Welcome to the Tournament Of Episodes, an unending game of bloodsport between some of the best episodes of the 2013-14 TV season, inspired by The Morning News’ Tournament Of Books. To learn more and see the schedule, go here.
So it’s come to this. We honestly wouldn’t have predicted that our final two would be these two episodes, but here we are. And in this round? Everybody gets a vote.
Community got here by winning the readers’ choice poll, then unexpectedly taking out Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias.” The Good Wife had a harder path to travel, picking its way past one acclaimed comedy (Bob’s Burgers), then several of TV’s best dramas (The Americans, Hannibal, and Mad Men) on its way to the final. But they’re both here, and they’re both champions.
Nah, only one is the champion. Let’s find out which!
Brandon Nowalk: A bizarre spelunking expedition versus a soapy roller coaster. “Polygraphy” has more to say as it plumbs its characters’ depths, but it’s also said it all before. An episode like “Hitting The Fan” comes once in a series. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 0; The Good Wife: 1
Scott Von Doviak: “Hitting The Fan” is an eventful, suspenseful whirlwind, and maybe more than that for longtime viewers of The Good Wife. As a non-viewer, however, I’m going with “Cooperative Polygraphy,” which manages to send off a core Community character in satisfying fashion without the cast member’s participation. Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 1; The Good Wife: 1
Phil Dyess-Nugent: Amazing as the Good Wife episode is, I think the Community episode is, overall, the trickier and more remarkable feat, scalding and hilarious and then, unexpectedly, very moving. Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 2; The Good Wife: 1
Sonia Saraiya: Community’s “Cooperative Polygraphy” is funny and poignant and sweet—but it’s not a tour de force, and (sorry, fans) it’s not nearly the best the show has accomplished. Meanwhile The Good Wife’s “Hitting The Fan” is such a solid hour of television that viewers don’t even have to know the characters to be hooked in completely. The Good Wife, hands down. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 2; The Good Wife: 2
Zack Handlen: I’m sure “Hitting The Fan” plays crazy great for fans who have been with The Good Wife since the beginning; on its own, it’s a sharp, twisty legal thriller. But it’s not as funny or sweet as “Cooperative Polygraphy,” so that gets my vote in this meaningless contest. Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 3; The Good Wife: 2
Gwen Ihnat: “Cooperative Polygraphy” is a lovely, funny encapsulation of the Greendale study group and all the various relationships contained within it. But “Hitting The Fan” is a masterfully orchestrated drama: Frenetic violins score the stakes-raising tension as the fierce rivalry between Alicia’s brand-new law firm and her old one quickly escalates. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 3; The Good Wife: 3
Caroline Framke: The heartfelt and absurdist “Cooperative Polygraphy” was a welcome sign that Community was getting back to its roots, but it still failed to get out of the shadow of “Cooperative Calligraphy.” “Hitting The Fan” was a game changer for The Good Wife in every thrilling sense of the word. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 3; The Good Wife: 4
Dennis Perkins: “Hitting The Fan” is outstanding television. Its twists come so deftly, even a newbie was on board. But I’m a Community boy, and “Cooperative Polygraphy” paid off everyone’s stories with as assured a mix of comedy and heartstrings as any 22 minutes in recent memory. Deciding factors: Walton Goggins, “sperm.” Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 4; The Good Wife: 4
Genevieve Valentine: Both episodes are great—character-driven shows boiling over at breakneck speed. “Cooperative Polygraphy” is viciously delightful. But for me, the win goes to the show that stuck with the shakeup to the status quo after the white-knuckle trip that impressed me back in Round 1. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 4; The Good Wife: 5
Myles McNutt: Both episodes are about transition, with “Cooperative Polygraphy” resolving Pierce’s absence and setting up Troy’s departure and “Hitting The Fan” pulling the rip cord on Alicia and Carey’s departure. The latter wins for letting chaos reign, pulling every piece of the show into the fray and never looking back. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 4; The Good Wife: 6
Carrie Raisler: Both episodes are stellar examples of a show using its whole history to inform one outstanding episode—and both do it fantastically—but let’s face it: This is The Good Wife’s year. Its coronation as one of the best dramas on television is long past due. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 4; The Good Wife: 7
Molly Eichel: “Cooperative Polygraphy” demonstrated why I originally loved a show I had given up on as of late, but few episodes have left my mouth agape for a full 45 minutes like “Hitting The Fan.” Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 4; The Good Wife: 8
Josh Modell: You know all those reasons why people so savagely adored Community? They’re pretty much all represented in “Cooperative Polygraphy.” It’s the clear winner here. Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 5; The Good Wife: 8
Joshua Alston: Community is great and all, but this is no contest. “Cooperative Polygraphy” rewards diehards, but “Hitting The Fan” is as breathtaking to The Good Wife fans as it is to newcomers, thanks to that four-on-the-floor cold open, which I watch on repeat like a YouTube cat video. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 5; The Good Wife: 9
Erik Adams: These episodes are both 100 percent momentum, but just as I did in the semifinal, I’m giving it to “Cooperative Polygraphy” because it sustains that momentum with only a fraction of The Good Wife’s cast, sets, and sequences of age-inappropriate flirting. Vote: “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community: 6; The Good Wife: 9
Alasdair Wilkins: These are two astounding episodes of television, with “Cooperative Polygraphy” the best sign that Community could recapture past glories. But “recapture” is the key word there, as “Hitting The Fan”—operatic, propulsive, and with endless twists—gets my vote for feeling unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m so sorry, Walton Goggins. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 6; The Good Wife: 10
Todd VanDerWerff: Look, I love Community more than oxygen sometimes, but “Hitting The Fan” was the most energetic, purely entertaining episode of television last season. I was a bit skeptical when we made it the top seed of its bracket, but it’s more than proved itself in this tournament, overcoming every obstacle. It’s just that good. Vote: “Hitting The Fan.”
Community: 6; The Good Wife: 11
And the winner of the Golden TV Dinner is…
The Good Wife for the episode “Hitting The Fan”!
Disagree? Tell us how wrong we are!
Thanks for following along, everyone! Be sure to congratulate The Good Wife on the way out, and we’ll see you next year!