The nominees are...
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife "Alienation of Affection"
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey "Episode 7"
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad "Cornered"
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men "The Other Woman"
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife "The Dream Team"
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey "Episode 1"
Unfortunately, I think the two older ladies of the category are out of it. Baranski doesn't do much in her submission (taking charge of the firm during a case and flirting with a new guy, that's all) and she isn't helped by Panjabi's submission either. Meanwhile, I could see where Smith might just win based on name recognition, but she's lost Emmy battles before to actresses who might not have the same gravitas. Otherwise, you're looking at lots of icy glares and razor-sharp quips. We haven't seen a repeat winner here since Blythe Danner won two in a row for Huff, but I don't see Panjabi repeating. Mind you, she's pretty badass in her submission. She tells Alicia she's not gay, but flexible; when she finds out her ex-husband knows where she is, she gets a sledgehammer and goes to town on her bedroom wall and that final shot of her waiting for him to show up, it's very suspenseful. But her screentime is a bit limited and even though she completely steals the episode, it's probably not enough to steal another Emmy.
So we're left with Froggatt, Gunn and Hendricks. I think Gunn is probably in third place, but she is nowhere near out of the race. She has three big scenes in her submissions, but she makes the most out of each one and each has a wallop of impact that could impress voters. She confronts Walt in the first, comes to terms with possibly leaving her family behind in the next and finally, returns home, but under her own terms. It reminds me a bit of how Aaron Paul won with a submission that was good, but not as powerful as a his previous one. Even though Gunn wasn't nominated, season three had plenty of great stuff for her to pick from. Then there's Froggatt, who is easily the least-known actress of the bunch, which could mean that there's the surprise factor playing in her favor (it worked for Panjabi two years back). Her submission is great, she has an hour and a half of waiting to find out what will happen to her husband, now that he's on trial for murder. As a bonus, Smith's submission shows the beginning of the courtship, as well as more interactions with the rest of the downstairs staff (and upstairs family). Last but not least, there's Hendricks. Her submissions was the most talked about episode of the season (give or take the "Zou Bisou Bisou" performance). Spoilers ahead! Joan is coerced into having sex with a Jaguar executive to ensure a vote for the agency. She refuses, until Lane convinces her to ask for a partnership to go with the money. The moment that seals it as a terrific submission, is when Don arrives at her apartment to tell her not to go through with it...only for the audience to find out, he was too late.
This will be a real close one. Breaking Bad love could bring home another acting win, while Mad Men is looking to bring their first acting trophy. But if Downton Abbey is poised to potentially stop Mad Men from a history-making win, will it need an acting win to go with it? I might change my mind before the ceremony, but today I'm going with Christina Hendricks.
Projected Winner: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Spoilers: Joanne Froggat, Downton Abbey and Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad