BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
It is clear that Masters would never have reached the level of insight into sex without Johnson. Similarly, this series would never have worked as well as it did without the brilliant (and, until this role, mostly comic) actress. Trying to make insight into what was an almost entirely male-dominated world of medicine, sexually so far ahead of the curve, Masters is clearly brought up short by her time and time again her understated and restrained performance put veterans like Claire Danes and Elisabeth Moss to shame.
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
When you see everything that this actress puts into her performance as Norma, it's little wonder how Norman ended up at screwed up as he did. Trying desperately to lead her maternal instinct with her sexual drives and her need to survive, all the while trying to protect her sons falls into darkness, a series that could've been just been another gimmicky prequels becomes absolutely riveting. And that was before the big kiss.
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Historically, Emmy voters have a hard time recognizing anyone who does sci-fi, and the fact that is particularly dense Canadian mythology may not help. Forget that, though. Maslany plays so many different version of herself in one episode of Orphan Black that anyone of them could be a brilliant sample episode. Hell, this season, she added an episode where she played a transgender version. How is this woman not even considered for the short list over pretenders like Kerry Washington? Don't make the same mistake twice, Emmy Voters.
Juliana Marguiles, The Good Wife
That's she's been left out of the last two Emmy cycles is even more criminal than the series virtual shutout over the same period. But this season featured some of her very best work, as Alicia broke free of Will, feuded with him, mourned him, and laid the rules out for her marriage with Peter over the same period. I don't know what lays in the future for Alicia in the coming season, but she's definitely earned the right to be at the podium.
Keri Russell, The Americans
This is the only nominee I'm going out on a limb on, as opposed to a 'safer' choice. But I've always been an admirer of her work, and as Elizabeth, she at times demonstrates a greater range that Rhys does. Manipulating men by going back to a trauma deeper within her past, taking out her outrage on her daughter's disrespect, trying to show compassion to the child of fellow agents without revealing their identities--- this was a fearless performance.
Robin Wright, House of Cards
You need a set of balls to be married to Francis Underwood, and this season Claire continued to demonstrate she has a set of her own. Few people would have been able to use a scene as her interview where she revealed an abortion earlier in her life, and then turned an interview on it as a masterwork in how to manipulate the media. Claire has begun to illustrate the definition of a new term---- the anti-heroine. Politician's wives, take note.