Emmy episode analysis: Will Kevin Spacey (‘House of Cards’) win votes during election year?

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Kevin Spacey has two Oscars (Supporting for “The Usual Suspects” in 1995, Lead for “American Beauty” in 1999) and a Tony (“Lost in Yonkers,” 1991) but has lost all six of his previous Emmy races. This year he is a  Best Drama Actor nominee for the third year running for playing conniving politico Frank Underwood on “House of Cards” (he has also reaped three additional bids as a producer of the Netflix hit). Earlier this year, Spacey won the Golden Globe and SAG award. Can his episode submission, “Chapter 32” win over Emmy voters?

Click here to see the updated list of all 2015 Emmy episode submissions

Frank and Claire (Robin Wright) travel to Moscow to negotiate the release of an imprisoned US citizen. Claire visits the young man, Michael Corrigan, in his cell as Frank tries to settle the terms of the peace treaty with Viktor Petrov. Claire informs Corrigan that Petrov will only release him if he gives a statement apologizing to Russia for his unlawful actions, which he refuses to do.

With both parties too stubborn to budge, Frank and Claire try desperately to reach an agreement, leading to a tragic conclusion that not only threatens the U.S.’s standing with Russia, but their marriage as well. Will Spacey’s episode entry help him win his first Emmy? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:

The current political climate could work in Spacey’s favor. It has been impossible to avoid the constant coverage of the 2016 presidential campaigns, despite the election being more than a year away. This season sees Frank running for re-election, and if it’s true that Emmy voters are influenced by current events, “House of Cards” might be on their minds more than we think.

Spacey is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, as evidenced by his two Oscar wins. The Emmy has so far eluded him (he also contended for Miniseries/Movie Actor for “Recount” and as a producer of “Bernard and Doris,” both in 2008). After wins at SAG and the Golden Globes, he should be the default frontrunner.

“Chapter 32” shows off Spacey’s range as an actor. Throughout the episode, Frank takes on a more passive role, saving his signature rage for the finale scene in which old wounds are made new again with Claire. It’s a volcanic moment which reinforces the central theme of the character: he may be charming, but it’s all a mask. The scene may come as a shock to viewers who make it through to the end.

The actor faces stiff competition from Jon Hamm, who’s competing for the very last time for “Mad Men.” Perhaps voters will feel inclined to wait knowing Spacey will most likely be back in the race next year?

Many would also argue that Wright was more of an active force in the episode, and indeed, she did submit it for her own nomination. Frank’s big moment doesn’t come until the last scene, whereas the dramatic crux of “Chapter 32” rises and falls with Claire’s decisions. It stands to reason that a vote for Wright could mean a vote for Spacey, but that’s shaky ground to stand on when it comes to Emmy predicting.

Finally, “House of Cards” didn’t receive as many nominations this year as it did for its first two seasons, with key snubs in the writing and directing categories. However, the show did pick up two trophies at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, for composer Jeff Beal and guest star Reg E. Cathey. Whether or not this will help or hurt Spacey’s chances remains to be seen.

Experts Emmy predictions: All 32 categories

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Photo Credit: Netflix

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