On the Scene 9/13: 2019 Emmy Awards – Drama Series

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By Ken Downey Jr. & Joanne Thornborough

With the 2019 Emmy Awards airing this Sunday, Sept. 15, my colleague, Joanne Thornborough, and I, sit down for the final time to take a look at who we feel is best deserving for the best performances on television. Looking at the limited and comedy series the last three weeks, we will focus lastly on drama.

Outstanding Drama Series
Nominees: “Better Call Saul,” AMC; “Bodyguard,” Netflix; “Game of Thrones,” HBO; “Killing Eve,” BBC America; “Ozark,” Netflix; “Pose,” FX; “Succession,” HBO; “This Is Us,” NBC.

KDJ: “This Is Us,” NBC.
An award that will probably be received by “Game of Thrones,” solely because of the success it has had going into its final season. But, the power of a series is to draw emotion from its viewers, an element that “This Is Us” doesn’t seem to lack, as it pushed many boundaries in its third season. A season that left viewers with more questions than answers doesn’t hold back as each episode dealt several gut punching storylines that got better week after week. Straying away from its traditional writing at the beginning of the season, “This Is Us” got much better throughout the spring and had an ending that sets up its fourth season, which starts in two weeks. Getting signed for three more years, the writing of the drama doesn’t hold back from making its viewers watch each episode through tear-filled eyes.

JT: “Pose,” FX.
Shining a light on the shunned and/or forgotten lives that were affected during the height of the AIDS crisis, this inspiring and life-affirming show touts the importance of family (not always the one you were born into) while strutting its stuff in the ballrooms where the characters find community. A tonal balance is impressively struck between the horror of AIDS and the positivity of living life in the shadow of the disease.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Jason Bateman, “Ozark”; Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”; Kit Harrington, “Game of Thrones”; Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”; Billy Porter, “Pose”; Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us.”

KDJ: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us.”
Nominated for the role of Randall Pearson for the third year in a row, Brown will reclaim what was taken from him last year after winning the award two seasons ago. Brown, who plays a character dealing with severe anxiety and mental health issues, gets more added to his plate when his marriage is on the line, too. Not knowing how to juggle a new campaign – as he runs for Philadelphia’s district assembly – with his family life, Brown’s character is stretched to his limit and gives another astounding performance.

JT:Billy Porter, “Pose.”
The soul of the FX drama Porter’s Pray Tell gives as good as he gets – both in the ballroom as emcee and out – while navigating a world that is constantly turning itself upside down. He won’t be beaten down. Look closely: You can see the fire in his eyes as he defies expectations right and left. Porter leaves it all onscreen, lifting up his co-stars while ensuring all eyes are on him.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”; Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”; Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”; Laura Linney, “Ozark”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”; Robin Wright, “House of Cards.”

KDJ: Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve.”
Literally the best performance that I have seen from anyone in the last year. Comer embodies the psychotic, merciless role of international assassin Villanelle, who obsesses over MI5 agent Eve Polastri. Through a game of cat and mouse, the two go back and forth in a season with poor writing that is saved by Comer’s fantastic performance.

JT: Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve.”
Villanelle had a tumultuous journey during the show’s second season. Comer, however, hit her stride as the sociopathic assassin with an unhealthy obsession for a certain MI5 agent, who shares her dilemma. With a sadistic streak a mile wide and a sense of humor to match, Villanelle stays three steps ahead because Comer can’t be cornered.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Gwendoline Christie, “Game of Thrones”; Julia Garner, “Ozark”; Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”; Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve”; Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”; Maisie Williams, “Game of Thrones.”

KDJ: Gwendoline Christie, “Game of Thrones.”
A nomination in which Christie had to nominate herself for, because the rest of the “Game of Thrones” team didn’t feel as if she were deserving, is one that she not only deserved, but one that she should run away with. Given the fact that Christie is one of the only nominees (barring Shaw and Garner) in this category who actually acted and gave a believable performance, she should have no problem bringing home the award.

JT:Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve.”
You can almost picture Carolyn Martens sitting upon the Iron Throne. She plays her pawns so well they don’t realize they are being played till it’s too late. Shaw is as shrewd as her character, keeping her cards close so as not to show her hand. Carolyn is the snake encouraging protege Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) toward the apple, but her allegiance is never guaranteed.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Alfie Allen, “Game of Thrones”; Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”; Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”; Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”; Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”; Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us.”

KDJ: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones.”
A role that Dinklage has won three times already and nominated was another five times for is one that’s more than deserving for him as he should plan to make more room on his shelf. One of the only highlights of “Game of Thrones’” final season is one that should be recognized, as Dinklage once again brings true power to the screen as Tyrion Lannister.

JT: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones.”
In a lackluster final season, Coster-Waldau stood out as Jaime Lannister completed his transition from narcissistic nobleman with a heart as black as his soul to a noble man fighting for what is right in a world gone wrong. The storyline eventually did neither any favors, but Coster-Waldau made sure Jaime went out with his hard-earned, newfound reputation intact.

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Nominees: Michael Angarano, “This Is Us”; Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us”; Michael McKean, “Better Call Saul”; Kumail Nanjiani, “The Twilight Zone”; Glynn Turman, “How to Get Away with Murder”; Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

KDJ: Michael Angarano, “This Is Us.”
A childhood star in roles on “Will and Grace” and “Sky High,” Angarano flips the script as he plays a mentally distraught drafted Vietnam soldier. Troubled by the war, Angarano turns to alcohol and painkillers to get through the days in Nam. Eventually he lets his vices get the better of him and accidentally kills a young Vietnamese boy…

JT: Kumail Nanjiani, “The Twilight Zone.”
Nanjiani steps out of his comfort zone with this dark turn as stand-up comedian Samir Wassan, who makes a deal with a devil. His transition from idealistic to almost sociopathic as his hunger for fame and success transforms Samir is a revelation. For those of us who are only familiar with him through his work on “Silicon Valley,” “The Big Sick” or even this summer’s “Stuber,” it’s proof there’s more to Nanjiani than meets the eye.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Nominees: Laverne Cox, “Orange is the New Black”; Cherry Jones, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”; Phylicia Rashad, “This Is Us”; Cicely Tyson, “How to Get Away with Murder”; Carice van Houten, “Game of Thrones.”

KDJ: Phylicia Rashad, “This Is Us.”
Famed television actress Rashad stars as Beth’s critical mother in “This Is Us’” third season. After losing her husband to lung cancer, Rashad’s character doesn’t let it affect her as she powers on through work, family and life, not letting anything phase her. Rashad is anything but a Huxtable in this dominant performance.

JT: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.”
Bringing Lange back into the “AHS” fold by playing her “Murder House” character, Constance Langdon, was just what the anthology needed. Lange has been much missed since (perhaps wisely) opting out of the previous three installments. The legendary actress peels away new layers to Constance’s character, giving her more to play with here. In short, Lange’s the shot of energy this series needs.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Nominees: Peter Gould & Thomas Schnauz, “Winner” – “Better Call Saul”; Jed Mercurio, “Episode 1” – “Bodyguard”; David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, “The Iron Throne” – “Game of Thrones”; Bruce Miller & Kira Snyder, “Holly” – “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Emerald Fennell, “Nice and Neat” – “Killing Eve”; Jesse Armstrong, “Nobody Is Ever Missing.”

KDJ: Emerald Fennell, “Nice and Neat” – “Killing Eve.”
One of the funniest episodes of the second season features Villanelle escaping a French hospital, where she is recovering from the stab wound inflicted to her in the season one finale. Stealing a young boy’s pajamas as her only wardrobe option, Villanelle hides herself in a family’s trunk as they unknowingly take her help her escape.

JT: Jed Mercurio, “Episode 1” – “Bodyguard.”
From the opening moments where we meet protagonist David Budd (Richard Madden), to the final seconds, Mercurio crafts a tight, suspenseful introduction to this world and its characters. While nothing is black and white, as you would expect, it does come as a welcome surprise to find that also includes David. Mercurio ensures the audience is primed for whatever hits may come with this fantastic first episode.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Nominees: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, “The Iron Throne” – “Game of Thrones”; David Nutter, “The Last of the Starks” – “Game of Thrones”; Miguel Sapochnik, “The Long Night” – “Game of Thrones”; Daina Reid, “Holly” – “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Lisa Brühlmann, “Desperate Times” – “Killing Eve”; Jason Bateman, “Reparations” – “Ozark”; Adam McKay, “Celebration” – “Succession.”

KDJ: Lisa Brühlmann, “Desperate Times” – “Killing Eve.”
An episode that gets creepier and creepier by the minute features Comer as Villanelle, who is up to her old tricks. This time, donning a pig mask and Bo Peep-type dress, she lures her target into a brothel-type building where she flays him in the front window and opens its curtains for the public to see. An episode that leaves viewers queasy is one Brühlmann should have admiration for.

JT: Miguel Sapochnik, “The Long Night” – “Game of Thrones.”
The night is dark and full of terrors is something “GoT” fans have been hearing for years. With “The Long Night,” the show finally delivered on that promise. Sapochnik has been hitting it out of the park for years and this is no exception. The episode took Melisandre’s warning literally during the Battle of Winterfell, but Sapochnik’s vision is a bright spot.