No one knew what to expect from Marvel during its first year of Emmy eligibility. Bids in the craft and technical categories felt like a given, and there had been hope that the popularity and quality of “WandaVision” would translate into a few Emmy nominations, but nothing felt certain. After all, the feature films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe haven’t exactly been awards magnets. So when “WandaVision” earned 23 nominations — including for Best Limited Series and acting bids for stars Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn — it was a pleasant surprise.
Now, a full year later, with several more shows under its belt — the time-traveling drama “Loki,” the Christmas-themed comedy “Hawkeye,” the animated “What If…?” and the limited series “Moon Knight” are all eligible this year — Marvel is staring down a second Emmy season that is just as confusing as the first. Last year, “WandaVision” took home just three awards at the Creative Arts Emmys and went home empty-handed from the Primetime Emmys. The snub sent a clear message to fans: Voters might pretend they like high-concept genre shows, but when it comes down to it, they’ll fall back on what’s safe and familiar. Despite the ubiquitous nature of the MCU in 2022, the franchise doesn’t seem to qualify. So, is all hope lost? Should we assume our favorite superheroes, tricksters and avatars will be ignored?
In some ways, this year is much more difficult for Marvel. The novelty of the MCU’s official foray into TV has worn off slightly, while none of the shows eligible this year have matched what ”WandaVision” accomplished last year. The series was creatively ambitious, unlike anything we’d seen before and captured the zeitgeist in a way few shows have done. On top of that, it also honored TV as an art form. So it’s a bit unrealistic to think Marvel could repeat that level of success this year. But there’s also little reason to think it won’t at least make a decent showing.
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It’s been a year since Tom Hiddleston returned as the eponymous trickster in “Loki,” which isn’t ideal for voters who are already overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities before them. (There’s a reason many networks release their biggest and best projects in late spring, and it’s because they want the programs to be at the forefront of voters’ minds come voting time.) So Marvel likely would have been better off if it had stuck to its original timeline and released “Loki” just ahead of the eligibility cutoff for last year’s cycle. Still, despite poor planning, “Loki” remains one of the most visually interesting and creative series on TV, from its eye-catching production design to its distinctive score. Thus, it is the show that has the best chance of following in “WandaVision’s” footsteps.
Earlier this year, the drama series collected guild nominations like its leading man collects hearts. Production designer Kasra Farahani went home triumphant at the Art Directors Guild Awards, costume designer Christine Wada snagged a bid in the sci-fi/fantasy category from the Costume Designers Guild, and the show became the lone Marvel series to snag not one, but two nominations from the Writers Guild of America (drama series and new series). This tells us that “Loki” hasn’t been forgotten despite the time that has passed since it last aired, and it’s likely to do well in craft and technical categories. The fact that it’s an ongoing drama and competing against heavy hitters like “Succession,” popular series like “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game,” and perennial nominees like “Better Call Saul” and “Ozark” will not make a drama series nom easy, but the show is good enough to compete.
Also deceptively good is “Hawkeye,” which gives Marvel its best chance at a repeat win. “Save the City,” the original song performed in the premiere as part of the fictional Broadway show “Rogers: The Musical,” was written by Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The former also composed the tune and produced the audio recording as well, so unsurprisingly, the song is great and catchy enough to follow in the footsteps of last year’s “Agatha All Along” (though it didn’t have quite the hold on pop culture).
The decision to submit “Hawkeye” as a comedy rather than a limited series like many assumed is also a competent strategy — it means the Jeremy Renner-fronted series won’t have to compete against Oscar Isaac’s “Moon Knight.” But comedy is a deep category, led by strong contenders in “Barry” and last year’s winner, “Ted Lasso,” as well as the critically beloved “Hacks” and “Only Murders in the Building,” two shows that scheduled their second seasons well. Also vying for slots are former nominees “Atlanta,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” and freshman series “Abbott Elementary,” “Reservation Dogs” and “The Afterparty.” So the move to comedy might not benefit “Hawkeye” so much as clear competition for “Moon Knight” down the line. But it was likely still the right choice, since voters tend to prefer more dramatic shows in limited series anyway.
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Where nominations will be more scarce this year is in the acting categories. Hiddleston is well liked enough, and he continues to find new depths and new sides to the God of Mischief after more than a decade in his skin, but the race for drama actor features several previous winners and nominees, including Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox (Succession”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) and Jason Bateman (“Ozark”). Currently in 14th place at 100/1 odds, he’ll have to jump a number of spots to make it into a tight six-man race. It’s not likely to happen, and unfortunately, he’s the best chance Marvel has for its live-action series.
Renner, who is known more for gruffness and gravitas than his comedy chops, sits in 25th place in the race for Best Comedy Actor, this despite the fact he provided many laughs as the straight man to Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. The actress, who is also up for her work in “Dickinson” and “Arcane,” isn’t faring much better though. She’s in 30th place in the race for comedy actress, while Florence Pugh, who portrays fan favorite Yelena Belova, sits in 26th in supporting. Meanwhile, over in the crowded but somewhat weak limited series categories, Isaac sits in 11th place for Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor (he’s competing against a slew of former Marvel stars as well as himself, as he’s also eligible for his work on HBO’s “Scenes from a Marriage”), while Ethan Hawke is in 17th place in the corresponding supporting category.
So, if Marvel is hoping to nab acting nominations, it should probably turn its sights to the guest and voice-acting categories. Richard E. Grant, who portrayed Classic Loki, and Jonathan Majors, who embodied He Who Remains, a variant of Kang the Conqueror, are both viable candidates for Best Drama Guest Actor. While neither is a shoo-in the way Don Cheadle was for his two-minute appearance in “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” (Emmy voters love Cheadle), Grant is in 11th place, and Majors — who already has one major Emmy nomination under his belt, for “Lovecraft Country” — is in 15th.
Meanwhile, F. Murray Abraham, who memorably brought to life the god Khonshu in “Moon Knight,” is competing in Best Character Voice-Over Performance opposite Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, the late Chadwick Boseman as Star Lord T’Challa and Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher for the animated series “What If…?” It’s difficult to predict what voters might do here, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Boseman snagged a posthumous nomination as a way of recognizing one of his final roles and everything he meant to the MCU.
While the current crop of Marvel series might not have dominated the pop culture conversation the way “WandaVision” did, there are plenty of opportunities for the popular superhero franchise to leave its mark this year. The recognition might be more spread out amongst the shows and a bit harder to predict, but then again, where’s the fun in a predictable year at the Emmys?
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