WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: If ever there were a time that his tenure on General Hospital served Jackson well, it was Nashville‘s fourth season, which put the daytime vet’s tear ducts into overdrive as Avery and Juliette’s marriage fell apart. Yet even as the ABC drama got so soapy you could wash dishes with it, Jackson’s quiet performance remained a thing of beauty. His Avery ached for a hurting Juliette, raged with frustration and lashed out in anger as their fledgling family disintegrated before his eyes. Underneath it all, though, Jackson never forgot that his character loved Juliette with everything he had — sometimes, in spite of his better judgment. If nothing else comes from Nashville‘s less-than-stellar ending, can’t it at least net Jackson the primetime Emmy love he so sorely deserves?
RORY KINNEAR, PENNY DREADFUL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: For three years now, Kinnear has torn our hearts to shreds by making Frankenstein’s so-called Creature not only “the most human man” that Vanessa has ever known but one of the most sympathetic TV “monsters” we’ve ever seen. And, after Season 3’s “A Blade of Grass” showcase allowed the actor to shed light on the sweet soul that “John Clare” had been prior to his death and resurrection, his longing to be reunited with the family took on an almost unbearable added poignancy. So, if the Television Academy elects not to reward Kinnear with at least a nomination, we respectfully suggest that its members take their Emmys and stick ’em where their own hearts ought to be.
MICHAEL McKEAN, BETTER CALL SAUL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Though Saul is allegedly the tale of just one man’s regression, it was the vilification of Chuck that put Season 2 over the top. McKean gave a sublime performance as the disapproving brother forced to turn his back on family when Jimmy slowly began to — dare we say it — break bad. His best work came in the chilling final moments of “Nailed,” as the character’s electromagnetic hypersensitivity fueled a near-psychotic break in the copy center when he attempted to prove that his brother had committed forgery. The root of his resentment toward Jimmy was reinforced by a second marvelous performance in the following hour, as Chuck went mute before bursting into tears as his mother died beside him, calling out for her other son.
SCOOT McNAIRY, HALT AND CATCH FIRE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: In Season 2 of AMC’s riveting tech drama, McNairy excelled at portraying someone who struggled with both morality and mortality. The previously underdeveloped Gordon became Halt‘s most compelling character as he grappled with a degenerative brain disorder brought on by excessive drug use, and hallucinations brought on by an unexpected bout of adultery. His showcase came in the penultimate hour, “Kali,” as the downfall of a once promising computer scientist was encapsulated in his harrowing struggle to simply escape a parking garage, injuring both of his legs as he crawled towards presumed safety after a seven-hour battle with his uncooperative cerebrum. In those few scenes, McNairy induced the sort of goosebumps that can only be brought on by one of TV’s most spellbinding performances.
TOBIAS MENZIES, OUTLANDER
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Whose kilt do we have to kiss in order to get Menzies an Emmy nomination? Because his portrayal of Frank at the start of Season 2 could’ve been titled How to Gut an Audience That’s Actively Rooting for the Other Guy: An Actor’s Masterclass. As Frank, Menzies displayed an array of emotions — including joy over his missing wife’s return and confusion at her profound sadness — but the tour de force moment came when he wept with joy over Claire’s pregnancy… then tumbled into a chasm of despair upon realizing there was no way the baby could be his. Add in Menzies’ dual role as the sadistic Black Jack Randall, and you’ve got double the reason to put him in the running for Emmy gold.
DAVID TENNANT, MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Witty. Erudite. Sadistic. Unspeakably abhorrent. Instandly In creating Jessica Jones‘ sociopathic supervillain Kilgrave, a man possessed with an awesome power of mind control, David Tennant exuded petty arrogance, sickening brutality and just enough rakish charm to somehow help us see how this sickening predator could think our titular heroine might learn to love him — despite having previously held her mind and body captive, and then subsequently caged her in a frighteningly accurate recreation of her childhood home. Don’t get us wrong: Kilgrave ranks among the most grotesque monsters in modern television, and our hearts remained unmoved as Jessica zapped him with electricity from behind the safety of a soundproof wall. But as Tennant’s character tearfully reunited with the parents he blamed for creating him, we might’ve felt something approaching sympathy — until, of course, he compelled them to finish each other off with a pair of scissors.
MARTIN WALLSTROM, MR. ROBOT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Tyrell Wellick, we hardly know (knew?) ye. Played with an icy coolness by Swedish actor Martin Wallström, the sinister E Corp’s SVP of Technology was a tantalizing mess of contradictions, fluctuating from calm, cool and collected (such as when confronting fsociety front man Elliot) to a ball of anxieties (which he worked through by paying a homeless man to let him whale upon him). Wallström put us most at unease when portraying Wellick as a perpetrator of unexpected affronts, including an uninvited bathroom visit to a rival colleague’s wife. (And yet that was the least of his transgressions against the woman!) So engaging was the actor, we hope against all hope that Tyrell’s conspicuous end-of-season vanishing by no means marks the end of his deliciously deviant story.