Additionally, nameless TV episodes lend credence to the fallacy that any great TV show is just an “X-hour movie.” With “Part 1” and “Part 2” in place of actual episode numbers, a series’ viewers can be forgiven for thinking it’s just a long movie arbitrarily cut up into smaller, more digestible parts.
The recent TV landscape has two big offenders when it comes to nameless episodes: HBO’s True Detective: Night Country and Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air. Both go with the boring “Part X” naming conventions and both are particularly disappointing due to the vibrantly-named TV franchises they hail from.
All previous three seasons of True Detective featured episodes with titles and many of them were quite good! True Detective‘s first season opened with the bold “The Long Bright Dark” and concluded with the equally bold “Form and Void.” The finale name comes from the first chapter of Genesis and refers to the Earth being “without form, and void” before God shined light upon it – something that plays directly into Rust Cohle’s optimistic realization that the light is now winning. Night Country is both highly referential to and reverential of True Detective season 1 and it’s a shame that that does not carry over to creative episode names.
Similarly, Masters of the Air is the third entry of a Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg-produced World War II “franchise” that began with Band of Brothers in 2001 and continued with The Pacific in 2010. The Pacific didn’t have its own episode titles (revealing that this issue isn’t isolated to the streaming era only) but Band of Brothers did and they were profoundly effective.
Band of Brother‘s titles are simple, striking, and urgent – which fits for the immediacy of this saga about Easy Company trying to survive in the European theater. Episode names include “Currahee,” “Carentan,” “Replacements,” “Crossroads,” and “Points. These all succinctly describe the setting and/or most important bullet point of each installment and serve as helpful hallmarks for viewers reflecting back on what they watched. There is no mistaking which episode was the one with Currahee in it because it’s called “Currahee.” Just like there’s no way to misremember which episode introduced all the replacements, was set at the Battle of Carentan, or dealt with the unit trying to accumulate “points” to get to go home.
TV history is filled with great shows that are properly committed to the episode naming bit. Friends‘ strategy of beginning each episode title with “The One With…” meant that each installment featured a joke before it even began. Lost could either go succinct (“The Constant”) or sound like a Fall Out Boy song title (“All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”). The Florida-set sitcom Cougar Town named all of its episodes after a different Tom Petty song, simply because it was fun to celebrate the legend from Gainesville. And fun is good, regardless of who tries to tell you otherwise.