Of all the acting categories this year, Supporting Actor in a Drama Series is perhaps the most uncertain because no one performance has managed to gain momentum over the other. This category is mere speculation as to who may ultimately take home the win. The safest bet is with Jonathan Banks and his scene-stealing work in Better Call Saul. Banks also has two advantages in contrast to the other nominees. The first is that his submission episode, “Five-O,” showcased his acting ability in the Breaking Bad spinoff. Banks’ submission episode offers viewers flashback scenes, to which Banks’ acting differs from his ‘current-day’ scenes in the episode. The episode functions as a foundational episode that allows for viewers to further understand the character’s present-day motivations and understanding of situations and individuals. Banks does not disappoint in this episode, displaying a tremendous range of emotions and a deeper understanding of a character who has, for the most part, been ambiguous until this episode. The second thing working to Banks’ advantage is that a win for him in this category would be redemption for his Breaking Bad loss back in 2013, which many felt was a blatant Emmy snub. Banks had been competing in the category with then co-star Aaron Paul, to which they canceled each other out and allowed for an upset to occur that year. A win for Banks would compensate this loss, but this may also function as a disadvantage to Banks with voters potentially questioning whether Banks deserves the Emmy for reprising a former role on a new show.
For the most part Banks’ competition doesn’t pose as too much of a threat against him. Alan Cummings’ performance in his submission episode, “Undisclosed Recipients,” has minimal screen time and barely showcases him. Cummings does demand attention whenever on-screen, but his best chances of a win would be more due to name-recognition than performance. Jim Carter’s performance in his submission episode, “A Moorland Holiday,” is endearing, yet relatively one-note. It is his final scene with co-star Phyllis Logan that his character is presented with some beautiful depth that may capture the hearts of some voters. Michael Kelly could have been a real contender in this category if he had submitted the season three finale of House of Cards, an episode that relied entirely upon his performance. Instead he submitted the season premiere, which is an episode that barely offers any depth, other than vulnerability, with his character. In many regards, Kelly destroyed his Emmy chances the moment he decided not to use the season three finale. Kelly’s chances are only linked with voters maybe wanting to honor House of Cards with some form of an award, or, if House of Cards sweeps in the categories it is nominated in, he could ride with the momentum.
Peter Dinklage is overdue for a second win for his masterful work in Game of Thrones, and it could happen if voters decide to honor the extraordinary HBO show this year over Mad Men. However, despite benefiting from being part of a fiercely popular show, Dinklage wasn’t given much to work with in the show’s fifth season. His submission episode, “Hardhome,” is only one of two episodes that his character was given enough flexibility to shine. While his scenes are brief, Dinklage at least provides viewers with his character’s first interactions with Daenerys Targaryen, which was a long-awaited plotline merge for many, which may appeal to voters as to how these first exchanges between the characters played out on the show.
Yet the true underdog and most deserving in this category is Ben Mendelsohn for his astonishing work in the Netflix show Bloodline. The vast majority of the show rested upon Mendelsohn’s shoulders, to which any episode he submitted could have been an effective submission episode for him. His choice to use “Part 12” as his episode is an excellent choice because it is an episode that coincides with the vast majority of characters becoming reactionary based upon his character’s actions. This episode allows for every repressed resentment and insecurity with the character to explode in both physical and verbal latitudes, to which all characters feel the impact of his wrath. Mendelsohn’s performance is both stunning and frightening at the same time in this episode, which also adds a level of unpredictability with the role. Additionally, Mendelsohn’s performance is so impactful that the viewer cannot help but feel equally betrayed and devastated by Mendelsohn’s vindictive and manipulative revelations throughout the episode. Lastly, what truly sells this performance is the final ten minutes of the episode when Mendelsohn faces off with on-screen brother, Kyle Chandler, in an explosive exchange of words that results in a stunning episode conclusion. This is an exceedingly strong submission episode, one that could very easily win the award in this category. The only two things that hurt Mendelsohn’s chances are name-recognition and the fact that Bloodline is a lesser known show. Yet that hasn’t stopped relatively unknown performances from winning in the past and perhaps Mendelsohn could achieve such an upset this year.
Jonathan Banks – Better Call Saul
Jim Carter – Downton Abbey
Alan Cumming – The Good Wife
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly – House of Cards
Ben Mendelsohn – Bloodline
Will Win: Jonathan Banks
Could Win: Ben Mendelsohn
Should Win: Ben Mendelsohn
Could Upset: Ben Mendelsohn