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10 Best TV Episodes Directed by Famous Filmmakers

June 7, 2017
7 min read

Television is a platform that reaches out to millions. It also features the most diverse spectrum of people, ranging over innumerable genres. Inherently, it becomes a favored playground for the big boys of Hollywood. Eager to test their mettle on the smaller screen, legendary auteurs like Scorsese, Spielberg, and Lynch have taken to the director’s chair. The masses have responded in the affirmative, with many of the episodes going on to become classics. The lure of television hasn’t failed to encapsulate the gaze of these big boys, and we decided to list them. While many have been pivotal in creating some of the best shows in recent history, few have actually directed episodes. The following article lists the best TV episodes directed by famous directors. Happy reading!

10. Method and Madness (‘The Knick’)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Even though the whole series is directed by him, the pilot episode stands out. It is the most difficult job for a director to start off a TV series and give a brief overview to the audience of what to expect. Soderbergh brought his dexterity and expertise to the table, and opened ‘The Knick’ with a commendable effort. Traversing John Thackery’s unexpected promotion as the chief of the surgery staff at the Knickerbocker Hospital, underlying themes of racism and subjugation were adroitly interwoven in its running time. His unconventionality in handling the camera, and the long uncut shots make for an uncomfortable. yet exhilarating experience.

 

9. The Original (‘Westworld’)

Directed by: Jonathan Nolan

Though not illustrious as his brother, Jonathan is not lesser in genius and vision. Also serving as the creator and the executive producer for the show, he took it upon himself to make sure his dream project had a grand opening. He made grandeur seem like an understatement. ‘The original’ became the second most watched episode in the history of HBO, sending people into a frenzy, that sustained till the end. The sci-fi show definitely was a highlight of 2016, and much praise has to be directed towards Nolan.  The stunning visuals, the unprecedented plot, and the deft handling of a revered genre makes this one of the best TV episodes directed by a famous director.

 

8. Motherhood (‘ER’)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

This was before Tarantino became the next big thing with ‘Pulp Fiction’. Though a known commodity, thanks to the best independent film ever made, Tarantino got the chance purely on basis of his colorful personality. Directing the final episode of the first season, he manages to give a fitting climax to an up and coming show, that went on to become one of the best. Sticking with the usual, he did however managed to bring in his witty charm with funny one-liners, and some fine slap-stick comedy.

 

7. Murder Obliquely (‘Fallen Angels’)

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Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Cuaron was a relatively unknown operator at the time. His genius and style, as we are well versed with today, showed vestigial glimpses in the fifth episode of ‘Fallen Angel’s’ first season. Annie (Laura Dern), in true noir fashion, fatalistically falls in love with a millionaire who the audience discovers is quite bewitched by another lover and is not afraid to show it. In a flashback narrative Annie explains how she met Dwight Billings (Alan Rickman) six weeks earlier and how she discovered Dwight’s obsession with the “other woman.” How far will Dwight go to win and keep the love of his adored Bernette vixen (Diane Lane)? What must Annie do to win Dwight’s love? Even though the genre fell right in his alley, he made sure to give a peek to the world, into his glorious vision and dexterity.

 

6. Miss Twin Peaks (‘Twin Peaks)

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Directed by: David Lynch

It’s time for some Lynnsanity! The Lynch-hysteria shrouded the mystical realms of television in 1990 with a brief interlude with some of Lynch’s best work. Although all the episodes are directed by ‘Yours Truly’, the series’ penultimate episode remains the best. Still bad, but so much goes on that at least it remains mildly engaging. We’ve got Cooper figuring out how the doors to the White and Black Lodges work, and some quality BOB scares. But then there’s Leo and tarantulas, Dr. Jacoby conducting couples therapy, the reveal that Donna is Ben Horne’s daughter, and the incredibly ridiculous Miss Twin Peaks pageant, featuring an umbrella dance. Oh boy.

 

5. Tape 1 Side A (’13 Reasons Why’)

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Directed by: Tom McCarthy

If you haven’t watched the show yet, stop doing everything and start doing ’13 Reasons Why’. This is indubitably the most relatable and mentally intriguing show I have ever seen. Created by Tom McCarthy, the Oscar winning maker of ‘Spotlight’, the show deals with the aftermath of a high school student’s mysterious suicide. Each of her friends receive seven tapes, through which she reveals the thirteen reasons why she took her life. Interspersing the present and the past with effortless charm, McCarthy gave the best possible opening to one of the best TV shows of the year. It comes highly recommended.

 

4. Somebody’s Dead (‘Big Little Lies’)

Directed by: Jean-Marc Valle

The first episode absolutely blew my mind away. Boasting of a stellar cast including stars like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shaleine Woodley and Laura Dern, the HBO miniseries contains seven episodes, all directed by the mercurial Jean-Marc Vallee. The dark-comedy drama, which itself is based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, opens with a crime scene,plausibly murder, with the victim and the suspect unidentified. Vallee being the magician he is (Dallas Buyers Club, Demolition, Black List), presents an interspersion of scenes, cutting to and fro from present and the past, introducing us to the main characters. With sudden bursts of adrenaline in the story-line, and the engrossing fables of the character’s past and present secrets, and vanilla-drenched skies and beautiful vistas, the series has set an exciting precedent for itself. The ensemble, ornamented with intrinsic shades of human emotions, did a fabulous job in the opener, with Woodley specially garnering praise for her performance. The end features the interviews the police transcript-ed while interrogation, and also shows us a glimpses of the impending doom that is about to strike the protagonists.

 

3.Boardwalk Empire (‘Boardwalk Empire’)

Directed by: Martin Scorcese

The pilot episode of this genius TV show was produced at a staggering cost of $18 million. And who better to helm it than our own Shorty Marty. Probably the greatest cinematic director ever, Scorcese’s first episode was magic, and literally an orgasmic experience for cinematic fans. Setting the tone for what would go on to win five golden globes and 7 emmys during its lifetime, this episode was voted as the most popular for the year 2010. The bootleggers getting ambushed scene is truly magnificent, and simply inexplicable. I shall say no more.

 

2. Chapter 1 (‘House of Cards’)

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Directed by: David Fincher

“Modesty is so overrated.” This old adage is a perfect fit on David Fincher, who credited the actors and the writers for the award he received for Outstanding Direction for the pilot episode of ‘House of Cards’. Possibly the most powerful character in TV history, Fincher treats us to Frank Underwood’s devilishly twisted conscience by breaking the fourth wall. The rolling of the eyes, the looks of contempt, and the lung-bursting monologues makes his portrayal of Underwood as simply outstanding. Though serving as an executive producer for the show, Fincher showed the way for his successors to make the show one of the very best.

 

1. Fly (‘Breaking Bad’)

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Directed by: Rian Johnson

How on earth they managed to conceptualize and then execute the episode is truly beyond comprehending. I mean it is really preposterous! But the symbolism of the fly makes the concept somewhat significant. The Fly symbolizes the impurity in the super-lab that otherwise appears to be an ideal situation. The real impurity that concerns Walt, as we learn late in the episode, is that Jesse is skimming the excess yield from the production batches and selling it on his own. The best show of all time certainly had the most innovative episode of all time. Just watch it to understand!

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