Emmy Tracker: Emmy for Vera or Khaleesi?

Two seismic events happened on TV this week. Will Emmy take a closer look at Vera Farmiga or Emilia Clarke?

Naturally, all spoiler warnings apply if you haven’t caught up with this week’s Bates Motel or Game of Thrones. If you haven’t, then bookmark this page, watch both right now, and come back for the update. We’ll be waiting… OK, welcome back (or thanks for being patient if you never left). Both hours of television saw some significant character progressions for actresses Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates on Bates Motel) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys / Khaleesi on Game of Thrones). No matter how deserving they are, both actresses have been somewhat on the periphery of the awards race this year. So, how will these significant developments play for Emmy voters.

In the case of Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel hasn’t been this hot since it first premiered. A series that progressively increases in quality with each passing season, Bates Motel committed to the event that most fans have long anticipated / dreaded: Norman Bates finally killed his mother. Norma’s season four death capped a very, very strong season for Vera Farmiga. Personally, I’m not sure the character topped last season’s “Norma Louise,” but Farmiga’s Norma character arc was more consistently great and varied this season. Norma struggled with committing Norman to a mental hospital, fought with insurance, and made further sacrifices for Norman’s benefit. If there’s a mother in the Television Academy, then it would be impossible for them to ignore Norma’s plight.

Aside from Farmiga’s well-practiced brilliance where Norman is concerned, she was also given a huge gift by the writing team. She was allowed to fall in love and, shock, be happy. She was legitimately happy and hopeful for the first time in several seasons. These episodes, no matter how short lived they were, were not ironic distances for Farmiga. They were moments of genuine bliss. Moments that saw her share her darkest secrets with husband-of-convenience Romera (Nestor Carbonell). And he didn’t run away. He embraced her. And she melted. Farmiga radiated happiness in a way that Bates Motel has seldom allowed her. Vera Farmiga’s season four performance is a far different performance than she’s given in the series to date. Unfortunately, it’s probably her last lead performance for the series. She’ll undoubtedly be back as “Mother” in season five, but this is really Vera Farmiga’s big shot at Emmy glory.

So, who stands in her way?

House of Cards‘ Robin Wright and How To Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis are the lockiest of locks if ever there has been a lock. There’s literally no way they’re not getting back into the nominees’ circle this year. Presuming six slots, that leaves us with four openings. Honestly, perennial nominee Claire Danes (Homeland) is the most likely next nominee with Michelle Dockery, Taraji P. Henson, and Julianna Margulies nipping at their heels. Vera Farmiga has the opportunity to knock any one of those actresses out of contention, in my opinion, although buzz for The Good Wife‘s last season will probably carry Margulies forward. The same could be said for Michelle Dockery, although both were omitted from last year’s Drama Actress race in favor of Tatiana Maslany and Elizabeth Moss. Maslany *could* repeat, but I’m not getting a great deal of love for Orphan Black‘s latest season. Moss isn’t eligible this year.

So, Farmiga leaps ahead of Michelle Dockery for the moment on the Emmy Tracker. Recent buzz for the series and a widespread recognition by critics’ and fans for the impeccable quality of the fourth season should push her forward more than recent years. Earlier in the week, I’d have said it wasn’t possible, but with internet and print buzz at a fever pitch and with Farmiga’s starring turn in The Conjuring 2 coming out just before Emmy voting… You never know. She just may pull off the nomination.

Emilia Clarke has a less complicated path forward. If anything, her recent recent to Daenerys badassery (re: nakedness) has solidified her place among the Drama Supporting Actress six. Downton Abbey‘s Maggie Smith may be knocking at the door, but I suspect Clarke is going to shut the door, nail it, burn down the house, and walk out of the ashes clutching an Emmy in one hand and Smith’s bloodied head in the other. Okay, maybe not the bloodied head piece, but it is Game of Thrones.

Kidding aside, the top six for Drama Supporting Actress feels nearly solidified at this point. Game of Thrones‘ other big badass female Lena Headey has kept her season premiere heat going, and the rest of the  season feels promising. You can never bet against Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black as she tends to carry the acting love for the entire series. Plus, she’s just great on the show. Joanne Froggatt has been a perennial nominee for Downton Abbey, recently taking Smith’s place in the category where Emmy has before made room for two. The Good Wife‘s final year should see Christine Baranski continue in the category, and it would be foolish to bet against her. She’s never missed out on a nomination for the show. Better Call Saul‘s Rhea Seehorn would be the new nominee in the category, but it just feels so right this year given Kim Wexler’s increased importance in the show and her late season choice between Jimmy and Chuck.

Emilia Clarke is likely to benefit from overall love for the show. I’m convinced to this day that’s why she was nominated last year. There was no other justifiable reason. She simply wasn’t given enough to do other than fawn over Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage. Last season, she was the damsel to be dragon rescued. This season, she’s got the girl power vibe again, standing against the Dothraki herd that kidnapped her and, in the end of episode four, burning down the Dothraki temple of oppression, killing their patriarchal system with one fatal blow. Everyone loves it when Daenerys makes bold moves, particularly Emmy. The scene of her emerging (again) triumphantly from the fires is hard to get out of your head. Plus, she’s naked, so there’s something for the steak eaters in the Television Academy.

Emilia Clarke feels more likely to repeat last year’s nomination in the supporting category than does Vera Farmiga to re-enter an Emmy race she in which she last competed three years ago. Farmiga’s chances feel stronger today than they did earlier in the week, though, so we’re higher on her. She has a tremendous and tremendously loyal fan base that will likely feel energized to keep the drum banging long into the voting window.

It’s likely to change as we’re in a very fluid component of the Emmy nomination cycle without significant milestones / critics’ groups / award precursors to guild us.

But right now, we’re betting on both Vera Farmiga and Emilia Clarke.

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