It's common knowledge that the pilot episode of any given TV show is just a warm-up round. To know what you're getting into and decide if you really want to watch it, you have to give most shows 2-3 episodes. But some shows just have a really strong pilot, and you know from the beginning that the show is going to be good. Today, let’s talk about the top 20 TV shows with the strongest first episodes. Do you have one in mind? Check out this list and see if it's here!
Chernobyl is a 2019 series based on the historical 1986 Chernobyl tragedy and the subsequent cleanup activities. Some people say the drama series had one of the strongest first episodes.
One person said, “Still watch that series a couple of times a year; it's amazing.”
Another person replied, “It was brilliant but scarred for life after it. Couldn’t do that to myself again.”
One commenter added, “Same team made The Last of Us pilot, which is also quite good.”
2. Six Feet Under
The HBO TV show Six Feet Under garnered extensive critical acclaim for its exceptional writing and performances, maintaining a consistently strong viewership and achieving impressive ratings. It is widely regarded as one of the best television series ever created, with its final episode often hailed as one of the most remarkable conclusions in television history.
One person said, “I love this show. Still recommend it for anyone asking for a solid series to watch.”
Another added, “I recommend it to people all the time too. I’ll Have to watch it again someday. So good.”
Fargo is a 2014 black comedy crime series with four seasons and 41 episodes. The series is incredibly well-curated, with each episode just getting better.
One person commented, “Yeah! I came to say this one, it has the best first episode I've ever seen.”
Another commenter replied, “First and second season both had excellent opening episodes.”
Another user added, “Came here to say this too! I was immediately hooked.”
4. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan (AOT) is a Japanese manga series illustrated by Hajime Isayama. The apocalyptic series follows the story of Eren Yeager, along with his other friends to exterminate the man-eating giants in the post-apocalyptic world.
One person shared, “Yes. Immediately sets the tone and gives you the first wave of questions you want answered.”
“I remember watching it and being immediately hooked,” someone replied.
“The first two episodes triggered my depression really hard, and I had to stop. Then I couldn't get it out of my head and went back to it like a week later. Now it's one of my favorite shows ever,” another Redditor added.
Lost, released in 2004, is a science fiction drama that chronicles the journey of a band of survivors who find themselves on a remote tropical island in the Pacific after surviving a plane crash on Oceanic Airlines Flight 815.
One person stated, “My answer too—ridiculously strong opening. Hard to imagine now but it was one of the first ‘mystery box' series' and still maintained strong character focus. That whole first season was incredibly good.”
Another commenter added, “As someone who quit watching Lost halfway through, the pilot was one of the most riveting things I've ever seen.”
Hannibal is a psychological horror-thriller television series that aired from 2013 to 2015, starring Mads Mikkelsen as the titular character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The series is based on the characters and elements from the classic novels ‘Red Dragon' and ‘Hannibal' by Thomas Harris.
One user said, “Hannibal sets up the tone for the whole show quite well.”
Another Redditor replied, “The first season of Hannibal is one of my favorite TV seasons ever, and that first episode is flawless.”
One commenter added, “Love the show so much! Mads Mikkelson and Hugh Dancy are fantastic! I never would've thought I'd like another Hannibal Lecter after Anthony Hopkins, but I dare say that Mads is right up there with him. If not better.”
7. The West Wing
“Came here to say this. The entire show was a masterpiece for me, even after Sorkin left. Easily my most rewatched series,” One Redditor shared.
“26 Emmy awards. It's a comical number when you consider how many legendary TV shows only got 1 or 2 awards. I remember when John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff were all nominees for best-supporting actor against each other, and you just had to laugh at how much better it was than other shows,” another added.
“My favorite of all time. Have viewed S1-S7 at least three times, maybe four. I never get sick of it. Glad to know others are obsessed with it. Succession is the only other show that has come close to me wanting to absorb eps multiple times,” one commenter replied.
One user commented, “I watched the first episode of Westworld and then immediately made a group of friends watch it. It hooked me hard. It is a shame the later seasons couldn't (to me) hold on to the same magic as that first season.”
Another person replied, “The performances in Westworld were incredible. Especially when they were troubleshooting Peter Abernathy, that scene was masterful.”
A third commenter added, “Westworld S1 was absolute perfection. One of the best first seasons of a show ever. So sad its trajectory went the way it did.”
Ozark, a crime drama TV show, debuted on Netflix in 2017. Jason Bateman takes on the role of Marty Byrde, a financial advisor who moves his family from the suburbs of Chicago to the Ozarks in Missouri with the purpose of laundering money for a drug cartel.
“Ozark’s first episode was pretty chill, and then whoa,” one user stated.
“This is my answer, too. It's a good show, but far and away, the best episode of the series was the pilot. One of my favorite hours of television,” the second person replied.
10. Derry Girls
The show is known for its witty and irreverent humor, as well as its poignant exploration of the impact of political conflict on everyday life in Northern Ireland. It has been praised for its diverse and relatable characters, as well as its portrayal of female friendship and adolescent angst.
“Most sitcom first episodes (seasons too?) have to do so much table setting that they're not funny. This first episode established the settings, and characters, and was funny too,” one person stated.
“Yup, wife and I just started, and we were in love with it from the first episode. It's great when you find a new show that doesn't require time to ‘get into it, it gets better,’ etc.,” another commented.
One person stated, “It started well, but they tried to get too clever. The last series was unwatchable.”
Another user added, “Not fair as this show is on another level. Each episode is an entire cinematic experience. Masterpiece.”
One commenter said, “Yeah I liked the slow-mo matrix-style wedding photos, really added to the experience.”
12. The Americans
The Americans has been praised for its complex characters, compelling storytelling, and meticulous attention to detail in its portrayal of historical events and espionage tactics. It has won several awards, including Emmys for its lead actors and for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.
One person shared, “YES! Also has one of the saddest series finales ever. I cannot listen to With or Without you anymore.”
The second person replied, “It sets up everything perfectly. I remember finishing it the first time and being confused that I’d only watched a single episode. It felt longer, but in a good way. The finale is also amazing, along with pretty much every moment in between.”
13. Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is a science fiction television series that initially aired from 2004 to 2009. The show is a reimagining of the original 1978 series and is set in a distant star system where humans and their robot creations, the Cylons, are in a state of war.
One user shared, “That opening scene had me soooooo hooked.”
Another Redditor replied, “Oh, so good. And the finale was great too. (And like most of the in-between bits).”
14. Designated Survivor
Designated Survivor was initially praised for its compelling premise and strong performances, particularly from Sutherland. However, the show received mixed reviews over the course of its three seasons, with some critics and fans feeling that it lost its way in later seasons.
“Also had the best episode of the series,” one person commented.
“I’m so hooked on this show right now!” another person replied.
15. The Good Place
“This is especially striking because sitcoms are notorious for having ‘meh' pilots at best, even the ones that become classics. Sitcoms always seem to take time to get the characters well together and for the writing to align with their characters' energy. But The Good Place was straight hysterical right out of the gate!” one person said.
“Can't believe I had to scroll this far to find this. You watch the first episode, you're probably going to watch all of them,” another user stated.
“Yup, I was about to comment this because I didn’t think anyone would. I don’t really like sitcoms, but this show is amazing,” a third commenter added.
16. The Walking Dead
One person commented, “[The] Walking Dead season 1 was so d**n good.”
Another commenter replied, “I agree. That first episode hooked me. I was actually frightened and squirming in my seat as I got through the scene in/under the tank. What an adrenaline rush. After that, seeing NO progress in a resolution for years…other than to try to escape another disaster of their own making. I eventually gave up on the show.”
One user added, “This is actually the first to come to my mind as well. Such a great start.”
The series explores Dexter's personal struggle with his dark impulses and his attempts to balance his ‘normal' life as a brother, friend, and father with his secret life as a killer. Over the course of the series, Dexter becomes involved in a number of complex and dangerous situations, including his interactions with other serial killers, the police department's investigations into his activities, and his attempts to maintain his cover while pursuing his targets.
“Loved seasons 1 & 2,” one person commented.
“There is so much packed into the first episode in the best way,” added another.
Jericho is a post-apocalyptic drama television series that aired from 2006 to 2008. The show is set in the small town of Jericho, Kansas, after a nuclear attack on several major US cities. As the survivors struggle to rebuild their lives and society in the wake of the disaster, they face various challenges, including food and water shortages, disease outbreaks, and conflicts with neighboring towns and militias.
One person said, “That first episode was dynamite. Hands down. But unfortunately when they were forced to bring it back for season two, with a much reduced budget (just to pacify the fans), it showed. Was not the same quality show as season one.”
19. Mr. Robot
One person said, “That first episode legit dropped my jaw. It's one of the all-time greats.”
Another user commented, “I'm just watching Mr. Robot for the first time now. About halfway through season 3. It's really good, but they play a little too hard in the ‘unreliable narrator' trope.”
One Redditor added, “Agreed! Haven’t been that immediately hooked by the opening 10 minutes in a while.”
Fringe is a science-fiction television series that aired from 2008 to 2013. The show follows a team of FBI agents and scientists investigating mysterious and unexplained phenomena, including parallel universes, advanced technology, and supernatural events.
“I agree with you. Fringe was a terrific show,” one person stated.
“Very underrated, and I rarely see it even mentioned anywhere,” the second person replied.
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