Drama series producers are busy selecting their best episodes for 2013 Emmy consideration. Deadline contributor Diane Haithman asked producers of 10 top dramas to talk about one special episode they are planning to highlight this year.
In no particular order:
Episode title: “Q&A”
Story Line: Brody is in custody. Peter Quinn interrogates him. Time is of the essence — the truth must be extracted before Nazir discovers Brody is missing. During questioning Quinn stabs Brody’s hand with a knife. After the hand is bandaged, Carrie takes over the questioning. In an intense session, Brody reveals the truth about his involvement with Nazir and Carrie confesses her love for Brody. Carrie persuades Brody to change his stripes and cooperate with the CIA.
Says Alex Gansa, showrunner and co-creator of last year’s winner for drama series: “We’re still working on our Emmy submission list, but for me, [writer] Henry Bromell’s episode ‘Q&A’ is the heart of Season 2. It’s the episode where Carrie has to turn Brody, to deprogram him. They’re in a windowless room together, hashing out the truth. The interrogation was originally written as three separate sequences, but Henry, the actors and director Lesli Linka Glatter decided to shoot it as one continuous scene. The first take lasted 26 minutes. It became this chamber piece. A play”. Bromell died in March.
Episode title: “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”
Story line: President Fitzgerald Grant has been shot and is rushed to the hospital. The shocking event triggers flashbacks in which we learn more about the relationships of Grant with wife Mellie as well as his illicit affair with Olivia Pope. The political team covers up the seriousness of the President’s condition.
Executive producer Betsy Beers says this episode of the political thriller series “demonstrates, in every way, what Scandal does best — bold, high-stakes plotting, intensely emotional writing and really wonderful performances from each of our actors. This episode is also a great example of how the show weaves the past and present together to give the viewer a full understanding of the characters and how the hell they ended up in the messes they are in. it is also a great episode with which to start watching the show if you have never seen it, because a lot is explained in back story”.
HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix)
Episode title: “Chapter One” (pilot)
Story Line: House Majority Whip Frank Underwood is passed over for Secretary of State setting Frank on a path of vengeance. The episode introduces Frank (Kevin Spacey) and his questionable moral compass by opening with an in-your-face scene in which Frank matter-of-factly strangles a neighbor’s dog that’s been hit by a car to end its suffering.
Beau Willimon created the freshman series based on the BBC series and Michael Dobbs’ book series. He says that the first episode (directed by David Fincher) “comes out of the gate in a strong way” and makes clear Willimon’s plan to make House Of Cards a reinvention, not an adaptation. He adds the episode sets in motion what happens when a character on a moral tightrope gets pushed: “It’s a powerful moment, when someone who is inclined to break the rules dispenses with them entirely.” Willimon also wanted to explore Underwood’s unorthodox marriage. He compares Underwood and his equally ruthless wife (Robin Wright) to Macbeth and his Lady Macbeth, “in which both partners have an insatiable lust for power”.
THE NEWSROOM (HBO)
Episode title: “We Just Decided To” (pilot)
Story Line: New anchor Will McAvoy has a meltdown in front of a live audiences as a guest panelist, enumerating the reasons why America is not the greatest country in the world. Later, Will is outraged when he is told a new executive producer has been hired to run his newscast — his ex-flame Mackenzie McHale. The two reach an uneasy truce as Mackenzie encourages Will to return to delivering the news with dignity.
Creator/showrunner Aaron Sorkin says that the cast and crew vote on which episodes to submit for Emmy. “I noted for the pilot because it sets the tone for the whole series”, Sorkin says.
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)
Episode title: “Red Team/Blue Team”
Story Line: To help a client decide whether to settle a case or go to trial, Will and Diane ask Alicia and Cary to face off against them in a mock trial. Meanwhile, Eli struggles to avoid losing his role in Peter’s campaign to Jordan as he continues his fight with the Justice Department.
Creators/executive producers Robert and Michelle King chose this episode because the mock trial brings out “fireworks” between characters we’re used to seeing on the same side of the law. Says Robert, “What was supposed to be a sort of mock trial became very personal. It actually became a blood sport between everyone. It always fun when characters you love don’t behave the way you want them to”. Adds Michelle, “It showcased our principals in a way we really liked. Particularly Will and Alicia when they are so angry with each other they end up kissing”. Robert added that for a network show in its 4th season, it’s important to show Emmy an episode that “breaks network rules”.
THE AMERICANS (FX)
Episode title: “Gregory”
Story line: Philip and Elizabeth discover that their murdered colleague Robert had a wife they never knew about. As they try to determine what she knows and where her allegiance lies, Stan’s investigation into Robert’s death puts him hot on their trail. Meanwhile, Elizabeth confesses to Philip a relationship with Gregory.
From Joe Weisberg, executive producer: “Our third episode, entitled ‘Gregory,’ was a really pivotal one for us. It’s the one in which Elizabeth’s longtime secret relationship is revealed. It deals with how she and Philip had to confront what the rules of their relationship had been and were going to be. Tommy Schlamme directed it. It unpeeled a layer of Elizabeth, in terms of exposing her heart”.
Episode title: “What to My Wondering Eyes”
Story line: Days before Christmas Kristina (Monica Potter) is hospitalized with a virus, which proves life threatening because her immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy. Through much of the episode Adam keeps Kristina’s health crisis from the family.
Executive producer Jason Katims based the story of Kristina’s battle with breast cancer on his wife’s experiences. In this holiday episode, Katims says, “the juxtaposition of Adam facing his darkest hour against the relative normalcy of the rest of the family preparing for Christmas that gives the episode its poignancy. The episode climaxes when Adam brings himself to watch a video Kristina had recorded for her children in the event of her death. In a season of incredible acting moments from Monica Potter, this might top them all”.
Episode title: “Are You…?”
Story line: After witnessing her brother kill Travis Marshall, Debra attempts to reconcile with Dexter while struggling to cover up their involvement with the murder. Dexter owns up to his role as a serial killer.
Executive producer Sara Colleton says “Are You..?” ranks among her top 3 favorite episodes of Season 7. “After six years of the audience thinking Dexter would never have to come clean, everything changes in this episode,” she says. “We decided to go balls-out and Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) now knows everything about Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and he owns up to it. It’s one of the hugely important episodes in the canon of the series. For us, it was in fact hard to get much bigger than this”.
DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS)
Episode title: “Series 3, Episode 1”
Story Line: Cora’s mother (guest star Shirley MacLaine) arrives at Downton for Matthew and Mary’s wedding. Robert confesses that the family is on the edge of financial ruin. Matthew and Mary clash over Matthew’s refusal to use his unexpected inheritance to bail out Downton. New footman Alfred attempts to meet Carson’s high standards, under the watch of his aunt O’Brien.
These are only a few of the multiple plot twists in the first episode of Downton Abbey’s third season. Executive producer Gareth Neame told Deadline the episode is likely to be part of the show’s Emmy series package earlier this year. Why? Neame and series co-creator Julian Fellowes did not respond to a request for further comment but episodes featuring births, deaths, weddings and flamboyant guest stars somehow tend to find their way into Emmy competition.