The Emmy nominations for the 2105-16 season have been announced, and congratulations to all the nominees. Once again, though, television’s most popular show, The Walking Dead, was all but completely ignored. Same goes for its companion show, Fear the Walking Dead, as well as a number of great shows that take place within the horror genre, like Bates Motel, Penny Dreadful and Hannibal. Even though horror provides some of the best episodes and moments on television, and inspire the most fervent fandom, along with science fiction and fantasy, the Emmys consistently choose to ignore our favorite genre. In the past, it was more understandable as there wasn’t a lot of horror on TV. But now, there is a plethora of frightening fare on the small screen, from network and cable to streaming, so it makes it a lot more difficult to disregard, though the Emmys still manage to do so.
Granted, their somewhat baffling embrace of American Horror Story continues. This year, AHS: Hotel received two acting nominations – previous nominees, Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates – for supporting roles by an actress in a limited series or movie. (The Emmys love to recognize the same people year after year.) But that was it. Nothing for Lady Gaga, who won a Golden Globe earlier this year for her performance. Nothing for actors, Angela Bassett or Denis O’Hare, who had been previously nominated, and, most glaringly, nothing for the show itself after being nominated the previous four years in the best limited series or movie category. Clearly, Emmy’s love for the show has worn off, perhaps because Oscar-winning actress, Jessica Lange, is no longer among the cast, as that may have lent the show more credibility, at least in the Emmys’ near-sighted vision. Another reason why AHS was able to secure so many nominations in the past was due to its inclusion in the less competitive ‘limited series or movie’ category, though it airs as many episodes as a number of shows in the drama category.
As for The Walking Dead, it managed to secure a whopping total of two nominations this year – for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role and Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special, a category for which it actually won in 2011 and 2012 for Greg Nicotero and company. Again, a number of incredible acting performances were completely overlooked. Andrew Lincoln has been turning in Emmy-worthy work season after season. He certainly goes through far more than any of the other actors nominated this season, struggling to maintain a semblance of a livable society against threats from both the living and the dead, as his son clings to life after a near fatal wound, all while finally beginning to develop a personal life. There are few actors who could consistently and believably deal with what Lincoln has to as Rick, and doing so in a Southern drawl, which is why it is always so startling to hear him speak in his native British accent. And not to take anything away from Rami Malek, in the overrated Mr. Robot, but his performance in that show asks of him to act more like one of The Walking Dead’s walkers than the range of emotions Lincoln and company go through on TWD.
How the Emmys could ignore two amazing performances this year by Melissa McBride as Carol and Lennie James as Morgan defy all credibility. Melissa has been killing it for quite some time on the show, and we don’t just mean with regards to walkers, humans or even children. Her astounding work in the episode, “Same Boat”, was very likely the best of any performer in any show the past year. As she and Maggie were captured by a band of Saviors, Carol struggled between her desire to protect a pregnant Maggie to her reticence in doing any more killing, amidst panic attacks and desperate pleas to avoid bloodshed. Melissa’s performance was so layered and multi-faceted that we, the audience, could never tell when she was being genuine or merely putting on a show for her captors. When the grueling, intense episode ended, they should have handed her an Emmy right then and there. Lauren Cohan was also terrific in this episode, as was Alicia Witt in a guest role.
As for Lennie James, though he is never not great as Morgan in every scene he’s in, he was never better than in the episode, “Here’s Not Here.” In this episode, after losing everyone he cared about, Morgan has become a killing machine, no different than the walkers themselves, until he is rescued by a lone survivor and taught the message that ‘every life is precious.’ It completely transforms him, and as we watch this transformation take place, we are seeing another unbelievable performance on The Walking Dead. The only thing more unbelievable is how Emmy voters could watch this moving, emotional portrayal and choose to cast it asunder when filling out their ballots. And John Carroll Lynch, as Morgan’s mentor (and who also played the evil clown in American Horror Story: Freakshow) was absolutely worthy of a guest actor nomination. Also, nothing for writing, no recognition for directing, nada for music. Mind-boggling, Emmys.
The Walking Dead’s spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, was shut out itself, despite a number of stellar performances, most notably that of Frank Dillane as Nick, the recovering drug addict who surprisingly becomes most able to adapt to a world gone to hell. Whether it was his working his way through withdrawal to carrying out dangerous, bloody missions to his warm interaction with children in the episode, “We All Fall Down,” Dillane lays it all out there every episode, and it should have been recognized by the Emmys. It should be noted that Fear‘s webisode series, Flight 462 did get a couple of noms, for Outstanding Short Form Series, and for Michelle Ang, as Alex, and Talking Dead received a nod in the Outstanding Interactive Program category, so there is some consolation for Dead fans.
The Dead weren’t the only horror shows that were pretty much ignored by the Emmys again this year. How they could turn a cold shoulder to Vera Farmiga’s ever charming, yet beleaguered, Norma Bates in Bates Motel, is astounding. Likewise for Eva Green’s mesmerizing turn as Vanessa Ives. Hannibal, though critically acclaimed, received nothing in its final season. And while it remains a longshot, how about some recognition for the Winchester brothers, who literally go through hell every season on Supernatural, now heading into its TWELFTH season.
Though the Emmys ignored a number of our favorite shows and acting roles, they did somehow manage to get a few right. Kudos again to Tatiana Maslany’s astonishing performance(s) on Orphan Black. Game of Thrones, in what may have been its finest season, not only got a nomination for Best Drama Series, but also received supporting nods for Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage, but also Kit Harrington and Maisie Williams, as well as one for Max Von Sydow is a guest role, all very much deserved. The excellent Fargo, too, received several nominations in the limited series or movie categories.
Will The Walking Dead ever break through the Emmy wall and get the recognition it has long deserved? As the show heads into its seventh season, one would have to think that if it was going to come, it would have come already. Especially this past season, with such notable work by McBride and James, among others, one held out hope that this would be the year. As this upcoming seventh season looks to be the most brutal and harrowing one yet, right from the get-go, maybe next year the Emmys will finally realize what millions of Walking Dead fans already know.
— commentary by Brian de Castro