• James Kunovski

2020 Emmys: Thoughts on Drama

With Game of Thrones over, the drama categories have more room to breath. Though, in its absence, it hardly seems that the Academy have stirred the pot or taken any bold risks. Most of the nominees have stayed the same. Only one Best Drama nominee is a newcomer. That outlier is Disney’s The Mandalorian, which seems out of place in its sole main ceremony entry. There are two shows that exploded in popularity this year. Succession and Ozark, (the former being a personal favourite), both received eighteen nominations and are players vying for the top wins. Who will come out on top in the battle between HBO and Netflix’s prestige dramas?



Drama

Better Call Saul

The Crown

The Handmaid’s Tale

Killing Eve

The Mandalorian

Ozark

Stranger Things

Succession



Will Win: Succession

Should Win: Succession

Snubbed: Mr. Robot



Succession’s brilliant sophomore season deserves the top prize. A win for the show would verify it as another golden nugget in HBO’s prime catalogue. As mentioned before, Ozark is its main competitor; a win for that series would herald Netflix’s first major program victory. Who has the edge? Succession feels more like the prestige drama that the Television Academy loves, and a throwback to the early '00s HBO “family oriented” shows (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, etc.), whereas Ozark feels like it’s guising as prestige drama. The actors, whose branch makes up the most members, and consequently the most votes, nominated nine Succession actors, compared to three from Ozark. There is also the social benefactor that comes with the urgent timeliness in Succession’s satirical proceedings.


 

Lead Actor

Jason Bateman, Ozark

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Steve Carell, The Morning Show

Brian Cox, Succession

Billy Porter, Pose

Jeremy Strong, Succession



Will Win: Brian Cox, Succession

Should Win: Jeremy Strong, Succession

Snubbed: Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul



Between the two Succession leads, Brian Cox has the showier act, with the theatrics of his interpretation never entering farcical territory. If voters remember, Cox was acknowledged at the Golden Globes this year. On the other hand, Jeremy Strong manages one of the finest performances in television’s recent calibre. He balances a range of emotional peaks. Whether he’s averting eye contact, embracing puppy dog sadness, breaking down, rapping, or power-tripping, Succession has managed to mould a lead who can match Cox’s tyrannical clinch. With this seismic shift in character, is Jesse Armstrong hinting at future seasons?



 

Lead Actress

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve

Laura Linney, Ozark

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Zendaya, Euphoria



Will Win: Laura Linney, Ozark

Should Win: Jodie Comer, Killing Eve

Snubbed: Kirsten Dunst, On Becoming a God in Central Florida



Once again, competition is stacked. Five out of the six actors have been nominated prior -- three have already won. Laura Linney seems poised to clinch the prize, especially with the range on showcase in her submission episode: the penultimate, “Fire Pink.” Many prognosticators are anticipating an Aniston win. It would be her second Emmy to date, eighteen years after winning for Friends. Although Jen is popular, and a win would be a reassuring nod for new kid on the block Apple TV+, the performance, and her show don’t have the Emmys steam behind them at this current moment. Next year, Olivia Colman could repeat what Claire Foy did in 2018. Two nominations for playing the Queen and a win for your second season once voters have warmed up to the new cast. It’s likely that Sandra Oh will never win for her turn as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve. My pick for this year has to be Oh’s co-star Jodie Comer, who won last year. Consecutive wins in this category are rare; Claire Danes most recently pulled it off in 2012/13 for Homeland. Comer’s submission, “Are You From Pinner?”, is simply put, an actor’s dream. She tears down our preconceived nature of Villanelle’s sadist and sarcastic façade in a vehement confrontation with her mother. She toys with her gullible family, and basks in her stunted childlike side, especially at the local, very-Russian festival. Comer is unlikely to win, but this performance, in general, and in relation to that episode is one of this year’s strongest. Also, Zendaya should not be underestimated because she can appeal to voters seeking change.


 

Supporting Actor

Nicholas Braun, Succession

Billy Crudup, The Morning Show

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Mark Duplass, The Morning Show

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul

Matthew Macfadyen, Succession

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld



Will Win: Kieran Culkin, Succession

Should Win: Matthew Macfadyen, Succession

Snubbed: Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul



The ever-sarcastic and petulant Roman Roy, played by Culkin has the most outlandish material of the ensemble, and if the Academy leans toward a Succession actor, he might end up with the prize. Otherwise, Matthew Macfadyen, showcasing a spectacular reversal of his familiar casting is the overlooked standout in that show’s sophomore season. He brilliantly balances Tom’s outsider outlook with obsequiousness and a touch of insecurity. Here is a man who thinks he has a chance at CEO when he is married to the boss’s daughter. Tom isn’t traditionally stupid, and if there’s blatant stupidity brimming at Tom’s inhibitions, they are complimented by a deeper sycophancy and alienation. Macfadyen manages that blurred definition so well. In the non-Succession sphere, Billy Crudup, who already has the push from a Critics' Choice Award, could come out on top if the Succession actors split the votes. In a way he plays a lighter, more likeable version of Culkin’s Roman — a move that will benefit Crudup if the branch finds the youngest of the Roys just a bit too repulsive.



 

Supporting Actress

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Julia Garner, Ozark

Thandie Newton, Westworld

Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve

Sarah Snook, Succession

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale



Will Win: Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Should Win: Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Snubbed: Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul



Vanessa Kirby never won for her portrayal of Princess Margaret in The Crown’s first two seasons, but her replacement, Bonham Carter could pull it off. Aiding her to a win is an outstanding submission episode that spotlights Margaret’s drunken madness and spite and. Since Bonham Carter is mostly a lock, let’s move our attention to one of the unlikelier picks on this list. Laura Dern has had a career renaissance lately. She won an Oscar earlier this year, and an Emmy three years ago for Big Little Lies. In Big Little Lies’ second season, her portrayal of the zealous Renata Klein broke the Emmy-winning expectations she had set. Dern’s performance would bristle with camp had she not precisely drawn out the deep-seated motive and drive behind her character’s force. In her submission, she has two instantly iconic moments, the fight with her infantile husband Gordon, and naturally, “I will not, not be rich.”


 

Directing

The Crown for “Aberfan”

The Crown for “Cri de Coeur”

Homeland for “Prisoners of War”

The Morning Show for “The Interview”

Ozark for “Fire Pink”

Ozark for “Su Casa Es Mi Casa”

Succession for “Hunting”

Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”



Will Win: Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”

Should Win: Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”

Snubbed: Mr. Robot for “405 Method Not Allowed”



Scenes over the family dinner table come to life thanks to Mark Mylod’s expert control in Succession’s ardent finale. Also from Succession, and worthy of due is Andrij Parekh who directed the earlier “Hunting.” Parekh pulled off the difficult “boar on the floor” sequence; his precise orchestration saving the moment from complete absurdity.


 

Writing

Better Call Saul for “Bad Choice Road”

Better Call Saul for “Bagman”

The Crown for “Aberfan”

Ozark for “All In”

Ozark for “Boss Fight”

Ozark for “Fire Pink”

Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”



Will Win: Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”

Should Win: Succession for “This Is Not for Tears”

Snubbed: Mr. Robot for “407 Proxy Authentication Required”



Succession’s writing could eventually reach the league of The Sopranos which won six awards in this category, or Mad Men which won consecutively for its first three seasons. Jesse Armstrong, who helms “This Is Not for Tears” won for season one’s finale, “Nobody Is Ever Missing.” Semi-fun fact: both those titles were taken from John Berryman’s poem "Dream Song 29". Armstrong’s tact for his character’s rampant calculating, and deliberating, is on full, glorious spectacle in this explosive season finale. It wouldn’t be Succession without a taut luncheon-that-doubles-as-a-boardroom-meeting and the yacht’s confrontation is rife with backstabbing jabs and delicious wisecracks. Those moments are a masterclass in character building and revealing, and are worthy of a study, or an analysis or two.