Best And Worst Television of 2014

Best Show: Bates Motel | "Expectations were high and Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin delivered...In the course of 10 episodes, they took viewers on a roller coaster ride, bringing them conflict, romance, treachery, action and family drama.

Immaculately written, performed and directed, watching an episode of  "Bates Motel" unfold should feel inevitable given we all know how it ends and yet its beauty is in making one hope we don't." For more on why defending champ “Bates Motel” earned the title for the second year in a row, click here

Best Anti-Hero: Red, The Blacklist | No matter the current quality of “The Blacklist” its most undeniable asset is James Spader’s enigmatic protagonist/antagonist hybrid. 

Best Midseason Finale: The Flash | The midseason finale had it all; cliffhangers, confessions and shocking reveals.

Honorable Mention: “The Blacklist”, despite some surprising twists and turns, it paled in comparison to last year’s two-part midseason finale, “Anslo Garrick”.

Worst Season Finale: Fargo | Nine outstanding episodes that cemented the mental acumen of Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Lester (Martin Freeman), led to a contrived win for one of television’s biggest dullards (Gus Grimly).

The savvy writing that had flowed forth throughout the season came to a standstill in a nonsensical denouement that irked with its sacrifice of a true-to-the-circumstances finale. Malvo had met his match during the course of the series and it will never make rational sense that was Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). To read the first season's TV Report Card, click here 

Best Duo: Mary and Catherine, Reign | The buddy chemistry between Adelaide Kane and Megan Fellows is off the charts terrific and the show has wisely leveraged their repartee. In a rare showcase of female friendship, Mary (Kane) and Catherine’s (Fellows) bond has been forged through a fierce rivalry that has brought about a begrudging admiration between the two. 

Best New Show: The Flash | Effervescent, dramatic and simply fun to watch, “The Flash” has gotten off to an amazing freshman run.

Best New Procedural: Forever | Anchored by the charismatic Ioan Gruffudd, this whimsical procedural with a clever hook, served up some great mysteries and a sizzling lead couple with Henry (Gruffudd) and Jo (Alana De La Garza).

Veteran Series Gone Too Soon: Dallas | One of the best dramas on TV, “Dallas” was jam packed with a talented cast, salacious plot twists and a slew of havoc wreaking villains that should’ve seen this show lasting indefinitely. Just when you thought it was peaking, it always found a way to up the ante.

Months after the cancellation, bidding farewell to Southfork and its inhabitants hasn’t gotten any easier, especially with a season finale that left so much open ended. Fingers crossed TNT will at least give fans a wrap up TV-Movie for closure. For more on the cancellation click here.

[Image by FX]
Best Newcomer: Moran Atias, Tyrant | As Jamal’s crafty wife, Leila, Atias married the essence of a femme fatale with the perfect amount of graceful regality. Atias subsequently stole most of the scenes she was in and in Leila’s chilling monologue during the season finale, Atias breathed a haunting weight behind her words. Without her, the freshman series would have made a far less indelible impression. 

Freshman Series Gone Too Soon: The Tomorrow People | A sci-fi series that found a breakout lead in Luke Mitchell, the CW’s gripping mutant drama rounded out the rough edges of its early episodes by investing in a formula that jettisoned its freak of the week procedural elements to create a grounded mythology that worked. To read the series' TV Report Card, click here 

Standout Scene on a Cable Series: Bates Motel: Norma asks Dylan to leave White Pine Bay with her and Norman | “Bates Motel” is not a show known for its sweet or upbeat moments and that’s what made this scene stand out, all the more. After learning the explosive truth of his parentage; Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Norma’s (Vera Farmiga) already tricky mother/son relationship took a major hit and they remained at odds for most of the season.

Norma’s single-minded focus on Norman (Freddie Highmore) retreated momentarily in the season finale as she reached out to the disenfranchised Dylan. While the Bates family is the epitome of dysfunctional, there’s still a lot of love there, however misguided as it sometimes seems and this rare spell of sentimentality served the series immeasurably.

Standout Scene on a Premium Cable Series: Tyrion’s Trial Tirade, Game of Thrones | Peter Dinklage carried the monologue of the year with a stunning force that portrayed Tyrion’s countless years of pent up frustration as he rebuked those who’d scorned him.

For anyone who has ever felt like an outcast, his piercing denouncement of those who’d mistreated him, rang out as an anthem of truth. The anguish, resolve and defiance expressed by Dinklage in yet another stirring performance, was nothing short of mesmeric. Simply put Dinklage is to the television Renaissance what da Vinci was to his. 

Best Mini-Series: The Red Tent | Rising mini-series staple Rebecca Ferguson amazed in Lifetime’s most ambitious movie yet with a turn that was zealously feminine. 

Worst Mini-Series: Houdini | History Channel’s historically flawed biopic was a convoluted garble of theatrics. For more on why “Houdini” was the worst, Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here.

[Image by The CW]
Breakout Actor & Best New Character: Jesse L. Martin/Joe, The Flash | As Joe West; the devoted single dad, hardnosed detective and Barry’s surrogate father, Jesse L. Martin has been a revelation; balancing the light hearted humor of the show with a dramatic emotional awareness that has only bolstered the overall quality of the series. 

Quite frankly, the show wouldn’t be half as entertaining without his contribution. Offering a much needed dose of sage adult wisdom on a network where parental influence is far from the standard operating procedure, the character of Joe has been positively refreshing. To watch a parent play a positive vital and integral role on a CW series is practically unheard of and it’s wonderful and welcomed change of pace.

Worst Character Death: Mona, Pretty Little Liars | Besides the Liars and Ali, Mona has long been one of the most integral characters on PLL. Her journey from bullied schoolgirl to revenge seeking villain, anti-heroine, redeemed baddie and finally rebel leader was the most complex arc of the series. Mona was Ali’s true equal and the only one truly capable of taking her down, as indicated in one of their final showdowns.

That scene was a sensational showcase for actresses Janel Parrish (Mona) and Sasha Pieterse (Ali) as their vicious sparring match brought performance fireworks. Killing off Mona has also brought about the series’ darkest plotline, changing the demeanor of PLL to something entirely grim. 

Honorable Mentions: "Game of Thrones" mega villain, Tywin Lannister. It was downright painful to part with an actor of Charles Dance's gravitas. Runner-Up: Daniel Grayson on “Revenge”, learn why here

Most Annoying/Worst Character: David Clarke, Revenge | The ego-maniacal victim of his own dirty deeds, David is revealed to be more diabolical every episode and yet the series approaches his character as a virtuous vigilante. “Revenge” might have begun as a loose re-imagining of “The Count of Monte Cristo” but David is as far from the blameless Edmond Dantes as one could fathom.

Most Surprising Break-Up: Ragnar and Lagertha, Vikings | The popular Nordic duo had been at the romantic heart of the History Channel’s bloody series. Which made it all the more surprising, when at the beginning of the second season, their marriage saw a rapid decline as the consequences of Ragnar’s infidelity came home to roost; promptly displacing Lagertha as his only wife. Ever the resilient and fierce woman, Lagertha wisely decided to ride off solo rather than tolerate his disrespect. For more on the second season of "Vikings", click here

Best Non-Couple: Felicity and Ray, Arrow | Ever since Ray Palmer came on the scene, he and Felicity Smoak have been "smoak-ing" up the screen with their nerdy banter. Emily Bett Rickards and Brandon Routh’s easygoing chemistry comes across with a natural vibrancy that offers a much needed reprieve from the gloominess that makes up most of the show’s other romantic properties. 

Best Fight: The Mountain vs. Oberyn Martell | Swift and electrifying, this David and Goliath style standoff kept viewers guessing until the gory end.

[Image by HBO]
Best Character: Tyrion Lanister, played by Peter Dinklage: An outcast born of privilege, a cerebral giant among his peers and a true underdog, Tyrion is one of the most complex and compelling characters on television. As played by Peter Dinklage, he is a character larger than life.

Best Villainous Performance: Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo | A slithering serpent who donned many skins, Thornton played Lorne Malvo as an intangible riddle with one goal in mind, survival. Thornton’s performance was classic Thornton; understated, charming and delectably entertaining.

Most Overlooked Performance: Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel | Farmiga’s tour de force (and criminally ignored) performance as the neurotic yet lovable Norma continued to astound.

Best Comeback Performance: Josh Hartnett, Penny Dreadful | After years spent on the silver screen to scattered success; Hartnett has found the best role of his career on television as Ethan, the mysterious American gunslinger trying to make his way through a supernaturally fraught Victorian-era England. Equipped with an undercurrent of quiet compassion, Hartnett has shown more depth than ever before. 

Best Metamorphic Performance: Martin Freeman, Fargo | Lester’s metamorphosis from put upon victim to Machiavellian villain was rendered with riveting aplomb by Freeman. His portrayal of Lester’s devolving morality and squirrely genius was a fundamental facet of the show and he sold it.

Breakout Actress: Adelaide Kane, Reign | Over the course of the first season of the CW’s historical drama, Kane had shown every indication of being a competent actor. She has further proved that case in the series’ second season, in which she has come roaring back with a string of stellar performances that have been truly remarkable in their caliber. Carrying herself with a self-possessed diplomatic eloquence worthy of any royal, Kane’s growth as an actor has been nothing short of extraordinary. 

Best Performance of the Daring Variety: Travis Fimmel, Vikings | Despicably violent, boorish and irredeemably cruel in one scene and then a compassionate father and leader, in the next. On paper, Ragnar is an insurmountable character and Fimmel has faced the difficult task of selling viewers on why they should still care about this pathetic sack of humanity.

Somehow he manages to lure one back in, going for broke with a performance that strays from the traditional take on a macho Viking to deliver something far more unnervingly realistic in its predatory nature. 

Best Performance by an Ensemble: The Cast of Bates Motel | One element that came through more than ever last season was the synergy between the Bates. You believed in their fragile humanity, desperate stranglehold on survival and latent desire for nobility.

As played by Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore and Max Thieriot, these are the most dangerous characters; the ones you know are fated to the darkness and can’t help hoping see the light. How this series and the creative forces behind it, continue to slip through the cracks of critical acclaim; boggles the mind. 

[Featured Image by A&E]