Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

2014 Emmy Analysis: Lead Actress and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (The Good Wife! Breaking Bad! House of Cards!)

Our Emmy Experts have watched the submitted tapes for Lead Actress and Supporting Actor (in a Drama Series) and have a few things to say. Will Aaron Paul actually three-peat? Can Julianna Margulies make a comeback or will Robin Wright snatch her first Primetime Emmy win? Both races look to be nail-biters with some clearly defined frontrunners and each with dark horse spoilers in the form of former winners and first time nominees.



Assuming that Wright submits Chapter 17, they all submitted pretty well.

1. Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife – “The Last Call” – Great submission. The only question mark would be screen time, as there is a lot of time spent on the other supporting characters dealing with their own grief but she kills it in every scene pretty much.

2. Robin Wright, House of Cards – “Chapter 17” – Don’t think it’s a slam-dunk submission but she’s still very good, and with her being on a show which is probably the most liked by the academy, she’s probably the favorite.

3. Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex – “Pilot” – I think I had underestimated how good a submission this was when I heard this was what she was submitting. It may not be a showy episode, but everything that makes this such a great performance is present in this episode.. Plus she gets the scene where Ethan hits her towards the end. She’s still definitely in play as a spoiler.

4. Claire Danes, Homeland – “The Star” – It’s a really strong tape. I don’t think she’s winning again but it’s a very good submission for her.

5. Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey – “Episode 4.1” – Strong submission, definitely spoiler potential. Her character is pretty cold for most of the episode but she does get the scene with Carson at the end, and it does help that even though she doesn’t have that much screen time she is pretty much the central focus of the episode.

6. Kerry Washington, Scandal – “The Fluffer” – Ugh this is hard to evaluate when imo the show has become such a mess at this point and everything that Washington does to me is complete over-acting. That being said.. She gets to play ruthless, she gets to cry, she gets to do that lip-quiver thing, she gets to shout or have a major confrontation in pretty much every scene. It’s all so over-the-top but they’ve nominated her twice for this performance now, they’re clearly not opposed to it, and she gets a lot of “money scenes” in this episode. I’m not gonna be completely stunned if she wins this but god the show has gotten really bad since I last watched it.

UPDATE: Since Chris’s commentary was based on the theory that Robin Wright would be submitting “Chapter 17” his thoughts have been updated to reflect her decision (or whomever’s) to submit “Chapter 26.” Read the updated thoughts and ranking here!



1. Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad – “Confessions” His tape has the impact and explosive moments that scream ” Emmy,” and it builds from the smoldering resentment in the interrogation room with Hank at the beginning, through a fantastic emotional moment like the ” just tell me you want this” scene with Walt in the desert, then finally the fireworks of Jesse’s realization about the ricin and subsequent rampage. When you combine that with the fact that Breaking Bad is the strongest contender in this category, then I think he’s the clear favorite for me.

2. Josh Charles, The Good Wife – “Hitting the Fan” – Charles gives a fantastic performance in ” Hitting The Fan,” one that I would compare to Jon Hamm in ” The Suitcase” (except he and Alicia break apart in this episode as opposed to Don and Peggy becoming closer than ever). Only problem is that Jon Hamm lost for that. Charles’ weakness for me is that, even in his biggest moments (and he does have big moments here), he has a subtle, clinical quality about his acting style (he’s similar to Jon Hamm in this way) that makes for a great performance, but not so great for winning the Emmys.

3. Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones – “The Laws of God and Men” –  Dinklage is fantastic and very showy, but he essentially has one extended scene, which is a major handicap.

4. Mandy Patinkin, Homeland – “Gerontion” – Patinkin gives an excellent performance that has emotion, conveying a lot of weight and depth (it also doesn’t hurt that his episode was probably the best one of Homeland’s poor third season), and is especially good in his scenes acting opposite Shaun Toub as his Iranian counterpart – it’s his acting (both of theirs really) that suggests a deep shared history between Saul and a character the audience is just now getting to know. Only problem is that his performance is very quiet and subtle and has few real explosive moments.

5. Jon Voight, Ray Donovan – “Fite Nite” – When it comes to Jon Voight, I have to do my best to check my own bias at the door because, frankly, I thought that his episode was terrible overall (Ray Donovan somehow got worse since the pilot), and he wasn’t very good in it. It’s a showy performance (Jon Voight as a Bah-stin crook yah!) and he gets ample screen time and a few moments that a fan of the show would appreciate I imagine: he gets bonding moments with his mixed-race son before the son’s boxing match, he gets to beg for his life when James Woods’ character comes to kill him, and ultimately talk his way out of it. But honestly I was expecting more big, showy moments from the performance, and they weren’t there that much even though the performance itself is showy (I was expecting something like Bobby Cannavale’s tape from last year). Going in I actually thought Voight was a major dark horse for the win (and I still have a foreboding feeling he could surprise), but I am much less worried about that now.

6. Jim Carter, Downton Abbey – “Episode 4.1” And last we come to Jim Carter. I have made no bones about how angry I was that he got nominated over people I felt were more deserving, but the performance in his episode (the season premiere) is actually a good one. Carson has more screen time than he did in previous submissions, and he gets more to do than just being the stuffy old butler he usually is- his standout is a scene late in the episode with Lady Mary when he helps her get over her grief about Matthew’s death. That said, the emotion he generates in these scenes is of the quiet, understated kind, which won’t be doing him any favors against the rest of the competition.


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