Tag Archives: Vincent Kartheiser

Season Finale: Mad Men – “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”

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“Shut the Door”

November 8th, 2009

“I’m not going…I’m just living elsewhere.”

Every episode of television is a collection of scenes, individual set pieces designed to present a particular moment or to evoke a particular emotion or feeling. The scenes serve one of many potential purposes, whether it’s establishing a standalone plot within a particular episode, calling back to a previous scene or event in another episode, or even simply being placed for the sake of foreshadowing. A scene can change meaning as a season progresses, an awkward encounter with an overly touchy politico turning into a legitimate affair by the addition of new scenes that speak to the old one, for example. And, at the same time, other scenes are simply brief thematic beats designed to give the viewer the sense of a particular time or place, with nothing more beneath them than the aesthetic value apparent in the craftsmanship involved.

A great episode of television, however, is where every single scene feels purposeful, and more importantly where there is no one type of scene which feels dominant. There can still be scenes designed to engage with nothing more than the viewer’s sense of humour, just as there will be scenes that feel like the culmination of two and a half seasons worth of interactions. In these episodes there is a balance between scenes which unearth feelings and emotions from the past that have been kept under wraps all season and scenes which create almost out of thin air entirely new scenarios that promise of an uncertain future.

In a season finale in particular, this last point is imperative. A great season finale assures the reader that, as the quote above indicates, the change which is going to take place in the season to follow is both fundamental (in presenting something which surprises or engages) and incidental (in maintaining the series’ identity), both chaotic (in the context of the series’ fictional universe) and controlled (within the mind of the show’s writers). It is an episode that must feel like the fruit of the thirty-five episodes which preceded it while also serving as the tree for the twenty-six episodes which will follow. It is the episode that, for better or for worse, will be more closely scrutinized than any other, and for which expectations are exceedingly high.

“Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” is more than a collection of scenes. It transcends the concepts of script and screen to capture characters in their most vulnerable states, in the process tapping into the viewer’s emotions with a sense of purpose that the show has never quite seen. Where past amazing episodes have sometimes hinged upon a single scene or a single moment, or on the creation of a particular atmosphere, this finale is like a never-ending stream of scenes that we have been clambering for all season: characters say everything we wanted them to say, do everything we wanted them to do, and yet somehow it never felt like puppet theatre where the characters would follow the whims of Matthew Weiner more than their own motivations.

It is a finale that never wastes a single scene, and which marches towards an uncertain conclusion with utmost certainty. Somehow, in a finale which does not shy away from scenes which are both disturbing to watch and destructive to the show’s tempestuous sense of balance, it maintains a cautious optimism by demonstrating that not everything will fall apart at once, while retaining the right to have everything in shambles by the time we return with Season Four. It’s a singular achievement, an hour of television which sits perfectly in the gap between the past and the future while never feeling as if it takes us out of the present, the moment in which these characters are captured in these scenes.

So, shut the door and have a seat: we’ve got some discussing to do.

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

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Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Predictions

In the Comedy supporting categories, I actually feel as if there’s some trends that you can follow, shows that are dominating the main nominations and therefore are clearly catching voters’ attention. However, I just don’t see that on the drama side: there are people here who are going to get nominated entirely independent of their series, and some who have other variables that will place them in contention. With last year’s winner Zjelko Ivanek out of the running (feel free to watch his Emmy-winning performance to find out why), this leaves a wide open category for some familiar faces.

Michael Emerson and William Shatner are likely to be repeat nominees, as even with Boston Legal’s cancellation voters are likely to gravitate towards Shatner and Emerson has taken the mantle for Lost when it comes to the Emmys, especially with Terry O’Quinn choosing not to submit himself into the category. In terms of the other nominees from last year, though, John Slattery and Ted Danson are not going to be returning, the former due to a lack of material and the latter due to being bumped to recurring guest star on Damages. This means there’s a lot of room, and a lot of options.

Lost has to be considered in the running with two of its co-stars. Josh Holloway has never really been taken seriously by the Emmys, but Sawyer came into his own this season in a leadership role and Holloway nailed the drama therein and deserves attention. However, if there’s going to be a second castaway on the ballot, my money (illogically and against all expectations) has to be on Jeremy Davies, whose performance in episodes like “The Variable” but also throughout the season was consistently strong as he crafted a memorable and complicated character in Daniel Faraday – whether the Emmys notice or not will depend on where Lost sits on their popular radar.

William Hurt, meanwhile, looks to capitalize on Damages’ two nominations in the category last season with a nod here. As an oscar winner slumming it on television, he’s bound to get some attention, but I think people are overestimating Damages’ awards potential this year (let’s remember that Rose Byrne did get snubbed last year in a bit of a surprise), and I just think Hurt’s role was so slight and without nuance that there’s no justification for a nomination beyond his name. Or, more realistically, I thought his role was stupid and pointless, and will blindly ignore his guaranteed nomination in order to make myself feel better.

More likely to break into the category is John Mahoney, who has two things in his favour. The first is that the former-Frasier co-star never won an Emmy for that role, having been beaten out by David Hyde Pierce on a regular basis. The second is that his role on In Treatment has gained a lot of buzz, and with three acting nominations last year it’s clear that the show will be on Emmy’s radar.

The long shots, meanwhile, are a couple of young(er) actors who are sitting in wait. John Slattery is fine in Mad Men, but its real supporting star is Vincent Kartheiser, who expertly turns Pete Campbell into a heartless bastard when required, but always with this tinge of sadness as if the facade he puts up has begun to tear away his soul. Mad Men could dominate the nominations this year, and he could emerge as a contender, but he has another show’s dark horse to contend with. Patrick Dempsey might be submitting in Supporting this year with a lot of strong material, but it’s Justin Chambers who surprised people, continuing to do really strong work with Katherine Heigl and demonstrating the depth of that show’s cast.

Predictions for Supporting Actor in a Drama

  • Justin Chambers (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
  • Jeremy Davies (“Lost”)
  • Michael Emerson (“Lost”)
  • Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”)
  • John Mahoney (“In Treatment”)
  • William Shatner (“Boston Legal”)

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