TV in 2015 has not been without its disappointments, chief among them a dreadful second season of True Detective, a somewhat dull fifth installment of Homeland and the BBC subtitle department's performance during Kayne West's Glastonbury set (actually, that was pretty funny).
But let's forget the negatives, and focus instead on such small screen milestones as the end of Mad Men, the return of Peep Show and arguably the most exciting episode yet of a little-known show called Game Of Thrones, all of which are featured – by which we mean heavily spoiled – in our countdown of the top ten TV moments of 2015 below.
10 | Is Glenn dead?
The Walking Dead
People who thought the zombie drama was fizzling out after some lackluster seasons were largely won back round by the show's unpredictable and shocking twists this year. The scene in which Nicholas (Michael Traynor) shoots himself and appears to take fan favourite Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) with him into the pit of the undead being one such example..
9 | Mark's 'dinner party'
The final series of one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time has had a mixed critical reception, but the scene in episode 3 in which Mark makes dinner for April and her husband – all the while unable to blink following an ill-fated Indiana Jones incident – was peak Peep Show.
8 | Ben Mendelsohn's entire performance
Netflix's original drama about the disintegration of an affluent family in the Florida Keys didn't quite pick up the baton in America's TV golden age as some predicted, but it did feature the lead performance of the year from Aussie, Ben Mendelsohn who played black sheep Danny with a blend of vulnerability and cruelty that was impossible to read and utterly compelling to watch. The tension he brought to every scene was reason enough to stick with it.
7 | Doug finally catches up with Rachel
House Of Cards
Frank actually being president meant House Of Cards 3 had to be a different show to previous seasons, something the writers pulled off with mixed results. But Doug's relentless pursuit of Rachel - the show's innocent who had the knowledge to bring the whole pack tumbling down – kept the darker spirit of the earlier episodes alive, not least when he let her go, changed his mind then buried her in the desert.
6 | The butcher shop finger
Overall writer Noah Hawley has struggled to match the terrific characters that made season one of Fargo such essential viewing, but in Ed – played by Jesse Plemons with the same weird, vacant-eyed menace he brought to his small role in Breaking Bad – he has one that goes close. The scene in episode two in which good-natured policeman Lou almost catches him 'mid-mincing' was terrifically macabre and tense.
5 | Pablo's birds
Along with Bloodline, Netflix scored a hit with another original drama this year, a dramatisation of the story of Pablo Escobar (which frankly doesn't need any 'dramatising' at all). Amid the cleverly worked-in real life footage and the inevitable violence is a scene in which Pablo, played with wonderful restraint by Wagner Moura, sits in his garden with his brother looking ruefully at a flock of rare, exotic birds he has spent millions of dollars trying to train to sit in one tree for his amusement (they refused). It captured the megalomaniacal and oddly romantic nature of the character better than anything involving guns or drugs ever could.
4 | Cromwell Interrogates Anne Boleyn
Even without Mark Rylance in the lead, this BBC adaptation of Hillary Mantel's best-selling novels charting the rise of Thomas Cromwell, from delinquent to the king's right-hand man, would probably still have gone down as a masterpiece, combining detail, atmosphere and riveting drama in a way that feels genuinely fresh, without ever dumbing down to pull in a 'modern' crowd. But it's Rylance that takes it into the stellar category, humanising one of history's most divisive characters, a thoughtful family man unafraid to torture and kill to get things done.
3 | Jon Snow vs Whitewalkers
Game Of Thrones
"The most exciting and impressively choreographed battle in Game Of Thrones history," is how we described the showdown between the Night's Watch / Wildings and the White Walkers in episode eight, and we were right. Miguel Sapochnik virtuoso direction made it one of the most nail-biting moments in the show's history, while the final shot of Jon drifting away from a freshly raised army of the undead instantly became one of its most iconic scenes. If there were any shred of doubt left that TV could be truly cinematic, this is the episode that ended the debate once and for all.
2 | Don Draper's zen
Given its exalted position in the history of great TV dramas – you'd have a tough job leaving it out of the top five of all time – Mad Man had to end on a note that was both emotionally satisfying and brilliantly clever. While Peggie's last minute luck in love felt a little too neat for the first objective, Don's storyline was a triumphant success in the latter.
Sat cross-legged in a hippie commune, we are invited to believe that Don, having hit rock bottom, has now found a measure of inner peace by escaping his materially driven world in New York. Then the action cuts to the famous 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing' Coke advert that aired a few years after the season is set, and we are invited to wonder whether he was faking it all along. A magnificent ending to one of the smartest shows on television, Matthew Weiner, like David Chase before him, capped his masterpiece perfectly.
1 | "Forgiveness is over-rated, mate"
This Is England
It says something about Shane Meadows and his cast that, in the face of such high profile, high budget competition from across the Atlantic (see above), they still managed to provide the TV moment of the year in the penultimate episode of the funny and poignant drama This Is England.
"All the secrets buried in the group tumbling out over the plates of leftover sprouts," is how we described this dinner scene at the time. In many ways, it was Meadows' vision at its most fully realised: ten minutes of unbearably authentic drama in which we sat right there with them at the table for every second. It would also prove prophetic – when Woody, always the wisest voice in the show, implores Milky to try forgiveness, we couldn't have foreseen how much rejecting that advice would ruin him.