Emmy episode analysis: Matt Smith (‘The Crown’) acknowledges the essence of his duty in ‘Mystery Man’

After being snubbed for the first season of Netflix’s “The Crown” in Best Drama Actor, Matt Smith was able to reap a nomination in Best Drama Supporting Actor this year, making it his inaugural Emmy bid. This will be the last chance to reward Smith for playing Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as Tobias Menzies will be taking over his role when the show jumps forward in time in its upcoming third season.

The episode Smith has chosen to submit for consideration is the second season finale, “Mystery Man,” his very last episode on the show. It opens on Prince Philip, who visits London osteopath Stephen Ward (Richard Lintern) after injuring his neck. One year later, 1963, the government finds itself in the midst of a crisis as the infamous Profumo Affair becomes public. Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode) approach Philip when they suspect that he’s the “mystery man,” an unidentified male in a photo taken at a party hosted by Ward.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy), expecting her fourth child, retreats to Balmoral Castle due to health reasons. However, she’s soon informed that Ward, who had been charged with immorality offenses, has taken his life and that a portrait of Philip has been found in his belongings. When Philip arrives in Scotland, she confronts him about the recent rumors, telling him that he’s a “mystery man” to her. After explaining his relationship to Ward, Philip reaffirms his love and support for his wife, citing the essence of his duty.

Will the former “Doctor Who” star be crowned on his first and only go-round for the Netflix drama? Let’s dive into the pros and cons.

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While he may not have a lot of screen time in “Mystery Man,” Smith delivers when he’s on-camera, showing a range emotion, which his character hadn’t often allowed him to do prior to the show’s second season finale. Particularly, Philip’s confrontation with Elizabeth allows Smith to humanize this complex, complicated, yet dependable character, adding sides to him that we haven’t seen so far. Seeing Philip declare his love and support for his wife is one of the most memorable scenes of the show, let alone the second season. Actors could easily be impressed by Smith’s ability to channel emotions solely with his eyes, facial expressions, and gestures.

The Emmys love repeat winners. Smith could follow in the footsteps of reigning champ John Lithgow, who won for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Crown”‘s freshman season. Not to mention, next to himself, the show was able to add Kirby and Goode to its acting bids, which only demonstrates support for the show in the acting branch, doubling its acting nominations from two last year to four this year. Also, voters love to award actors portraying real-life characters, much like Lithgow last year.

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While Smith is very strong in his submission, he has a lot of competition to overcome. He finds himself competing against Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”), David Harbour (“Stranger Things”), Joseph Fiennes (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”). Dinklage and Patinkin are previous winners, Harbour is the heart and soul of “Stranger Things,” Coster-Waldau and Fiennes are both up for previous Drama Series winners. These factors may make it difficult for Smith to prevail.

Time and again we’ve seen Emmy voters award bigger, more explosive performances over smaller, more subtle ones. Unlike Lithgow who underwent a physical transformation, had to put on a British accent, and had very showy material, Smith is rather subtle and doesn’t “transform” in the way that Lithgow did. He’s also playing a much more divisive and complicated character and doesn’t really get to show all of Philip’s sides until his submission.

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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 winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. 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.

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