For her portrayal of Ruth Langmore on Netflix’s “Ozark,” Julia Garner won her first Emmy last year, in Best Drama Supporting Actress. With “Ozark’s” third season having dropped on March 27, she is now in the hunt for the statuette once again and would be just the seventh back-to-back winner in this category and the first since 2014.
The six thespians who achieved this feat before her are Ellen Corby for “The Waltons” (1975-76), Nancy Marchand for “Lou Grant” (1980-82), Bonnie Bartlett for “St. Elsewhere” (1986-87), Allison Janney for “The West Wing” (2000-01), Blythe Danner for “Huff” (2005-06) and Anna Gunn for “Breaking Bad” (2013-14). Garner would be the first to net back-to-back statuettes in this category under the new voting system, established in 2015 — but can she pull it off?
Repeat winners have been far more common on the comedy side, with this past decade seeing only two instances in Best Comedy Supporting Actress in which the winner hadn’t triumphed the year before: Jane Lynch for “Glee” in 2010 (Kristen Chenoweth won for “Pushing Daisies” in 2009) and Merritt Wever for “Nurse Jackie” in 2013 (Julie Bowen pulled off two straight wins for “Modern Family” in 2011 and 2012). On the drama side, however, the only back-to-back win in any acting category since the new voting system has been in place is Peter Dinklage’s Best Drama Supporting Actor victories in 2018 and 2019 for “Game of Thrones.”
This might seem like a tough hurdle for Garner to overcome, but she currently sits in third place in our odds. Rounding out the forecasted lineup are “The Crown’s” Helena Bonham Carter in first place, “Big Little Lies’” Meryl Streep and Laura Dern in second and fourth, respectively, “Westworld’s” Thandie Newton in fifth, and “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” Ann Dowd in sixth. Garner’s co-star Janet McTeer, who plays the spine-chilling cartel lawyer Helen Pierce, is on the outside looking in in seventh place.
Bar Newton, Garner might have a leg up over her projected competition in that her eligible “Ozark” season was released at the perfect time: during the final few months of eligibility and when voters are quarantined at home due to the coronavirus pandemic (“Westworld” is also currently airing its third season on HBO). Last year, she won for a season that aired an entire year before voting, despite the fact that her five competitors from “Game of Thrones” and “Killing Eve” were presumably more top of mind thanks to their shows’ April-to-May runs. Being the odd one out might have propelled her chances and could again now since “Big Little Lies,” “The Crown” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” all aired their eligible seasons last year, with “Lies” and “Handmaid’s” having bowed in June.
Of course, Garner also had the performance to back up her win, which is no different this year. After putting her through the wringer in the second season, the third installment sees Ruth on her feet again, co-managing the Missouri Belle’s casino operations alongside Marty (Jason Bateman). Garner continues to shine in channeling Ruth’s no-nonsense nature with glorious one-liners and in scenes, such as Ruth throwing Frank Cosgrove Jr. (Joseph Sikora) overboard after discovering foul play in a Missouri Belle poker game.
Like in the first two seasons, Garner also grounds her outlandishly entertaining character and continues to peel back Ruth’s many layers. She might be tough and resilient on the surface, but below, she’s just as vulnerable and broken as anyone else, from which Garner never shies away displaying, whether through vulnerable body language or mannerisms that point to deep-rooted insecurities.
This season, Ruth’s vulnerability is specifically brought to light in her romantic relationship with Wendy’s (Laura Linney) bipolar brother Ben (Tom Pelphrey) and in her season-long attempt to ask for Wyatt’s (Charlie Tahan) forgiveness after admitting to killing his father to protect Marty. Opposite Pelphrey, Garner is her most tender and sentimental as Ruth, which allows for subtler, but equally stunning, acting.
But it’s not long before things take a dramatic turn for Ruth: The seventh hour, “In Case of Emergency,” sees her hospitalized after being beaten up by Frank Jr., who holds her responsible for the attack on his men that occurred at the end of the sixth episode. Bound to a hospital bed, she asks Marty and Wendy to kill Frank Jr., but they refuse, which sparks outrage in Ruth. Garner balances fear and fury seamlessly, and puts you directly in Ruth’s complicated shoes. The episode ends with a touching and long-awaited heart-to-heart with Wyatt, who offers forgiveness and blames the Byrdes for their family’s problems. If Garner were to be nominated at the Emmys, this would be a perfect episode to submit as she has her full range of emotions on display in it.
And if that weren’t enough, Ruth is faced with Ben’s tragic loss in the season closer, after he outs Helen’s criminality to her daughter, forcing Helen to take action. When Ruth and Marty cremate Ben at the funeral home, Ruth is teary-eyed, but doesn’t break into full sobbing, which seems like a deliberate choice Garner made to accentuate the combination of anger, confusion and fear Ruth feels. These lingering feelings don’t burst until a later scene in the episode, in which she confronts Wendy about delivering Ben to Helen’s henchman and tells her and Marty that she will no longer work for them. Much like Ruth is no longer reining it in, neither is Garner in her expression of pure wrath.
After five Emmy noms for its debut season and nine for its second, including for Best Drama Series, “Ozark” is likely to see an uptick in nominations this year. In addition to Garner’s win, the second season picked up the Best Drama Directing trophy for Bateman, an unexpected victory, given that he overcame three “Thrones” entries in his race (“Thrones” was competing for its 32-nominated final season and won its fourth Best Drama Series prize).
Season 3 has also amassed glowing reviews, earning series-best scores on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Our odds are also forecasting acting bids for Bateman in Best Drama Actor, Linney in Best Drama Actress and Pelphrey in Best Drama Supporting Actor, which would further propel Garner’s winning chances. Don’t forget: Emmy voters crowned Garner before any other actor from “Ozark,” so there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to repeat if the show does indeed pick up more acting mentions.
Be sure to make your Emmy nominations predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before the nominees are announced on July 28. And join in the thrilling debate over the Emmy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.