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Breaking Bad Goes Out on Top

From the AMC drama’s triumph to the rising power of Netflix—some things we learned at this year’s Emmys.

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HAIL HEISENBERG! After losing the drama-series category for the three previous years, Breaking Bad took the Emmys’ top award during a shock-filled evening on Sept. 22. ”People are finally catching on. It’s the ripple effect, and it’s become a big beautiful wave that we’re all very happy to be a part of,” gushed star Aaron Paul after the ceremony. Expect that wave to crest with blowout ratings for the perfectly timed Breaking Bad series finale on Sept. 29, then continue rolling into next year’s awards season, where the final batch of episodes make the AMC drama the clear front-runner. Backstage, creator Vince Gilligan credited…Netflix? Yup. Here’s more on that and five other takeaways from the show.

NETFLIX WAS THE SECRET WINNER
The streaming service lost big-time at the Emmys. Or did it? Like some crafty plot hatched by Kevin Spacey‘s House of Cards schemer, Netflix may have been the evening’s stealth victor. ”I think Netflix kept us here,” Gilligan told reporters after Breaking bested Cards. ”I don’t think our show would have lasted beyond season 2 if not for streaming video on demand.” Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner likewise credited Netflix binge-watching for his show’s growth. As the first online outlet to win a prime-time Emmy (House of Cards scored a trophy for director David Fincher and two awards at the Creative Arts Emmys), the company has gone from wannabe network to major player. And it’s likely to rack up even more nominations next year, when the first season of the buzzy dramedy Orange Is the New Black will be eligible.

EMMY CAN STILL SURPRISE US
Wait, wait, wait: Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston lost drama lead actor to The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels? NBC’s The Voice overthrew CBS’ perpetual winner The Amazing Race for best reality competition? The Colbert Report ended Comedy Central roomie The Daily Show‘s decadelong variety-series streak? Boardwalk Empire‘s Bobby Cannavale beat Homeland‘s Mandy Patinkin and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul for drama supporting actor? As host Neil Patrick Harris put it: ”No one in America is winning their Emmy office pool.” Speaking of surprises…

WHO’S THIS MERRITT WEVER?
And why doesn’t she want to talk to us? First the Nurse Jackie actress (who also has a recurring role on Fox’s New Girl) won comedy supporting actress, beating out a tough field that included Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara and Glee‘s Jane Lynch. Then she gave an insta-classic 16-word speech that ended with ”I gotta go. Bye.” Harris — and most of America — replied, ”Best speech ever.”

LESS DEATH NEXT YEAR, OKAY?
The Emmys got their largest audience since 2005 with 17.6 million viewers — most of whom were probably wondering Why is this awards show so morbid? Along with the usual ”In Memoriam” segment, the show interspersed five extended tributes to dearly departed talents like James Gandolfini and Jean Stapleton. The effect was a bit emotionally brutalizing: happy winner, dead celebrity, happy winner, dead celebrity. ”It was too sad. I think it was a misstep to do those tributes and not do it all in one section,” said Modern Family co-creator Steven Levitan after the ceremony. While we’re griping, next year we’d love to see the Emmys get over themselves with less self-conscious industry chest-thumping and insider jokes — few outside the Nokia Theatre will ever laugh at a Les Moonves cameo.

THESE SNUBS HURT THE MOST
HBO’s Game of Thrones scored 16 noms for arguably its best season, yet didn’t take home a single statuette at the prime-time ceremony. As the Khaleesi might cry, ”Where are my Emmys?!” The next two years could be equally tough, since Breaking Bad‘s final episodes will be in contention next year and AMC made the tactically crafty decision to split Mad Men‘s final season, pushing the drama’s last seven episodes into 2015. Other notable snubs: Parks and Recreation‘s Amy Poehler (again!), Scandal‘s Kerry Washington, and Louis C.K. in every major category he was nominated in.

VEEP GETS SOME RESPECT
Not only did Julia Louis-Dreyfus win her second statuette for her role as the inept vice president Selina Meyer, her costar Tony Hale (who plays Selina’s loyal ”bagman” Gary) earned his first Emmy. Later, at the post-Emmy Governors Ball, Louis-Dreyfus delivered some unscripted comedy when a waitress demanded her ticket. ”But I won an Emmy,” replied the star, pointing to her award. (The waitress persisted until Louis-Dreyfus’ husband produced the tickets.) ”Don’t you think that was a Veep moment?” asked Louis-Dreyfus. Turns out the whole night was.

Additional reporting by Sandra Gonzalez, Dan snierson, Tim Stack, and Tanner Stransky