Emmy episode analysis: Will Emmy voters give Jon Hamm (‘Mad Men’) a farewell hug?

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Jon Hamm is hoping to finally win that elusive Emmy for playing Don Draper on AMC’s “Mad Men” with the emotional series finale, “Person to Person.” As an actor, he’s been nominated for Best Drama Actor every year since the show first competed in 2008 and he’s also a four-time Comedy Guest Actor also-ran for both “30 Rock” (2009, 2010 and 2012) and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (2015).

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Don finds out from his daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that his ex-wife Betty (January Jones) has advanced lung cancer. Briefly reconnecting on the phone, Don implores Betty to let his children stay with him after she passes rather than with their stepfather Henry, and sheds a tear as he laments Betty’s diagnosis. However, Betty wants her brother and his wife to look after them instead, insisting that they need stability and “a woman in their lives”. Later, Don travels to California and reunites with Stephanie (Caity Lotz), who accompanies him at a spiritual retreat on the coast. When Stephanie has to suddenly leave Don, he calls co-worker and friend Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who senses that he is emotionally unstable, and pleads for him to return home and to his job at McCann Erickson. Don confesses some of his failings to Peggy and confides that the main reason he called was he never said goodbye.

A counselor persuades Don to attend the retreat’s group therapy session where he comforts a distraught man (Evan Arnold), crying while he embraces him. In the final scene, Don meditates and chants by the ocean. He calmly smiles, and the scene fades to the well-known 1971 “Hilltop” television advertisement for Coca-Cola, created by McCann Erickson. Can Hamm finally win the Emmy that has eluded him this past decade? Let’s examine the pros and cons:

Don Draper is incredibly vulnerable in this episode, and Hamm gives a deeply felt performance full of range, impact and especially empathy. There are tears of sadness, lament, regret, self-reflection, and loneliness and ultimately we leave Don as he appears to have found some peace. In other words, catnip for actors. It’s always fascinating to get a glimpse behind Don’s usually polished exterior, and this episode is no exception.

We’ve said it before, so it almost goes without saying; Hamm is incredibly overdue. With 16 nominations to his name (including his three this year for acting and producing), it’s shocking to consider that he has never won any Emmy hardware, particularly for bringing this character to life.

Voters might also want to give Hamm a farewell hug. When Hamm lost back in 2011, it was because Kyle Chandler won for his swan song season of “Friday Night Lights.” In addition to Chandler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”), John Ritter (“Three’s Company”) and Tony Randall (“The Odd Couple”) all won overdue Emmys for their TV series’ last seasons, and others, like Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”), won for their final bows after winning in previous years.

Hamm has submitted episodes in the past where he wore his heart on his meticulously-kept sleeve, to no avail. Back in 2008 he submitted a heartfelt and nostalgic performance in “The Wheel,” but lost out to Cranston. Then in 2011, when he looked like a shoo-in for the emotional and vulnerable “The Suitcase” episode, he was beaten out by Chandler. What does Hamm have to do to get his hands around one of these trophies?

As a performer on “Mad Men,” the odds are not in his favor. As has often been mentioned here at Gold Derby, no performer from that show has ever won an Emmy. With 34 losses so far in the acting races, is the TV academy really aware of this perennial snub of the show’s actors?

Despite what is noted above, the TV academy can sometimes be brutally unsentimental about overdue actors. Hashtag: Angela Lansbury, Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell.

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Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

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