‘The Last of Us,’ ‘Mrs. Davis,’ and ‘Wednesday’ Had Some Surprising Emmys Craft Submissions

Thanks to a crowded fantasy/sci-fi Emmys field, several new shows are opting to compete in contemporary craft categories.
"The Last of Us" HBO Pedro Pascal
Pedro Pascal in "The Last of Us"
Liane Hentscher / HBO

Thanks to a crowded fantasy/sci-fi Emmys field (“Andor,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” “House of the Dragon,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” “The Mandalorian,” “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld”), some of the best new shows of the season steeped in fantasy, sci-fi, or horror are opting instead to compete in contemporary craft categories to avoid direct competition.

These include “The Last of Us,” HBO’s riveting video game adaptation of a post-apocalyptic America with a zombie-like vibe, “Mrs. Davis,” Peacock’s glorious genre-bending adventure, “Wednesday,” Netflix’s “Addams Family” spin-off about monstrous teens, and “Dead Ringers,” Prime Video’s update of the David Cronenberg body horror thriller, starring Rachel Weisz as the gender-flipped twin gynecologists.

However, this strategy of going contemporary is not unique. Just last season, Netflix entered its survival thriller juggernaut, “Squid Game,” in contemporary categories for production design and costume design, and came away with the Emmy for the former. And, although it didn’t pan out, the imaginatively retro “Severance” also competed for contemporary production design.

Jenna Ortega
WednesdayCourtesy of Netflix © 2022

So it makes sense to steer clear of the more lavish fantasy and horror competition. Better to take your chances in the contemporary categories, where you’re likelier to stand out with stylized crafts going up against such darlings as “Succession,” “The White Lotus,” and “Yellowjackets.”

“The Last of Us”

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s dystopian survival adventure is not only the best show of the year but also the best video game adaptation. It’s really an astonishing achievement that ups the personal drama and catastrophic nightmare of Mazin’s Emmy-winning “Chernobyl.” Just by chance, they lucked out with the timing of the pandemic to make their series even more relevant. No wonder “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal immediately quit his commitment to another series and jumped on board after reading the script. 

Craft-wise, the show is built on an organic naturalism that stems from a plague caused by the Cordyceps fungus, which infiltrates and controls the mind and body. (This is what distinguishes it from a zombie premise.) HBO submitted it for contemporary production design (Episode 2: “Infected”), costumes (Episode 5: “Endure and Survive”), and non-prosthetic makeup and hairstyling (Episode 3: “Long, Long Time”). In terms of design, the Cordyceps world building by production designer John Paino can be witnessed everywhere, as the fungus overtakes the architecture of Boston, leaving only remnants of the historical past. Meanwhile, Episode 3’s poignant flashback love story between survivalists Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) boasts the makeup and hairstyling submissions.

MRS. DAVIS -- "TBD" Episode 104 --Pictured: Betty Gilpin as Simone -- (Photo by: Sophie Kohler/PEACOCK)
Betty Gilpin in “Mrs. DavisCourtesy of Sophie Kohler / Peacock

“Mrs. Davis”

The AI apocalypse is at the heart of this absurdist limited series from Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof about the battle between faith and tech in a world ruled by algorithms. Betty Gilpin, who stars as Sister Simone, described it as “No Country for Old Looney Tunes.” No wonder: Simone is a vigilante nun who fights the titular all-powerful app over the Holy Grail. While Peacock submitted “Mrs. Davis” for contemporary production design (Episode 5: “A Great Place to Drink to Gain Control of Your Drink”), it actually crossed over to fantasy/sci-fi for Susie Coulthard’s costumes (Episode 1: “Mother of Mercy: The Call of the Horse”). That’s because the premiere seemingly kicks off in 1307 Paris with a bloody fight between knights looking for the Grail and bad-ass nuns sworn to protect it. Spoiler alert: Turns out, the bloody battle was just a Super Bowl commercial to help promote the power of the Grail to the world (as we learn in Episode 5), touting some of Emma Fairley’s eclectic production design.

Wednesday, Netflix


The supernatural teen comedy, about Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) using her psychic powers to solve a murder spree in her town, was a surprise smash hit on Netflix. In fact, the premiere broke the streamer’s record for the most hours viewed in a week for an English-language series. Showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar created a Harry Potter meets Tim Burton mashup (Burton directed the first four episodes) with lots of monsters and ghoulish fun. It was submitted for contemporary costume and production design (Episode 1: “Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe”) and non-prosthetic makeup (Episode 4: “Woe What a Night”).

In what could be a harbinger, though, Burton’s go-to costume designer Colleen Atwood and co-designer Mark Sutherland won the CDG Award for conjuring an array of modern looks (emphasizing an array of black-and-white to go with her gray uniform) for the titular character. In addition, production designer Mark Scruton was nominated for the ADG Award for his creepy boarding school and spooky New England town and theme park (actually Romania), and the makeup team (led by Tara McDonald) was nominated for the MUAHS Guild Award for their everyday version of a goth girl (stipulated by Burton). What’s interesting, though, is that the ADG classified it as fantasy and the MUAHS slotted it in the period and/or character makeup category. We’ll see what the TV Academy determines.

“Dead Ringers”

Everything is heightened in Alice Birch’s update about wellness chic, revolutionary birthing, ravenous desire, and toxic co-dependency. This feeds the aberrant behavior of the Mantle twins (Weisz). As a result, the twisted minds are embodied by beautifully twisted environments with nightmarish and alluring odd shapes and bright colors from production designers Erin Magill (submitted for Episode 1) and Adam Scher (submitted for Episode 5). Likewise, costume designer Keri Langerman (submitted for Episode 3) provided a range of eccentric and brightly colored wardrobes, not only for the Mantles but also for other characters, such as artistic house manager Greta (Poppy Liu), to complement the environments. The result is a meditation on the trauma of birth that lingers dangerously throughout life.

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