Emmy voters have yet to discover the uniquely bloody brilliance of AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama “The Walking Dead.”
The ratings powerhouse has only scored seven nominations over its first two seasons (and all of them were in technical categories like prosthetic makeup and special visual effects). Few pundits expect that showing to change much this year. If Oscar-nominated industry favorite Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) couldn’t land a nod two years ago for his spectacular direction of the show’s pilot episode, something clearly isn’t clicking with Emmy voters.
That’s a shame for many reasons, but especially for stalwart star Andrew Lincoln who deserves a spot in Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series alongside such worthy perennial favorites as AMC’s own Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”).
British born Lincoln disappears so deeply inside his shell-shocked character, Rick Grimes, that his iconic leading man performance can be easy to take for granted. Anyone who dismisses the show as horror fluff is missing his almost weekly master classes in physical acting and the power of communicating critical character information with little or no dialogue at all.
“The Walking Dead” significantly upped the emotional ante for Rick in Season 3 and fans were collectively gobsmacked when his estranged wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), died in the season’s fourth episode, “Killer Within.” Callies’ shocking final scene was incredibly moving, but Lincoln’s outpouring of grief when Rick discovers the devastating news was simply unforgettable. It was the sort of primal anguish you’d expect from a classic Greek tragedy — the definition of catharsis.
From that point on Lincoln enjoyed — and superbly executed — a series of standout episodes including “Say the Word” (with Rick’s walker annihilation and confrontation with Glenn in the tunnels), “Hounded” (the phone calls, including Rick’s gut-wrenching conversation with Lori) and “When the Dead Come Knocking” (Rick finally talks to Carl, and discovers Carol managed to survive).
But it’s an episode from the second half of the season, “Clear,” that showcases both Lincoln and the series at their very best. Rick reunites with an old “friend,” Morgan (Lennie James) and discovers how far down the rabbit hole his buddy has fallen — consumed in part by the grief of losing both his wife and son. Rick is suddenly forced to recognize and reconsider the own path he’s chosen for himself in the deadly world he inhabits. And for the sake of his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), the de facto family that’s come to rely on him, and himself, Rick Grimes resolves to make peace with the past and find a way forward.
It’s an episode that showcases not only Lincoln’s strength as an anchor in this chaotic world, but also his rapport with his fellow performers, whether it’s James as the bonkers Morgan, Danai Gurira as wary warrior Michonne or Riggs as the scarred Carl, whose wounds are deeper than Rick allows himself to realize. Lincoln nails Rick’s care and consideration in sussing each person out (he was a sheriff’s deputy pre-apocalypse) and the resulting subtle shifts in interpersonal relationships.
Lincoln isn’t the only nomination-worthy member of the cast (especially strong cases can be made for Gurira, Norman Reedus, David Morrissey and guest star James) but he’s perhaps the best choice to also acknowledge an overall excellent ensemble.
Who’s on your Emmy wishlist for this year? See more of Zap2it’s picks at our Emmys page.
Check back with Zap2it for full coverage when the 2013 Emmy nominees are announced July 18 at 5:35 a.m. PT.