TV show episodes that we can't bear to re-watch

Our writers tell us about the episodes that are too sad to revisit

multiple writers
31st May 2020
There's always those set few episodes from our favourite shows that broke our hearts. It's always the ones we always skip past when we come to re-watching. Our writers tell us all about their picks for saddest/most cringe worthy episodes. Spoilers ahead!
Bojack Horseman, "Xerox of a Xerox."

I was going to pick another Bojack episode, but honestly, I can re-watch hard-hitting episodes like 'The View from Halfway Down' over and over again. However, 'Xerox of a Xerox' is one I really struggle to re-watch.

Credit: IMDb

This episode goes through some of the most horrible things Bojack has ever done through an interview. Bojack had the chance of redemption, but his old tendencies came back as he accepted one more interview after the roaring success of the last one. However, this interview ends up sinking viewers spirits. Biscuits, the interviewer, lists some of the worst things Bojack has done, mainly focusing on his inappropriate relationships with women throughout the series. We come to realise that Bojack is irredeemable- Sarah Lynn didn't die at the planetarium, she died at Bojack's negligence to call for help and to be held responsible for his actions.

This episode really made me realise the direction that the rest of the final season was going to go in, and I'm grateful that they didn't let Bojack off the hook. However, the interview still makes my stomach churn and I struggle to watch it.

Sophie Hicks

Game of Thrones, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken."

Game of Thrones has its fair share of brutal moments. From Ned Stark’s execution and the Red Wedding to the entirety of its final season (which was painful to say the least), Game of Thrones was never one to steer away from cruelty. Whilst these moments could be difficult to watch, they made for unforgettable television, almost wishing you could unsee the series to experience the tragedy once again. One episode I wish I could wipe from my memory, and not for good reasons, has to be the mid-season five episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”.

This episode truly pushes the audience to its limits as it concludes with the rape of Sansa Stark by the psychotic Ramsay Bolton. Season five was building up to this moment when it was revealed Littlefinger had set up a marriage pact between the two for his own gain. Reluctantly agreeing to the marriage assuming she could take back control of Winterfell, Ramsay’s cruelty was unknown to Sansa, until their wedding night that is. Ramsay forces Sansa’s childhood friend Theon to watch, with his torture at the hands of Ramsay rendering him motionless as he is too traumatised to stop him.

Credit: IMDb

This episode was especially devastating as we see Sansa being used as a pawn once again, falling into the clutches of yet another sadistic family but this time in her own home. This was also Sansa’s second marriage, having previously been forced to marry Tyrion Lannister when she was a prisoner in King’s Landing. This moment seemed like a betrayal. Not only to such a beloved character, but because season four had ended with the expectation that Sansa had finally escaped her enemies and was about to take back control of her life. Instead, we were forced to watch as Sansa was sold and left to fend for herself again. Although Sansa’s disturbing storyline with Ramsay proved to be vital to the season six plot, at the time it seemed gratuitous. Whenever I decide that I’m in need of a Game of Thrones re-watch, this is an episode I will always skip.

Kate Dunkerton

Orphan Black. "To Right the Wrongs of Many."

Years from now, most people will remember Orphan Black as that show with the clones where Tatiana Maslany played hundreds of characters at the same time, each with their own flair. For me, it's a personal show, a show with a heart. However, despite the many re-watches I have done, I physically cannot re-watch the finale of the final season. Primarily, it's so hard to watch because it makes me realise that I will never get another episode of my favourite show.

The finale is also extremely emotional. The first act sees Helena give birth. Sarah holds her twins hand, taking Siobhan's place as matriarch, reliving Kira's birth and reclaiming her sense of self and self-worth. Helena delivers two perfect little boys, two boys she has protected fiercely. It's a scene of life and of the future. You watch these characters you've grown attached to go through something so monumental, so important that it's hard to watch without getting emotional yourself.

Credit: IMDb

The finale then jumps to the day Helena dreamed about: her baby shower. We're told Donnie has a new job, Felix is returning from his big art show in New York, Art has adopted Charlotte. The nerd squad is working hard, identifying Ledas in advance of Cosima and Delphine's tour across the world to help identify and save Clones. It's a happy scene - they're all free. It's a scene of victory, of confessions, of love. There's no cliffhangers, no unrealistic happy endings, just characters that I've loved for years coming together to conclude their own stories. You'd think it would be easy to watch a happy finale. But for me, someone who is attached to these characters, it's physically painful to watch. I love these characters so much. I want them to be happy and for that, I pay the price of tears, snot and emotion.

Lucy Lillystone

You, Me and the Apocalypse, "The End of the World."

You, Me and the Apocalypse is arguably one of my favourite TV shows of all time solely due to the unpredictable nature of the final scene. The show starts off slow, portraying news outlets announcing Earth’s impending doom due to an inevitable asteroid collision. The majority of the season focuses on the likeable protagonist, Jamie (Mathew Baynton), who desperately searches for his long lost wife and daughter and secures their place in an underground bunker with the promise of survival. Along the way Jamie discovers he has an evil twin called Ariel (yes, like the mermaid) who seeks to sabotage Jamie’s life.

Credit: IMDb

In the finale, we are led to believe that Ariel has been defeated as ‘Jamie’ and his family huddle up in the bunker as the asteroid hits the Earth. Baynton recites a dramatic monologue as ‘Happy Together’ by The Turtles plays over the hysteria, cleverly juxtaposing the chaos on screen. Just as we are deceived into believing that Jamie finally got the happy ending he deserved, the scene cuts to him crawling along the ground outside the bunker, begging to be let in, as the world around him explodes. After he explains that he is the real Jamie, the scene cuts back to the bunker, where Ariel smirks to himself, knowing he has finally ruined his twin brother’s life once and for all. This unpredictable plot twist left me truly gobsmacked for days and, years later, I still can’t watch Horrible Histories the same way.

Amelia Thorpe

The Haunting of Hill House, "The Bent-Neck Lady."

Since moving to the house, Nelly was haunted by the horrifying vision of the bent-neck lady. Often towering over her, she is menacing, with her bent neck being especially disturbing. Throughout the show, this plays out as a typical haunting: often drawing connections to mental health, the ghost lures over Nellie, seemingly stealing every bit of happiness.

However, this all changes with the episode "The Bent-Neck Lady". Nelly returns to the house, seeking comfort in the terrifying beast after failing to contact all of her siblings. She reminisces on the memories of her mother, gently floating through the silent halls. The house silently feeds off her.

Credit: YouTube

I will not describe what happens next: no attempt to do so would do justice to the brilliance of this scene. It is both horrifying and painfully sad. The way Mike Flanagan highlights, without showing off, the crucial elements of this scene make it so that the twist surprises us, while still making sense for the story.

The show takes the concept of ghosts to another level: it not only gives a why to their sorrow, but it provides significance to their apparitions. The creatures haunting the characters are not purely external beings who seek to hurt them: they are manifestation of their own inner sorrows and, most pressingly, of their attachment to family. This is deeply human. Our anxieties, the fears that we let define our lives are rarely caused by material phobias. Most often, they are inner limits, imaginary lines we are terrified to cross. The episode drives home this message, while presenting the best visual representation of regret.

Elisabetta Pulcini

Scrubs, "My Screwup."

If you’re already a fan of Scrubs you would already know how hilarious the show is, with seemingly never-ending comedy, laugh tracks that actually make sense and brilliant actors who always seem to be holding back a smile themselves.  However, what is most impressive is how versatile the show can be, and season 3 episode 14 seems to be the centre of this versatility. In "My Screwup", the humour takes a turn and decides to highlight the impact of loss, showing a side to Dr. Cox we thought we would never see, when he realises he’s at his best friend’s funeral. I say realise, as the episode is mirroring Dr. Cox’s denial, as only once his friend is being buried is he brought out of his shell to deal with losing his best friend, Ben (played by Braden Frasure).

Credit: IMDb

What starts as another comedic episode slowly shows it’s true face, as a journey through denial, guilt, and letting go, which the show manages with maturity and gentility. Every scene managed to bring the realism of death, nervous laughter, and jokes included. And for these reasons, this is an episode of scrubs I struggle to watch every time, but will and do as it is simply a beautifully written piece of television.

Laura J. Williams

The Office, "Scott's Tots."

Did you just get a shiver down your spine? If not, then you’ve probably not seen The Office (US) before. The classic show which narrates the not-so-regular goings-on of a regular paper company has entertained millions of people around the world. However, for many die-hard fans, there’s one episode which they can’t fathom to watch. I’m talking, of course, about ‘Scott’s Tots’.

In the 12th episode of their 6th season, The Office narrated a significant moment from Michael’s past. 10 years before the episode, Michael had gained city-wide attraction for his dedication to a group of underprivileged children in which he decided that, if they graduated from high-school, he’d pay for their college tuition. The scheme was titled ‘The Michael Scott Foundation’. However, you can imagine the horror when, not only did he forget about them, but he is in no position to fund so many people’s college tuition.

One of the main things that caught my eye through subjecting myself to this torture would be just how innately embarrassed you feel for Michael. In his earlier years, we were introduced to an unlikable character who acted on impulse, and we’re now seeing the result of his actions. Through his false lies, Michael had been immortalised by his ‘Tots’, renaming a room in the school the ‘Michael Gary Scott reading room’, choreographing a song and dance dedicated to the man, and being described by one student as “his guardian angel”.

Credit: IMDb

It’s one of those beautiful moments in TV when you can’t help but sit back with tears of laughter at what you're witnessing. However, whilst amazingly funny you can’t help but cringe with the idea of being in his shoes. Witnessing all those kids, quite literally, perform a song-and-dance over you, only for you to announce that you can’t afford their tuition and, in an attempt to give them something, offer up ‘laptop batteries’ as a substitute. Because, to quote Michael: "The best way to access online courses is with your own personal laptop... which is rendered useless without batteries".

Their song repeated the line: “Hey Mr Scott. What you gonna do? What you gonna do, make our dreams come true!”. Needless to say, I think he turned their dreams into a nightmare. It’s a masterpiece, and should be remembered forever as perhaps the cringiest moment in TV history.

Tom Moorcroft

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