Last year, most Emmy pundits foolishly believed Julianna Margulies would win lead drama actress for "The Good Wife" even though we knew she picked the wrong sample episode to be evaluated by judges. Instead of submitting the excellent pilot, she picked her subdued performance in "Threesome" and lost to Kyra Sedgwick. This year, Margulies wised up and submitted "In Sickness," in which she kicks her husband out of the house after learning that he once slept with her best friend, Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). Then she has a tearful powwow with her children and battles guest star Martha Plimpton in court. All that can be hard to beat.
But it's beatable. Also submitting a powerhouse episode is Elisabeth Moss, who promoted herself to the lead category after receiving a supporting actress nomination for "Mad Men" last year. In her submission episode, "The Suitcase," she and Jon Hamm bond, battle and get drunk while putting together an ad campaign for Samsonite.
Most Emmy watchers agree that this Emmy race is a close one between Moss and Margulies, but an unlikely contender has a better than expected chance to upset, because "The Killing's" Mireille Enos submitted a strong two-hander of her own. In her episode, "Missing," the murder investigation around which the show revolves takes a back seat when her character must search for her missing son. The episode is dominated by her and her partner (Joel Kinnaman), and though her performance is largely subdued, she has a very emotional moment near the episode's end when she breaks down in tears at a crime scene while thinking her son has been killed.
Sizing up the other candidates in this category, it would be foolish to disregard Kathy Bates. The Oscar-winning actress is a widely respected leader in the acting community, and despite nine total Emmy nominations, she's never won TV's top prize. More important, she plays a lawyer on a David E. Kelley series, "Harry's Law," and Kelley has TV's best track record when it comes to winning awards for his actors. However, her episode submission lacks the kind of stirring speechifying that won James Spader three Emmys for "The Practice" and "Boston Legal." In "Innocent Man," her character, lawyer Harriet Korn, argues for the parole of a wrongly convicted inmate.