Most Emmy experts are predicting either Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men“) or Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife“) to win Best Drama Actress at the Emmys next month, but to date, none of Gold Derby’s experts or editors and a scant few of our users are predicting Mireille Enos to win for playing homicide detective Sarah Linden on AMC’s “The Killing.” Is she really so far out of the race, or are we foolishly underestimating her?
After successful early ventures into original programming (“Broken Trail,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad,” all multiple Emmy winners), AMC premiered “The Killing” this spring to generally positive notices, but when the first season ended in June it left many critics and viewers unsatisfied; instead of solving the murder of Seattle teen Rosie Larsen, it ended with more misdirections and cliffhangers. The polarizing finale aired less than a week before Emmy nomination ballots were due, fueling speculation about whether its anticlimax would ruin the freshman drama’s chances.
But despite a snub in the Best Drama category, the series earned a healthy six nominations overall, including writing and directing bids for the pilot episode and acting nods for supporting actress Michelle Forbes and leading lady Enos. Though far from a household name, Enos has built an impressive list of stage and television credits over the last ten years, including a 2005 Tony Award nomination for playing Honey in a revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and three seasons on HBO’s “Big Love” as twin sisters Kathy and Jodeen Marquart.
Her performance as Det. Linden is marked by its understated professionalism, not a quality that typically appeals to Emmy voters, who prefer actors to deliver big, showy emotional crescendos like the rousing courtroom summations that won James Spader three Emmys for “The Practice” and “Boston Legal,” and the grand dramatic fireworks that earned Edie Falco and James Gandolfini their third Emmys for the “Whitecaps” episode of “The Sopranos.”
Moss and Margulies submitted such episodes to judges this year. Moss entered “The Suitcase,” in which she spends an emotional, alcohol-fueled night with Jon Hamm, and Margulies chose “In Sickness,” in which she copes with the discovery that her husband once slept with her best friend. But Enos has also presented an emotionally wrought, tearful performance to voters.
In her submission, “Missing,” Det. Linden and her partner, Det. Holder (Joel Kinnaman), shift focus from their murder investigation to the sudden disappearance of Linden’s teenage son, and as tension mounts Linden’s cool reserve gives way to fear and desperation, allowing Enos to play a broader range of emotions; in the climactic scene she breaks down and cries when she discovers a murdered boy she mistakenly believes is her son. The episode, much like Moss’s “The Suitcase,” suspends its regular storylines to focus exclusively on its two main characters. Enos is front and center throughout, and she plays a complete emotional arc.
She wouldn’t be the first actress to win an Emmy for playing a detective. Like Tyne Daly (“Cagney & Lacey”) and Patricia Arquette (“Medium”), Enos plays woman juggling police work and motherhood. And much like the episode that won Mariska Hargitay her Emmy for “Law & Order: SVU” in 2006, her submission is all about the search for a missing child. But though female cops and crime fighters have become a common sight on TV these days (see also: “Bones,” “Covert Affairs,” and “Rizzoli & Isles“), only a dozen have prevailed at the Emmys. Can Enos join their exclusive ranks? Enter your predictions, and then take a look back at the women who came before. VIEW GALLERY