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The 15 Best TV Scenes of 2021

If you’re still trying to process the fact that 2021 is coming to a close, you’re not alone. Watch some great TV while you think about it, with our list of the year’s best scenes.
Best Tv Scenes
By  · Published on December 29th, 2021

5. The Rooftop Concert

Show: The Beatles: Get Back
Episode: “Part 3: Days 17-22”

Best Scenes Get Back

Peter Jackson’s loose-limbed and intimate three-part documentary on The Beatles’ final album has a near-infinite number of iconic scenes worth loving, from Paul pulling the foundation of “Get Back” from thin air to a watery-eyed discussion of the band’s future. Weeks of creativity — and discord — culminate in the band’s long-envisioned live performance, atop the roof of the Apple Corps building in London.

The performance itself concludes with a rollicking version of “Get Back.” We may have seen some of this footage before, but never with such meaningful context and deliberate build-up. Jackson walks us through a decade of The Beatles to bring us to this moment, then presents it with never-before-seen crystal-clear restoration from multiple angles. There are so many small bits to savor here. Paul singing straight to the bewildered cops. Ringo banging on the drums in his red raincoat. The array of random people who have appeared on the roof as if to test its weight limit.

In the end, the band ad-libs and riffs on “Get Back” as if they don’t want the song to ever come to a close, but it has to at some point. “This was The Beatles’ last public performance,” an intertitle reads as the song’s final notes ring out.

4. A Montage of Sex

Show: Sex Education
Episode: “3×01”

Best Scenes Sex Education

The pop-cultural landscape at large has been going through a love scene dry spell, but Sex Education dedicated its Season 2 premiere’s opener to upping the numbers. The perfectly edited sequences cut together not one or two sex scenes, but close to a dozen. In the frisky opening montage, viewers get caught up on the goings-on of all their favorite characters in the form of an ever-evolving love scene accompanied by The Rubinoos’ cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Students, parents, and teachers are all getting it on with their partners — or themselves.

Sex Education is a genuinely educational series that’s committed to casual diversity in all forms, including sexual representation. We see that here: while some characters roleplay or have cybersex, others fly solo, and a few even find similar gratification outside of sex — Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) and her boyfriend memorably jump on tiny trampolines together. The scene expertly stitches all of these experiences together into one big, sweaty, celebratory good time, culminating in a montage of wide-ranging O faces before returning to our regularly scheduled programming.

3. Terry’s Monologue

Show: Rutherford Falls
Episode: “Terry Thomas”

Rutherford Falls

Small-town sitcom Rutherford Falls is a hidden gem, but that’s a phrase that doesn’t do justice to Michael Greyeyes’ powerful, eloquent, criminally under-rated monologue in an episode that places the spotlight on his entrepreneur character. You simply just have to watch it for yourself.

2. Welcome to the Internet

Show: Bo Burnham’s Inside

Best Scenes Inside

Bo Burnham’s quarantine-made masterpiece Inside is, in a way, entirely about the internet, so it’s no surprise when the special takes a detour through its hellish digital halls. Burnham dons a pair of dark sunglasses and a deceptively smooth voice to regale us with “Welcome To The Internet.”

“Would you like to fight for civil rights or tweet a racial slur?” he asks, playing the role of the internet’s welcome committee. In lesser hands, this could be a one-note take on the perils of our digital landscape, but Burnham has been fixated on the topic for years now, and his perspective is convincing. He runs through a harrowing, jumbled list of the internet’s many offerings, from Harry Potter porn to radicalizing misinformation. The song features a genuinely beautiful interlude, which touches on the idealism of the early internet era that led to kids with iPads taking in “a little bit of everything, all of the time.”

Burnham is perhaps the most convincing horseman of the apocalypse we have, and by the time he slides back into the song with a slow-bubbling maniacal laugh, it’s clear this isn’t a message we’ll forget anytime soon.

1. I’m All Apart

Show: Succession
Episode: “All the Bells Say”

Best Scenes Succession

Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) fatal car accident has been the tell-tale heart beating beneath the floorboards of Succession for two seasons now. The show has given us plenty of time to speculate about how the truth might finally come out, but nothing anyone could imagine matches up to Jesse Armstrong’s vision.

Kendall tells Roman (Keiran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) about the boy he killed while kneeling in the dirt by some trash cans in Italy. He crumbles in on himself as if he can’t physically stand under the weight of it all. “I’m all apart,” he says between sobs.

As is the nature of this twisted show, Roman and Shiv’s responses are horrifying from one angle but heartwarming from another. Shiv is preoccupied with an important phone call about the future of the company, while Roman piles on jokes until Kendall cracks a smile. “I mean, who hasn’t clipped the odd kid with a Porsche, am I right?” Roman quips, reminding us once again that these uber-wealthy characters are galaxies removed from our own experiences.

Yet there’s a sweetness in the dark exchange. Kendall has been on the border of implosion for months, but here, finally, he confesses in the light of day. His absolution comes in the form of a pat on the shoulders and a call to war. From the casual amorality to the trauma-bonded dysfunction to the core of real emotion, everything we love about Succession is captured in this one scene.

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Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics Choice Association's television and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)