The Emmy awards will be unlike any other this year, as the Coronavirus pandemic means that Sunday’s ceremony will be taking place virtually (though still hosted by Jimmy Kimmel). Despite the unconventional award season, this year saw some incredible television, meaning there’s incredibly tough competition among the nominees for the top prizes. Let’s explore who will win, who should win, (who is a dark horse), and who should have been nominated in the first place.
Best Drama Series
Will Win: “Succession”
With 18 nominations, it is clear that Emmy voters are fans of “Succession.” The HBO drama’s universally acclaimed second season received praise from critics and actors alike, who lauded the drama’s brilliant writing, unique directing and the cast’s stellar performances. The nine acting nominations are indicative of the level of support the show has with voters, making it the clear frontrunner in this category.
Should Win: “Succession”
There’s not another drama series this year that has pulled off such a satisfying season of television. It’s hard not to be drawn into the world of the Roy family, a collection of fascinating, damaged and insufferable characters.
Potential Threat: “Ozark”
Having premiered its third season during lockdown, “Ozark” could arguably be in the voter’s minds more than “Succession,” which finished its second season all the way back in October. Matching “Succession”’s 18 nominations, its latest season drew in a bigger audience and its best reviews from critics, who have highlighted the star performances from Laura Linney and Tom Pelphrey in particular. If “Succession” doesn’t take the top prize, the Netflix drama is the obvious runner-up. The lack of acting nominations, however, (particularly the snub of Tom Pelphrey) weaken the chances of it taking home the gold this year.
Should Have Been Nominated: “Mr. Robot”
In the midst of all the endless television that was on this season, it’s easy to forget that “Mr. Robot” quietly wrapped its fourth and final season way back in December. Despite not having maintained the buzz it created for its first season, “Mr. Robot” crafted a memorable and surprising ending, filled with twists and shocks, that still managed to leave the audience with a feeling of hope. If only more shows were run by creators like Sam Esmail, whose attention to detail was unsurpassed throughout all four seasons.
Best Leading Actor in a Drama Series
Will Win: Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
The last two winners of this award (Billy Porter and Sterling K. Brown) have been first-time nominees, and this could be repeated with “Succession”’s Jeremy Strong for his performance as Kendall Roy. After being shut out last year, it’s easy to see the Emmys awarding Strong for his devastating, emotional performance in the season two finale “This Is Not For Tears.” Yet, as in the show, Strong will have to contend against co-star Brian Cox, who dominates the screen in his masterful and terrifying portrayal of Logan Roy. Though, as Kendall is the emotional heart of the show, Strong’s performance should appeal more to voters.
Should Win: Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
Strong gave one of the best performances on television this year, captivating the audience as Kendall struggled to break free from his father’s domination. Whether it was breaking down to his sister, performing a cringe-worthy iconic rap or betraying his father, Strong sold it all, making what on paper could simply be a privileged, selfish character “Succession”’s vulnerable and beating heart. The expression of Strong’s face in the season two finale when he’s told Logan only “loves the broken you” is worth the Emmy alone.
Potential Threat: Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
With both Cox and Strong contending for the same award (and neither being an obvious frontrunner), this could result in the vote being split, leaving neither of the actors winning. This would clear the way for “Ozark”’s Jason Bateman, the next likeliest winner, who gave his strongest performance yet as Marty Byrde in the Netflix drama.
Should Have Been Nominated: Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot,” who managed to outdo his Emmy-winning performance as Elliott in the final season of the USA drama.
Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series
Will Win: Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”
This is the toughest category to predict, as without a clear frontrunner, this award is anyone’s game. The only unlikely winner is “Killing Eve”’s Jodie Comer, who, after winning last year, has less of a chance. The race seems to be closest between “Ozark”’s Laura Linney and “The Morning Show”’s Jenifer Aniston — Linney for having her best season yet on the Netflix drama and Aniston for having a momentous return to television. However, it would be foolish to underestimate “The Crown”’s Olivia Coleman, and Zendaya’s surprise nomination for an acclaimed performance in “Euphoria” shouldn’t be dismissed, nor should the continually overlooked Sandra Oh, who has been overdue an Emmy for years and could finally make history. Aniston’s SAG award here is significant, as due to the crossover between the SAG and Emmy voters it highlights the support Aniston already has, giving her the slight edge in this race.
Should Win: Laura Linney, “Ozark”
“Ozark” wouldn’t be half as good without Linney’s stunning performance, which reached greater heights in the third season. The inclusion of Wendy’s brother (Tom Pelphrey, who should have been nominated) allowed the audience to see a different side of her character, culminating in the season’s best episode (and Linney’s episode submission) “Fire Pink,” where we see Linney’s walls crumble after giving up her brother.
Potential Threat: Zendaya, “Euphoria”
The Emmys love awarding first-time nominees, and none would fit the bill better than “Euphoria”’s Zendaya, having shocked industry insiders after receiving a nomination for her lauded performance in the HBO drama. It was thought voters would snub a teen drama, so her nomination is notable and should not be underestimated. Aniston and Linney have both already won Emmys in their careers, so it would make sense for them to award an acclaimed breakthrough performance like Zendaya’s.
Should Have Been Nominated: Viola Davis, for her performance as the iconic Annalise Keating in the final season of ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.”
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Will Win: Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
With three nominations in this category, it seems likely that the statue will go to “Succession.” As Roman, Kieran Culkin has the flashier role, and he already has two Golden Globe nominations under his belt for the show. While this doesn’t guarantee a win, (the voters for the Globes are very different) it underlines the attention his role has received. Culkin also gave Roman more depth this season, showing emotional growth alongside his character’s trademark sarcasm.
Should Win: Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”
Everyone on “Succession” is brilliant, but I’m continually impressed by Matthew Macfadyen’s performance. It’s pretty incredible how deftly Macfadyen swings from Tom’s insecure, emotional moments (“I wonder if the sad I’d be without you is less than the sad I get from being with you.”) to the big, humorous moments (“Thank you for the chicken.”). He makes you feel sorry for Tom even as you’re laughing at him.
Potential Threat: Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”
“Succession”’s domination in this category could lead to the vote being split between its three actors, leading the way for another winner. There’s a strong chance “The Morning Show”’s Billy Crudup takes the award, but if “Succession” doesn’t take it, I think “Better Call Saul”’s Giancarlo Esposito will win. Despite receiving its best reviews for its fifth season, the Emmys shut out “Better Call Saul” in some key categories (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress) indicating a lack of passion among voters. Even so, the ceremony could award the show’s acclaimed fifth season by having Giancarlo Esposito win for his performance as Gus Fring.
Should Have Been Nominated: Tom Pelphrey, “Ozark”
Pelphrey was widely predicted to score an acting nomination for his heartbreaking turn as Wendy’s brother Ben. Therefore, his snub was surprising, especially as the actor turned in a memorable performance in the season’s best episode, “Fire Pink.”
Will Win: Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
This is another tough category to predict, but my top bet is Helena Bonham Carter for her performance as Princess Margaret in “The Crown.” The show has been consistent each year with their number of nominations and wins, so I don’t see it getting shut out entirely this year. Though Olivia Colman can never be underestimated at award shows, I think Carter has a stronger chance in the supporting actress category than Colman does in leading. Helena Bonham Carter’s performance is not similar to her predecessor Vanessa Kirby, yet it doesn’t matter, as Carter is still so quintessentially Margaret in everything she does. It helps that Carter’s submitted episode — the season three finale “Cri de Coeur” — is a great one, showing Carter’s range. Margaret struggles with her emotionally abusive husband, finds happiness with Roddy Llewellyn and ends up having a rare moment of tenderness with her sister.
Should Win: Sarah Snook, “Succession”
Sarah Snook took center stage this season on “Succession” as Shiv became a major power player to take over her father’s company. Despite Shiv being offered the top job, she soon faltered under her dad’s scrutiny (like her siblings) and became further engulfed in the world of Waystar Roco. Her submitted episode, “The Summer Palace,” gives the audience a glimpse of Shiv’s vulnerability as she hesitates on how to receive Logan’s offer. Snook captures Shiv’s hope, trepidation and disbelief beautifully in a matter of seconds.
Potential Threat: Julia Garner, “Ozark”
With the love for “Ozark” this year, I wouldn’t rule out a second win for Julia Garner, who continues to have the best role on the show as Ruth Langmore. This season showed Ruth falling in love and breaking away from the Byrdes as she comes into her own and stands up for what she wants. Ruth is one of the most watchable and complex characters on television, and as Garner continues to be a scene stealer, it would be no surprise if the Emmys award her again.
Should Have Been Nominated: Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”
Rhea Seehorn continues to give one of the most acclaimed supporting performances on television as Kim Wexler on “Better Call Saul.”