Little Fires Everywhere was already a popular book, so it becoming a television sensation was not a surprise. Hulu dropped the first 3 episodes of the Celeste Ng adaptation back in March, and it finally came to a close this week. Did it deliver enough goods to solidify a spot in the Limited Series final five at this year’s Emmys? Or are there more contenders for the series to combat? Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington make huge cases for the show to be recognized, but are there other potential nominations waiting in the wings?
Two Television Titans
Ever since Big Little Lies swept the Emmy Awards two seasons ago, Reese Witherspoon has become synonymous with event television. Including Little Fires, she has the potential to receive three different acting nominations in three different categories as well as being nominated as a producer. In just a short amount of time, Witherspoon has become a force to be reckoned with on the small screen in addition to being a bankable film star.
Kerry Washington continues to be a powerhouse presence with her performance as Mia Warren. She collected two Emmy Award nominations as the iconic Olivia Pope on Scandal, and she added two more nominations (as both performer and producer) as Anita Hill for HBO’s Confirmation.
When Witherpoon and Washington square off on Little Fires, your television explodes. Witherspoon is so assured as Elena but Washington reveals layer after layer of emotional strength throughout the limited series as Mia. This is a story of what it means to be a mother, and these women come from very different backgrounds–their viewpoints almost never overlap. Witherspoon’s final meltdown against her children has already become a gif-able moment, and Washington’s tenderness with her daughter (played by Lexi Underwood) matures in the final episode as they drive off to start another new life.
Does one get in but the other doesn’t? It would be a disservice to the show to nominate only Washington or Witherspoon. They complement and contrast with each other in a way that would render the Lead Actress category incomplete.
Other Limited Competition
Is it possible that voters may look at Little Fires Everywhere and think it’s too much of a suburban soap opera? Ng’s original novel was a meditation on motherhood and what does it take to be “the right kind” of parent. The Hulu adaptation takes it even further and explores elements of privilege, class, and race, throwing harsher light onto the Richardsons’ position in the community. Event though both the novel and series take place in the mid-1990’s, the series shows that internalized racism and microaggressions have been present all along.
I think, sadly, a hurdle that Little Fires has to clear is whether people take it seriously enough. There is a possibility that the Limited Series race could nominate several strong ensembles that feature real-life and fictionalized stories of women struggling. FX’s Mrs. America has such a huge ensemble that the Television Academy should seriously consider just creating a “Outstanding Supporting Actress in Mrs. America” category. Unebelievable, from Netflix, is still finding eyeballs, and Watchmen has Regina King as its central badass heroine. The Plot Against America‘s Zoe Kazan is getting the best reviews of her career.
Several limited series have yet to debut, but Hollywood and I Know This Much is True are approaching the horizon. Both have huge ensembles and could make a big impression when they drop. There’s already been chatter about a possible second season of Little Fires.
Little Nominations Everywhere?
If Little Fires catches heats up (get it?) this year’s Emmys, could it be bigger than we expect? In addition to both Washington and Witherspoon being near-locks for their performances, there are some things that could surprise us.
A lot of people were reminiscing about seeing Joshua Jackson in his tighty-whities early in an early episode. Is he a Supporting Actor spoiler? He has some big moments against his on-screen wife (Cruel Intentions reunion!) that an audience can cheer on. It would definitely be a coattail nomination, though, since Jackson’s character is very passive throughout the rest of the series. Do not be surprised if the score or main title design pick up nominations.
Rosemarie DeWitt doesn’t have the career that she deserves and she may not have enough to garner a nomination. Megan Scott, who plays the thorn in Elena’s side in youngest daughter Izzy, could get a surprise nomination of voters really love the show. The series gives her more depth and a connection with Mia that isn’t in the original novel.
Someone who should get recognition would be AnnaSophia Robb for playing the younger version of Elena in a pivotal flashback episode. I’m curious to how much she watched Witherspoon perform to capture the essence of Elena Richardson. In her mannerisms and enunciation, Robb makes a lot with very little. She made an impression in last year’s Hulu entry, The Act.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series – Reese Witherspoon
Lead Actress in a Limited Series – Kerry Washington
Main Title Design
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series – Joshua Jackson
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series – AnnaSophia Robb