Life is stressful enough as it is, so the last thing we’d want to do is subject ourselves to more stress during our relaxation hours, right?
Wrong! If the TV shows we’ve been consuming over the past year are anything to go by, we can’t seem to get enough of it. Maybe it’s cathartic, or maybe it’s just a relief for the stress to be contained within a physical box in front of us — but either way, 2022 appeared to be a year filled with armrest-clawing television.
From monstrous escapes in Stranger Things to very real escapes in Euphoria, here are the most stressful TV scenes of 2022.
1. Stranger Things 4, the “Running Up That Hill” scene
For a while after Stranger Things 4 dropped, you couldn’t move without hearing Kate Bush’s excellent 1985 track “Running Up That Hill”. The song was propelled up the charts after featuring heavily on the Netflix show’s soundtrack, popping up throughout the season but featuring in one particularly powerful and nerve-jangling sequence where Max (Sadie Sink) desperately tries to escape Vecna’s clutches. The scene where she’s pulled into his nightmare world is horrible because we know what the consequences could be, and her final dash to freedom — spurred on by Bush’s song — is terrifying until the very end. — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor
Why the ‘Running Up That Hill’ scene in ‘Stranger Things’ is so powerful
2. Inventing Anna, the holiday in Morocco
Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Netflix
Being in a country you’re not familiar with can be exhilarating, but it can also be stressful. In Inventing Anna it’s a complete nightmare. The sequence in question takes place in episode 6, when serial scammer Anna Delvey (Julia Garner) takes her friends on a luxurious holiday to Morocco that begins to unravel when it becomes clear she doesn’t have any money to pay for the trip. During one particularly unpleasant scene, Delvey’s friend Rachel Williams (Katie Lowes) frantically calls her bank in an attempt to get some emergency funds transferred before finally being forced to pay tens of thousands in hotel bills on her company card. Watching things spiral from all-expenses luxury to the threat of being detained in a foreign country is truly sweat-inducing. — S.H.
3. House of the Dragon, the dragon chase
You’re pretty safe when you’re with a dragon, right?
We’ve called this House of the Dragon moment the dragon chase, but really the tension starts the minute poor old Prince Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) lands at Storm’s End to try to and win over House Baratheon to his mother’s cause. The problem? His fairly unpleasant uncle, Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), is already there, with his much larger dragon waiting in tow. What follows is a nervy dragon chase through the clouds that quickly spirals into the kind of disaster that kicks off an entire civil war. — S.H.
4. Succession Season 3, the misdirected dick pic
What did you do, Roman?!
Credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO
There were many moments in Succession Season 3 that could have made this list — probably multiple moments per episode, in fact — but sending a dick pic to your own dad is pretty hard to top. Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) is in a board meeting at the time of the incident, when his attempt to send said picture to interim CEO of Waystar Royco Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron) results in his father Logan’s (Brian Cox) phone suddenly buzzing. There’s a horrible moment when we realise exactly what’s happened a split second before Roman does — and the fallout is every bit as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. — S.H.
5. Euphoria, Rue waking up in Laurie’s flat
Rue (Zendaya) has a horrible time in “Euphoria” Season 2.
Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Euphoria is another show with stressful scenes aplenty, but none more so than the sequence in episode 5 in which Rue (Zendaya) wakes up in a flat belonging to drug dealer Laurie (Martha Kelly). We know at this point that Laurie, despite never raising her voice, is not a character to be messed with. She’s already threatened to have Rue kidnapped if she doesn’t pay the money she owes from the suitcase of drugs Laurie gave her earlier in the show. So when Rue tries to creep out of the flat without waking anyone, only to find the door padlocked shut, the stress levels quickly reach critical levels. Luckily Rue escapes through a window in the end, but not before one of Laurie’s especially unpleasant minions almost catches her in the act. — S.H.
6. Better Call Saul, the burglary scene
It’s like he wanted to get caught.
Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
In the world of Better Caul Saul and Breaking Bad, a general rule of thumb is that good things don’t last. If something is going well for one of the characters, you know it isn’t going to stay that way forever. Towards the end of Better Call Saul‘s final season, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman(Bob Odenkirk) is running a burglary operation with two men who previously threatened to unveil his identity. It’s all going smoothly enough, but Jimmy — who seems to almost want to get caught at this point — can’t stop taking bigger risks. The final burgulary involves a break in where the victim — meant to be drugged and unconscious in the op plan — wakes up while Jimmy is creeping around his house. Nope. — S.H.
7. Severance, Mark letting his identity slip.
A fish out of water.
Credit: Apple TV+
It’s claustrophobia and nagging mystery that dominate Severance more than stress, but in the show’s finale things go into overdrive. In a nutshell, Dan Erickson’s series centres around a group of workers who have made the decision to split themselves into two people: a work version that only exists in their company, Lumon, and the version that exists outside. In Severance‘s finale, these work versions attempt to break free by flicking a switch that allows them to wake up outside of the office. It’s all going smoothly enough until Mark (Adam Scott) accidentally calls his boss, Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette) — who poses as his next door neighbour in the world outside the office — by the wrong name. — S.H.
8. Bad Sisters, the freezer scene.
Credit: Apple TV+
Any show that revolves around a group of characters trying (and repeatedly failing) to kill their brother-in-law is bound to get the heart-rate pumping a bit. Sharon Horgan’s dark crime dramedy Bad Sisters is another show with multiple stressful moments to choose from, but the sequence in which Becka Garvey (Eve Hewson) hides in the basement in an attempt to lock John Paul (Claes Bang) in the freezer is a standout. Not just the buildup, but also the moment we realise she’s trapped the wrong person. — S.H.
9. The White Lotus, the scene on the boat.
Credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO
“These gays, they’re trying to murder me.” These words, uttered by a panic-stricken Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge), are the beginning of the end for this beloved character. It’s a shame really, that the cool group of wealthy, fun-loving, fabulous men she’s been traipsing around Sicily with have turned out to be a bunch of scammers who were only ever after her money. It was all a little too good to be true, let’s face it. But it takes Tanya far too long to realise these chaps aren’t actually her new BFFs after all.
It’s only when Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) rings her from Jack’s (Leo Woodall’s) phone to tell her that there’s something going on that the penny finally FINALLY drops. By which point, she’s on a yacht that’s several hours from where she wants to be. Nightmare. Tanya tries to talk to the captain of the boat (with his little knitted cap) to get some help, but to no avail. Tanya then oscillates between frantic running around the boat and silent ruminations as she continues to keep up the charade of not knowing about the secret plan to bump her off. The most stressful scene of all sees Tanya making a mad dash for a bedroom, grabbing Niccoló’s (Stefano Gianino’s) bag of tricks (aka murder weapons) before turning the gun on the besties-turned-murder-squad and killing them all while whimpering uncontrollably. She could have walked away claiming a narrow brush with death, but no. “You got this,” she whispers as she tries to jump off the boat. Narrator: she did not “got” this. Oh, Tanya. If only she’d asked more questions. If only she hadn’t agreed to get on the yacht. — Rachel Thompson, Features Editor
How to watch: The White Lotus is streaming now on HBO Max(opens in a new tab).
10. The Bear, the entire one-shot moment of episode 7.
Is “Review” the most stressful episode out of The Bear? Yes, yes it is. But is it also the best episode? Absolutely. The one-shot take of a day gone horribly wrong at The Original Beef of Chicagoland starts out with an awkward restaurant review and ends with a stabbing. And we’re counting this one-shot as one whole bad moment too.
See, Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) accidentally left the shop’s new to-go feature on overnight, accumulating hundreds of orders — 78 slices of chocolate cake, 99 french fries, 54 chickens, 38 salads, and 255 beef sandwiches, to be exact — all due up in eight minutes. Throw in a Sharpie that isn’t working, a surprise bring-your-kid-to-work day thanks to Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), and two employees abruptly quitting amidst the chaos, and you have just about the worst day possible.* —Yasmeen Hamadeh, Entertainment Intern
How to watch: The Bear is now streaming on Hulu.(opens in a new tab)