WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: The Academy’s historical bias against Gilmore Girls makes Graham something of a dark horse here, but we’re holding out hope for a miracle because, man, did she do it all in Netflix’s four-part revival. We marveled at her masterful comic timing (rewatch the scene in “Winter” when she awkwardly gets reaquanited with Rory’s bland boyfriend Paul), but it was the dramatic moments — most notably her epic throwdown with Emily (also in “Winter”) and her subsequent mountain-top telephone catharsis (in “Fall”) — that really blew us away. It’s a performance that doen’t just warrant an Emmy nod. It demands one.
FELICITY HUFFMAN, AMERICAN CRIME
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: A veteran of the American Crime franchise, Huffman had already dazzled us in the ABC drama’s two previous seasons. But as morally compromised wife Jeanette Hesby, the actress was given her richest material yet, and she responded with her most vulnerable, magnetic performance of the show’s run. Despite Jeanette’s best efforts to right her family’s many wrongs and declare her independence in the process, she was destined for an unhappy ending. And at every turn, Huffman made our hearts ache with that tragic realization.
NICOLE KIDMAN, BIG LITTLE LIES
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: Forget categories. No performance anywhere on TV this past year was more achingly vulnerable, or more compelling, than Kidman’s courageous turn as abused wife Celeste. Kidman delivered one of the most shockingly vivid portrayals of domestic violence we’ve ever seen on screen — and one with incredible complexity, as Celeste defended her violent husband Perry in intense therapy scenes and battled to keep her family together. It’s a towering achievement, and Kidman deserves every last accolade thrown her way.
JESSICA LANGE, FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: As if it wasn’t enough that she made us forget all about Mommie Dearest! In Season 1 of the FX anthology series, the three-time Emmy winner gave a performance that was so strong and so sure — especially in its depiction of Crawford’s desperation and insecurity — that we couldn’t help but feel for the falling star, even as she strove to stoop lower than the men who pitted her and Davis against one another.
OPRAH WINFREY, THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: It’s no mean feat to vanish into a role when you’re so famous and successful that you have your own network. But in HBO’s docudrama about the African-American cancer patient whose stolen cells paved the way for untold medical breakthroughs, Winfrey took her accomplishment a hundred steps further, not only disappearing into the part of Lacks’ daughter Deborah but also revealing with unwavering honesty her real-life character’s tenacity and pain.
REESE WITHERSPOON, BIG LITTLE LIES
WHY SHE DESERVES A NOD: Kidman’s role was edgier and more devastating, but Reese’s job wasn’t easy, either: She had to make Madeline McKenzie irritating, but also sympathetic, but also hilarious — and she nailed all three. Madeline’s bitchy quips were a weekly highlight, but Reese also navigated the Monterey queen bee’s softer side with admirable ease. Her chin, trembling with guilt while Madeline’s husband Ed sang her a love song in the finale, is worth a nomination all on its own.