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Why the Emmys Should Crown ‘The Americans,’ Not ‘Game of Thrones’: IndieWire’s Emmy Endorsements (Drama)

Dear Emmy voters: If you have any doubts over who to vote for this season, let us make the case for these fine series, performers and creators.

Game of Thrones v The Americans


Drama Series

The Americans
“Better Call Saul”
“Downton Abbey”
Game of Thrones
“House of Cards”
“Mr. Robot”

IndieWire’s Vote: “The Americans”

We’re obviously big fans of a lot of these shows. “Better Call Saul,” “Mr. Robot” and even “House of Cards” are deserving nominees, and there’s no shame in voting for any one of them. But come on: “The Americans” getting an Emmy nod for Outstanding Drama Series is like the Chicago Cubs reaching the World Series. If they made it this far — finally — they better freaking win. “The Americans” has been the best drama on cable for four years. An intricate spy thriller side-by-side with an equally compelling family drama, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have crafted a series as appealing as it is relevant. When it comes to FX’s best show (which is saying something), it’s more than just “you should” vote it — you’re morally obligated.

READ MORE: STFU! The Emmys Finally Nominated the Best Drama on Cable

Lead Actress In a Drama Series

Keri Russell v Tatiana Maslany Emmys 2016 Drama

Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”
Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Keri Russell, “The Americans”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

IndieWire’s Vote: Keri Russell, “The Americans”

This is an impossible choice. While there are plenty of great picks in this stacked (and quite competitive) category, putting pen to paper next to Tatiana Maslany over Keri Russell (or vice versa) — let alone eliminating the yet-to-win Robin Wright — just feels…wrong. Yet objectively comparing the two more-than-deserving candidates puts us there: Russell certainly didn’t slip in Season 4, but she was more prominently featured in other years. Maslany, who’s also been delivering a show-stopping turn for four seasons, has only seen her workload increase. But…still…we just can’t do it. Russell has carried “The Americans” this far, and rewarding anyone else in her first year as a nominee isn’t, in good conscience, something we can endorse. Either actress is a sound choice, but IndieWire will be #TeamRussell4eva.

READ MORE: 2016 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Lead Actor In a Drama Series

Matthew Rhys v Kyle Chandler Emmys 2016 drama actor

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

IndieWire’s Vote: Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline” Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

See above re Maslany v. Russell. We don’t really want to choose between Matthew Rhys and Kyle Chandler, so we commiserate with the Academy in being forced to check only one box in this stacked category. Chandler absolutely killed it in “Bloodline” Season 2, adding layers upon layers to a character struggling with so much internal conflict it’s amazing we knew what was happening with him at all. Credit goes to Chandler more than anyone else, and helping him land Emmy No. 2 would normally be what we’re all about. But Rhys is equally deserving for his collective four seasons of astounding work, as well as a stellar Season 4 performance that found Phillip exploring tricky emotional territory never before examined by a TV husband or father. Tiebreaker goes to the better series, so we’ve got to vote “The Americans” once again.

READ MORE: 2016 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series 

Supporting Actress In a Drama Series

Lena Headey v Constance Zimmer Emmys Drama 2016

Maura Tierney, “The Affair”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Lena Headey, “Game Of Thrones”
Emilia Clarke, “Game Of Thrones”
Maisie Williams, “Game Of Thrones”
Constance Zimmer, “UnREAL”

IndieWire’s Vote: Constance Zimmer, “UnREAL”

Perhaps the easiest choice among all the drama categories, there’s really no reason to vote for anyone other than Constance Zimmer. “UnREAL” Season 1 was defined by her performance, as Quinn embodied the show’s brash attitude, sharp wit and surprising depth. Zimmer made it look easy all year (plus Season 2), breaking out from the most unlikely of places (Lifetime), and — with her recent turns on “House of Cards” and upcoming cameo on “Better Things” — becoming a bona fide go-to character actress, ready to fill any role you need. Give her an Emmy already.

READ MORE: 2016 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Supporting Actor In a Drama Series

Peter Dinklage v Ben Mendelsohn Emmys 2016 Drama

Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”
Peter Dinklage, “Game Of Thrones”
Kit Harrington, “Game Of Thrones”
Michael Kelly, “House Of Cards”
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”

IndieWire’s Pick: Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”

Consider this the Judi Dench in “Shakespeare in Love” argument: Yes, Ben Mendelsohn’s role was significantly diminished in Season 2, but only in terms of screen time. Claiming his part was insignificant is ignoring a nuanced turn carrying equal weight to a brilliant Season 1 performance. Mendelsohn added previously unseen levels to Danny Rayburn, the fallen family member resurrected via flashbacks this season, remaining committed as ever to a character most would want to keep at a safe distance. Sure, Peter Dinklage scored some much-needed laughs in a solid season on “Game of Thrones,” but Mendelsohn won our hearts — quickly, efficiently and completely.

READ MORE: 2016 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Ellen Burstyn v Laurie Metcalf Emmys 2016 Drama

Ellen Burstyn, “House of Cards”
Allison Janney, “Masters of Sex”
Margo Martindale, “The Americans”
Laurie Metcalf, “Horace and Pete”
Molly Parker, “House of Cards”
Carrie Preston, “The Good Wife”

IndieWire’s Vote: Laurie Metcalf, “Horace and Pete”

The queen of this year’s Emmys — with three nominations — is most deserving of her fourth overall trophy (and first since 1994, when she won for “Roseanne”) in the guest acting category, as her turn on Louis C.K.’s self-produced and -distributed drama, “Horace and Pete,” left the most significant impact of all her impressive 2016 performances. Moreover, the series deserves some love, and a win here could open up some industry doors for independent productions. Ellen Burstyn certainly won us over, as well, opening up on “House of Cards” like few characters do, and seeing Martindale take home another trophy for “The Americans” wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. But we gotta back Metcalf on this one.

READ MORE: Inside Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Get Down,’ The Best $120 Million Netflix Ever Spent

Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Mahershala Ali v Max von Sydow Emmys 2016 Drama

Mahershala Ali, “House of Cards”
Hank Azaria, “Ray Donovan”
Reg E. Cathey, “House of Cards”
Michael J. Fox, “The Good Wife”
Paul Sparks, “House of Cards”
Max von Sydow, “Game of Thrones”

IndieWire’s Vote: Max von Sydow, “Game of Thrones”

Somewhat surprisingly, we came damn close to calling for an all-out “Game of Thrones” snubbing at this year’s Emmys (the opposite of what’s likely to happen), but we can’t deny Max von Sydow’s claim to the crown here. The legendary stage and screen actor brought an extra degree of gravitas to the HBO drama, and the two-time Oscar nominee should earn his first Emmy win this year. (Second place: the oft-overlooked Mahershala Ali, who finally landed a long-deserved nod for “House of Cards.”)

READ MORE: ‘The Leftovers’ Delayed Until 2017: Can It Win Some Emmys Now, Please?

Outstanding Directing For a Drama Series

Game of Thrones v The Knick Emmys 2016 Drama directing

“Downton Abbey” – Michael Engler, “Episode 9”
“Game of Thrones” – Jack Bender, “The Door”
“Game of Thrones” – Miguel Sapochnik, “Battle of the Bastards”
“Homeland” – Lesli Linka Glatter, “The Tradition of Hospitality”
“The Knick” – Steve Soderbergh, “This Is All We Are”
“Ray Donovan” – David Hollander, “Exsuscito”

IndieWire’s Vote: “The Knick” – Steven Soderbergh, “This Is All We Are”

All the credit in the world to Jack Bender and Miguel Sapochnik for wrangling massive productions on “Game of Thrones,” but can we really not give this to Steven Soderbergh? “The Knick” may have been flawed, but not in its direction, production or any technical level whatsoever — all of which were orchestrated by the discerning eye of an Oscar winner. In these terms, it was as revolutionary as the series desired to be, thanks to Soderbergh constantly inventing new ways to move through a scene — typically with a speed and range of motion unprecedented in television. He elevated everything his camera found, and you better believe that’s just about everything in “The Knick.”

READ MORE: What TV Show Should Represent the Human Race, and More Pressing Questions: The IndieWire TV AMA

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Mr. Robot v The Americans 2016 Emmys drama

“The Americans” – Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg, “Persona Non Grata”
“Downton Abbey” – Julian Fellowes, “Episode 8”
“Game of Thrones” – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, “Battle of the Bastards”
“Mr. Robot” – Sam Esmail, “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov (Pilot)”
“The Good Wife” – Robert King & Michelle King, “End”
“UnREAL” – Marti Noxon & Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, “Return”

IndieWire’s Vote: “The Americans” – Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg, “Persona Non Grata”

With “The Good Wife” and “Downton Abbey” clearly here just for nostalgia’s sake (and “Game of Thrones” nominated as a sign of respect for the series overall), this category quickly comes down to “Mr. Robot,” “UnREAL” and “The Americans.” Sam Esmail’s true accomplishment is how he constructed the season, even though the pilot certainly did draw us in to the mysterious world of fsociety. Marti Noxon and Sarah Shapiro knocked us out with “Return,” but it doesn’t quite have the lasting effect of “Persona Non Grata.” Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg doubled down on the enigmatic nature of their textured drama, crafting a finale with a unique and immediate impact that also functioned as a perfect capper to an excellent season. Plus, if you agreed with our above pitch for the series overall, then it would be hard not to support its writing, too.

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