Pro: As Rick's buddy-turned-enemy, Shane, Bernthal got to play a complicated dude pressed to his limits by circumstances. Well, that and zombies. His tenderness with Lori, coupled with his season-long simmering anger at Rick, made for quite an Emmy-worthy turn.
Con: At the end of the day, this show is about zombies. Unless Emmy voters have a huge awakening, it'll probably stay in the makeup-and-special-effects ghetto they stuck it in last year.
Robert Carlyle, Once Upon a Time
Pro: Much like Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, Carlyle is a renowned actor kicking tail in a fantasy drama. Dinklage felt the Emmy love last year; could be time for Carlyle to follow suit.
Con:Once's fairytale premise may be too far outside the magical wardrobe for the Academy to take seriously. And if you're not down with the Enchanted Forest, you're definitely not down with Carlyle's take on the golden trickster.
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Pro: The ups and downs of Will's affair with Alicia, along with his eventual suspension from practicing law and the shadows of his gambling addiction, gave Charles plenty to play with this season. After last year's nomination, this could be his time.
Con: Honestly, there's not much working against the talented actor. He's doing solid work in a solid show, and he's a good, safe bet.
Michael Cudlitz, Southland
Pro: Cudlitz's portrayal of John Cooper — a man in some serious physical and emotional pain, as well as one who plays his sexuality pretty close to the bulletproof vest — has been a realistic thing of beauty from Season 1.
Con: If the Academy dismisses Southland as just another cop show, and Cudlitz as just another boy in blue, he doesn't have a chance.
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Pro: As Peter's campaign manager, Cumming is blunt, rude, and incredibly fun to watch. And with two past nominations in his back pocket, he's clearly captured Emmy voters' attention.
Con: If Cumming and co-star Josh Charles (Will) go head-to-head, they may cancel each other out.
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Pro: He won last year, and his Tyrion has become even more human — and fun to watch — in season 2.
Con: Despite Dinklage's mastery, Emmy voters may want to go back to voting for actors on series that don't involve dragons and the blue-eyed undead.
Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
Pro: As a seriously scary meth mogul masquerading as an upright citizen, Esposito ruled the AMC drama this season. And now that Gus is [SPOILER ALERT] no longer with us, this could be Esposito's last chance at a statue for a while.
Con: The Emmys have smiled on Breaking Bad numerous times in the past. If fatigue has set in, Esposito has less hope for an award than Gus has of passing the pearly gates.
Walton Goggins, Justified
Pro: Goggins' Boyd Crowder is the human embodiment of an ethical gray area, which makes him fascinating to watch. The former messiah figure's all-in return to crime meant Goggins had ample opportunities to show off his moral tightrope-walking skills.
Con: Neal McDonough’s flashy turn as Season 3’s Big Bad could lead to vote-splitting.
Shawn Hatosy, Southland
Pro: As Sammy returned to patrol after the death of pal and partner Nate, Hatosy's performance was truly one of L.A.'s finest.
Con: If Hatosy is pitted against co-star Michael Cudlitz, they may cancel each other out.
Joel Kinnaman, The Killing
Pro: Amazing acting keeps us coming back to The Killing, even when the story's pace goes from snail to glacial. Kinnaman's portrayal of recovered-addict-turned-detective Holder is a huge part of that; let's hope Emmy voters agree.
Con: If the Killing lands any nods — and that’s a big if — it’ll probably be for lead actress (and ’11 nominee) Mireille Enos.
Robert Sean Leonard, House
Pro: Artfully playing a cancer patient in a beloved show's final season? Sounds like statuette territory to us.
Con: Despite great work as the titular character's straitlaced foil, Leonard hasn't nabbed a nomination in House's entire eight-season run.
Neal McDonough, Justified
Pro: The ambiguously dead Quarles is a killer, drug dealer, thief, kidnapper, and Oxycontin addict — and we still love to watch him do his thing. Think that has anything to do with the fact that McDonough is so damn good?
Con: McDonough's gritty turn as such an extremely bad guy may be a hard sell with the Academy.
John Noble, Fringe
Pro: Playing loose cannon and kinda-mad genius Walter — as well as his parallel, Walternate — is equal parts high drama, sci-fi intrigue, and human connection, sometimes all in the same scene. Noble nails it every time.
Con:Fringe is science fiction, not traditionally an Emmy magnet.
Nick Nolte, Luck
Pro: As Walter, Gettn'Up Morning's elderly trainer, Nolte brought complexity to what could've been a gruff, one-note character. Plus, his last Emmy nod came for Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976.
Con: HBO yanked the trauma-plagued drama before it could leave the second-season gate; it might be difficult for Nolte to surmount the defunct series' bad press.
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Pro: Patinkin brings a fatherly warmth to Saul's interaction with Claire Danes' Carrie, but the TV and theater vet can also play great anger and duplicity. He's an able anchor for a stellar cast.
Con: After such a successful career, Emmy voters may view Patinkin as "been there, done that"— though his last nomination came in his Chicago Hope years.
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Pro: Paul's Jesse may not have become the teacher in this past season, but he's certainly working his way up to TA — and Paul's portrayal of his character's dangerous dealings, all done with Walter's well-being in mind, was captivating. Plus, he nabbed an Emmy for the role in 2010.
Con: He nabbed an Emmy for the role in 2010. The Academy may want to spread the wealth.
Ron Perlman, Sons of Anarchy
Pro: Clay's forced step-down as president of SAMCRO, and the way that Perlman played everything that lead up to it this season, had Emmy written all over it.
Con: Twice nominated for Beauty and the Beast, Perlman tends to pick the kind of projects that don't result in shiny statuettes.
Michael Pitt, Boardwalk Empire
Pro: [SPOILER ALERT] Jimmy may be gone, but Pitt's take on Nucky's protégé will stay with us for a long time.
Con: Though it was lauded for direction, etc. last year, the HBO period drama hasn't been able to stick an acting nomination yet.
John Slattery, Mad Men
Pro: Slattery has been nominated four times for his portrayal of the smooth-talking silver fox. Maybe the fifth — and his character's hilarious LSD-trip episode — will prove the charm?
Con: This season, Roger had all the good lines but not much opportunity for the kind of meaty scenes that Emmy voters crave. Maybe it'll take next season, and some daddy drama with Kevin and Joan, to nab that elusive accolade.
Michael K. Williams, Boardwalk Empire
Pro: Chalky owns whatever room he's in because of Williams' talent. We'd raise a glass to him any day.
Con: As we noted in Pitt's entry, Boardwalk hasn't cracked into the Emmy acting ranks yet.