Mandy Patinkin has this year garnered his third Best Drama Supporting Actor Emmy nomination for portraying CIA operative Saul Berenson on Showtime’s “Homeland.” This marks the actor’s sixth career nomination, having previously been recognized for “Chicago Hope” in 1995 and 1999, winning on the first occasion, and “The Larry Sanders Show” in 1992. Patinkin, also a Tony Award winner (Best Musical Featured Actor for “Evita” in 1980), has submitted for voters’ consideration the season finale, titled “America First.”
In the episode, Saul praises President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) for confronting a radio host (Jake Weber) who has been hellbent on discrediting her son, a fallen soldier. Not long after Saul assures Keane that her anxiety over the presidency is perfectly normal, the two, along with Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), are whisked away in the wake of a threat to the president-elect.
Six weeks after the terrifying incident, which claimed multiple lives, Saul is among a group of intelligence officials reassured by Carrie, now working under President Keane, that all of their jobs will be safe. Saul confronts Carrie after the meeting, concerned that she’s working too hard. Saul then visits longtime colleague and black ops specialist Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), now in prison for conspiring against Keane and still suspicious about the new commander-in-chief.
As the episode comes to a close, Saul frantically calls Carrie. He is among countless members of the intelligence community who have been arrested due to apparent connection to the assassination attempt on Keane. Saul blames this on what he sees as paranoia on the president’s part. Carrie is prevented from entering the Oval Office when she goes in to confront Keane. Could “America First” secure Patinkin his first Emmy win for the series?
Patinkin is a beloved veteran of the stage and screen, so respected among his peers that he managed to return to Drama Supporting Actor — three years since his last appearance in the category — even as “Homeland” and co-star Danes were dropped from Drama Series and Drama Actress. Given he has yet to score an Emmy for the role of Saul Berenson and his “Chicago Hope” victory went down more than 20 years ago, some voters may view Patinkin as due for a win.
While his screen time is modest in “America First” (a tad over 10 minutes), Patinkin has a warm and wise presence that is plenty welcome in an episode otherwise full of action-packed chaos. That his performance is so reserved early on makes Patinkin’s final scene — in which Saul, on the verge of arrest, desperately puts in a call to Carrie — all the more powerful.
Also, Emmy voters were quite fond of this episode, awarding it nominations in Drama Directing and Drama Sound Editing.
While Patinkin, per usual, makes the most of his screen time and does leave an impact with that final scene, he’s missing in action for the vast majority of “America First,” which is far more an acting showcase for Danes and Marvel. Patinkin was not without terrific episodes this season, perhaps most notably “The Covenant,” which makes this selection a tad perplexing.
More significant, “Homeland” has largely fallen off the map with the Emmys, claiming a series-low three nominations this year. Voter interest has gradually slipped since the second season’s scoring of a series-high 11 nominations. All the more daunting for Patinkin is the show’s failure to win a single Emmy since that sophomore season in 2013.
In all fairness to Patinkin, last year’s winner Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) had perhaps even greater cons in his Emmy bid and managed to claim victory. Better-positioned as arguably all six of Patinkin’s opponents are, anything can happen.
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