Emmy Episode Analysis: Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’) could repeat thanks to that knife scene

Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad“) won Best Drama Supporting Actress last year for submitting an episode (“Fifty-One”) in which she screamed at Bryan Cranston and wished his cancer would come back. In this year’s submission, “Ozymandias,” she ramps up the drama tenfold and actually has a physical altercation with him involving a knife. Is Emmy #2 a foregone conclusion?

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SYNOPSIS: “Ozymandias” begins with a flashback showing Walt and Skyler near the beginning of the “Breaking Bad” timeline before Walt went too far down into the abyss. The happy couple talks about naming their new baby Holly, as Skyler is none the wiser about Walt’s current whereabouts cooking meth in the desert. Cut to the present, where all hell has broken loose and Walt watches as Hank (Dean Norris) is murdered in front of him by neo-Nazi Uncle Jack.

Meanwhile, Skyler and Marie (Betsy Brandt) tell Walt Jr. the truth about his father after Marie informs her that Hank has Walt in custody. Walt survives the desert battle and returns home to pack up his things when Skyler arrives with the kids. Skyler is confused to see him there and falsely assumes that he killed Hank and ran away. She protects Walt Jr. and Holly with a knife and slices Walt’s hand when he tries to stop her, then they get into a physical fight before Walt Jr. calls the police.

Walt kidnaps Holly and drives away, and Skyler starts running down the street after him, covered in blood and screaming at the top of her lungs. Later, Walt calls the house and, knowing the police are listening, fabricates a lie to make it seem like Skyler knew nothing of his true crimes and that he forced her to keep secrets for him.

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Can Gunn take home her second Emmy for this role for “Ozymandias”? Let’s consider the pros and cons:

PROS:

The knife scene was the talk of the town after it aired last year. In fact, after Gunn won her Emmy, she went back to the press room and talked about that scene as it had just aired a week prior. Not only does she get to be in the scene with a lot of physical acting, but she also screams, cries and then runs down the street after Walt.

Thanks to the flashback in the beginning, we get to see two sides to Gunn in this episode. The innocent, young, smiling Skyler from years ago and the broken, tearful, damaged Skyler from present day. Gunn sells both versions of her character believably.

Gunn doesn’t just get one impact scene in this episode, she gets two. The knife scene may be the most memorable moment, but she also has a teary scene with sister Marie midway through the episode where she finally tells Walt Jr. the truth about his father.

CONS:

Is “Ozymandias” simply too dark for voters to rally behind? Excluding the brief flashback, there are no uplifting scenes or moments of levity for Gunn’s character. It’s all drama, death, torture and kidnapping from beginning to end.

The fact that Gunn won last year actually hurts her chances here. Only once in the past dozen years did a supporting actress win this category twice: Blythe Danner (“Huff”) in 2005 and 2006. Yes, Gunn’s co-nominee Maggie Smith earned two Emmys for “Downton Abbey,” but only one was in this race; the other was for Movie/Mini Supporting Actress.

The episode in question may have aired a year ago, but that shouldn’t hurt her chances because Emmy voters must sign an affidavit saying they watched all the nominated submissions back to back. Instead, what could hurt Gunn is that many other actresses have come along in the meantime with strong episodes of their own that feel fresher and more current, like Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey”) and Christine Baranski (“The Good Wife“).

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Gunn is currently in first place in our predictions with 2/5 odds. Do you agree with those odds, or are we over-praising last year’s winner? Make your own predictions below.

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