My Predictions For This Year’s Emmys: Drama, Part 3

Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama

I don’t know why everyone thinks she’ll win this year. marca.com

Anyone who remembers the angry posts that I wrote in the aftermath of this year’s Emmys nominations remembers how generally hostile I was to this particular group of nominees in particular. The major reasons were the inclusion of Zendaya (which was inevitable, despite my rabid denials) and the exclusion of Mandy Moore, which makes no sense at all. While I acknowledge the overall quality of most of the nominees in this category — the lion’s share of who were in the HCA nominations this year — Moore’s exclusion, like those of the entire cast of This is Us remains inconceivable. This was illustrated even further at the TCA, which ignored Euphoria in its nominations altogether, but gave Moore the prize for Best Dramatic Performance. This is an exclusion that, like similar ones for The Good Wife and Justified, will rank as the Emmy greatest blunders. End of rant.

So, with the effort of neutrality, I will try to predict the odds of the nominees in this category.

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve: 6–1.

For Playing: Villanelle, an assassin whose path to reformation leads her back to the gang of 12 and Eve. For Her: Comer has by far been the sensation of this series, playing one of the most frightening characters in television history. As she spent much of the final season of this series trying desperately to turn away from her actions, only to be dragged back in — how reluctantly is always hard to say with Villanelle — we got a taste of how she went from a relative unknown to one of the biggest stars in recent years. Viewers were outraged at the fate of her character in the finale. Perhaps an Emmy would make it up to them? Against Her: Comer’s win in 2018 was a huge upset and she has never seriously contended since then (though admittedly the category has featured several extraordinary actresses and characters). I have a feeling that Comer will end up just being there for the party this year.

Laura Linney, Ozark: 9–2.

For Playing: Wendy Byrde, dealing with the consequences of her corruption to her life and her family. For Her: Let’s deal with the obvious: Linney is one of the greatest actresses in history who you can never stop watching no matter what project she’s a part of. She has been one of the great forces on television for years, having won four Emmys for four different projects. Best Actress in a Drama is one of the few categories she’s never been rewarded for, and as much as I actively dislike Ozark, none of that is because of Linney. Her character has been part of the biggest arc of anyone in the series, from a wife unwillingly drawn in to her husband’s schemes to a character as ruthless and bloodthirsty as he is. And even when you think she’s protecting her family — as she was at a critical point nearly the series’ end — you couldn’t tell how much of it was an act. In the character of Wendy Byrde, she may have created a character as close to the antiheroine as we have ever seen in recent years — she was what everybody accused Skyler White’s character of being. As Ozark sails off to the sunset, there’s an argument she deserves a prize. The fact that she took a trophy from the HCA awards for Streaming indicates she might have the momentum. Against Her: Linney only managed to tie Britt Lower of Severance for Best Actress, and that was the only award Ozark managed to win. There has never been a lot of enthusiasm to giving this series awards and considering that Linney does have four Emmys already, voters may be less inclined to give her the big prize.

I think the momentum is shifting her way. vogue.com

Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets: 39–10.

For Playing: Shauna, the survivor of a plane crash, trying to deal with the crises with someone who knows about her past and a marriage that is imploding on both ends. For Her: I’ll be honest here: the only actress in this category who I really give a damn about and want to see win is Lynskey. Part of it is because, like the character she plays, Lynskey had so much potential as a child actress and then spent so much time hiding. She’s been slowly been revealing her gifts in the last several years on TV, but Yellowjackets gives her the first great role she’s had in decades. Unlike her co-stars Ricci (who was nominated) and Juliette Lewis (who should have been), Lynskey doesn’t chew the scenery. Shauna’s been pretending that she isn’t as damaged as her friends and we spend much of the first season that she truly is, watching her learn about her husband’s affair by having one with a total stranger, showing her utter dislike for her teenage daughter, and spending as much time as possible denying the death of her best friend in the aftermath and trying to participate in the new reality. It is a masterclass. And the indications in the pre-Emmys awards have shown just how much the critics love her work — in a shock, she took Best Actress at the Critics Choice in March and managed to upset Zendaya herself at the Broadcast and Cable TV awards at the HCA a few weeks ago. The odds show just how much she’s closed the gap between her and Zendaya and I think she might be able to pull it off. Against Her: Yellowjackets has been a critical and popular sensation, but not the smash popular and cultural hit that Euphoria has been. Could the Emmys decide to honor a current young adult star over a former one?

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve: 13–2.

For Playing: Eve, an MI6 agent making one last effort to bring down an international organization and dealing with her complication relationship with its former assassin. For Her: Let’s be honest: Oh is way overdue recognition from the Emmys. I may not have liked Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, but I don’t think it was fair she went 0 for 5 from the Emmys either. (And seriously? Losing to Blythe Danner for Huff? Twice?) Everyone expected her to win the Emmy the year Killing Eve premiered and she won every award leading up to it but the Emmy. (I’m pretty sure even Jodie Comer expected Oh to win.) And now it’s her last chance for her to take home a prize for her work as the forever put upon Eve who has lost almost everything because of Villanelle but just can’t quit her. There’s a good argument for Oh to prevail. Against Her: Killing Eve’s moment has passed; the series was not nominated for Best Drama for its final season, and the nominations for the two leads were the only major ones the series received this year. Considering that and the general frustration fans felt with the series finale, Oh’s best opportunity for an Emmy has probably passed. (Then again, we can always hope The Chair, a Netflix comedy where she was quite brilliant, is renewed for another season.)

Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show: 7–1.

For Playing: Bradley Jackson, the head anchor at a TV morning show dealing with a world — and a network — in crisis. For her: I’m the first person to argue that Witherspoon is overdue recognition from the Emmys; just two years ago I was outraged when, though she was the part of three series that received Emmy nominations for their female stars that somehow Witherspoon got no recognition for any of them. And in all honesty, I was always more of the opinion that Witherspoon’s work on The Morning Show was more deserving of a nomination or a win then her co-star Jennifer Aniston who seemed to win more praise for her return to series TV then the actual quality of her performance. Witherspoon is more than due a win. Against Her: Witherspoon’s nomination was by far the biggest surprise among the nominated actresses in this category and honestly, the fact that she was nominated over Mandy Moore is one of those most obvious blunders the Emmys made. Much as I want to see her win an Emmy for something, I don’t think she has a realistic chance.

Zendaya, Euphoria: 37–10.

For Playing: Rue, a teenage addict heading full-on to suicide and determined not to change. For Her: I don’t like Euphoria. I especially don’t like Zendaya’s work in Euphoria. And just for the record, a lot of critics online and in print didn’t like her or Season 2 of Euphoria. But even those of who don’t admire her work can’t help be shocked at her range. There were things in her performance I hated as a critic, but seeing her literally run from her problems, go through the agony of withdrawal and face the reality of who she is and was, is the kind of performance that is powerful. Almost before Season 2 ended, Zendaya was the out and out favorite for a second Emmy. And we all know the Emmys believe in narrative more than the quality of the performance. Against Her: The only award that Zendaya has won for her work was the MTV Movie and TV awards. Lynskey and Linney have been dominating the awards leading up to the Emmys, she wasn’t even nominated by the TCA and it says a lot that Mandy Moore and Britt Lower have been receiving more awards in the last month then she has. The narrowness of the odds between her and Lynskey right now show just how much the race has changed. The institutional memory of the Emmys — honoring winners from the previous season — may be all that saves her, and that almost always applies to winners whose series’ air in consecutive years, not in consecutive seasons. And for the record, no lead actress has won multiple Emmys for the same show since Juliana Marguilies in 2012 and 2013 for Homeland. That’s a hell of a gap in recent history.

PREDICTION: While I won’t rule out the possibility that momentum will carry Zendaya over the top, recent evidence suggests that Lynskey has the buzz and the awards to get her on the stage in a few weeks.

Tomorrow, I cover Best Supporting Actor in A Drama, where despite the absence of anyone from Better Call Saul, I actually care about a bit more than when the nominations came out.

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David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.