Emmy episode analysis: Cherry Jones (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’) returns for the second time for Season 2

Blessed be the fruit! Hulu racked up 11 Emmy nominations for three orphaned episodes from “The Handmaid’s Tale‘s” sophomore season, including one for Cherry Jones in Best Drama Guest Actress. It was her second consecutive bid in this category for the series (she competed for Season 2 last year too, losing to costar Samira Wiley), in which she appears as June’s (Elisabeth Moss) feminist firebrand mother, Holly. Jones previously won a prize as Best Drama Supporting Actress for “24.”

In “Holly,” flashbacks give audiences a glimpse of June’s first pregnancy with Hannah. Her mother promises to be there for the birth of her granddaughter, but June is skeptical given how frequently absent she is while trotting the globe to fight her causes. In the present, June gives birth to the Waterford’s child, who she names Holly in a tribute to the woman who has inspired her to rebel against her captors.

Can Jones win for this episode? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

SEE A guest win for Cherry Jones would make ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ achieve a rare Emmy three-peat


“The Handmaid’s Tale” is an Emmy darling, racking up the second most nominations amongst dramas (behind the record-setting 32 amassed by “Game of Thrones”) with only three episodes that aired a year ago. It’s especially popular amongst actors, who have showered it with prizes for Moss, Wiley, Ann Dowd and Alexis Bledel. So Jones could benefit from that.

Voters love the ladies of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and have given it a win in this category two years in a row (Bledel in 2017 and Wiley in 2018). Considering Jones doesn’t have to compete against her own costar this year, she’s the only contender who can carry on the show’s unbeaten record in Best Drama Guest Actress.

In “Holly,” Jones gives some heartbreaking context to June’s journey towards political dissent, and her own desires to be a good mother to her children. For a show that often engenders big emotions, this episode certainly makes us cry.

Jones made an appearance in “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” third season, which aired just before Emmy voting started on August 15. So she’s definitely fresh in their minds.

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Sure, Hulu’s strategy paid off with nominations, but will it pay off with wins? There might be more than a few voters who turn their noses to the idea of rewarding the second season two years in a row, even though they’d just now be getting around to honoring Jones.

This category is stacked, with previous winners Jones, Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story: Apocalypse”) and Cicely Tyson (“How to Get Away with Murder”) competing against returning nominees Laverne Cox (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Phylicia Rashad (“This Is Us”) and first time contender Carice van Houten (“Game of Thrones”). It’s far from a cakewalk for anybody, even an Emmy favorite like Jones.

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