Emmy episode analysis: Viola Davis (‘How to Get Away with Murder’) could win Emmy following Oscar

Two years ago Viola Davis made history when she became the first African-American to win an Emmy for Best Drama Actress for her role as Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How to get Away with Murder.” After winning an Oscar earlier this year for “Fences,” Davis could cap off an incredible year if she were to win Emmy number two next month. This is her third straight nomination for playing the high-powered law professor on ABC’s hit thriller, but after a loss last year to “Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany, can Davis rebound for another win? Davis submitted the Season 3 finale, “Wes,” for Emmy consideration.

As the chilling details of Wes’ (Alfred Enoch) murder come to light, Annalise and her students prove once again how far they will go to protect themselves while uncovering their classmate’s killer. After discovering Wes’ father was a rapist, Annalise confronts his biological grandmother who she not only feels could have prevented his death, but also participated in the accident that killed her unborn child. Then, to protect herself and her student Connor Walsh from being wrongfully imprisoned for Wes’ murder, Annalise convinces the District Attorney that Wes committed suicide and to drop all charges.

While the true killer of Wes was revealed to viewers at home, Annalise and her students never did learn the truth behind his murder. Can Davis win her second career Emmy for this episode? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:


Having won an Emmy, Oscar and Tony Award, Davis is one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood. She is without question the most celebrated among the nominees, giving her name extra clout when voters are checking off their ballots.

Davis has never been afraid to shed the Hollywood glamour for the sake of her craft. In this episode, she appears without makeup and disheveled throughout one extended scene. Voters love that she dives deep into her characters with no concern for superficial exteriors.

Davis balances the character of Annalise brilliantly. She consistently has to show the unyielding strength of a ruthless attorney in one scene, while nose-diving into a vulnerable sadness the next. The final scene of this episode ends with her pouring her heart out at a grief counseling meeting as she talks about how Wes was like a son to her. The tear-jerking, nose-running heartbreak she expresses is a powerful way to end her performance.

SEE 2017 Emmy nominations list: All the nominees


As brilliant as Davis is, “How to Get Away with Murder” is not a series on the radar of most Emmy voters. The only other nomination this year went to Cicely Tyson in the Best Drama Guest Actress category. Davis defied odds once by giving such a gutsy performance that voters didn’t care if they actually liked the show or not. Can she do it again?

For the same reasons her stacked awards shelf make her impossible to ignore, it also makes her easy to take for granted. Voters might feel as though she’s gotten enough love, while other actresses in her category are deserving of their time to shine: Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”), Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”). With so much depth in this category, will Emmy voters reward the woman with the most awards from the least loved series? If anyone can pull it off, it’s Davis.

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