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One of the most awarded and acclaimed series in TV history, Mad Men goes into this year’s primetime Emmy telecast on the heals of a two-year losing streak. The AMC and Lionsgate Television series, which won best drama four years in a row, was completely shut out in 2012 and 2013 — despite a slew of nominations.
This year sees that number of races down significantly. It still vies for best drama (against incumbent and network neighbor Breaking Bad), and both Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks are again nominated in their respective acting categories, but that’s it. None of the early contests during the Creative Arts ceremony prompted any Emmy gold, including that snub for widely favored guest (and now former cast member) Robert Morse.
But Mad Men packed plenty into those seven episodes it aired during this past window of eligibility, its last before the final run bows next year, especially for the nominated actors’ alter egos. Don Draper, like Stella would decades later, seemed to get his groove back. Joan finally broke the glass ceiling. And the sum of all those parts seemed as great as ever, with most critics certainly warming to the show more than the previous season.
Coming back from two winless years would be hard — but not impossible. Here’s a look at what Mad Men settled on as its big guns.
Two years after a sobering arc that saw the SC&P partner fundamentally sell herself to the client at Jaguar, Joan’s time during the seventh season was spent fully realizing her status as one of the firm’s biggest players — at least as much as a woman could in 1969. She finally relinquished her duties as schoolmarm of the secretary pool, all while continuing to keep Roger (John Slattery) at arm’s length. But Hendricks’ episode of choice for supporting actress in a drama? “The Strategy.” Season 7A’s penultimate episode culminated in Joan telling off Bob Benson (James Wolk) in stupendous fashion when the closeted accounts man proposed marriage. “You shouldn’t be with a woman,” she said, ever ahead of her time. “I want love, and I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement.” (Not great, Bob.)
Coming out of his perpetual tailspin, Don Draper had highs (making good with daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and lows (day-drinking in the office) over the course of the curtailed season. Hamm’s submitted episode for lead actor in a drama, coincidentally the same one as Hendricks’, marks a crossroads of his alter ego’s personal and professional redemption. Working late at night on a pitch with former protege Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) turns into a rekindling of sorts and a poignant slow dance to Frank Sinatra‘s “My Way.” Throw Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) in the mix for that final scene, a shared meal brainstorming at Burger Chef, and you’ve potentially got the series’ most gratifying moment yet between the ragtag central trio. These seven episodes were more devoted to Don than Mad Men has been in the past, and “The Strategy” tells you why.
With six episodes going out to TV Academy voters, only one entry from the latest season didn’t make the cut: “The Runaways.” Sadly, this means they missed Ginsberg (Ben Feldmen) severing his own nipple and handing it to Peggy during his schizophrenic reaction to the firm’s new IBM computer — but at least they caught everything else. And the episodes run the thematic gamut, really. Premiere “Time Zones” will likely please the Hollywood crowd with its Los Angeles setting and storyline, finale “Waterloo” includes another twist on the classic Mad Men “We’re saving the firm!” high jinks and the aforementioned “The Strategy” includes what the team clearly sees as some of the season’s strongest performances.
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