The best TV moments of 2016

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Spoiler Alert! We've already picked our TV shows of the year, but there were also standout moments that had us hitting pause and rewind on the DVR. Here is our selection for 2016. Make sure you've watched the shows first unless you want to be spoiled...

Game Of Thrones' big boom

Game Of Thrones S6 finale explosion

As is traditional for Game Of Thrones, Season 6 offered up several big moments, as the series built operatically to huge events (usually involving death). So you could plump for The Battle Of The Bastards (and the bloody, righteous end for the scheming, psychotic Ramsay Bolton, fed to the dogs he so gleefully unleashed on others). But for our money, it was the finale that offered the truly memorable setpiece for the season. With her various foes gathered in one place, Cersei Lannister solved many of her problems in one fell swoop. Getting plenty of bang for her buck, it was less a case of boom goes the dynamite and more whoomp goes the Wildfire. So long, Sparrow! Move along, Margaery! There's a new queen in town. And it was perfectly scored by Ramin Djawadi, as a haunting piano refrain built to something trailer editors will be using for years to come.

Superman joins Supergirl

Superman on Supergirl

Proving that — yes! – Superman is actually allowed to smile, Supergirl kicked off its second season by celebrating being allowed to use the Man of Steel with a delightful first appearance by Tyler Hoechlin's Supes. Not only does he pull off the ideal nerdy Clark Kent, but once he rips open his shirt to reveal that iconic logo and takes to the air, the joy level similarly soars. Channelling the spirit of Christopher Reeve while offering his own take, Hoechlin played perfectly off of Melissa Beniost, who in one short season has crafted an effusive, watchable Supergirl. It was exactly what you'd want from Superman, and they even managed to squeeze in hints of John Williams' theme.

Westworld's Bernard reveal

Westworld Season 1 Episode 8

Of all the twists and turns in Westworld's first season (you know the show that finished its first season with Anthony Hopkins taking a bullet to the brain) the most powerful was also the most heartbreaking. Some fans had started to speculate that Jeffrey Wright's Bernard might be something other than human, but when he finally learned the truth, it was not less affecting. It helps, of course, that it was Wright, Hopkins and Sidse Babett Knudsen in the scene, but having Bernard not only face his true nature, but be ordered to kill the woman he's been spending his nights with? Tragic and terrifying.

The Night Of's foot fetish

John Turturro in The Night Of

The Night Of was a dour and moody yet thrilling look at the criminal justice system and racism in the US, and featured a chameleonic, haunted performance by Riz Ahmed. But in the midst of the misery, there was an unexpected bright spot: John Turturro's John Stone, a man fighting an endless battle with the system and with his feet. A shabby lawyer dealing with the itchiest of eczema might not sound like the most compelling TV, but Turturro brought his struggle to life. As he burned through different attempts at relief and generally grossed everyone else out, it made for some light within the darkness. Oh, and we loved the cat, too.

Gilmore Girls' Emily and Lorelei argument

Lorelei and Emily in Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life

Gilmore Girls came back this year for A Year In The Life, four TV movies spread across a year's worth of seasons. And, yes, there were the final four words still causing spasms among the fandom. Still, the truly memorable scene came between Lorelei Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) as years of tension and family disagreements boiled over into a shouting match that therapy couldn't solve. But this is Gilmore world, and the resolution was, if anything, just as good. Did it get dusty in anyone else's room?

Cottonmouth's death in Luke Cage

Cottonmouth in Luke Cage

For the first half of Marvel's Luke Cage, Mahershala Ali's Cottonm... Sorry, Mr Stokes was a smooth-talking panther prowling his territory. A crime boss with a deadly legacy – albeit one who never truly wanted to get into the life – Stokes looked set to be the big threat to Mike Colter's Luke. But then came the confrontation with his cousin, Mariah Dillard, played by Alfre Woodard. If you'd been wondering why she was cast to play what had looked to be a lesser role, her rage exploded and she ended up slaughtering Cottonmouth, pushing him from his office window down into his club and then taking a microphone stand to his noggin. Talk about dropping the mic...

Stranger Things' Eleven goes shopping

Eleven shoplifting in Stranger Things

Stranger Things' Eleven – and actress Millie Bobby Brown – has been one of the standout characters of the year, and this was among her many great scenes. Needing to stock up on her beloved Eggo waffles, Eleven heads to the supermarket. But what's a girl to do when she doesn't have money? Well, if she also has incredible telekinetic powers, it's not a huge problem. And the scene is capped by her slamming the automatic doors shut as the manager tries to take chase. She won't have earned many Nectar points, but she got several cool points for that one.

The DJ battle in The Get Down

DJ Battle in The Get Down

The Get Down hasn't been seen as a big success for Netflix – produced at great expense, it's apparently not attracted the viewership of some of the streaming service's other shows. Still, that doesn't mean it's not worth watching, and indeed the big scene in the mid-season finale, with Ezekiel (Justice Smith), Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) and the rest of the crew faces off against their hip hop rivals is one for the ages. With Ezekiel sprinting to make it, and things initially not going their way, the minute the Star Wars theme kicks in and they serve the Notorious 3, your pulse starts pounding along with the beat.

Silicon Valley's elder insult riff

The scene with... how to put this delicately... the very horny horse got plenty of attention. But do you really want to watch that again and again? Probably not. Instead, enjoy the sheer improv genius of TJ Miller (and the writers of Silicon Valley) as he confronts Stephen Tobolowsky's Jack Barker, the new CEO of Pied Piper. Unleashing a string of jokes at Barker's expense, it's a comic riff-storm that just builds and builds. And what made it to the final cut was just the tip of the iceberg.

Planet Earth II's Snake vs Iguana

More thrilling than any big-screen action movie shoot-out or superhero stand-off was this reptillian showdown between a gaggle of baby marine iguanas and a team of seemingly villainous snakes. The might and resources of the BBC's natural history unit makes conflicts on this scale seem gloriously cinematic. The snake's limited vision, based on movement, recalls the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, while the unbelievable getaway of one plucky iguana from the snake's clutches is like The Great Escape: Cold-Blooded Edition.


More from Empire's review of 2016:

The best movies of 2016
The best TV shows of 2016
The best games of 2016
The best on-screen deaths of 2016
The biggest movie news stories of 2016
The best trailers of 2016
The best memes and videos of 2016
The best tracks of 2016