How Laura Linney could pull a Jason Bateman at the Emmys with a directing win for ‘Ozark’

While Laura Linney could finally nab her first Emmy for playing Wendy Byrde on “Ozark,” there is another way she can be rewarded for the Netflix drama this year: as the director of the fourth and final season’s 11th episode, “Pound of Flesh and Still Kickin’.” If submitted for this effort, her directorial debut, Linney could pull off a victory in a similar fashion to her co-star and onscreen hubby Jason Bateman, who still hasn’t earned an acting Emmy for the show but won directing when no one expected it in 2019.

Bateman was all the way down in sixth place in our odds when he won for the Season 2 opener, “Reparations.” But in retrospect, we shouldn’t have underestimated the eventual champ, who had built a ton of goodwill as one of the show’s stars, executive producers and main directors. By that point, he had directed six of the first and second seasons’ combined 20 episodes, including the pilot, and been shortlisted for helming the Season 1 finale, “The Toll,” and in acting the preceding year. In 2019, he retained his drama actor nom and was also recognized as a producer as part of “Ozark’s” inaugural drama series bid. Being up for multiple categories and arguably overdue for the show in general probably helped tip him over the edge for directing, which was one of two categories in which voters could recognize him individually.

SEE Can Laura Linney (finally) win an acting Emmy for ‘Ozark’? It’s her last chance

Now, that very same combination could propel Linney to a victory. Despite being a four-time champ for acting, the actress has yet to win an Emmy — or any major hardware, for that matter — for portraying Wendy. Presently in second place in our odds, she is expected to scoop up her third consecutive drama actress nom for the show and might very well have her best shot at winning, given that it’s voters’ last chance to reward her for this role. But since every non-program category is voted on solely by its corresponding peer group, and members of the directing branch therefore can’t vote in the acting categories, the only way they would be able to pay Linney her due individually is for directing. (Note: while she also served as a co-executive producer on Season 4, it is, as of this writing, unclear whether she would be credited as part of a series nomination.)

While Linney’s episode isn’t as patently bombastic as others in the final season, neither was Bateman’s winning installment relative to the rest of Season 2. And even so, “Pound of Flesh and Still Kickin'” still chronicles crucial story development, as Wendy enlists Camila’s (Veronica Falcón) help in forcing Clare (Katrina Lenk) to resume financing the Byrde Family Foundation and proposes Camila replace Marty (Bateman) as acting head of the cartel. After an imprisoned Navarro (Felix Solis) accepts the proposal and Marty has no choice but to agree, the latter’s anger at his wife for making all-important decisions without him boils over during a climactic road rage incident. Just hand Linney the Emmy for imbuing this emotionally charged sequence with much-welcomed comedy and directing herself to a pitch-perfect line reading of “Oh, suck my c—, a——!” (see below).

SEE How Julia Garner could enter Emmy record territory with 3rd win for ‘Ozark’

The biggest hurdle for Linney would probably be the nomination itself. Unlike Bateman, she wasn’t one of the show’s staple directors and would compete as a rookie contender in a category that tends to favor household names. What’s more, she would almost certainly face internal competition from other submitted “Ozark” directors, a group that could include Andrew Bernstein, Alik Sakharov, Robin Wright, Amanda Marsalis, Melissa Hickey and Bateman himself, who directed the series finale.

However, the good news for Linney is that the directing branch has an affinity for the Netflix drama — which has earned a total of five citations in the category — and has had no problem shortlisting multiple directors for one season (Bateman was nominated alongside Daniel Sackheim for Season 1 in 2018, while Sakharov and Ben Semanoff were both cited for Season 3 in 2020). Plus, “Ozark” has been on a steady upward trajectory at the Emmys, going from five noms for its debut season to nine for its second to a whopping 18 for its third. It’s entirely possible that the show, which is currently in third place in our drama series odds, now breaks its previous record with its final season and yields a couple of surprising bids, including one for Linney for directing.

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