Last year, the race for Best Drama Directing was one of the easiest of all categories to predict. Winner Martin Scorsese had name recognition, "Boardwalk Empire" had tons of buzz, and the pilot episode was arguably one of the best-helmed entries in the category.
This year is an entirely different story. With no obvious frontrunner in the race, it's truly anyone's game.
"Boardwalk Empire" hopes to two-peat in this race, this time for the episode "To the Lost" directed by Tim Van Patten. This would be the popular TV director's first win, after eight losses for helming episodes of such popular series as "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City" and "Game of Thrones" and the epic miniseries "The Pacific." However, the question remains, can "Boardwalk Empire" win such a prestigious award without Scorsese's name on the ballot?
Vince Gilligan, the showrunner of "Breaking Bad," is nominated for the second time in this race, after losing in 2008 for directing the show's pilot. This time around Gilligan is recognized for directing the fourth-season finale "Face Off" in which Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finally takes his revenge on his arch nemesis Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
Last year's winner of the Movie/Miniseries Directing race, Brian Percival, hopes to win back-to-back trophies for "Downton Abbey" which now contends as a drama series. Just like scriptwriter Julian Fellowes, Percival's nominated episode is the Christmas finale "Episode Seven."
Newcomer to the race Michael Cuesta directed the pilot episode of "Homeland" and has a unique shot at winning here, as first episodes tend to have an advantage in this race. Over recent years, the directors of the pilot episodes of "Boardwalk Empire," "Lost," "Deadwood," "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing" all claimed gold in this category.
The final slot in this race goes to perennial nominee "Mad Men" for the episode "The Other Woman" directed by Phil Abraham. Despite three previous nominations by various helmers (Alan Taylor in 2008, Abraham in 2009 and Lesli Linka Glatter in 2010) "Mad Men," which has won four consecutive Best Drama Series races, has never won the Emmy for directing.