Emmy episode analysis: Cicely Tyson (‘How to Get Away with Murder’) runs the gamut of emotions in ‘I’m Going Away’

Cicely Tyson has earned yet another Emmy nomination this year for playing Ophelia Harkness, feisty mother to Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) on “How to Get Away with Murder.” This is her third nomination in four years for the ABC drama in the Best Drama Guest Actress category, but she has yet to win. However, Tyson is a major Emmy favorite with three prior victories under her belt and now 14 nominations.

Tyson’s episode submission this year is “I’m Going Away,” the Season 4 premiere of “How to Get Away with Murder” in which Annalise has a dramatic visit with Ophelia. After Annalise informs Ophelia that she wants to put her in a nursing home, Ophelia is very resistant but ends up having a dementia spell that night. Once Annalise snaps her out of it, Ophelia agrees to visit the nursing home. After the trip Annalise asks her mother what she wants to do, to which Ophelia admits her mind is going and she wants to protect her daughter from losing someone else close to her.

Will Tyson’s powerhouse submission be enough to finally win for “How to Get Away with Murder”? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

PROS

She’s Cicely Tyson. This 93-year-old legend continues to put in great work in both film and television, and Ophelia Harkness is one of her most loved characters. Tyson has earned at least one Emmy nomination every decade since the 1970s, in addition to a Tony Award and an Oscar nomination. With this being Tyson’s third Emmy bid for “HTGAWM,” her portrayal of Ophelia is clearly beloved by the Television Academy, and if voters don’t know where to go in this category, they may default to finally giving her a trophy for this character.

Tyson also has one of the most dynamic and emotional submissions in the Drama Guest Actress category. This is some of the best material she has ever had on “How to Get Away with Murder,” and even those who no longer watch the show can easily digest her storyline and feel the impact. Tyson shows a full range of emotion in the episode, from joking about Annalise’s “booty,” to her anger at the thought of leaving her home, to her confusion during the night, to her tearful acceptance about her deteriorating mind. If voters are really watching the episodes, Tyson certainly has to be considered one of the top contenders.

SEE How to watch Drama Guest Actress Emmy episode submissions for Viola Davis, Diana Rigg, Samira Wiley …

CONS

Tyson’s biggest obstacle is her show. She is the sole representative for “How to Get Away with Murder” at the Emmys this year, even if Davis is ironically nominated against her for playing Annalise in her “Scandal” guest spot. Tyson’s other competition includes actresses from two of the most beloved shows in the academy, “Game of Thrones” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” both of which voters are watching way more than “How to Get Away with Murder.”

Then there’s the fact that Tyson has yet to win for this character. She was nominated previously in 2015 and 2017, when she lost to Margo Martindale in “The Americans” and Alexis Bledel in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” respectively. While Bledel certainly had the most buzz that year, for Tyson to lose to Martindale for a two-minute scene in “The Americans” suggests that while voters may find Tyson nomination-worthy, a win may be a step too far. However, “I’m Going Away” is such a dynamite submission that voters may finally decide it’s time to reward her in this role.

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