2013 Emmy Nominations: Supporting Roles

Our coverage of the 2013 Emmy Nominations continues, this time with our nominees for the best supporting roles of the year! In case you missed it, part one covered the best guest performances of the year. Mat Morgan is back to help create some semblance of a roundtable discussion about this thing as we go over who we would nominate in these categories. The first thing you’ll probably notice is that all the fancy graphics from part one are nowhere to be found on this one and that’s because they were a bit too tedious to complete and get all of our coverage completed before the real nominees are announced on Thursday. All is not lost, though, because the content is just as great (if not better) as before! Enough jibber jabber and let’s talk Emmys!

(Note: My nominees are aligned to the left, Mat’s aligned to the right)

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Honestly, Vincent Kartheiser almost deserves this award simply for his line reading of “Not great, Bob!” but unfortunately Kartheiser is forced to compete in a category that is absolutely stacked. How stacked? Well, just take a look at my honorable mentions. That said, Kartheiser’s performance as Pete Campbell in Season 5 of Mad Men is perhaps his best yet and when you consider how good he’s been in the past, that’s saying a lot.

COREY STOLLHouse of Cards
Say what you will about the show overall but the acting in House of Cards is top-notch and Corey Stoll is quite possibly the best out of all them. His portrayal of Peter Russo, a congressman from Philadelphia, is incredible and the fact that he’s able to outshine Kevin Spacey of all people is a true accomplishment.

AARON PAULBreaking Bad
You’ll see Mat’s comments in a minute but we pretty much see eye-to-eye on this. Aaron Paul is deserving of a nomination in this category until the show doesn’t exist anymore. To me, the most fascinating part of the character is that he’s the clear anti-hero of the story. Walt’s the villain and a lot of what makes Breaking Bad so great is the exploration of the villain as the main character but that doesn’t work if there aren’t people to root for and Jesse Pinkman is the reluctant heart of the show and it shows in Paul’s performance as the character. He’s never been perfect but when the chips are on the table, he’s the one you’re supposed to be rooting for (other than Hank).

Going into Season 3 of Game of Thrones, most probably would’ve assumed that Peter Dinklage would be the one nominated in this category (unless you’d already read the books like the nerd you are) but the true standout of the season was easily Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the increasingly sympathetic Jaime Lannister. His monologue in “Kissed by Fire” is so outstanding that I have a hard time not handing him the award simply for it.

Jonathan Banks is awesome. Is that reason enough to be nominated? No? Okay then. I think what’s so amazing about Breaking Bad’s writing is its ability to evolve characters to certain points. With Jesse, it’s been a slow, bumpy ride to ultimately becoming the heart of the show. With Hank it’s been the slow build to the ultimate good guy. With Walt it’s obviously his descent into full-on villainy. And with Mike Ehrmantraut, it’s the evolution from Gus Fring’s muscle to reluctant hero in his own right. As Mat also mentions (you’ll notice that our nominees are nearly identical here), the line “just because you shot Jesse James, doesn’t make you Jesse James” is one of the best lines any character on any show has uttered and fits so perfectly with the show in general.

I agonized over this decision; I really did. Any of the nominees listed above could very well be in this spot but I felt like I needed to underline just how great Walton Goggins is as Boyd Crowder in Justified. There are a ton of great actors working in TV right now and a lot of them happen to compete in this category but I don’t think any of them are quite as starving for deserved recognition as Goggins. It’s true that he was nominated two years ago but pretty much the entire case of Justified was nominated then. Since then all Goggins has done is make the Boyd character his own, adding layers to the character that go beyond just backwoods criminal. In Season 4 it’s clearly established that Boyd is much more of a dreamer than anybody who’s watched the show had imagined and he allows the character to evolve in such a way that it feels natural to the core of the character. I’m not even sure he’ll get nominated in real life but he certainly deserves the recognition and I’m here to give it to him.

Honorable Mention(s): To give you an idea as to just how stacked this category is, I easily could’ve felt comfortable nominating a variety of different actors. Rick Hoffman’s work on Suits is tremendous and the evolution of the Louis Litt character is one of the best character arcs of all of last year. John Slattery continues to be amazing on Mad Men but Roger took a backseat for a majority of the season. Speaking of Mad Men, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of just how awesome Jay R. Ferguson is as Stan Rizzo but unfortunately not enough to be anything more than comic relief. Still, Stan is easily my favorite character on the show now and that’s quite the accomplishment considering he was fairly one-note a couple seasons ago. Dean Norris has a largely thankless job as Hank in Breaking Bad but he’s always great in his role. I mentioned Peter Dinklage earlier and he’s still awesome in Game of Thrones but like Slattery in Mad Men, he took a backseat for a majority of the season.

COREY STOLLHouse of Cards
To be honest, I didn’t like House of Cards that much. I thought it was frequently lifeless and often without actual stakes, like a show that knows what premium cable drama looks like but doesn’t know how to actually do what shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men do and instead just does a fairly good imitation. But when House of Cards worked and did have a sense of urgency and meaning to it, it was usually because of Stoll. Peter Russo was, cliche as it may be, the heart of a show that desperately needed it, and any time Stoll was on the screen I was fully invested in what was going on.

One of the bigger surprises in terms of who was or wasn’t nominated last year was that in a year where Homeland was pretty much the “It Drama” and locked down the Lead categories for acting, Mandy Patinkin somehow wasn’t nominated for his work as Saul Berensen. This category is brutal like that sometimes in terms of who gets left off the ballot, but this year I think it would take a sizable Homeland backlash to make it happen twice in a row. Homeland’s second season had a lot of problems, but Saul was never one of them and “The Clearing” was a standout episode for him.

The fact that Kartheiser has never been nominated for his portrayal of Pete Cambell is unfortunate. A lot of that has to do with the strength of the field he has to compete in, but also I would suggest a bit of complacency; there are a couple years where I would say without a doubt Kartheiser had a better season than, say, John Slattery. This year it’s very close because Slattery’s work in the season premiere was outstanding, but we got to see so many shades of Pete this season and they were all great. He’s a character that Mad Men viewers have gotten to see evolve and change while at the same time holding on to most of his old hang-ups just like his stupid toy hunting rifle, and it all comes together this season in an awesome way. I can’t wait to see where he ends up in the final season.

AARON PAULBreaking Bad
Aaron Paul is Aaron Paul. As tough as a field as this is to crack, he deserves to be here for Breaking Bad every single year until it’s not eligible anymore (so, you know, until two years from now). Jesse Pinkman is one of the best TV characters of the past decade, and the only reason Paul isn’t my winner this season is because Breaking Bad didn’t focus as closely on Jesse this season as it did in the last two. He’s still my odds-on favorite to actually win this year, and next year too.

I’m reasonably confident that an actor from Game of Thrones will be nominated in this category this year. What I’m less confident in is that the Emmy voters will get it right; Peter Dinklage, as always, was a lot of fun as Tyrion Lannister this year, but it was a season that was relatively light on The Imp after a breakout performance in season one and practically being the lead actor in season two. Instead, season three was the breakout season for Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. In a season that made a focus of showing established characters in new lights, nobody exemplified this more than the Kingslayer, a character who kicked the entire series off with one atrocious act and yet over the course of the third season he, if not fully redeemed himself, revealed himself to be a much more complex and sympathetic character than was previously let on. That monologue from “Kissed by Fire” alone should merit inclusion this year. I’m prepared to be disappointed when it doesn’t.

Mike Ehrmentraut. Man. In prior seasons, Banks delivered performances that I’d consider to be true, full-on supporting actor performances; he never fully drew focus away from the main players (Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Gus Fring) but instead just made every scene better by virtue of his presence. In season five, Mike finally takes center stage as a true foil and reluctant ally to Walter, and the results are fantastic. I don’t think there was a single character on TV in the last year who I was as invested in as Mike. I don’t think there was a single scene in a drama that was as genuinely funny as Mike’s diner scene with Lydia. And I definitely don’t think there was a line that better encapsulated Breaking Bad’s fifth season than “just because you shot Jesse James, doesn’t make you Jesse James.” Jonathan Banks for the win. Or at least the spot on the ballot freed up by Giancarlo Esposito’s departure from the show. Please?

Honorable Mention(s): I could have made a worthy alternate six out of Mads Mikkelson (Hannibal), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Jack Huston  (Boardwalk Empire), and John Slattery (Mad Men). That’s how brutal this category is.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

LENA HEADEYGame of Thrones
I’m not quite sure Headey gets the recognition she should as Cersei on Game of Thrones. I think a lot of people forget that it’s an actress playing the role, instead focusing on just how awful the character is. But, in order to make such a vile character, you have to have a tremendously talented actress, which Headey is. The Cersei character hasn’t gone through a radical transformation quite like her brother Jaime but there was some definite fleshing out of her humanity in Season 3 that highlights just how great a job that Headey is doing in the role.

If Corey Stoll is the standout of House of Cards, then Kristen Connolly isn’t far behind. Playing his assistant and love interest, Connolly easily could’ve been reduced to simple eye candy but she rises past that and shines in her own right. It’s not exactly a layered performance but it’s certainly one that stood out so I’d remiss if I didn’t properly acknowledge the work she did.

January Jones has always been tremendous in the role of Betty on Mad Men but ultimately fell victim to what a lot of characters like her do (more on that in a bit). I don’t think there’s any denying how great she’s been in the role but this season she took it up to a whole new level.

This is a bit of a no-brainer isn’t it? Anybody who’s seen the latest season of Game of Thrones can attest to just how great Michelle Fairley is as Caetlyn Stark. I’m trying to be vague so as not to spoil anything for anybody but her performance is incredible. It’s just a shame that Breaking Bad still exists because otherwise this award would clearly be her’s to win.

A fairly surprising pick, no doubt, but Sarah Rafferty is tremendous as Donna Paulsen in the second season of Suits. A lot of that has to do with the character getting a lot to work with but Rafferty has embodied the character with such ease from the beginning that it’s hard not to root for her regardless. Still, she puts in extremely good work with what’s given in the second season and I think she’s quite deserving of this nomination. And that says a lot because of how packed it is.

I honestly had a hard time justifying giving the win to anybody else. Anna Gunn has always been tremendous in the rather thankless role of being Walter White’s wife because the wife characters in crime shows tend to be vilified by viewers because they oppose what the main character is doing. Gunn does a tremendous job with the character even despite the fact that the character isn’t written very consistently and is perhaps the worst-written on the show. That being said, there’s no denying how great she is in the role which helps make up for any poor writing that accompanies her.

Honorable Mention(s): Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Joelle Carter (Justified) are both outstanding in their roles but ultimately weren’t given enough to time to show just how outstanding. Maybe it’s because the expectations of both the actress and the character were slow but Olivia Munn does a tremendous job in The Newsroom.

GRETCHEN MOLBoardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire is a show that’s getting progressively better each year, and the same can be said for Mol as well. Basically everything Gillian Darmody did on Boardwalk this past year was magnificently cringe-inducing, from her trainwreck relationship with season 3 villain Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) to the deeply uncomfortable seduction of a man that looked exactly like her son halfway through the season. She’s a complex, fascinatingly twisted character and Mol deserves more acclaim than she gets for how well she does playing her.

It’s really unfortunate that Hendricks isn’t going into this year as the defending champion in this category. Her work in season 5’s “The Other Woman” was incredible and head-and-shoulders above the competition. This year she didn’t really have the same kind of showcase, certainly not on the level of some of the other actresses in this category, but Joan Harris had plenty of solid outings and one particularly killer speech directed at Don Draper (“Because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping you will decide whatever you think is right for our lives!”).

Going into the seventh season of Dexter, the big draw (and what basically got me to keep going with it after throwing my hands in the air in exasperation at the horrible sixth season) was seeing how the Dexter/Deb dynamic would change now that the latter has finally learned of her brother’s true identity. It was a hook that was paid-off with a series of fantastic scenes between Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, with Carpenter turning in series-best performances as she struggled with the moral implications of Dexter being a serial killer and her own feelings for him. I got sick of the show once more after a certain point, but it certainly had absolutely nothing to do with Debra Morgan.

LENA HEADEYGame of Thrones
While Cersei Lannister wasn’t exactly turned into a sympathetic character the way her brother was, Lena Headey did a great job of finding the humanity of a character that many lesser actresses could have reduced into one-dimensional evil. Headey got to show a lot of different sides to Cersei this season, particularly when alternately sniping at or commiserating with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion or ineffectually trying to get any sort of respect from Charles Dance as Tywin. And with the way season 3 ended for Cersei, things can only get better from a performance standpoint in season 4.

Two words: Red Wedding. Michelle Fairley has always been good, and did plenty of good work prior to that scene, but if she makes it into the Emmys proper this year it’s because she was the most vital part of the most talked about TV scene of the year. It’s a scene that was too momentous and important to not be buzzworthy, but a performance as powerful and gut-wrenching as the one Fairley put out is what takes it from being a big scene to an iconic scene. I almost gave her the win for the wedding alone (not to mention her great scene with Richard Madden at the start of the same episode).

Not even the Red Wedding, though, is enough for me to pick anyone but Gunn for Best Supporting Actress this year. As the relationship between Walter and Skyler White grows bleaker and colder, the better the acting between Gunn and Bryan Cranston gets. I don’t think there’s a better submission episode for any actress on any show I’ve seen than “Fifty-One,” and it’s a testament to how effectively Gunn’s played Skyler being trapped in a truly abysmal situation and increasingly realized it that the character has gotten significantly less unfairly maligned by the fanbase.

Honorable Mention(s): January Jones had her best season of Mad Men in years. I almost had her in Hendricks’ spot but changed my mind.


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