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Emmy Predictions 2016: Editing Contenders Raise the Narrative Bar for TV

"Game of Thrones" battles "Better Call Saul" while "The People v. O.J. Simpson" takes on "Fargo."

"Game of Thrones"

HBO

While “Game of Thrones” achieved epic greatness with the ambitious “Battle of the Bastards,” “Better Call Saul” got even better in Season 2 with a looser and more experimental vibe. They’re squaring off for best drama series editing, with “GOT” the likely winner.

Meanwhile, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which captured the “Trial of the Century” as a telling precursor to current racial strife, has the edge over the trippy “Fargo” prequel in the limited series/movie editing race.

“The Battle of the Bastards” brings to a head the heated feud between Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and his army of Wildlings, and the Boltons, led by nemesis Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Director Miguel Sapochni used “Ran” as dramatic inspiration and the military strategy of Hannibal as reference with both armies trying to lure the other into the center and then attack from the sides.

Editor Tim Porter poured through 100 hours of footage, piecing together a seamless integration of troop movement and more intimate confrontations. Visually, though, we stay with Snow’s POV as he’s nearly killed at every turn during the chaos.

The most powerful moment occurs when all seems lost: the camera circles behind Snow and then cuts to a close-up of his frightened face. That’s when the cavalry comes to the rescue in the form of the Knights of the Vale.

With “Better Call Saul,” it’s a slow burn, a dance, watching Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) juggling identities in his transformation as Saul. And it’s a trickier balancing act between surprise and suspense in Season 2.

For editor Kelley Dixon (nominated for “Rebecca” and “Nailed”), it was further opportunity to dabble with some off-beat montages -—her specialty — along with some tweaks to perk up interest.

In “Nailed,” there’s a riveting bank hearing that’s a result of Jimmy being both bad and vulnerable. However, it was a tad dry and didn’t take advantage of all the conflicts, so Dixon used raking and profile shots in dynamic ways.

THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "The Race Card" Episode 105 (Airs Tuesday, March 1, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as O.J. Simpson. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

The People v. O.J. Simpson

Ray Mickshaw/FX

For editor Adam Penn (also a producer/scribe on the buzzy “Mr. Robot”), the goal was to humanize the players in “The People v. O.J. Simpson” by reshaping their often caricatured personas. Thus, he stood back and let the performances breathe, didn’t over cut or diminish Emmy-nominated Nelson Craig’s naturalistic camerawork.

The key in the opener (“From the Ashes of Tragedy”) was to focus on everyday details as part of the humanizing process, starting with the montage featuring the LAPD beating of Rodney King footage and the ensuing riots. This created the ticking bomb for everything else to come.

By contrast, the next 10 minutes featured brooding silence, snaking around the crime scene and meeting the players with lots of detail: a melted bowl of ice cream and a bathtub filled with water and lit candles.  It was a creepy, behind the scenes deep dive into violence and tragedy.

“Fargo” got a lot more bizarre in its sophomore season, going back in time to 1979 to further explore ordinary people gone bad. And there’s an escalation of violence that spirals out of control from the micro to the macro, which underscores the turbulent period.

From the outset, the viewer’s disoriented by a black and white faux Ronald Reagan movie and then stock footage of President Jimmy Carter and long gas lines. No wonder the opener’s titled “Waiting for Dutch.”

Then after a diner massacre, everything horrible piles on like a domino effect. But editor Skip MacDonald used a combination of flashback and split-screen to keep track of characters and provide exposition and context. This was especially important as the season became less linear, and his Emmy-nominated colleague, Curtis Thurber (“Did You Do This? No, You Did It!”), followed through.

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