By Abe Friedtanzer
This category seems to me to be one of the most interesting because there is no clear favorite – all the nominees offer something truly captivating. While it is possible that Succession picks him up, which I think would be disappointing as he already swept a lot the last time he was eligible, there’s a legit buzz to consider for at least half the slate. Let’s take a look at the series in the running, their award histories, and the episodes they submitted (links to reviews with spoilers)…
You better call Saul (Season 6, Part 1, AMC)
Episodes: “Carrot and Stick”, “Rock and Hard Place”, “Hit and Run”, “Black and Blue”, “Axe and Grind”, “Plan and Execution”
This is the sixth nomination for the breaking Bad prequel, which canceled last season and the 2017-2018 season. It received between seven and nine nominations each time, this year seven. The first half (seven episodes) of its final season was really great, but it’s important to watch its back half as well, because it aired during the voting. and will likely influence the results since these payouts were even more intense. The Hollywood Critics Association took part in this show last month, presenting him with three acting trophies and a drama series tie with Succession. The lackluster nomination tally (by comparison) suggests that Emmy voters aren’t quite as enthusiastic, but a win here or in one of the acting categories isn’t entirely out of the question.
Euphoria (Season 2, HBO)
Episodes: “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door”, “Ruminations: Great and Small Tyrants”, “You Who Can’t See, Think of Those Who Can”, “Stand Still as the hummingbird”, “The theater and its Double”, “All my life, my heart has longed for something that I cannot name”
It’s the only returning show that’s new to the top tier. After Zendaya scored a semi-surprising win for lead actress for season one two years ago, the show is back with nearly double the nominations (16). Most of them, however, are technical offerings, with only Sydney Sweeney joining Zendaya for acting honors and no mention of writing or directing. This show is certainly a sensation for the public, but I think being part of this lineup was its victory.
ozark (Season 4, Netflix)
Episodes: “Sanctified”, “Death’s Cousin”, “Choose a God and Pray”, “You’re the Boss”, “Trouble the Water”, “A Difficult Road to Walk”
This is the third nomination for this now-completed series which, unlike You better call Saul, chose to air both halves of its final season in the same eligibility window (its episode submissions only include one hour from the first half). Its total of nominations went from eighteen to thirteen, which is not terrible, and its three heads are all nominated again. But even though I personally grew more attached to the show over time, I think it had to show up in the nominations much more prominently to be a legitimate contender for top Emmy. In another world, Jason Bateman and Laura Linney might have had a chance to win their races, but chances are his only reward this time will be a third trophy for Julia Garner.
Breakup (Season 1, Apple TV+)
Episodes: “Good News From Hell”, “Half Loop”, “In Perpetuity”, “Defiant Jazz”, “What’s for Dinner?”, “The We We Are”
This show is for me an unusual example of a series that gets better with every episode, culminating in an absolutely riveting finale – so ready for season two! Fourteen nominations is a decent run, and I’d be thrilled if this show managed to win this award. There’s still something that feels subversive about it, though, as if it’s not mainstream enough and is still waiting to be discovered. Wins for director Ben Stiller and supporting actor John Turturro, and possibly even stars Patricia Arquette and Adam Scott, seem more possible than a win here.
squid game (Season 1, Netflix)
Episodes: “Red Light, Green Light”, “Hell”, “Gganbu”, “VIPS”, “Front Man”, “One Lucky Day”
This show’s presence here is a big deal since it’s the first non-English series to win this award, and it’s had a pretty exciting awards ride so far. Its two stars have won the SAG Awards, and it is now fourteen Emmys, including five of its actors, a feat for a series in Korean. Its select episodes favor the second half of the season, but it’s also just a matter of your tolerance for the misery and competition portrayed so convincingly on the show. He certainly has a good chance of winning, but I’m not quite ready to predict him as a definite winner.
stranger things (Season 4, Netflix)
Episodes: “The Hellfire Club”, “Vecna’s Curse”, “The Monster and the Superhero”, “Dear Billy”, “The Dive”, “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”
This is the fourth nomination in this category for this show, representing the first seven episodes of its fourth season. Although it rebounded with its second-most nominations, it’s the second season in a row that no actor, director, or writer has been nominated. While it’s likely to win a fourth sound editing trophy and perhaps a few other technical awards, it would have taken a more resounding endorsement of season four’s strength (like a directing offer for its stellar seventh installment) for that he’s a contender to win a drama series.
Succession (Season 3, HBO)
Episodes: “Secession”, “Retired Idaho Janitors”, “What It Takes”, “Too Many Birthdays”, “Chiantishire”, “All the Bells Say”
This show returns to this race in force. After a lackluster crop of five nominations in the first season, he earned seven of his eighteen nominations for season two. It is by far the leader in appointments this time, with 25 applications, including a new record for the number of interim appointments. That makes it the frontrunner, and the question is whether voters will agree that other shows — especially new hits — might be better, or if it really is the best thing on TV and deserves another award.
yellow jackets (Season 1, Showtime)
“Pilot”, “F Sharp”, “Saints”, “Flight of the Bumblebee”, “Doomcoming”, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”
This show was hardly sure for a nomination in this category. Her seven-nomination run includes only high-profile endorsements, with two acting nominees, one directing offer, two writing offers, and another for casting. Its content won’t appeal to everyone, but it certainly brings something new to the table. I’d bet more on whether director Karyn Kusama or star Melanie Lynskey wins, but a win here for this show, however celebrated, would be a shock.
I think it’s mostly Succession versus. squid gamewith Breakup and You better call Saul biting their heels. While I’d love to predict upheaval, I’ve spoken to too many showrunners and performers this year who have consistently quoted Succession like the show they like to watch. I think it will be difficult for anything to surpass it. What do you think?
Will win: Succession
should win: Breakup
disclose: squid game