My Favorite Joan Moments

2012-21 FEA Joan Best Christmas Waltz H

If "Mad Men" fans wanted Joan to nail Greg over the rape scene, what they wanted more was for Weiner and the writing staff to get Joan and Don together for a lengthy scene of mutual admiration.

THR's television critic looks back on the season's best scenes.

Episode 1-2: "A Little Kiss"

Hendricks really shines in the two-hour opener because we see her for the first time as a mother, which is special enough, but Joan is frazzled and dealing with her mother, Gail, who not only is preaching old-school husband loyalty but nitpicking Joan about her post-pregnancy attractiveness. "Yes, Joanie, everyone's staring at you," she says sarcastically. "You know, you're not exactly at your fighting weight." Joan: "Try me."

Episode 4: "Mystery Date"

This was the episode Joan fans needed for closure. Hitting Greg over the head with a vase in season three? Not good enough. He's a jerk and a rapist, and when his low self-esteem gets inflated by the military that, says Greg, makes him feel like a good man, he re-enlists without consulting Joan. As for that "good man" notion, a seething Joan says: "You never were -- even before we were married. And you know what I'm talking about." Hendricks' glare sent the message.

Episode 7: "At the Codfish Ball"

In a series where change occurs mostly in the exterior portrait of the culture and so seldom in the characters, Hendricks brings a humbled humanity to Joan as she deals with Peggy's dashed hopes about a wedding proposal from Abe (he only wants to move in with her). Having found marriage less than she imagined, Joan calls the more modern Peggy's situation romantic and downplays the importance of the institution. Where once Joan would have gloated, Hendricks plays it knowing, woman-to-woman in the changing world.

Episode 10: "Christmas Waltz"

If Mad Men fans wanted Joan to nail Greg over the rape scene, what they wanted more was for Weiner and the writing staff to get Joan and Don together for a lengthy scene of mutual admiration. They got that here, which was the first of two back-to-back episodes where Hendricks does some of her best acting. Greg serves her with divorce papers -- driving Joan to smash things and yell at the inept receptionist -- and she refuses Roger's offer to support her. But "Christmas Waltz" resonated with fans because Don and Joan have incredible chemistry and pretending to be married at a Jaguar dealership and then drinking the day away in Manhattan provided the backbone to one of the most enjoyable episodes this season. There were no heavy thematic elements -- just Hendricks and Jon Hamm playing at Bogart and Bacall. Hendricks looks like she's having a ball, and her delivery of this line is just delicious: "My mother raised me to be admired."

Episode 11: "The Other Woman"

Easily the best Joan episode this season and one that ignited a lot of chatter on the Internet about her actions when she gets an indecent proposal ($50,000) from Pete, who says Sterling Cooper will lose out on the Jaguar account if Joan doesn't sleep with the head of the powerful dealership association. After showing the appropriate disgust, Joan changes her mind when Lane tells her to ask for partner status plus five percent of the firm. Hendricks is hitting on all cylinders here -- the risks in the scene are enormous. And the decision Joan makes -- to sleep with the heavy-set car dealer -- goes against the too-late advice of Don and, no doubt, the queasy pleas of the viewing audience. But the decision stays true to her character. It may not sit well with the audience, but Joan, since season one, has always seen her physical attributes as a means to an end, and in this is a chance to secure a future for her and her son. Hendricks makes viewers suffer through the decision because she's stoic but has an interior revulsion. After the deed, when she assembles in the office as one of the partners, she gives a look to Don that says don't worry about her -- but don't judge her, either. It's a fantastically nuanced effort from Hendricks and an Emmy reel if there ever was one.