In 2021, at long last, Netflix put an end to an ignominious awards streak.
After first entering Emmy competition in 2013, the streaming giant racked up nominations at an incredible pace. By 2018, its total nominations even topped HBO’s once-untouchable yearly totals. But for Netflix’s eye-popping accomplishments each July, the story by September was always the same: All those nominations never added up to series wins. Hulu became the first streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Drama Series in 2017. The next year, after Netflix edged out HBO in total nominations, Amazon Prime Video won its first Best Comedy Series Emmy. Even Apple TV+ technically took home the Series prize for “Ted Lasso” before Netflix could push one of its own shows over the finish line.
Then, at the end of last year’s ceremony, “The Crown” finally broke the cycle, winning the streaming giant’s first Outstanding Drama Series Emmy and giving Netflix its big, long-needed win.
Now the question becomes: Can Netflix do it again?
With “The Crown” ineligible this cycle, the international sensation “Squid Game” may be Netflix’s most likely Emmy successor, but consideration must be paid to “Ozark.” Mirroring Netflix’s awards rise, Chris Mundy’s drama has seen a steady uptick in nominations over three seasons. The TV Academy’s first trip to Missouri resulted in five nominations. Season 2 only added four more (nine total), but Julia Garner (Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series) and Jason Bateman (Best Direction) walked away with surprise wins. Then in Season 3, “Ozark” scored a whopping 18 nominations, tied with “Succession” for third-most of any program in 2020.
The precedent was set. Heading into its final, super-sized season, “Ozark” had become a force to be reckoned with at the Emmys.
So, with all 14 episodes out, reviewed, and scrutinized, what are the show’s awards odds? It’s trickier than it may appear. Figuring out how beloved “Ozark” actually is with TV Academy voters requires reexamining those past wins and nominations with the benefit of hindsight. In 2020, the Emmys (along with the rest of the world) faced an unprecedented disruption. Production shutdowns delayed release dates and TV became a much-needed reprieve from real-world anxiety. “Ozark” Season 3, which premiered a few short weeks after the first shelter-in-place mandates, may have benefited at the Emmys from extra attention. Audiences were all but tied to their couches, with enough free time to catch up on one, two, or three seasons of TV. Viewership saw a marked increase from Season 2, and many attributed the rise to timing more than a sudden spike in quality. (Though Season 3 reviews were slightly better.)
That being said, the series still faced plenty of competition in 2020 and put up a far bigger nominations figure than ever before. The added awareness may have helped, but clearly voters liked what they saw. For Season 4, what may be more worrisome is Season 3’s lack of wins. “Succession” was dominant in 2020, as its second season broke through in major way. Jesse Armstrong’s critically hailed Twitter favorite took home seven Emmys from 18 nominations. Head-to-head with “Ozark,” the HBO drama topped Netflix’s offering six times in seven categories. (Garner beat out Sarah Snook for Supporting Actress.)
The same battle is expected to take place in 2022, and “Succession” hasn’t exactly lost momentum. It won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble this past winter (after being shut out for its first two seasons), to go along with wins at the DGA, PGA, and WGA Awards. Reviews remain glowing. Ratings are on the rise. Meanwhile, “Ozark” has always had strong critical backing to go along with notable detractors. Viewership will likely be its greatest asset (as of Tuesday, May 3, “Ozark” is Netflix’s No. 1 program, via the service’s self-reported Top 10 lists), but it needs to make inroads with awards voters more than it needs a boost from casual fans. Buzz can help, but by now, Emmy voters know of “Ozark.” This year, they have to feel the urge to reward it. And to date, the series’ biggest wins are for Garner (twice at the Emmys) and Bateman (a win for directing at the 2019 Emmys and acting at the 2021 SAG Awards).
Do those two stars represent the show’s best chance at Emmy gold? While it’s far too early to project exactly where the heat will be come September, all three leads have to feel pretty good about being invited to the ceremony. Once there, Bateman will likely face familiar foes in Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox, as well as another Netflix representative in “Squid Game’s” SAG winner Lee Jung-jae. Barring an unexpected snub or surge, “Ozark’s” multi-hyphenate (director, executive producer, and star) likely has a better chance in the Directing category. Garner has proven she can win at any time, so even trendier shows like “Yellowjackets” and “Euphoria” shouldn’t scare her too much.
But Linney is likely the one to watch. Two years ago, she was more than a few experts’ pick to win, despite stiff competition from Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”), Jodie Comer, Sandra Oh (both from “Killing Eve”), and Zendaya (“Euphoria”), the latter of whom eventually won. Linney could face all four of those fine performers again in 2022. With the utmost respect of her peers, a fiery performance under her belt, and four Emmy wins already (all for different shows), she could very well represent the final season of “Ozark” on stage in a few months.
For now, that leaves us with one final question to answer: “What Emmys should ‘Ozark’ win?” While the response requires a subjective interpretation, let’s take a look at how past final seasons have performed for the sake of comparison. “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Sopranos” are the last three shows to win Best Drama Series for their final seasons. While you won’t catch me claiming HBO’s fantasy juggernaut deserved such an accolade, adding “Ozark” to that list seems like a stretch. For as much as it hoped to emulate the pinnacles of antihero television, I doubt Emmy voters are ready to rank the Byrdes alongside Walter and Skyler or Tony and Carmela.
Speaking only about shows from 2022 TV (since, you know, that’s what “Ozark” is actually competing against), there are few categories where “Ozark” feels like the frontrunner — even with the heat of a fresh release. Linney is hard to dispute as one of TV’s top performers, so everyone should at least consider checking the box next to her name. Garner’s two trophies seem like enough, though Ruth has more than earned her fan-favorite status. Aside from Drama Series, Bateman’s directing win seems like the category he’d most value. (Still, it must be said, he’s very, very good as Marty.) Casting and Sound Mixing are both excellent, but “Better Call Saul,” “Yellowjackets,” and “Severance” are only a few examples of exquisite ensembles and design that voters may be more keen to recognize.
Odds are TV Academy members will feel the same way overall. Come July, I expect “Ozark” to land double-digit nominations, but seriously compete in far fewer categories by September. Netflix may already be pushing its chips toward “Squid Game” in the hopes of holding onto Best Drama Series. Only time will tell, so keep checking IndieWire for updates.
“Ozark” Season 4 is available to stream on Netflix. All 14 episodes of the final season qualify for the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards.