(I'm still a little burned out from writing my top fifty list, so I'm gonna keep this month's best episodes feature short and sweet. Look for me to return to my usual excessive verbiage in a month's time.)
10. Fringe, Season 5 Episode 9 – "Black Blotter"
Just a few hours shy of its likely grim and apocalyptic endgame, Fringe reminded us of its sense of humor in a winking episode fueled largely by Walter Bishop tripping on acid and building to a climactic Monty Python-esque animation sequence.
9. Arrow, Season 1 Episode 9 – "Year's End"
With the introduction of what seems to be its debut season's "big bad," Arrow took shape and found narrative focus in its last installment of 2012.
8. Last Resort, Season 1 Episode 9 – "Cinderella Liberty"
After slipping a bit episode by episode following an impressive pilot, Shawn Ryan's (soon-to-be-finished) naval thriller finally got the blood pumping in this tense, climactic hour, revolving around a hostage crisis at sea.
7. Parenthood, Season 4 Episode 10 – "Trouble in Candyland"
While this episode's focus on a more straightforward "antagonist" (Pamela Adlon's Marlyse, trying to shut down the Braverman brothers' recording studio) was a slightly odd change of pace for Parenthood, it came to a heartwarming conclusion that earned a huge smile. The episode also provided another strong, angsty showcase for Matt Lauria.
6. Boardwalk Empire, Season 3 Episode 12 – "Margate Sands"
A flawed finale in certain ways, but one thing's for sure: Richard Harrow rescuing Tommy was fuckin' fantastic.
5. American Dad!, Season 8 Episode 6 – "Adventures in Hayleysitting"
The sequence of graphic ultraviolence ending this episode was one of the darkest, funniest things I saw in any sitcom – animated or no – all year long. One of the best Steve and Hayley stories of the entire series.
4. The Vampire Diaries, Season 4 Episode 9 – "O Come, All Ye Faithful"
Capping off a half-season that occasionally felt stagnant, the final ten minutes of The Vampire Diaries' midseason finale assertively, violently reminded us that Klaus is not a Spike-esque lovable antihero or a grumpy harmless cartoon villain, but a full-fledged murderous bad guy, and thank god. Outside of the third season finale it's the show's best 2012 episode.
3. Homeland, Season 2 Episode 12 – "The Choice"
Was Homeland's second season finale dumb? Yes. Was it entertaining? Hell yes.
2. Fringe, Season 5 Episode 10 – "Anomaly XB-6783746"
Fringe did an awesome job raising the stakes in its final episode of 2012 and the fourth-to-last episode of the series, moving the greater plot forward and making damn sure that we sufficiently hate ultimate villain Captain Windmark going into the final stretch.
1. Bob's Burgers, Season 3 Episode 7 – "Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks"
Tina very slowly crashing Bob's car is one of the most staggeringly fucking funny things I've seen on television in I can't even tell you how long. The rest of the episode ruled too, but seriously, that car crash is easily one of the greatest television scenes of 2012. (Also, I assume the #1 slot on these monthly best episodes lists is going to be dominated by dramas – especially as we enter this uncertain, Dan Harmonless fourth season of Community – so I'm going to leap on every opportunity to put a sitcom in the top slot.)