In the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category there appears to be a clear frontrunner but two worthy challengers. Anna Gunn won here last year for the first half Breaking Bad’s final season and hold court. Christine Baranski and Joanne Froggatt are here to do battle but don’t count out two-time winner Maggie Smith. Here are my rankings of episode submissions for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
01. Like Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn submitted “Ozymandias” and it’s hard to see how she won’t repeat a win here. Reaching her breaking point and wielding a knife against Walter (Bryan Cranston) in what began as a hopeful and happy family scenario (as deluded as that might have been) she also gets to run the gamut of emotions in this episode.
02. Joanne Froggatt’s sexual assault episode submission is potential a smart one for her but really for the end of the episode where she has two devastating scenes that are emotionally raw and incredibly sympathetic. It’s not a tremendous amount of screen time (and it’s shared with co-nominee and two-time winner Maggie Smith), but in an ensemble show like Downton Abbey is that is inherently difficult. There’s also the past evidence that a sexual assault submission isn’t always the best weapon. Vera Farmiga lost here last year with a similar episode for Bates Motel when she was being touted as a frontrunner. Back in the days of The Sopranos, Lorraine Bracco’s rape storyline lost out to Edie Falco but that probably had more to do with Lead vs. Supporting distinction.
03. Screen time is also Christine Baranski’s undoing, I think. She submitted the episode after Will Gardner (Josh Charles) is killed and clocks in at barely five minutes total. She hugs Alicia (Julianna Margulies,) she cries, she says “my best friend just died” and gets to have two bitchy fights with people. It’s brief and incongruous and probably not her best submission but still allows her to shake off some of her character’s traditional stoic nature and show some vulnerability. This is also her fifth nomination for The Good Wife She’s a previous Emmy winner elsewhere and, fun fact; every year that The Good Wife has been eligible for the Emmys a female actor from the show has won in either Lead, Supporting or Guest. She may very well be seen as overdue here.
04. First-time nominee Lena Headey (called it!) submitted pretty well; reacting to her son’s murder, her feisty conversation with Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) and, like Anna Gunn, gets to run the gallery of emotions, albeit much quicker than Gunn does. Game of Thrones managed to be the biggest winner nomination morning but outside of Peter Dinklage hasn’t managed any other above the line wins. Between Cersei Lannister (Headey) being a polarizing character and possible aversion to rewarding the genre show outside of techs, it could be difficult for her to triumph.
05. In the season finale of Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith benefits from having a 2-hour length submission. Or so it seems. The extra length also means that Smith’s Dowager Countess is absent for much of the episode as it tries tie up storylines for nearly a dozen characters. She does get to show a bit more range than her normal zingers (although she gets those too) in her sympathetic scenes with Lady Edith and her jealousy over a man being interested in Isobel (Penelope Wilton). Smith has won two Emmys already for this role and this is her fourth nomination. She also, amazingly, won the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series Screen Actors Guild this year, beating Anna Gunn. She will probably be nominated every year the show is on the air but, after being bested by Anna Gunn for the Emmy last year and likely this year as well, she’ll have to settle on constantly being nominated.
06. Christina Hendricks managed to pull out a nomination in the dwindling era of Mad Men, the former awards juggernaut, and that’s going to have to be her reward. Her submission is good, rebuffing the marriage proposal from Bob Benson (James Wolk) in an effort to conceal his homosexuality. She’s sympathetic and it’s easy to side with her between limited screen time and such a subdued scene it will be virtually impossible to compete with the frontrunners here.
01. Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias”
02. Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey – “Episode 4.2”
03. Christine Baranski, The Good Wife – “The Last Call”
04. Lena Headey, Game of Thrones – “The Lion and the Rose”
05. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey – “Episode 4.8”
06. Christina Hendricks, Mad Men – “The Strategy”