Raise your hand if you’re not ready for Schitt’s Creek to end. Over the course of five seasons that range from the heartwarming to the sobering—sometimes within a single episode—we have watched the Rose family’s evolution. Starting out as out-of-touch as the Bluths, over the course of five-and-a-bit seasons, the Rose family has overcome their fall from extravagance to become an extended, messy, well-meaning family.
On the other side of the coin, the town of Schitt’s Creek has evolved from nasty stereotype to welcoming home… for most of the characters, at least. With the sixth and final season already begun, we’re putting on some Rose-colored glasses to remember ten of the best episodes—from country hijinks to earworms to unprecedented (and joyous) LGBTQ+ representation.
Because this series’ strongest point—and a huge determiner in favorite episodes—concerns the Rose family’s personal arcs, some of this list will tend toward the spoilery. But, for what it’s worth, I went into the series already knowing about several key moments, but enjoyed them all over again once they were in the proper context.
To wit—preemptively, I’m going to award honorable mentions to unforgettable moments in the series: Moira’s disastrous line readings in “Wine and Roses” cemented how bonkers Catherine O’Hara was taking the character (the first time this show made more than one of us properly laugh); while David’s “I like the wine and not the label” metaphor in “Honeymoon” summed up pansexuality in a way that was palatable to share with family; and every single double-take-inducing throwaway one-liner from Alexis “omg ew David!” Rose.
Season 1, Episode 12: “Surprise Party”
Schitt’s Creek, like the Roses, spends most of its first season finding its footing. The first dozen episodes are best binged to get an overall sense of who the Roses used to be and how they’ve had to cope with their new circumstances. But while it takes a little while to get into the series, things definitely start to gel by the penultimate episode of season 1.
With Moira’s depression about living in Schitt’s Creek evident, Johnny hopes to restore her spirits by throwing her a surprise birthday party. But she’s so morose that he can’t get her to show up to anything unless she believes it’s a fundraiser… and then she insists on taking over the planning. The layers of who knows what resemble classic Arrested Development, yet it’s also its own unique story—especially once an exasperated David lets Moira in on the surprise, and she realizes just how much effort the entire town has gone to for her sake. It’s a first step made even more monumental because it’s a concession from the soap opera queen.
Season 2, Episode 8: “Milk Money”
The first taste of just how absurd life in Schitt’s Creek is comes when an enterprising Johnny gets himself mixed up in the raw milk business. From Alexis sabotaging the supply with her vague order of “things” to a hilariously tense run-in with the police, it’s a ridiculous effort from the Roses to try and fit into Schitt’s Creek, and realize how far they have to go.
Well, some Roses—elsewhere, David is tasked with helping Jocelyn pick out an outfit to run against Moira for town council. Not only do we get to see David in his element, with his big-city skills actually valued by the Schitt’s Creek community, but it’s clear that Moira has found some manner of town participation that actually matters to her.
Season 2, Episode 13: “Happy Anniversary”
The series does have its formulaic moments, with each finale seeing at least one Rose family member make some peace with their situation. Yet each of these moments is so satisfying that we don’t mind and even come to welcome who it will be each season.
Still attempting to cling to their old lifestyle, Johnny and Moira go out to a fancy Elmdale restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. But while they had initially gotten out of making it a double date with Roland and Jocelyn, they wind up in an etiquette nightmare when first they run into a couple from their old lives, and then Roland and Jocelyn happen upon this foursome.
But the key point is when the Roses’ old “friends” begin dumping on Schitt’s Creek, and Johnny has his moment: play along, at the Schitts’ expense, or defend the people who actually helped him and his family after they lost everything. More than once, the series emphasizes how the Roses’ wealthy acquaintances distanced themselves after they no longer existed in the same tax bracket; and while the Schitts are far from perfect, they are good at heart.
Season 3, Episode 13: “Grad Night”
While all of the Roses undergo transformations over the course of the show, Alexis may be the one who most comes into her best self. As incredible as her accounts of escaping sheikhs’ palaces are, at the start of the series she exemplifies wealth in excess—not needing to be anything but a pretty, giggly rich white girl because no one has ever demanded more from her. While her return to high school ten years later is mostly played for fish-out-of-water laughs, she is genuinely proud of her accomplishments—and, despite her studied nonchalance, devastated when the rest of her family can’t actually make it to her graduation.
Then in walks Moira and the Jazzagals, to sing “Baby I’m Yours” to her daughter despite their prickly, awkward relationship. Not only does it highlight Alexis’ special day (and David’s forgotten birthday), but it’s Moira choosing her children over her other engagements—while still remaining in the spotlight. That’s how you do plausible character development.
Season 4, Episode 5: “RIP Moira Rose”
It was a close tie between this and season 2’s “Moira’s Nudes,” but this episode builds on the ridiculousness of the prior one. Instead of illicit photographs, Moira is obsessed with a rumor of her death on the Internet, and the floodgates of supportive, fond memories it opens from people who never actually knew her. But that delight is short-lived, as she has to hide from the one reporter who comes to Schitt’s Creek to write a proper obituary, and she realizes just how fleeting a presence she has actually had in the public sphere.
Yet ironically (or perhaps by design), this episode is equally Alexis’. From tweeting an empty RIP for her own mother to her surprise bonding experience with David over meeting Ted’s girlfriend, she shows incredible range. It’s rare that an episode can make you giggle uncontrollably over “Nom nom for us, David!!!” and then tear up at Alexis’ admission that she’s in love with Ted, and so will never tell him, in the space of just a few minutes.
Season 4, Episode 6: “Open Mic”
Of course I have to include one of the top David/Patrick moments, with the latter’s swoony rendition of Tina Turner’s “The Best” at Rose Apothecary’s inaugural open mic night. Not simply because of how sweet it is, but how unexpected, even four seasons in. Having watched David fumble his way through hookups in Schitt’s Creek, and having learned (in episodes like 3×10 “Sebastien Raine”) how bleak his love life was before, the audience is ready for Patrick’s performance to be as embarrassing as David seems to believe it will be. But instead, as Patrick stuns the room, we watch David rendered speechless, then softened, then truly moved. Even more shocking is that Moira is, too.
And while there wasn’t room to highlight it on this list, consider 4×09 “Olive Branch” an extension of this episode, as David reconciles with Patrick with his own, very David Rose interpretation of “The Best.”
Season 4, Episode 13: “Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose”
Holiday specials can be hit-or-miss, but this one sparkles precisely because of how it addresses nostalgia for holidays long gone, as with Johnny missing the Roses’ decadent Christmas parties; and how making new traditions, even if humbler, is key to moving on with your life.
But what most sticks with me, and what keeps this from devolving entirely into feel-good schlock, is the final moment. Johnny, laughing, notices an errant menorah too close to a garland: “Last thing we want is to have the motel burn down!” And Moira just murmurs, “Or is it?”
Cut to black. Brilliant. Just because the Roses had a good Christmas doesn’t mean they’ve all accepted their existence in Schitt’s Creek.
Season 5, Episode 8: “The Hospies”
I knew I needed a Stevie episode, which was a little tough to determine since she undergoes constant, incremental changes over the course of the entire series. But this episode from midway through season 5 is definitely a turning point, as her fling with hotel reviewer Amir gets a nasty reality check: He doesn’t want them to get more serious, because he doesn’t see her ever doing more than working in Schitt’s Creek. It’s the rare truly gut-punch moment, and for a character who we’ve so grown to love.
How surprising, then, that it’s Moira who lifts Stevie out of her self-pity with a bottle of wine and a completely unexpected proposal: Audition for the role of Sally Bowles in the town’s production of Cabaret. Viewers were as stunned as Stevie, but as we’ll see, it’s exactly the kick in the ass that she needs, to do something that terrifies her.
As a treat, this episode also features one of the series’ best moments: Alexis’ cringeworthy audition singing the eponymous theme song from her reality show A Little Bit Alexis.
Season 5, Episode 11: “Meet the Parents”
This affirming episode (one of our Best TV Episodes of 2019) is further proof that Schitt’s Creek inhabits an idealized alternate reality that is unconcerned with our world’s bullshit. Rather than setting up the arrival of Patrick’s parents as the opportunity for David to accidentally out him, instead Mr. and Mrs. Brewer come at the revelation from a completely different angle: Of course they know Patrick is gay, but they just don’t understand why he didn’t feel close enough to tell them? Their ensuing conversations are still bittersweet because, despite not retreading a familiar queer story, the episode examines the divides that still exist between millennials and their parents.
Season 5, Episode 14: “Life is a Cabaret”
As you might have noticed, Schitt’s Creek loves its musical moments. But for last season’s finale, they smartly did not let Cabaret overtake the entire episode. Two excellent numbers show what the community has been building toward all season: Patrick killing it as the Emcee with “Wilkommen,” and Stevie’s authentically good but not surprise-Glee-level “Maybe This Time.”
But really this finale is the opportunity to take stock of where everyone is at, now that we know we have but one season left. Playing Sally didn’t automatically cure Stevie’s ennui, but she has proven to herself that she can do the terrifying thing. David’s growing frustration at being undercut with every attempt to share his and Patrick’s engagement doesn’t make their news any less sublime.
But then there’s Moira, taking the final moment as usual: Upon learning that The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening has been canned, that the last thing she actually poured her heart and soul into (even more than Cabaret) has been dismissed, she retreats into her wig closet to weep with genuine brokenheartedness. It’s truly uncomfortable but authentic to Moira’s journey, as the last holdout to accept (or not) Schitt’s Creek.
What are your favorite episodes of Schitt’s Creek?
Natalie Zutter so enjoyed rewatching all of these brilliant musical moments for this list. Share your favorite David and Alexis moments with her on Twitter @nataliezutter!
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