10. Homeland (Showtime) Carrie Matheson proved Nick Brody was working with terrorists and Nick Brody returned to boning Carrie Matheson. Brody’s wife returned to boning Brody’s pal. The vice president’s son hit a lady and Brody’s daughter sought to expose him. Nazir’s bombs blew up the CIA (and CIA chief Estes). Brody fled. Saul Berenson precipitated a suicide, then took charge. Season two was little goofy, and I don’t think it’ll win the drama Emmy next fall, but it’s still wildly compelling.
9. The Newsroom (HBO) BP precipitated an ecological disaster. Mubarek was ousted. Japan endured a nuclear crisis. Gabby Giffords got shot. Osama Bin Laden got killed. The Tea Party ran wild. Lisa appeared on a telecast. Sloan feared economic collapse. Jim helped Maggie with her panic attack. Will ran afoul of Leona Lansing. Charlie found help in an anonymous source. As wildly uneven as Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60” and three times as preachy, its best parts are improbably great. (“Sports Night,” for the record, wasn’t perfect either.)
8. The Walking Dead (AMC) Everyone fled Hershel’s farm. The gang stumbled upon a prison and met some prisoners. A zombie snacked on Hershel. We learned Meryl survived self-amputation and was living among less angry survivors. Andrea and Michonne met The Governor, likely the most interesting character ever to grace this franchise. This season’s most improved series.
7. Downton Abbey (PBS) A power struggle erupted when the Grantham home was partially transformed into a facility for convalescing soldiers. War injuries landed Matthew in a wheelchair, imperiling any hope he had of courting his beautiful cousin. Spanish Flu nearly claimed Cora. Thomas’ black-market schemes met with limited success. Bates married Anna then got tossed into stir. We could have done without the mummy-ish Canadian, but the second-season finale was a spectacular piece of storytelling.
6. Bunheads (ABC Family) Michelle fought for a modern supermarket, Truly went to the movies with Michelle’s best friend from Vegas, Ginny dumped her boyfriend of eight years in favor of Melanie’s brother, Boo fell for her undersized dance partner, Fanny got serious about her pianist friend, and the troubled, shirt-thieving Sasha met “The Ringer” and unexpectedly identified Michelle as her captain. The year’s best new hourlong marks the comeback of “Gilmore Girls” mastermind Amy Sherman Palladino.
5. Justified (FX) Karen Sisco reteamed with her old flame and crimefighting colleague Raylan Givens. Barbeque kingpin Ellstin Limehouse proved a disarming presence. Season-two players Dickie Bennett and Loretta Macready re-emerged. Ava Crowder turned entrepreneurial. Boyd Crowder took on a corrupt sheriff. Boy-brutalizing Detroit mobster Robert Quarles arrived in Kentucky to give Wynn Duffy new marching orders. I liked this better than the Mags Bennett season.
4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO) Nucky got a stunning new girlfriend, an easily offended new enemy and a relationship with Gaston Bullock Means. Chalky White recruited Eddie Cantor and put his future son-in-law to work. Murderous former treasury agent Nelson Van Alden went underground got into irons and moonshine. Gillian seduced a fellow who looked a lot like her son. Richard Harrow kissed a girl and retrieved the Darmody boy. The best season yet of this great series.
3. Breaking Bad (AMC) Walter, Jesse and Mike used a giant magnet to wipe Gus Fring’s laptop, then decided to join forces. Vamonos Pest Control was co-opted. Collateral damage was sustained as methylamine was drained from a train car. Skyler’s sister Marie was asked to look after the White children. Madrigal executive Lydia Rodarte-Quayle helped the Czech market put an enormous cube of cash in Skyler’s storage locker. And Hank learned that Walt is Heisenberg. Pity they had to kill the series’ best character.
2. Mad Men (AMC) Don Draper revived his new wife’s acting career. Don’s old wife ballooned. Roger Sterling dropped acid and put the bone to Don’s mother-in-law. Joan Halloway became a SCDP partner for landing Jaguar. SCDP made a run at Dow Chemical. Peggy Olsen hired Michael Ginsberg, then quit. Pete Campbell got beat up by Lane Pryce and boned a pretty electroshock patient. Lane Pryce destroyed his eyeglasses. The dogs fucking outside Peggy’s motel room were the first of many reasons this season rocked.
1. Game Of Thrones (HBO) Theon betrayed the Starks. Tywin unknowingly mentored Arya, who befriend Robert’s bastard and a death djinn. Osha and Hodor formed a crimefighting team. Robb tormented Jaime. Cercei counseled Sansa. Brienne ditched House Tyrell for House Stark. Snow met both Craster and the Lord of Bones. Tyrion put Bron in charge of the City Watch and defended the mudgate. The Khalissi sought her dragons in the House of the Undying. It rivals “Mad Men” in its wit, but gets the edge because it employs zombies and dragons.