Peggy Olsen has to be my favorite girl on television. She's come into her own on Mad Men in the world of misogynistic, whisky-swigging men who smoke constantly and still call girls in the office "sweetie." She moved from Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) secretary at the show's start in 1960 and, at the end of Season 5, which aired in June, she's a Creative Director at Sterling Cooper and Partners. She's a regular mover and shaker and she's had some of the most ballsy moments on the male-dominated show, like getting money out of Roger Sterling for a job he forgot to do (which provided the Internet with this amazing .GIF:)
Unfortunately, though, Elisabeth Moss has never won an Emmy for her brilliant portrayal of Peggy Olsen. She's been nominated now four separate times for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, but she's always been an Emmy bridesmaid. This year, she's double nominated, not only for her role as Peggy but for playing Detective Robin Griffin in the Sundance miniseries Top of the Lake.
Olsen's turn as Peggy Olsen needs to be recognized for its subtlety and depth. Her character development over the past six seasons is astounding. Yes, much of that credit goes to show creator Matthew Weiner, but Moss is the only one who could play the role.
In my mind, Peggy Olsen and Elisabeth Moss are indivisible. Who couldn't like Peggy? She's smart, sheltered at first, but brave; she has dignity; she isn't judgmental; she can be rash at times, but she keeps her composure in a competitive, sexist environment and rises to the top on the basis of her merit. Also, she's the only one who can put that mess of a drunk Don Draper in his place.
Peggy has changed the most of all the characters on Mad Men, and in a show that has little to no plot, that's significant. Mad Men is a world in which people are explored, which is why at times it is difficult to watch, and is definitely only for the committed TV watchers.
That's why I love Peggy so much. I've watched her grow and adapt to the changing world of the 1960s, smoke marijuana for the first time, befriend a lesbian, have office trysts with that weasel Pete Campbell, deal with the immense trauma of giving away her child, and form a relationship of platonic and mutual respect with a man that no one can crack.
Jon Hamm is the star of the show, but so is Elisabeth Moss — she's his true other half. That scene when Peggy leaves SCDP and Don so gently kisses her hand — that's what Mad Men is.