My Predictions For This Year’s Emmys: Drama, Part 2
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Leaving aside the absence of the leads of This is Us, this is a much better group — and frankly, the most expected — of the drama nominees. There is a very clear front-runner in this group — the almost certain winner — and a couple of outside possibilities, both of whom I’m rooting for as much for personal reasons then respect for their performances. So here are my predictions.
Jason Bateman, Ozark: 13–2.
For Playing: Marty Byrde, a money launderer coming to the end of a desperate game with his criminal colleagues and the law. For Him: It takes a lot of work to take a lifelong reputation for (mostly) playing nice guys and turn them to playing one of the most ruthless antiheroes in recent memory. Yet that is was Bateman has done over four seasons as Marty Byrde in a world that he has himself done much to create behind the camera and on the page as well as on the screen. Bateman is always a mesmerizing actor, someone you can not look away from, even as you loathe every he does. Somehow he has gotten to this point in a career now spanning more than thirty five years without winning an Emmy for an acting. It would be fitting for him to go out on a win. Against Him: This is considered by many on the internet as a White Male Antihero Drama with few redeeming values, and Bateman has to take the blame for that. It doesn’t help matters that his character has none of Don Draper or Frank Underwood’s charming, nor Walter White’s cleverness yet all of their ugliness. All he has is the ability to manipulate money. I don’t think that will count enough for an award.
Brian Cox, Succession: 4–1.
For Playing: Logan Roy, the head of Waystar, facing the possibility of the end of his empire. For Him: Cox is one of the greatest actors of all time and in Logan Roy has created the role of a lifetime. It says a lot about his ability as an actor that even though he has no redeeming qualities and is by far the biggest monster in a series full of them, Cox is somehow beloved by millions just by saying ‘F___ off!” every other sentence. Leaving that aside, he has managed a remarkable career in film, theater and television and only recently has begun to get wins for it. And based on his acceptance speech at the SAG awards this March, you have a feeling that, unlike the character he plays, Cox would be charming, funny and moving. Against Him: Cox has been the favorite for so many awards this year and has not won a single one. It was one thing for him to lose to Jeremy Strong at the Golden Globes, but he was upset at both the SAGs and the Critics Choice by Lee Jung-Jae. Then he lost in the HCA Broadcast and Cable TV awards to Bob Odenkirk a few weeks ago. As great an actor as Cox is, all the trends are saying that this year the Emmys are likely to tell him to…well, you know.
Lee Jung-Jae, Squid Game: 19–5
For Playing: Seong Gi-Hun, the last recruited contestant in a life-or-death game for riches. For Him: Jung-Jae has been winning awards for Squid Game all over the place since the SAG awards. And now having watched the entire series and gotten the measure of it, it should never have come as a shock. Seong plays the early parts of the series as something of a loser and a sucker. Then we see his desperation as the series goes on and the stakes get higher, and we see how ruthless and monstrous he can be. And then as the series enters its final third, something astonishing happens: he becomes the only character on the series with a soul, the only one willing to do the right thing. There’s no joy when he wins, and you can see him only becoming mobilized when he faces the evil before him. I’m not saying that I necessarily want Jung-Jae to win, but I certainly understand why he’s been dominating the awards to this point and why he’s the favorite going in. Against Him: The same problem with the entire cast of the series. Are the Emmys willing to give its prize for Best Actor to someone whose entire speech must have simultaneous translation? It’s a big deal to nominate a series in Korean; it’s another to give it to an actor who will use it in his acceptance speech.
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul: 11–2.
For Playing: Saul Goodman, working with his wife on a long con and facing the consequences of being a lawyer for the cartel. For Him: The man cheated death to walk the red carpet; do you need another reason? Fortunately, there are lots of them. He has never received his due from the Emmys for either this series or Breaking Bad. He is part of one of the greatest series of all time — one that cemented its place and his in TV’s hall of fame in the last few weeks. And so much of his work in the first half of Season 6 was masterful; watching him run around, invent complete lines of BS for his illegal activities, engage in ridiculous cons, and have a moment of true happiness with his sole mate — right before the man he destroyed chewed him out and he faced the real consequences of his actions. Odenkirk deservedly won the Best Actor Prize from the HCA TV Awards earlier, maybe the momentum is shifting his way. Against Him: There are signs that the momentum is start to move towards Odenkirk and Better Call Saul, especially given its triumphs at the HCA. Is it enough to overcome the phenomena of Squid Game and the power of the Roys? Privately, I hope so. Realistically, I doubt it.
Adam Scott, Severance: 13–2.
For Playing: Mark, newly promoted officer at Lumon, dealing with the ramifications of work life and home life. For Him: Scott is one of the greatest actors of the new Golden Age, having appeared in at least two of my favorite series of all time. So it says a lot that his work in Severance may be the best thing he’s ever done. As a man who has undergone the title procedure more for escape than any real belief in the system, a man who begins to question his place in the company when he takes a new position, meets his newest recruit in his work life, and finds out in his home life that there may be a truth to his company that he’s unaware of, and who begins to find out the truths that no brain surgery can reveal, Scott has been giving a master class of acting in one of the biggest succession of 2022. Against Him: Severance was the big winner at the HCA awards last week, but Scott lost to Lee-Jung Jae. As good as Scott is in this role, there are too many other great performances in this category for him to prevail. He will triumph — just not this year.
Jeremy Strong, Succession 5–1.
For Playing: Kendall Roy, now on the outside of his family and starting to spiral. For Him: Strong’s work in Succession is often considered the master class in a group of extraordinary actors, and watching the series in Season 3, it’s hard not to see why. Even coming from someone who does not fundamentally like the show, it’s impossible to deny the brilliance of his work. Throughout Season 3, he kept trying to recover from the repercussions of his actions at the end of Season 2, and instead spent much of the year becoming more isolated from his family, and more and more lost. I’m not shocked we almost thought he would die at the end of the season. And the revelatory moments in ‘All the Bells Say’ when he finally told the secret he’s been carrying for two season was powerful and moving — and in true Succession style, rendered completely meaningless minutes later. I understand completely why Strong took the Golden Globe for Best Actor this year. Against Him: Strong has won before in Season 2. And while he might very well have had momentum going out of the Golden Globes, the wins by Jung-Jae and Odenkirk the past several months have surely taken all the momentum out of it.
Prediction: I want Odenkirk to win very badly. And it might even happen. But I’m a realist. Just like in the title game, I think Jung-Jae will end up being the last man standing.
Tomorrow I cover Best Actress in a Drama, something I’m not really looking forward to doing.