Going into the Emmys each year, there are always categories that are going to be more exciting than others. Whether it be in the Comedy categories, the Drama categories or the Limited Series categories is dependent upon the array of series that came out from the previous year. This year, that could be seen as the Limited Series categories, which are packed with series that tested the bounds of television while providing audiences with characters that will be remembered for years to come. As exciting as the drama and comedy categories are, the limited series categories are the ones to watch this year.
The Limited and Anthology Series category was always going to be packed this year, with shows like A Teacher, It’s a Sin and The Good Lord Bird being released in the past year. Even the collection of films (or episodes, if that’s what you want to call them) that comprises Small Axe by Steve McQueen was eligible to be nominated for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series. The fact that none of these shows ended up being nominated in the category proves that there was some serious competition this year, the five spots being filled by series that transcended expectations this year. Those five shows are The Queen’s Gambit, Mare of Easttown, The Underground Railroad, I May Destroy You, and WandaVision.
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
If you were to ask anyone around October of last year about what limited series would end up dominating the Emmys, they probably would have responded with The Queen’s Gambit. Taking the zeitgeist by storm, Netflix’s chess drama was the talk of the end of last year. It stayed on the Top Ten category on Netflix for months, viewers engaged in the life of chess prodigy turned champion, Beth Harmon, played by an incredible Anya Taylor-Joy. Garnering 18 Emmy nominations, the series surely did well when it comes to grabbing nominations, but has the hype worn off? Will it be able to come back and win this category? The series won the Golden Globe for Limited Series, but it didn’t have the same competition then (other than I May Destroy You). Will it be able to fend off the four other series in the category?
I May Destroy You (HBO)
I May Destroy You came out last summer and is still riding high off of great reviews and a stellar lead performance from Michaela Coel as Arabella. The series about contemporary life, dating and sexual consent received nominations for two of its actors, Michaela Coel and Paapa Essiedu (who will compete in leading actress and supporting actor, respectively). The series also received two nominations in the directing for a limited series category, another nomination for creator Michaela Coel who co-directed the finale, “Ego Death.” She co-directed with Sam Miller, who is also nominated for his work on directing the premiere episode, “Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes.” So what does this mean for the chances of I May Destroy You? It’s an uphill climb, to be sure, but it’s not totally out of reach. Coel could find herself in the winner’s circle on Emmy night for her work on the show.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
The Underground Railroad comes into this category seemingly as the underdog, with the least amount of nominations of any of the five series to be nominated in this category. It is also the only series nominated that did not receive any acting nominations (which was a huge shock to critics and pundits alike). Following a slave named Cora whose escape to freedom comes with a literal underground railroad, the series is a complete triumph in every sense of the word. Barry Jenkins earned himself a nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie, a category with steep competition that he could find himself winning, yet he missed out on a writing nomination despite the strategy of submitting a single episode (the last of the 10) for consideration. The Underground Railroad is probably the least likely to win this category based on how nominations went. If the series wasn’t being watched enough before, the Emmy nominations seemingly haven’t pushed any new viewers towards it (if the series was being watched as much as something like WandaVision, there would have been acting nominations abound). While it’s still great to be nominated, it seems least likely that this will be the series to win.
Mare of Easttown (HBO)
HBO had a hit on their hands this spring with Mare of Easttown, a detective murder mystery following Detective Mare Sheehan as she looks into the disappearance of one girl and the murder of another while dealing with the citizens of Easttown. This limited series did very well with audiences and critics alike, becoming the centerpiece for Sunday nights on Twitter. And who can hear those accents and not want to mimic them? They’re wonderful! Aside from Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, the series was also nominated for Leading Actress in a Limited Series for Kate Winslet’s seemingly effortless portrayal of Mare. Evan Peters is also nominated for his work as Detective Colin Zabel in the Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie category. It also has two nominees in the Supporting Actress category, with Jean Smart and Julianne Nicholson up for the award (with conversations about Nicholson heating up). The series managed to nab 15 nominations in total, including nominations for both writing and directing. This is a series to watch out for on Emmy night, it could potentially be the one to take it home.
WandaVision leads the pack of these shows by overperforming on nomination day with 23 Emmy nominations. Following the avenger Wanda Maximoff after the events of Avengers: Endgame, it captures her grief at the loss of the love of her life, Vision, at the hands of Thanos. The series was nominated in three acting categories: Lead Actress, Lead Actor and Supporting Actress for Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn respectively. Matt Shakman was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie for his work on the series. The series also grabbed three (yes, three!) writing nominations in the Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or TV Movie category, taking up half the category with its noms. The series was a hit with audiences, probably more so than any other series here (with a second place going to Mare of Easttown), becoming the watercooler show of the early months of the year (the show premiered in January). Everyone was talking about WandaVision every week, and it seems that the love for the show translated into major Emmy nominations and could perhaps even translate into a couple of wins. At this point, it looks like WandaVision’s biggest competition is Mare of Easttown.
Emmy winner voting begins August 19 and goes until August 30. The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be on September 19.
Here are my ranked predictions for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series.
- Wandavision (Disney+)
- Mare of Easttown (HBO)
- The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
- I May Destroy You (HBO)
- The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)