These episodes earned Emmy nominations. The writers explain why.
Not all TV scenes are created equal. The moment when a character finds her purpose, a show achieves its tone, a plot turns a corner — those are what we consider “key” scenes, the ones that turn a typical episode into an award-winner. So The Envelope sat down with the writers and producers from 12 Emmy-nominated episodes to talk about that one, very special moment that sings just a little louder than all the others. Here’s what they had to say:
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
Here’s the key: Having been treated like a conquering hero in Canada, June is crushed by trauma and takes everything out on her former tormentor, Serena.
The big deal: “The episode’s called ‘Home,’ because she needs to find a home, so where can she find a home with her rage?” asks writer Yahlin Chang. “With Serena. Ironically, Serena is her home, when she comes home to who she is — that rage monster from Gilead. I wanted that scene to be cathartic, and it’s incredibly satisfying.”
The big deal: “In Matt Ruff’s novel, this was just an anecdote told by Uncle George about one of his employees traveling to create the Safe Negro Travel Guide,” says writer Misha Green. “Thematically, it sums up the story of being Black in America — the simplest thing, driving through a town, can turn into a horror story.”
Episode: “What I Know”
Here’s the key: After young Ryan uses a burst of superhuman strength to save his mother — accidentally killing her in the process — Butcher wrestles with Becca’s final request: to protect Ryan from Homelander.
The big deal: “After Butcher comes so close to getting Becca back, she dies in his arms. And at the hands of his wife’s child by another man,” says writer Rebecca Sonnenshine. “What will he do in this moment? Unleash his rage on this kid, or dig deep for his last bit of goodness?”
Episode: “Series Finale”
Here’s the key: After Pray Tell dies, everyone realizes that he was giving his medication away to Ricky so his ex could survive.
The big deal: “He made a sacrifice so his former lover could have a shot at life and hopefully achieve all the things he wasn’t able to in his own life,” says writer Steven Canals, nominated with Ryan Murphy, Our Lady J, Brad Falchuk and Janet Mock. “It speaks to what our show has always been about: Black and Latin and queer and trans people have had to be our own heroes.”
Here’s the key: Prince Philip explains the challenges of being a member of the royals to Princess Diana, who decides to become a true member of the royal family.
The big deal: “This scene is history repeating itself,” says executive producer Suzanne Mackie about nominated writer Peter Morgan’s script. “Just as his father-in-law [King George VI] once did, Philip entreats Diana to observe duty. As this new Princess Diana looks out toward us, we sense her mythological status is only just beginning.”
Episode: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”
Here’s the key: The Child’s back story and name are revealed during a conversation between Ahsoka and the Mandalorian.
The big deal: “Ahsoka’s casual mention of [the Child’s] name, Grogu, is meant to surprise the audience and the Mandalorian, bringing them together … so that when Mando repeats the name, the Child’s ears perking up for joy is felt as a long-awaited connection between our two main characters,” says writer Dave Filoni.
Episode: “Chapter 16: The Rescue”
Here’s the key: Young Luke Skywalker appears to save the day, and an emotional story between the Mandalorian and Grogu is resolved.
The big deal: “After two seasons [together, the Mandalorian and Grogu] defeat the A-story enemy,” says writer Jon Favreau. “Having multiple story lines conclude in one scene adds to the importance of the moment.”
Here’s the key: After an eventful, if inhospitable first day in London, Ted calls his wife and son back in Kansas.
The big deal: “This version of Ted is far removed from the character’s advertising-based origins,” says story writer Brendan Hunt, nominated with story writer Joe Kelly and teleplay/story writers Jason Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence. “It cements the tone for the entire series going forward.”
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Episode: “Make Rebecca Great Again”
Here’s the key: Assistant coach and closet tactical football genius Nate is prodded by Ted into giving the team a talk before a difficult away game.
The big deal: “Nick Mohammed [Nate] is a singular combination of exemplary comic technique and a grounded soul. He more than deserves the floor that the show finally gives him,” says story writer Brendan Hunt, nominated with Joe Kelly and teleplay writer/star Jason Sudeikis.
“The Flight Attendant”
Episode: “In Case of Emergency”
Here’s the key: Cassie wakes up to find Alex next to her in bed — dead, and bloody.
The big deal: “Up until this point, the episode is a rom-com, but it takes a hard left with the reveal of Alex’s corpse,” says writer Steve Yockey. Then Cassie’s phone alarm goes off, playing a song by Wham! “It lets viewers know they’re still watching a comedy, just a really dark one.”
Episode: “There Is No Line (Pilot)”
Here’s the key: Comic Deborah and aspiring writer Ava, two women who don’t think they need each other, meet in a showdown and find they have more in common than they realize.
The big deal: “This show is about two women of different generations and their complicated relationship, and this is the first time both the characters and audience experience that dynamic,” nominated writers Lucia Aniello, Jen Statsky and Paul W. Downs say in an email. “The spark between these two women in this scene is the basis upon which the entire show is built.”
Here’s the key: Dawn confronts Wickie after the group’s triumphant performance after “The Tonight Show,” and Dawn says she’ll step into the shoes of their missing member.
The big deal: “This is the catalyst that brings them back together and makes them want to do all this again,” says writer Meredith Scardino. “There’s all this tension and posturing coming to a head.”
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