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Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Helena Bonham Carter - The Crown (Netflix) - “Cri de Coeur” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Last year this category was dominated by four women from Game of Thrones. Despite taking up a majority of the slots, Julia Garner was able to pull off a surprise win for Ozark. Vote splitting may have helped Garner stand out and win, but with eight nominees from seven shows, this year may prove to be a lot more competitive. Oscar winners (Laura Dern, Meryl Streep) are entering the mix against buzzy newcomers (Helena Bonham Carter) and past Emmy winners (Thandie Newton, Julia Garner, Samira Wiley). It may be anyone’s game, but who stands the best shot?

Let’s take a look at the nominees and their submissions:

Helena Bonham Carter – The Crown (Netflix) – “Cri de Coeur” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Submission Grade: 10/10

Likelihood to Win: 9/10

The Crown has never been my cup of tea, so you can imagine my surprise when Helena Bonham Carter’s submission became one of my absolute favorites of the season. “Cri de Coeur” gives Carter a myriad of things to do as Margaret, the prodigal royal daughter. The episode begins with Margaret receiving a visit from her regal sister Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) as she’s hungover in bed. After some expertly dramatized gin-soaked dinner fights, Margaret goes on a vacation and meets Roddy (Harry Treadway), an Olympian who becomes her next fling. Margaret starts to neglect her husband in lieu of furthering her years-long relationship with Roddy. Their trip to the island of Mustique is an epic, lavish getaway, and while Carter looks great living out this grand fantasy, her real Emmy showcase comes when she returns home and she and Roddy are confronted by her husband, Lord Snowdon (Ben Daniels). It’s a barn-burner! Carter breaks out of The Crown’s somewhat stodgy tone to be a real live wire. Still, she knows how to reign it in when it counts. In her final scene, Margaret shows empathy as Elizabeth expresses doubt in her capabilities as Queen. “You paper over the cracks. If you let them see the crack, it becomes a chasm,” Margaret advises. Even though she resents the crown, she knows better than anyone what the role entails. Each season of The Crown has resulted in one acting win. John Lithgow won for season one, while Claire Foy won for season two. With a stunning episode submission, movie star wattage and no loss in nominations for The Crown, Carter stands a very good shot at winning.

Laura Dern – Big Little Lies (HBO) – “Tell Tale Heart” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Submission Grade: 8/10

Likelihood to Win: 6/10

Oscar winner Laura Dern doesn’t get a lot of screen time in “Tell Tale Heart.” However, she makes every second matter with several meme-able moments that still permeate in pop culture today. Renata (Dern) starts the episode on a high as she tells her husband Gordon about her upcoming magazine cover. As she’s gloating, he’s arrested for insider trading, prompting some trademark Renata shrinking. Later, when she visits him in jail, Renata learns Gordon has lost all of their money. “I will not not be rich” has become immortalized thanks to Dern’s pitch perfect delivery. We stray away from Renata for most of the episode, only to pick back up with her driving Gordon home. When he dains to place some of the blame on her plate, she forces him out of the car before driving off. “Will somebody give a woman a moment?!” howls Renata. No one can bring to life words from the page quite like Laura Dern. While she won a limited series supporting actress statue for her role in the show’s first season, Renata is still as sharp and biting as ever. With the second season receiving some critical scorn, Dern will have an uphill battle trying to win Emmy number two, despite her standout moments.

Julia Garner – Ozark (Netflix) – “In Case of Emergency” (Season 3, Episode 7)

Submission Grade: 6/10

Likelihood to Win: 8/10 

It’s easy to understand why Julia Garner won last year; she knows exactly how to catch your attention. Her submission, “In Case of Emergency,” starts with Ruth’s interrogation, and she knows how not to crack. Her stern face conveys that she has secrets but won’t be revealing them any time soon. The major event of the episode happens when Ruth is jumped by a rival mob. It’s a galvanizing moment that puts Ruth at the center of the episode, but the episode doesn’t offer Garner a lot of room to make an impression. Before getting beat up, one tracking shot follows Ruth as she barks orders throughout the casino. For being much smaller than the men milling about the casino, Garner carries Ruth like she owns the place. Her physicality suggests a larger than life character, most likely a major reason she won last year. With an increase in nominations for Ozark, Garner could easily repeat again. However, the tape isn’t compelling enough to guarantee a win.

Thandie Newton – Westworld (HBO) – “The Winter Line” (Season 3, Episode 2)

Submission Grade: 5/10

Likelihood to Win: 6/10

Thandie Newton knows how to commit to a bit. We start the episode in War World, a WWII spy-themed land within the park. Newton’s Mauve plays into the role of a deceptive codebreaker very easily, with her commitment to the stylized nature of the role instantly making you believe the reality you are presented with. As we move behind the scenes of the operation, Newton and the show begin to lose grasp of the character and story. For someone who doesn’t watch the show, this episode admittedly was hard to follow. It was so laden with plot details and double/triple/quadruple crosses, it might as well have been performed in another language without subtitles. Newton won this category two years ago for Westworld’s second season, and normally this would place her in a strong position to win. However, Westworld went down from 21 nominations in 2018 to 11 nominations this year. Buzz has cooled on the show, as Newton and Jeffrey Wright are the lone above-the-line nominations for the show. Also, Newton was not up against any of these ladies when she won in 2018. This new competition could get the better of her.

Fiona Shaw – Killing Eve (BBC America) – “Management Sucks” (Season 3, Episode 2)

Submission Grade: 6/10

Likelihood to Win: 3/10

The supporting categories are at its best when great character actresses are spotlighted. Fiona Shaw has been a trusty addition to every ensemble, and Killing Eve gives her a platform she deserves. The first major set piece in “Management Sucks” takes place at the funeral of her son, who people believe committed suicide. Shaw’s Carolyn has other ideas. While at the event, she’s extra testy as those around her monitor and police her grieving. Shaw doesn’t get a lot more screen time in the episode but her two-hander with Sandra Oh pairs nicely with this strong start. She wants Oh’s Eve to work with her to uncover more information on her son’s death, but Eve’s guard is still up after their work relationship dissolved. It’s not often Carolyn has to be humbled, and Shaw plays into that beautifully. Last year, Shaw and Julia Garner were the only two non-Game of Thrones nominees in the category. Vote splitting gave Garner the win, not Shaw. This season her role is much more understated, which will make it harder for her to muster up the passion to win. Shaw continues to reveal more layers to Carolyn, a guarded MI6 leader. Unfortunately, it will not be enough when up against showier competition.

Sarah Snook – Succession (HBO) – “The Summer Palace” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Submission Grade: 6/10

Likelihood to Win: 8/10

Few Succession cast members can deliver a barb quite like Sarah Snook, as her character Shiv offers a knowing smile every time she’s landed a burn against her brothers. When we begin the episode, she’s taking time out of her honeymoon to mock her brother, Kendall (Jeremy Strong). For all the joking, Snook knows when to turn jest into emotion. When finally confronted with Kendall, Shiv drops the humor even as her brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) lays into him. She reminds Kendall how he betrayed her on her wedding day and that she’s not willing to neither forgive nor forget. Snook lands each beat she’s tasked with in the episode, but doesn’t get many opportunities to stand out from the sprawling cast. Her one-on-one conference with her father, Logan (Brian Cox), asking for the company nakedly shows Shiv’s ambition. It’s the highlight of a strong season premiere, but the episode as a whole might not be Snook’s best showcase. Shiv is a fan favorite of the Succession cast, and if the show goes on a winning streak, Snook could be swept along with the show. There will be plenty of passion for the conniving lone Roy daughter, but will it be more passion than Carter and Garner have? Only time will tell, but Snook could very well be a spoiler.

Meryl Streep – Big Little Lies (HBO) – “I Want to Know” (Season 2, Episode 7)

Submission Grade: 5/10

Likelihood to Win: 6/10

With three Oscars, eight Golden Globes, and three Emmys, Meryl Streep is one of the most awarded actresses of all time. As the nosy mother-in-law Mary Louise, Streep gets to chew lots of scenery among other A-list actresses. Her submission, the season two finale, finds her character taking the stand in a custody battle for her grandchildren. However, Nicole Kidman takes center stage as she argues against Streep’s villain, exposing her own poor decisions as a mother. Streep’s best work comes in the small details of her character, rather than in the moments of speechifying or histrionics. When Renata (Laura Dern) confronts her in a Starbucks and storms out, Mary Louise quietly motions to the barista, “pack it up, I’ll bring it to her. We’re going to the same place,” referring to the court case. It really is a shame Streep didn’t submit one of her earlier episodes. The way she puts her cross necklace in her mouth while dressing down Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) or screams at the dinner table with her grandchildren, it all demonstrates a more textured, detailed monster in Mary Louise. Streep leaves it all on the table in her final courtroom showdown. Unfortunately, the loudest acting doesn’t always equate to the best acting.

Samira Wiley – The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) – “Sacrifice” (Season 3, Episode 12)

Submission Grade: 5/10

Likelihood to Win: 2/10

Is it better to appear consistently in a submitted episode or to have one big scene and very little screen time? Samira Wiley opted for the latter with “Sacrifice.” With only two scenes in the episode, her final scene is a real firecracker. Introduced to Mrs. Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) for the first time, Wiley’s Moira opts against being silent or conciliatory. After introducing herself as June’s friend, Moira twists the verbal knife deeper. “Just because you got some new clothes doesn’t make you any difference,” says Moira. “You are still the same woman who held my friend down so your husband could rape her.” Wiley wisely underplays this confrontation. Moira has been waiting for this moment, but also may have underestimated how hard it would be to look Mrs. Waterford in the eye. Her final words prompted me to stand up and clap. “I have sinned plenty, but you are the gender traitor,” Moira spits out before leaving. Sometimes one scene is all you need. Wiley’s previous win was in the guest category. Just as Alexis Bledel moved up from winning guest to losing supporting in 2018, Wiley will likely take the same path.

Personal Lineup

  1. Helena Bonham Carter – The Crown
  2. Laura Dern – Big Little Lies
  3. Sarah Snook – Succession
  4. Julia Garner – Ozark
  5. Fiona Shaw – Killing Eve
  6. Meryl Streep – Big Little Lies
  7. Samira Wiley – The Handmaid’s Tale
  8. Thandie Newton – Westworld

Predictions

  1. Helena Bonham Carter – The Crown – WINNER
  2. Sarah Snook – Succession
  3. Julia Garner – Ozark
  4. Meryl Streep – Big Little Lies
  5. Thandie Newton – Westworld
  6. Laura Dern – Big Little Lies
  7. Fiona Shaw – Killing Eve
  8. Samira Wiley – The Handmaid’s Tale

Who do you think will win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Written by Chris James

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