Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
For as much shit as Skyler unfairly takes from a certain fan contingent that sees her as dislikable, Anna Gunn challenged you to see the character as in anything other than a dire situation in the first half of season five. While Cranston boldly took Walt to some dark, dark places, Gunn matched him by showing her character's fear and growing sense of being trapped, in skin-crawling moments like the one in the White bedroom after the party in "Fifty-One," or where she comes close to confessing to Marie (Betsy Brandt), only for her sister to think her distress is about the affair she had with Ted. Every assertive action that Skyler attempted was countered by Walt until, with a sense of numbness, Skyler clearly surrendered.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Adam Driver, "Girls"
It's a rare actor who can make a scene of his character jerking off onto his unhappy girlfriend's chest into something genuinely, emotionally complicated, but as Hannah's (Lena Dunham) odd ex Adam, Adam Driver has fleshed out what started as a hipster cipher into someone legitimately wrestling with heartbreak. Adam went on a ramble to Staten Island with Ray, he sweetly started and then failed at a relationship with a nice girl and came to Hannah's dramatic rescue. He's a strange and not always easy to contend with contemporary heartthrob, and Driver's prickly performance has filled the character out into one difficult, complicated and believable.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
Mayim Bialik's Amy Farrah Fowler is a fan favorite on CBS' top-rated sitcom for a reason -- she's a charmingly awkward and brilliant female counterpoint to Jim Parsons' Sheldon Cooper, and in the most recent season the two tentatively mapped out new ground in their unconventional romance. Bialik's been particularly good at navigating her character's desires for more traditional intimacy while trying to respect her beau's previous reluctance to engage in physical interactions of any sort, and "The Love Spell Potential" found her leading the two in a discussion about whether or not they need to have sex to legitimize their relationship in a conversation that touched on ground one would never have expected to find on a standard network sitcom. Bialik went a long way towards grounding the conversation and making it a legitimately emotional one.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Peter Mullan, "Top of the Lake"
As Matt, the father of missing pregnant girl Tui and the town tough ruling over illicit activities from the compound in which he lives with his sons, Mullan was frightening and undeniably charismatic, never easy to reduce to just the local villain. His long gray hair flying, he managed to make the transition from threatening the women's camp GJ (Holly Hunter) to spending a sweet, druggy day with one of its inhabitants in a passage deliberately meant to evoke a momentary return to Edenic innocence. His savagery was tragic, because it never felt entirely willing -- like many of the characters, he felt like the severed half of a forgotten whole, trying to struggle on in life while aware of his own incomplete nature.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Sarah Paulson, "American Horror Story: Asylum"
"American Horror Story: Asylum" was an outstanding platform for actresses, and in the less showy but wrenching part of journalist Lana Winters, Sarah Paulson went to some deeply disturbing places as an intrepid reporter who ends up being kept in the asylum for outdated but real reasons. The character began as an entry point from which to look at life in Briarcliff, but as the logic of the series began to melt and warp, like so many of the character her power was quickly turned on her. Paulson's Lana was a emotional throughline in a season that that took wild swings, and her experiences and imperfections made the never-quite-exact metaphors the show offered about oppressed groups and trauma into something resonant and profound.
Outstanding Miniseries Or Movie: "Top of the Lake"
This is a tough category this year -- Steven Soderbergh's excellent "Behind the Candelabra" and the surprisingly complex season of "American Horror Story" are both worthy of awards, but Jane Campion's "Top of the Lake" has been something else entirely, a fantastic expansion of the filmmaker's favorite topic of the gender divide delved into in ways both personal and dramatic, like the incident that sent Robin Griffin fleeing from New Zealand as a teenager, to the beautifully abstract, like GJ's shipping container camp for damaged women. Not quite a movie, but not really episodic either, "Top of the Lake" is a unique achievement that looked like nothing else on television this year.
Outstanding Comedy Series: "30 Rock"
"Louie" had a mixed season with some terrific highlights, "Girls" lost its way, "Veep" has improved immensely and "The Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" continue to chug along with much larger audiences than these cable series. But it was the last "30 Rock" season, the show managed a solid landing and none of its competitors had such an outstanding season that we'd feel bad about Tina Fey's series getting the win -- call us sentimental.
Outstanding Drama Series: "Game of Thrones"
Last year's winner "Homeland" had a controversial second season that some felt pushed the bound of believability too far, "Mad Men" was both about and consumed by Don Draper's malaise and, as loved as "Downton Abbey" is, it just doesn't have the ambition or heft of its competitors in this category. As much as it'd be interesting in seeing "House of Cards" pick up a prize this big and indisputably announce the arrival of non-traditional networks like Netflix, this category belongs to either "Breaking Bad" or "Game of Thrones," and the latter had such a good season, complete with an episode for the ages that made unprepared viewers rend their hair in "The Rains of Castamere."