High stakes for top Emmy drama contenders

Moments to remember from 2010-11 season

Moments to remember from a 2011-12 TV season filled with drama.

“Big Love”
“The Noose Tightens” (March 6)
Alby (Matt Ross) and freelance partner-in-crime Verlan (Kevin Rankin) kidnap Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) and take her to a remote place, where Alby pulls a gun on her and she begs for her life. Instead, Alby turns and shoots Verlan.

“Blue Bloods”
“Dedication” (Feb. 18)
Standing in front of a Gotham restaurant, NYPD commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) is shot in broad daylight. His family rallies around him, and vows to catch the shooter. Reagan, of course, dismisses his own health concerns and goes about his duty as if nothing happened.

“Friday Night Lights”
“Always” (Feb. 9)
Under the gaze of Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler), Vince (Michael B. Jordan) launches the final pass of his high school career, the state championship hanging in the balance. The ball hovers in the air, and lands … in the arms of a receiver in a football practice in Pennsylvania, where Taylor and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), are starting the next chapter of their life in the final moments of this exceptional series.

“Game of Thrones”
“Winter Is Coming” (April 17)
The series sets its tone in the closing moment of its premiere episode: promising young Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), against his mother’s wishes, returns to climbing the high walls of Winterfell, where he spies Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) having sex with her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). After dallying with conversation for a moment, Jaime pushes Bran to a crushing fall.

“The Good Wife”
“In Sickness” (May 3)
Alicia (Juliana Margulies) finally learns that her best friend, Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), had a previous one-night stand with her husband, Peter (Chris Noth). That immediately brings back old wounds that were slow to heal. She kicks Peter out of the house and announces a separation.

“Grey’s Antomy”
“White Wedding” (May 5)
For all her rebellious behavior, Callie (Sara Ramirez) is a traditional girl at heart. She’s crushed when mom (Gina Gallego) declares “you are not a bride, and I am not the mother of a bride.” Mom leaves, and Callie encourages her dad (Hector Elizondo) to go with mom. Later, at the reception, the father-daughter dance is called. Callie lights up when Dad arrives and tells her he had been waiting to dance at her wedding since the day she was born.

“The Day We Died” (May 6)
The season ended on a true game-changer. Peter (Joshua Jackson) no longer exists in either universe. He achieved his purpose in life by bringing those responsible for the destruction of the two worlds together. And no one remembers him.

“In Treatment”
“Sunil/Week 3” (Nov. 8)
Sunil (Irrfan Khan) quietly reveals the devastating story of how, long ago in India, he was forced to abandon the woman he loved, and it’s immediately clear how that has affected him for the decades that followed.

“Brother’s Keeper” (April 6)
Character actress Margo Martindale, in the midst of a tour de force season as Mags Bennett, begs to see Loretta, the little girl she has taken under her wing (who also happens to be the daughter of a man she murdered) — and then, when she is denied, turns ice cold.

“The Killing”
“The Cage” (April 3)
From the outset, there was no mistaking the moodiness of AMC’s adaptation, but viewers didn’t really find out what they were in for until Det. Holder (Joel Kinnaman) slyly manipulates two schoolgirls into exposing the hidden room where the central event of the series was set in motion.

“Mad Men”
“The Suitcase” (Sept. 5)
Capping a night that seems to take the relationship between Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Don (Jon Hamm) through all its stages, Don makes the phone call that he knows will tell him that Anna has passed away. After hanging up, his tearful breakdown, in front of Peggy, lays bare Draper’s vulnerablity in its most raw form.

“Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist” (Feb. 22)
Crosby (Dax Shepard) cheats on his fiance with Asperger’s specialist Gaby (Minka Kelly). The affair soon becomes public knowledge and Crosby’s life is turned upside down. He not only has to face the consequences with Jasmine (Joy Bryant) but must deal with the wrath of his tightly wound brother Adam (Peter Krause).

“The Outsider” (Aug. 15)
Will (James Badge Dale) and his team of Grant (Christopher Evan Welch), Miles (Dallas Roberts) and Tanya (Lauren Hodges) must decide whether to target a terror suspect with a remote drone. There was much soul-searching in the decision, which made the subsequent episode all the more poignant.

“But At Last Came a Knock” (March 6)
Eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) argues with her mother, Monica (Chloe Webb), who abandoned the family and returns with designs on taking the youngest child. In reeling off the accomplishments of her brothers and sisters during Monica’s absence, Rossum beautifully portrays not only Fiona’s anger, sadness and disbelief but also her realization that the Gallagher brood — as now constituted sans parents — will be OK.

“Graduation Da
(March 8)
After struggling with a season-long drug dependency to help deal with the pain of a back injury, officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) collapses in front of a garbage bin. Partner Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) lays into him about how Cooper’s lackadaisical attitude could’ve had deadly implications.

“Ring-a-Ding-Ding” (Oct. 13)
This series that expertly combined sprightly rogue private investigations work with dead serious emotions hit many peaks, not the least of which was the moment when Katie (Laura Allen) confesses to Hank (Donal Logue) that she has cheated on her boyfriend (his partner Britt, played by Michael Raymond-James), and he counsels her, for Britt’s sake, to keep silent about it.

“Slip Away” (May 22)
Reflecting the real march after two homicides in New Orleans, this episode united the characters in a way seldom seen on the series. “We Say No More” chants the gathering crowd, marching to stop the violence after two unrelated killings. But while urging people to “get out of the house,” we see crime victim LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) trapped by her own demons as she watches it unfold on her living room TV.

“The Walking Dead”
“Days Gone Bye” (Oct. 31)
The sweet blond girl shuffles along in little bunny slippers to pick up her teddy bear at the deserted gas station. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) tries to help her before realizing she is a zombie who is going to eat his brains out. So he shoots her right in the head. Set the tone for what was to come.

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