Winner of The Boo Boo Kitty Award for best burns: Empire's Cookie Lyon (illustration by Tiffany Adams)

In 2010, The A.V. Club marked the end of another year with The TV Club Awards, a roundup of the notable TV happenings that fell outside the confines of our best-shows and best-episodes lists. We did the same thing in 2011, but then—silence. The TV Club Awards were placed in mothballs, shelved alongside other defunct honors like the CableACE Awards and The Soapy Awards. Until today: Commemorating the end of a different period on the calendar—the broadcast television season, which runs roughly from Labor Day to Memorial Day—the TV writers of The A.V. Club put their heads back together to salute the very best in television from the past eight months, doling out superlatives for our favorite shows, episodes, performances, scenes, and more. Once more, we’re proud to bring you the TV Club Awards; tune in tomorrow for our picks in the categories of comedy and animation.

The Game Of Thrones anybody can die award: The 100

The second season of The CW’s The 100 was remarkable for a number of reasons. It had a clear and compelling dramatic arc, was expertly paced, and explored themes of gender, morality, and wartime politics in an intelligent, meaningful way. More than that though, The 100 got darker and grittier in its second season, and with that the body count got higher. The war between the Mountain Men and the people of the Ark, along with some help from the Grounders, ensured that nobody on the show was safe, culminating with “Spacewalker,” a devastating and brutal midseason finale. Such unpredictability, coupled with deaths that feel meaningful, means that fans of The 100, like fans of Game Of Thrones, can’t get too attached to a character because they might not be long for this world. [Kyle Fowle]

Achievement in dental arts: The Americans, “Open House”

When Soviet sleeper agent Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) sustains an oral injury at the top of The Americans’ third season, it’s more than a little SensiGel can handle. The tooth Elizabeth busts becomes a versatile symbol, representing the dangers she faces in the field as well as the guilt she feels about preparing teenaged daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) for KGB service—against the wishes of husband/fellow spy Philip (Matthew Rhys). Her physical and emotional agony peaks in “Open House” (sounds like “open mouth”) when Philip extracts the tooth in a sequence that’s alternately intimate and invasive. It’s The Americans in a nutshell, and the most visceral imagery in a season that, only one episode prior, painstakingly depicted the process of folding up a corpse to fit in a suitcase. [Erik Adams]

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Achievement in grifting: The Kennedy half dollar scam in Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul revisits Breaking Bad’s squirrelly consigliere Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and his underdog past as “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill, a small-time hustler with dreams of going straight. As much as the audience wants him to succeed, Jimmy’s such a sharp con artist that watching him work is more fun than watching him outgrow his shady past. In the season finale, Slippin’ Jimmy makes his triumphant return after a setback in his legitimate legal career, and the result is a sight to behold. Jimmy teams up with his long-time partner in crime, Marco (Mel Rodriguez), to run one of their old favorites, a scam involving an ultra-rare coin bearing the image of JFK. Instead of leaping from the setup to the payoff, the scene shows every beat involved in the scheme, and doesn’t heap judgment on Jimmy’s actions. He’s not just a thief, he’s an artist in his element. [Joshua Alston]

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The Boo Boo Kitty Award for best burns: Cookie Lyon, Empire

Of the many, many qualities to love about Empire’s crazy-like-a-fox matriarch Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), her barbed tongue stands out due to its versatility. There’s really only one way to burst into a board meeting unannounced, so that tactic lost its impact, despite Cookie’s constant introduction of new fur stoles. But her smack talk is a renewable resource. Cookie’s best burns are reserved for Anika “Boo Boo Kitty” Calhoun (Grace Gealey), her romantic rival, who will now and forever be associated with the phrase “Run them pearls, ho.” But Cookie spread the wealth around to her sons’ significant others: Jamal’s Venezuelan boyfriend became “La Cucaracha,” Hakeem’s meddling cougar girlfriend was “Yoko,” and Andre’s white girl was “that white girl,” which makes up in bile what it lacks in concept. No proper nighttime soap is complete without its share of bitchy bon mots, so it’s a good thing Cookie isn’t as sweet as her name suggests. [Joshua Alston]

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Best adaptation of something with no source material: Game Of Thrones, season five

Granted, George R.R. Martin is heavily involved with Game Of Thrones and has undoubtedly helped the plot of the fifth season dovetail with his upcoming books. But that doesn’t change the fact that the books haven’t come out yet, marking perhaps the first time in television history that the adaptation has come before the source material. And whether or not every last new plot development ends up being in The Winds Of Winter, each one has had a streamlined speed to it that’s absolutely riveting, from (spoilers!) Brienne of Tarth actually catching up to Sansa or Tyrion encountering one of Daenerys’ dragons. [Dan Caffrey]

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Achievement in breathing new (un)life into genres: iZombie

Zombies are so overused in popular culture that it seems impossible to find a new twist on the subject. However, The CW and Rob Thomas did just that by crossbreeding the living dead with a similarly prevalent pop-culture staple: the spunky blond heroine. The end result is iZombie, a macabre yet charming series in which Liv Moore (Rose McIver) deals with her conversion to undeath by consuming the brains of murder victims, accessing the memories therein to find the killer. Liv finds the personality in zombiefication by shifting her own personality after every meal, asking questions about what life after death means, and by finding ever more novel ways to spice up the cerebral charcuterie that is her diet. iZombie’s grown into a solid yet distinct part of The CW’s lineup, and with the talent both on-screen and off, its second season renewal was a no-brainer. [Les Chappell]

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Achievement in nested mysteries: The Jinx, “What The Hell Did I Do?”

No one could have predicted that one of the year’s most shocking television moments to date would come in an HBO documentary series, but The Jinx delivered a gut punch. In the final moments of its finale, “What The Hell Did I Do?,” the dark cloud following disgraced real estate scion Robert Durst sends a bolt of lightning to punish him for his hubris. Durst excuses himself to the restroom, where he makes rambling comments suggesting his involvement in one of the two murders he’s suspected of committing. (Viewers had an inkling that something was coming: One day prior to the finale’s broadcast, Durst was picked up by the FBI in New Orleans.) But questions quickly arose over the show’s ethics, with critics suggesting director Andrew Jarecki withheld information pertinent to the investigation long enough to craft the perfect stinger for his television show. Jarecki clammed up immediately, per his attorney’s orders, but when Durst goes to trial, The Jinx may end up with a coda even more surprising than what preceded it. [Joshua Alston]

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Achievement in ending a great show in a great way: Justified

With so many TV shows coming to contentious endings over the years, what a treat it is to see an ending please everyone. FX’s Justified came off its weakest season to close with one of its best, taking advantage of marvelous guest stars Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, and Garret Dillahunt. Most importantly, the show reoriented itself to the triad that was its spine from the beginning: Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). Justified’s series finale, “The Promise,” closed out all arcs in satisfying fashion, peppered with enough callbacks and allusions to prove everyone involved remembered the unifying themes and ideas holding this world together. Best of all, they offered one final (literal) tip of the hat to Raylan’s creator, the late Elmore Leonard, giving Marshal Givens the businessman’s Stetson he wore in the novels Pronto and Riding The Rap. [Les Chappell]

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Most GIF-able moment: Mad Men, “Lost Horizon”

On May 3, 2015, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out “Gotta get to Giphy!” and were silenced—because a new Peggy Olson GIF could do all the talking for them. Sporting sunglasses and a lit cigarette and armed with the late Bert Cooper’s vintage tentacle erotica, Peggy Olson strides into McCann Erickson with all of the swagger she didn’t have on her first day at Sterling Cooper. And now that swagger can be yours in an endless loop, an animated image representing any and all online sentiment. New promotion? PeggyStrut.GIF. Big date? PeggyStrut.GIF. Announcing your candidacy for president? PeggyStrut.GIF. One day, when humans no longer have use for language, we’ll still have use for Peggy, strutting, skating, and counting money toward a brighter tomorrow. [Erik Adams]

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Performance that makes the show: Hayley Atwell, Marvel’s Agent Carter

Marvel Studios is famous for creating heroic characters who are far more interesting than the bland villains and MacGuffin-filled plots around them. That’s very much the case for ABC’s retro miniseries Agent Carter, which places the imminently fascinating Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in a generic post-war spy romp filled with flat supporting characters. Thankfully, Atwell single-handedly elevates the material around her as she slips back into the role she originated in Captain America: The First Avenger. Atwell makes the show’s relatively simplistic exploration of workplace sexism feel far deeper than it is, capturing Peggy’s frustration as well as her determination to prove her male-chauvinist colleagues wrong. Best of all, Peggy is never reduced to a stereotypical “strong female character”—Atwell ensures she’s a flawed, vulnerable hero. Here’s hoping the show’s second season rises to its star’s level. [Caroline Siede]

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Achievement in close-quarters ass-kicking: Marvel’s Daredevil, “Cut Man”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has featured some outstanding action sequences, but nothing on the big screen has had the character-driven intensity of the single-take hallway fight at the end of Daredevil’s second episode. Featuring 105 different action beats that unfold over the course of three brutal minutes, the fight is the high point of the entire series, captivating with meticulously choreographed violence that informs the deeper personality traits of the central hero. Showing everything in one take accentuates Matt Murdock’s increasing exhaustion as he takes more and more damage from the onslaught of Russian attackers, which spotlights the perseverance and endurance Murdock inherited from his late father. That father-son relationship is at the core of those first two episodes (which would make a damn good origin film), and Matt’s hallway fight strengthens that familial bond with a breathtaking action sequence. [Oliver Sava]

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Best appearance by a scar in a supporting role: Geillis Duncan’s smallpox scar, Outlander

From her first appearance in Outlander, it was obvious that something was not quite right about Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek). While her open manner instantly attracted the time-traveling Claire (Caitriona Balfe), her nude-frolicking habit and husband-poisoning ways tempered that affection with mistrust. Still, nothing prepared us for Geillis’ biggest secret. In “The Devil’s Mark,” one of the most gripping episodes in a season filled with them, Mistress Duncan seized control of her witch trial by revealing her “mark”—a move that saved her friend’s life, but sealed her own grim fate. Only Claire sees the blemish for what it is: a smallpox vaccination scar, and proof that Geillis had also come from the future (1968, to be precise). Claire may be Outlander’s main player, but that mark—plus Verbeek’s wry, hysteria-tinged performance—changed the game for good. [Allison Shoemaker]

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Best underwriting of the corn-syrup industry: Penny Dreadful

This supernatural drama’s endless list of Victorian thrills make use of staggering numbers of blood buckets. There are, of course, the expected uses: Vampire dismemberments? Check! Medical cadavers? Check! Werewolf massacres? Why not? But Penny Dreadful also makes great use of blood in more mundane situations that are no less unsettling: the crimson mark of a consumption cough (once right on someone’s face—don’t worry: It’s Penny Dreadful, he was into it), or the deep red streaks as Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) claws her own arms to get the devil out, both reminders that something’s terribly wrong. The show knows it’s mixing the serious with the sublime, previously spending time in the Grand Guignol theater, complete with play-within-a-play gore that involves tubing, fake wounds, and the very enthusiastic flow of “blood.” How Victorian! [Genevieve Valentine]

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Most entertaining dowager: Queen Catherine, Reign

You’d think it would be Maggie Smith, who does continue to be exemplary, but that’s sort of a soft pick if you consider that Violet Crawley never had to poison her daughter at the behest of her husband’s ghost. Scooping up a thankless part and running with it, Megan Follows has made Queen Catherine Reign’s most watchable character. Whether imprisoning peasants or consulting prophecies, advising her son Francis on war strategy or giving her daughter-in-law tips on getting pregnant, Follows’ Catherine is as arch as the show requires from one of its Big Bads, but she takes her character just seriously enough that she can leap from scenery-chewing to pathos in a single bound. It makes her the character you most look forward to, and on a show that’s supposed to be about teenagers, that’s no small feat. [Genevieve Valentine]

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Achievement in absurd cross-promotion: RuPaul’s Drag Race, “Hello, Kitty Girls!”

RuPaul collaborating with the multi-billion-dollar Hello Kitty brand doesn’t make any sense, but it leads to a hilariously strange hour of reality television as drag queens are forced to construct outfits from Hello Kitty products and create an original big-headed character to be Hello Kitty’s best friend. Hello Kitty herself appears on the runway to nonverbally inform the judges whether or not she would be friends with the contestants, which naturally results in a slew of pussy-related puns. But the best part of the episode is seeing how the contestants interpret Hello Kitty’s aesthetic: Violet Chachki shows off a ’60s-inspired mod Barbarella outfit that could actually be a part of a Hello Kitty couture collection, and Katya makes a risky choice with her sweaty, yellow-toothed Russian hooker Hello Kitty BFF, getting big laughs by going off-brand. It’s all very weird, but weird tends to be very entertaining on RuPaul’s Drag Race. [Oliver Sava]

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The “Holy shit, she’s everywhere” award (tie): Ann Dowd and Mary Steenburgen

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The 2014-2015 season will be remembered as the end of several eras (Mad Men, Parks And Recreation, and Justified all came to a close), but it was really the era of Ann Dowd and Mary Steenburgen, who were both inescapable this season. 2014 was Dowd’s year: After kicking it off on True Detective (as the incestuous Betty Childress), she moved over to The Leftovers to play silent cult leader Patti Levin, and had a triumphant season on Showtime’s Masters Of Sex, where she once again butted heads with her son Bill Masters (Michael Sheen). She closed out 2014 where she started, on HBO, playing Bonnie in the fantastic Olive Kitteridge. Steenburgen took over in 2015, filling the boss lady hole left by Margo Martindale on Justified, joining the few remaining (sub-)humans on Fox’s The Last Man On Earth, and dropping in on HBO’s Togetherness. She’s not done yet: She’ll play a yet-unnamed role on the upcoming season of Orange Is The New Black, premiering June 12. Maybe it’s time to give someone else a chance, ladies. [Molly Eichel]