Top 5 Most Depressing Christmas Episodes on Television
It's a common myth that some people find the winter holidays to be so depressing that suicide rates spike around Christmas. It's at least prevalent enough that Snopes dedicated an article to debunking it. Simply put, there us no significant increase in the number of people who seek psychiatric help for depression or take the final measure to end their lives just because of the holidays.
I am here to fix that because I am an inherently bad person.
Every TV show worth its lunch box and mint-in-box licensed action figure has Christmas episodes. Some are light-hearted and fun, some are warm and family-oriented, and some seek to teach us a moral. Then there are Christmas episodes dedicated to stomping on your heart and wiping the broken organ all over your soul.
Surprisingly, only one of them is written by Steven Moffat.
Doctor Who, "The Snowmen": The annual Christmas special has become a high point for the modern Doctor Who. In general they're all very high quality outings, and most of the time serve as amusing diversions from the main thrust of the series.
Then last year we got "The Snowmen". After two straight years of modern parables with happy endings, Steven Moffat brought Clara back to life after we'd seen her killed in "Asylum of the Daleks" just to kill her again. One minute she's walked into the Tardis, seen the wonders of the universe, is offered a key by The Doctor, and then the next she's dragged off a cloud to tumble to her slow death. In fact, the only way that the killer snow is bested in the episode is literally to have her employer's family weeping uncontrollably over her death hard enough to turn the sentient snowflakes into rain. That's some cold writing when making people feel bad for an imaginary person becomes an actual plot device.
The West Wing, "Noel": There are actually two really depressing Christmas specials in The West Wing, but "Noel" is a little more terrifying than "In Excelsis Deo". The episode follows Josh as he begins working on the case of a pilot who broke formation in a training exercise. Josh was investigating possible mechanical problems, when the pilot radios in that the problem wasn't the plane and deliberately crashes into a mountain to kill himself.
Josh finds out that he and the pilot share the same birthday, and that the pilot had been shot down and badly injured over Bosnia at one point. Josh begins having panic attacks brought on by the holiday music at the White House because the brass quintet sounds like the ambulance sirens he heard after being almost fatally shot by white supremacists in Rosslyn, VA. This leads to him becoming erratic and self-destructive, even putting his hand through a window and cutting it badly, as it becomes clear he is suffering from severe PTSD, as the subject of investigation clearly was.
It's a great episode, honestly, but when we think about people falling apart on Christmas it's not usually because they can't stop reliving terrible moments from the past. It's like the anti-Dickens.
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