2015 Emmys Review (Drama Categories)

house of cards

Ever since I was little, I’ve always been a fan of entertainment awards. I remember cheering loudly every time Rugrats won the Nickelodeon Choice Award for Favorite Cartoon (the show pretty much won every year during its prime.) Yes, awarding mostly wealthy celebrities is silly. Yes, awards are 100% subjective. Yes, X never wins, X totally deserves to win, Y always wins, awards are political and biased! But, still, there’s something so fascinating about the art and practice of prizing, particularly when it comes to the “EGOT.” I love “studying” awards and watching programs and movies that have been nominated for them. So, on this blog, I certainly plan on discussing various awards and the nominees and who I think will/should win.

Finally…the moment the truth. These are my wholly objective rankings for the major Drama categories, based on episode submissions (mostly). Real predictions will come closer to the ceremony date.

Episode submission information courtesy of Gold Derby.

Guest Actor:


  1. Beau Bridges – Masters of Sex (“Parallax”)
  2. Alan Alda – The Blacklist (“The Decemberist”)
  3. Michael J. Fox – The Good Wife (“Red Zone”)
  4. Reg E. Cathey – House of Cards (“Chapter 34”)
  5. F. Murray Abraham – Homeland (“Long Time Coming”)
  6. Pablo Schreiber – Orange is the New Black (“40 Oz. of Furlough”)

This is a somewhat disappointing category because there isn’t really a standout, dominating performance that blows my mind. Beau Bridges, playing a married man who struggles with his sexuality during the 60’s, came the closest to giving me genuinely thrilling moments. Otherwise, these respected actors just did alright. I was actually pretty excited when I first saw that Schreiber was nominated, but it’d been about a year since I had seen any episode from season 2. I forgot how little he does. If he had maybe submitted the episode after this one (the one where his character is arrested and he proclaims his “love” for Daya) then maybe he would have ranked higher than Cathey or even Fox. But his performance in this episode specifically doesn’t do much for me. He would have been more deserving for the first season. And, hopefully, he gets nominated next year because his one scene during season 3 with Mary Steenburgen was a highlight for me.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Michael Cerveris (The Good Wife), Gary Cole (The Good Wife), Matthew Del Negro (Scandal),H. Richard Greene (Mad Men), Jason Butler Harner (Scandal), Rahul Khanna (The Americans), David Hyde Pierce (The Good Wife), Mel Rodriguez (Better Call Saul),Jeremy Shamos (Better Call Saul), Sam Shepard (Bloodline), Christopher Stanley (Mad Men), Courtney B. Vance (Scandal)

Guest Actress:


  1. Cicely Tyson – How to Get Away With Murder (“Mama’s Here Now”)
  2. Rachel Brosnahan – House of Cards (“Chapter 39”)
  3. Allison Janney – Masters of Sex (“Parallax”)
  4. Khandi Alexander – Scandal (“Where The Sun Don’t Shine”)
  5. Diana Rigg – Game of Thrones (“The Gift”)
  6. Margo Martindale – The Americans (“I Am Abassin Zadran”)

Here’s the deal: The top three nominees are golden and any of them would be deserving. The bottom three shouldn’t really even be here. I’ll give the edge to Khandi Alexander just because she was actually deserving last year (the Emmys are always late to the game), while I’ve never been all that impressed with Rigg. Margo Martindale’s nomination is pretty much the problem with the Emmy nomination process. She was completely name checked for her ONE unextraordinary scene this season. The fact that they essentially nominated her over Lois Smith really grinds my gears. Brosnahan, who appeared on two other television programs this season, surprised me with her submission (I’m not a regular viewer of HOC). Her subtle, yet tense, fear throughout the end of the episode is great What’s nice about both Brosnahan and Tyson is that they actually stand out in their episodes. Not much time passes between their scenes. However, the great Cicely Tyson just towers over everything in her path (in a good way). Months ago, when I first watched this episode, I knew from the first scene that it would be difficult for anyone to beat her at the Emmys. I still feel the same way.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Debbie Allen (Grey’s Anatomy), Kate Burton (Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal), Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul), Marcia Gay Harden (How to Get Away with Murder), Courtney Love (Empire), Julianne Nicholson (Masters of Sex), Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Lois Smith (The Americans),

Supporting Actor:


  1. Jonathan Banks – Better Call Saul (“Five-O”)
  2. Ben Mendelsohn – Bloodline (“Part 12”)
  3. Michael Kelly – House of Cards (“Chapter 27”)
  4. Alan Cumming – The Good Wife (“Undisclosed Recipients”)
  5. Jim Carter – Downton Abbey (“Episode 9″/”Christmas Special”)
  6. Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones (“Hardhome”)

So far, there seems to be a trend where half the nominees are “deserving” and the other half probably shouldn’t even be here. I love The Good Wife and Alan Cumming but if voters were really watching, they would have nominated Matt Czuchry whose story line during the first half of the season was the brightest highlight. I really think Peter Dinklage is getting better and better (I didn’t support his win for the first season), but his two scenes in “Hardhome” is lost in the excitement of the second half of the episode. The top three is much stronger. Michael Kelly has a face that says a thousand words. It’s a quiet performance, but he is truly given the time to shine while his character struggles to recuperate after being left for dead. But it is Jonathan Banks who, out of all the nominees, legitimately has an episode to himself. His episode is about the death of his character’s son and how he was able to avenge for it. He’s been the frontrunner for this category since “Five-O” aired and is a deserving winner. But so is Mendelsohn, who is frightening (yet completely sympathetic) in his role.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Trai Byers (Empire), Mike Colter (The Good Wife), Matt Czuchry (The Good Wife), Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy), Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers), Alfred Enoch (How to Get Away with Murder), Jay R. Ferguson (Mad Men), Dan Fogler (Secrets and Lies), Bryshere Y. Gray (Empire), Andre Holland (The Knick), Joshua Jackson (The Affair), Matt Lauria (Kingdom), Matt McGorry (How to Get Away with Murder), Michael McKeen (Better Call Saul), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jeff Perry (Scandal), Marc Pickering (Boardwalk Empire), Suraj Sharma (Homeland), Jussie Smollett (Empire), Jonathan Tucker (Kingdom), Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy)

Supporting Actress:


  1. Christina Hendricks – Mad Men (“Lost Horizon”)
  2. Lena Headey – Game of Thrones (“Mother’s Mercy”)
  3. Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black (“Hugs Can Be Deceiving”)
  4. Christine Baranski – The Good Wife (“Loser Edit”)
  5. Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones (“The Dance of the Dragons”)
  6. Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey (“Episode 8”)

Nothing would make me happier than to see Christine Baranski finally win an Emmy for her always dependable work on The Good Wife. But Aduba (who won an Emmy last year in the comedy category) submitted a perfect episode where we see her character’s past and her first interactions with Vee. Aduba commits to her role 100% and, even though there are other actresses on the show I would have nominated before her, I’m still glad she is getting the recognition she deserves. Both Headey and Clarke are great, but Headey clearly stood out in her episode where her character finally admits to her sins and has to do a nude shame walk around the city. But…Hendricks absolutely needs to win. She should have already won an Emmy for season 5’s “The Other Woman.” I’ve been critical of her nominations for season 6 and the first half of season 7 since she wasn’t given much to do during those periods. However, for this second half, Wiener truly left her with a stand out episode that painfully, yet subtly, details ingrained sexism in an office environment. When Joan has to make the difficult decision between leaving the agency with only half her money, or fighting them in a lengthy trial in court, her pained, desperate facial expression (towards Roger who is telling her to just take the money) is Christina Hendrick’s greatest triumph on the show. Everyone is talking about Jon Hamm being overdue…but Hendricks is the one who gave the performance of the season.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Geena Davis (Grey’s Anatomy), Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), January Jones (Mad Men), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Laila Robins (Homeland), Caterina Scorsone (Grey’s Anatomy), Shea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Sissy Spacek (Bloodline), Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black), Holly Taylor (The Americans), Maura Tierney (The Affair), Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black), Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Liza Weil (How to Get Away with Murder), Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Alison Wright (The Americans), Bellamy Young (Scandal)



  1. Gordon Smith – Better Call Saul (“Five-O”)
  2. Joshua Brand – The Americans (“Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”)
  3. Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner – Mad Men (“Lost Horizon”)
  4. Matthew Weiner – Mad Men (“Person to Person”)
  5. David Benioff and DB Weiss – Game of Thrones (“Mother’s Mercy”)

Game of Thrones is a beautifully made show…but I am not someone who watches a lot of fantasy. I do not know what good fantasy writing is. It’s beautifully directed, but the script (mostly the dialogue) didn’t move me like the other episodes here. “Person to Person” is a great finale, but like many series finales, it mostly tied up loose ends and gave characters their own closure. I hope if Mad Men wins in this category, it is for season highlight “The Lost Horizon.” That way both Matthew Weiner and the always amazing Semi Chellas both get love. Seeing The Americans get some love here truly makes me happy. Season 3 was probably the show’s strongest season. And although this episode doesn’t have the urgency and revelatory nature of the episodes around it, it still does a brutal job of exposing Philip and Elizabeth’s fading humanity. (And, I need to write this again, Lois Smith > Margo Martindale.) But the episode that kept me the most engaged from the first scene to the last is the heartbreaking stand out “Five-O.” I can’t believe this is Gordon Smith’s first real script. Admittedly, this episode is very “expository.” But the exposition is so well written. And the back story of Mike is so interesting and heart wrenching. If you’re a former Breaking Bad fan who has doubts about Better Call Saul, it wouldn’t be too bad to skip to this episode. It’ll show that the team behind one of television’s greatest drama still has it.

Worthy Snubbed Episodes (one episode per show)

The Americans (“Stingers”), Better Call Saul (“Bingo”), Empire (“Pilot”), The Good Wife (“Oppo Research”), Grey’s Anatomy (“How to Save a Life”), Homeland (“13 Hours in Islamabad”), House of Cards (“Chapter 32”), The Leftovers (“Guest”), Mad Men (“The Forecast”), Orange is the New Black (“We Have Manners. We’re Polite”), Scandal (“Run”)



  1. David Nutter – Game of Thrones (“Mother’s Mercy”)
  2. Lesli Linka Glatter – Homeland (“From A to B And Back Again”)
  3. Steven Soderbergh – The Knick (“Method and Madness”)
  4. Tim Van Patten – Boardwalk Empire (“Eldorado”)
  5. James Podeswa – Game of Thrones (“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”)

I had never seen The Knick before reviewing these episodes so, selfishly, I’d glad Soderbergh submitted the first episode. I am officially sold on the show. Those surgery scenes make me cringe so much. I also really like how racial tension is portrayed here. It’s interesting to have a “protagonist” so racist and prejudice (even for 1900). I can’t wait to watch more so I can see how the relationship between Thackery and Edwards develops. Overall, I think “Mother’s Mercy” is the most masterful episode in the lineup. That shame walk alone makes Nutter the most deserving. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing Glatter finally rewarded, especially after directing such a masterful, surprising episode. I think there are more intense episodes later in the season, but Glatter really does a nice job of setting the season to full gear.

Worthy Snubbed Episodes (one episode per show)

The Americans (“March 8, 1983”), Better Call Saul (“Five-O”), Empire (“Pilot”), Game of Thrones (“Hardhome”), The Good Wife (“Mind’s Eye”), Grey’s Anatomy (“How to Save a Life”), Homeland (“13 Hours in Islamabad”), House of Cards (“Chapter 39”), How to Get Away with Murder (“Mama’s Here Now”), The Leftovers (“Two Boats And A Helicopter”), Mad Men (“Lost Horizon”), Orange is the New Black (“We Have Manners. We’re Polite”), Parenthood (“May God Bless You and Keep You Always”), Red Band Society (“Pilot”), Scandal (“Run”)

Lead Actress:


  1. Robin Wright – House of Cards (“Chapter 32”)
  2. Taraji P. Henson – Empire (“Pilot”)
  3. Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder (“Freakin’ Whack-A-Mole”)
  4. Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black (“Certain Agony of the Battlefield”)
  5. Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men (“Person to Person”)
  6. Claire Danes – Homeland (“From A to B and Back Again”)

Woof…can we have a six way tie here? Seriously, this is the strongest category I’ve encountered so far. Any of these actresses would be deserving. Honestly, I really only have Danes at sixth because she already has two Emmys, and I believe a third Emmy win should be reserved for something truly transformative. Elisabeth Moss is sweet and the scene where her character is on the phone  with Stan is the series finale highlight for me. Both Davis and Henson are fierce, but I have to admit, I prefer Henson’s complete abandon and uninhibitedness over Davis’s firebrand intensity. Now…Maslany. Sigh…it’s hard putting her in fourth. I’ve been a fan of Tatiana Maslany before most other Americans were. As someone who watches a lot of Canadian television, I’ve loved her since her days on renegadepress.com (so her scenes with Ksenia Solo made me esp. happy). After having watched most of season one of Orphan Black, I knew that not only should Maslany get nominated, she should win. I stopped watching the show however because I realized that even though Maslany’s performance was great, I couldn’t force myself to like the show. It’s just not the sort of show I enjoy. However, I still rooted for her during her second season, and I was crushed when she was snubbed yet again. This year…I literally jumped for joy when Tatiana Maslany’s name was announced. And I was so looking forward to watching her tape. Look, Maslany’s wonderful. The way she goes from one role to the other is flawless. I know I should only be judging the performance itself…but what kept Maslany from being my number 1 pick was the fact that I found the episode way too confusing. I had no clue what was going on. So, it was hard for me relate emotionally to whatever Maslany was doing. The confusion distracted me from truly letting her work soak in. But, again, any of these 6 should/could win. But it’s just weird because I came into this project believing Maslany would be my undeniable number 1 choice.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Tea Leoni (Madam Secretary), Juliette Lewis (Secrets and Lies), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Teri Polo (The Fosters), Ellen Pompeo (Grey’s Anatomy), Keri Russell (The Americans), Sherri Saum (The Fosters), Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Ruth Wilson (The Affair)

Lead Actor:


  1. Kevin Spacey – House of Cards (“Chapter 32”)
  2. Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul (“Pimento”)
  3. Jon Hamm – Mad Men (“Person to Person”)
  4. Kyle Chandler – Bloodline (“Episode 12”)
  5. Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan (“Walk This Way”)
  6. Jeff Daniels – The Newsroom (“What Kind of Day Has It Been?”)

Another strong category, despite missing Matthew Rhys. Kyle Chandler submitted the perfect episode (without giving anything away, he has a big scene with Ben Mendelsohn on the shore). Jon Hamm is really great in the series finale, particularly his final phone call with Elizabeth Moss. But, I can’t help but appreciate Bob Odenkirk’s perfect mix of humor and drama in his portrayal of Saul more. It’s a little strange saying this, considering BCS is a prequel to Breaking Bad: But Odenkirk truly transformed a character that I used to think was pretty one-note. However, I’m actually hoping both Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright win for their masterful performances in undeniably the best episode of House of Cards I have ever seen. From Wright’s subtle desperation to Spacey’s explosive anger during the final scene, Spacey and Wright successfully pull a two-hander here and surprised me. Season 4 of House of Cards will be the first time I watch the entire season with the rest of the world because of how much I’ve enjoyed the handful of season 3 episodes I’ve watched for this blog post.

Worthy Snubbed Performances

Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel), Terrence Howard (Empire), Clive Owen (The Knick), Ryan Phillippe (Secrets and Lies), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Dominic West (The Affair)

Drama Series:


  1. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
  2. Better Call Saul (AMC)
  3. Homeland (Showtime)
  4. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  5. Mad Men (AMC)
  6. House of Cards (Netflix)
  7. Downton Abbey (PBS)

I really believe Orange is the New Black deserved more nominations. The show is so underrepresented in the other categories, I almost forgot it was nominated here. In any case, OITNB is easily my top choice, especially for a season that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout (season 2 btw, not season 3). Mad Men, which has won four Best Drama Emmys, is a great show, but the last season (or half a season) was inconsistent and overshadowed by Elizabeth Reaser dullness. Maybe it’s finally time for Game of Thrones to prevail…

Worthy Snubbed Programs

The Americans, Empire, The Good Wife, Kingdom, The Knick, Switched At Birth, The Fosters

I hope to have one more post for some other extraneous categories. Until then…

Comedy Series Review

Movie/Miniseries Review

Other Categories (Part 1)

Other Categories (Part 2)


6 thoughts on “2015 Emmys Review (Drama Categories)

  1. Pingback: 2015 Emmys Review (Comedy Categories) | Lifestories

  2. Pingback: 2015 Emmys Review (Movie/Limited Series Categories) | Lifestories

  3. Pingback: 2015 Emmys Review (Other Categories – Part 1) | Lifestories

  4. Pingback: 2015 Emmys Review (Drama Categories) | entertainmentinside

  5. Pingback: 2015 Emmys Review (Other Categories – Part 2) | Lifestories

  6. Pingback: Emmy Flashback (Writing Achievement in Drama – 1970) | Lifestories

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