Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Emmy Predictions 2017 - Who Will Likely Win for Lead Actress in a Drama Series?

The nominations are in for The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The final round of voting has occurred. So, it's time to speculate on who is likely to win in each major category. Next up for analysis is Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

The Nominees:
  • Viola Davis for ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - "Wes"
  • Claire Foy for Netflix's The Crown - "Assassins"
  • Elisabeth Moss for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - "Night"
  • Keri Russell for FX's The Americans - "Dyatkovo"
  • Evan Rachel Wood for HBO's Westworld - "The Bicameral Mind"
  • Robin Wright for Netflix's House of Cards - "Chapter 65"

With Tatiana Maslany out of the race this year (though in contention to return next year), there is going to be a new winner in this category. A reasonable argument could be made for each of the nominees as well. Viola Davis is a former winner for playing this role. Robin Wright is the perennial nominee from a show Emmy voters really like. Keri Russell is on a critically acclaimed drama that burst through at the Emmys a year ago and is still primed for a victory outside of Margo Martindale. And Evan Rachel Wood, Claire Foy and Elisabeth Moss led some of the most noteworthy new shows of the past year. Conventional wisdom would suggest that one of the newcomers is poised to win this race. They each have the episodes to have a legitimate shot at winning as well. But again, no one can really be discounted as not a real contender. The voters could surprise with an unexpected choice. Or they could reward the work that merits the recognition.

If the voters are looking solely on the tapes, it would be hard to argue against Elisabeth Moss. She has long been a deserving nominee for the various shows she has appeared in. This is the third show that has produced an acting nomination for her - following Mad Men and Top of the Lake. And yet, she has yet to actually win for acting. That's a travesty that is hopefully rectified this year because she was tremendous on The Handmaid's Tale. It's fascinating that none of the newcomers in this category submitted the premieres of their shows for viewing. That's usually a sound winning strategy. But they also made the right choices because they were better elsewhere in their seasons. It's not always correct that voters reward the big, over-the-top and emotional performances in each category. The one where the characters are breaking down in an epic fashion. But it will still probably help Moss win. The finale was such a powerful episode because it was her finally breaking down after the season of abuse she endured. It was truly gripping to watch and brought everything to a stunning conclusion.

Of course, Wood and Foy were very good in their respective choices as well. The character arc for Wood on Westworld was a little strange and not always worth it. It was a performance that deserved recognition basically for the start and end of the season with some lackluster and weird material in the middle. But that finale did bring everything to a solid conclusion that really had Wood at the forefront of the action and playing multiple shades of the same character. Meanwhile, I hate to continue making the Downton Abbey-The Crown comparison. But they are just similar shows that the voters love a lot. Downton Abbey was still winning a year ago for its final season even though most people probably wouldn't have it being victorious. And now, The Crown seems to have even more buzz. Foy's central performance was so crucial for the success of that first season. It was commanding in just the right ways that grounded the emotional story in a genuine way.

And yet, Russell has a tremendous episode submission as well. That episode in particular was probably the most devastating of this most recent season of The Americans. It can still generate so many feelings of dread and despair while still allowing the characters and audience to be conflicted about the actions being taken. As always, Russell was great. She's just on a show that doesn't have the support amongst the viewers. That's unlikely to change. Meanwhile, Davis and Wright have that support. It's just unclear if it is enough to take the trophy away from the three newcomers. The general consensus of this past season of House of Cards was that Wright was terrific and deserves to win this year. I don't know if that's true because I don't really like that show being called one of the best dramas at this moment in time. But Wright needs to be taken seriously as a contender as well.

Should Win: Keri Russell
Will Win: Elisabeth Moss
Dark Horse: Claire Foy