama and had fans under its spell.

In "All Stars 6" Episode 3, "Side Hustles," drag queen Trinity K. Bonet snagged her first-ever win in a hilarious performance. Known for delivering some of the finest lip-syncs in the show's history, it seemed destined for Trinity to win –- that is, until the secret assassin was revealed. It was none other than Laganja Estranja, a queen who revolutionized the art of the entrance back in "Drag Race" Season 6. She even reprises her fan-favorite line, shouting, "C'mon All-Stars 6, let's get sickening!" 

The two battle in a lip sync to Dua Lipa's "Physical." While Trinity gives it her all, there is no stopping Laganja. Pulling out an arsenal of death-defying splits, dips, and gags, Laganja delivers one of the most spellbinding, jaw-dropping moments in the show's illustrious history and makes for one of the most iconic television moments of 2021.

A double date goes from awkward to glorious in Sex Education

"Sex Education" experienced delays this year thanks to COVID-19, and its early 2021 release date was eventually pushed back to September. The series is known for pushing the boundaries, especially with frank, open, and honest conversations about sex for young people. The show has an impressive awareness when it comes to how young adults deal with sex and life in general, which has resulted in great success for the Netflix series. The praise for Season 3 was high, and as Saloni Gajjar notes for The AV Club, " Season 3 builds on the magnetism of the two previous installments to become the show's best offering yet."

One of the season's best moments comes when Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Ruby (Mimi Keene) go on a double date with Otis' best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and his boyfriend Adam (Connor Swindells). The scene features four performers at the top of their game. After a hideously awkward start, the scene settles into a surprisingly comfortable groove. It's simply delightful to watch these four fascinating, complex characters get to relax and have a wonderful time together. It's a lovely moment in a brilliant season of TV.

Mare and Colin share a tender moment in the Mare of Easttown

Created by Brad Ingelsby, who wrote and directed "The Way Back," HBO's miniseries "Mare of Easttown" was exceptionally well received. The show won four Primetime Emmy Awards, including a trio of acting awards -– supporting actress for Julianne Nicholson, supporting actor for Evan Peters, and lead actress for Kate Winslet. The series is a remarkably tense drama about a small-town Pennsylvania detective, Mare Sheehan (Winslet), who is investigating a shocking murder while trying to keep her own life afloat.

While investigating the death of a young mother, county detective Colin Zabel (Peters) is called in to assist Sheehan with the case. In the third episode, "Enter Number Two," the pair share a moment after a tough day. Peters performs some of the best drunk-acting we've ever seen, as the two share their vulnerabilities, particularly over each of their failures when it comes to their family relationships. In the scene, Zabel also makes some very strong suggestions that he has romantic feelings for Sheehan, which sets off one of the more interesting relationships of 2021 in television.

Taking all the chips in Reservation Dogs

FX's "Reservation Dogs" was acclaimed on release and the show has overwhelmingly positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Viewers were thrilled that a series existed about modern Native American life, as the show focuses on four Indigenous teens in Oklahoma (illegally) working their way to make enough money to escape to California. The show, created by Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, has already been renewed for a second season.

Season 1 is full of thoughtful, funny, and exciting moments, but few match the energy of the very first scene of "Reservation Dogs." In it, the group hijacks a delivery truck full of chips, taking it to an outpost to sell it for parts. The scene is full of hilarious dialogue, including a glorious chat about wearing a seatbelt. It's a great opening because it manages to be super entertaining while telling us a lot about each of our main characters, Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs), Cheese (Lane Factor), and Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) all while delivering on the absurdist laughs and thrills the show has become known for.

Just about everyone hits rock bottom in Succession's Chiantishire

Few shows have got audiences hooked like "Succession." The series, created by Jesse Armstrong, is the story of the Roys. This egomaniacal, extraordinarily wealthy, and vengeful family finds themselves constantly fighting with one another as they duel over loyalty and the power that comes with the family business, Waystar RoyCo. The HBO show has already raked in nine Primetime Emmy Awards, including outstanding drama series and lead actor for Jeremy Strong, who plays Kendall Roy, son of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox).

In Season 3's penultimate episode, "Chiantishire," things get pretty miserable for the Roy siblings. The episode, written by series creator Jesse Armstrong, is full of tense moments, but as always, nobody ends up faring worse than Kendall. After a brutal dinner between Kendall and Logan that doesn't make it past the appetizers, Kendall is left completely and utterly outplayed by his father, Logan. 

The episode ends with Kendall face down on a raft in a luxurious swimming pool, beer in hand, practically oblivious to everything around him. He's beaten, badly, and it feels like there's nowhere for him to go. All we know is, we can't wait to see what happens next for the Roy family.

The entire Tired, Okay?! episode of Insecure

Masterminds Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore blessed the world with "Insecure," a delightful, incisive comedy about Issa Dee (played by Rae), an African American woman in Los Angeles, as she balances work, friendships, and romantic relationships. The show also stars the brilliant Yvonne Orji as Issa's best friend Molly and Jay Ellis as Lawrence, Issa's on-again, off-again boyfriend. The show has aired on HBO for five fantastic seasons, though the fifth is, unfortunately, the end of the line -– even if it was always supposed to be this way. The series has been praised for its representation of African Americans. As actress Orji explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "It shows Black people just being Black without any extra sauce."

"Insecure" has never been as funny as the Season 5 episode "Tired, Okay?!" Directed by Natasha Rothwell (who also stars as the hilarious Kelli), the episode is full of wall-to-wall laughs, including a scene with Issa and Lawrence's baby and a legendary musical cue from Flo Milli. Most of the jokes come straight from Issa's mind (so many great jokes have been mined from Issa's imagination throughout the series), and the episode is a real highlight of a show that's been making magic for years. It has everything a great episode of "Insecure" needs -– plenty of laughs, some drama, and a couple of steps towards emotional catharsis.

A farewell provides a shocking twist in What We Do in the Shadows

Based on the 2014 film of the same name, FX's "What We Do in the Shadows" is a hilariously spooky mockumentary about three vampires that struggle with contemporary living in Staten Island. There's nothing else on television quite like "What We Do in the Shadows," and watching the vampiristic hijinks of Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak), Nadja of Antipaxos (Natasia Demetriou), and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) never gets old.

In "A Farewell," the penultimate episode of the third season, a shocking revelation is revealed that will likely change the balance of the entire show. It's discovered that energy vampires only live to 100, a fact that only Laszlo (Matt Berry) is aware of, and Colin is about to celebrate his 100th birthday. Laszlo does everything he can to ensure the end of Colin's life is as wonderful as it can be, but Colin's death sends shockwaves through the house. His death causes things to spiral, leaving Season 4 of "What We Do in the Shadows" with a lot of questions to answer. We can't wait to see where it all goes.