Caitriona Balfe was shockingly snubbed at the 2016 Emmys for her tour de force performance in Season 2 of “Outlander.” It was one of those snubs that was so inexcusable, so unthinkable, that many fans and pundits still scratch their heads in disbelief to this very day. Hey, Emmy voters: Now is your chance to make amends for this inexplicable oversight and hand Balfe a deserving IOU Best Drama Actress nomination on July 12. You can do it!
In “Outlander” Balfe plays Claire Randall, a married nurse in 1945. After being mysteriously transported back in time to the rugged highlands of 1743 Scotland, she falls in love with rough diamond Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and they embark on a journey that will take them back and forth between centuries and continents.
Balfe has been lauded by fans and critics for playing the strong and magnetic Claire, with the show recognized for its gorgeous production design and costumes. However, it has yet to make an impression with Emmy voters other than three measly creative arts noms (for its music in 2015 and for its sets and costumes in 2016). But this might be about to change, particularly for leading lady Balfe. Here’s five reasons why we she could break through and claim that nod that has to date eluded her.
1. Balfe should have been nominated for Season 2. It’s redemption time.
When “Faith” (the seventh episode of “Outlander” Season 2) aired back in May 2016, Balfe became a serious contender for her first Emmy nom. The episode was Balfe’s showcase from start to finish, as she was dealt a devastating blow when she lost her child during birth. It’s a performance that should’ve easily landed Balfe a much-deserved Emmy nomination. Her odds looked good, as some of our Experts and Editors backed her as a likely nominee. Fast forward to the nominations announcement a couple of months later, and Balfe was left off the list.
With “Outlander” eligible at the Emmys this year, voters will hopefully be reminded that Balfe is overdue for some Emmy love and remedy that outrageous snub from 2016.
2. Season 3 gave Balfe even more to do.
The dynamite third season of “Outlander” saw Claire travel back to her life in 1948, pregnant with the daughter she conceived with Jamie, who she has left behind in 18th century Scotland. After 20 years raising her daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton), Claire finds a way to travel back in time and reunites with her true love Jamie. They then embark on a perilous journey to the new world, where they encounter old enemies and new challenges.
Season 3 gave Balfe more opportunities to shine on her own, as she carries much of the story in 1960s Scotland for the first few episodes. She farewells her dead husband Frank (Tobias Menzies), and then leaves her daughter in the 1960s to reunite with Jamie back in the 18th century. Then later in the season, she dramatically shipwrecks off the coast of Jamaica. In “Uncharted,” Balfe’s knockout performance reminds us of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away,” as a desperate, dehydrated and broken Claire struggles to survive on what appears to be a desolate tropical island. The episode has impact, range and emotion in spades, and is the best showcase Balfe has had since “Faith.”
3. Forget the Starz blind spot.
We have often complained about the Emmys’ strange blind spot for Starz. Time and time again, Starz has performed well at other kudofests with shows like “American Gods,” “The Dresser” and “The Girlfriend Experience,” but then the Emmys roll around and the network is dealt a couple of throw-away creative arts nods for “Black Sails” and “Da Vinci’s Demons.” It would be a significant breakthrough for Starz if Balfe scores her first bid. To date Chiwetel Ejiofor is the only actor to receive a nomination from a Starz show (Best Movie/Mini Actor for “Dancing on the Edge” in 2014).
The good news for Starz is that over the last couple of years, the Emmy landscape has changed even more, with streaming services joining pay cable, basic cable and the broadcast networks as yet another alternative for content in this Peak TV era. Three years ago, most voters would have said “What’s Hulu?” Then last year, the streamer swept the field with “The Handmaid’s Tale.” TV is ever-changing. Don’t count Balfe out just because Starz has failed to make an impact in the past.
4. The Emmys are sometimes slow on the uptake.
It took Keri Russell three seasons until the Emmys nominated her for Best Drama Actress for her role on “The Americans.” She has been nominated the last two years and is a frontrunner for a third consecutive nod this year. Connie Britton also waited three seasons until her two consecutive Best Drama Actress nods for “Friday Night Lights.” It only took two seasons for the Emmys to cotton on to Tatiana Maslany for “Orphan Black.” You get the drift.
The Emmys sometimes take a little longer to get with the program. Balfe has been waiting in the wings for a nomination for two seasons, and maybe she might follow in the footsteps of Russell, Britton and Maslany and make a late entrance on her third go-round, after already racking up three consecutive Golden Globe nominations and a Critics Choice Television Award bid.
5. Best Drama Actress has one free slot.
Five of last year’s six nominees are back in the running, with 2017 winner Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and 2015 winner Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”) likely to return along with Russell (“The Americans”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“The Westworld”).
With Robin Wright sitting this year out because “House of Cards” didn’t air this season, there are a few ladies vying for that last slot. According to our combined Emmy odds, Balfe is in contention along with Mandy Moore (“This is Us”), Laura Linney (“Ozark”), previous nominees Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) and Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”), and 2016 winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) all in with a shot.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.