Kate Winslet's HBO limited series is gaining serious momentum in the 2021 Emmy nomination race.

By Sydney Bucksbaum
May 27, 2021 at 04:42 PM EDT
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The way Kate Winslet continues to nail the complicated "Delco" accent in Mare of Easttown should be reason enough to give her all the awards. Every time her titular local detective pronounces water as "wooder" or rounds out her "o's" in lines of dialogue, the real people of Delaware County, Penn., cheer. It's notoriously one of the most difficult accents for actors to master, which makes it all the more impressive that Winslet seems to do it with ease and, more importantly, authenticity. But does Winslet's killer accent work — and the fantastic character study on display in the dark murder mystery — actually have a shot at getting nominated for an Emmy this year? And does it deserve to, or did Mare of Easttown just premiere at the perfect time?

HBO's seven-episode crime drama stars Winslet as Mare Sheehan, a troubled, world-weary detective attempting to solve the disappearance of a teen girl a year after the case has gone cold. While the main whodunnit mystery is engaging enough on its own to inspire theories and discourse, the real appeal of the series is Mare's emotional issues, her family issues, her love life issues, her parenting issues... trust, she's got a lot of issues. And watching Winslet bring to life Mare's complete exhaustion with it all is the real prize, as the Academy Award winner delivers stunning performances, week in and week out.

Mare of Easttown is practically a master class in acting, which is why it should be no surprise that the character drama is gaining serious momentum in the race to be nominated for Outstanding Limited Series at the 2021 Emmys, with both Winslet and Jean Smart (who plays Mare's Fruit Ninja-loving mother, Helen) in the conversation for potential lead and supporting acting nods, respectively. Every week since its April 18 premiere, the series — as well as Winslet and Smart (who's also in serious contention for her leading turn in HBO Max's dark comedy Hacks) — have all been steadily rising in the odds, compared to the relatively unchanging progress of most of their competition.

Mare of Easttown
Kate Winslet in HBO's 'Mare of Easttown'
| Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

In the limited series race, the nomination odds for Amazon Prime's Small Axe and Disney+'s WandaVision have been steadily decreasing at the same rate Mare of Easttown is ascending, which means the HBO series has a solid chance at nabbing one of the five open slots for nominations. But how much of Mare of Easttown's momentum is due to timing? And how much of that timing was decided as part of HBO's FYC strategy? The drama premiered just six weeks before the May 31 deadline of the Emmy eligibility period, which is the equivalent of a December release for movies jockeying for Oscar noms. In theory, Easttown will be fresher in Emmy voters' minds as nomination voting begins in June, compared to a show like The Undoing, which premiered back in October 2020 and has slowly fallen out of the race over time.

The privilege of airing now versus months ago definitely gives Mare of Easttown a significant edge over its competition, but an April-May run doesn't guarantee its Emmys success: Another limited series contender, The Underground Railroad, premiered on May 14, just two weeks before the eligibility period ended. But Amazon Prime Video's historical fiction drama from Barry Jenkins hasn't seen the same kind of boost in its odds as Mare of Easttown. In fact, Railroad's odds have stayed about the same since it premiered — making it unlikely that the series will be victorious in the crowded nominations race, which also includes The Undoing, It's a Sin, Genius: Aretha, and Fargo vying for one of the five slots.

The Lead Actress race is similarly tight — with The Queen's Gambit's Anya Taylor-Joy and I May Destroy You's Michaela Coel dominating the conversation — but the likelihood of Easttown's Winslet getting a nod also continues to climb. In only one month, Winslet's odds of being nominated have grown to surpass WandaVision's Elizabeth OlsenGenius: Aretha's Cynthia ErivoThe Underground Railroad's Thuso Mbedu, and The Undoing's Nicole Kidman (sorry to her wig work).

And don't forget: Mare of Easttown's finale hasn't even aired yet. The final episode debuts this Sunday, and it could have a huge impact on the overall public opinion of the show, as viewers don't have the whole picture of the series yet. Many shows struggle with sticking the landing when it comes to finishing up a season, and all it takes is one episode to tarnish its entire legacy. The true test of Mare of Easttown's Emmy chances will come when new episodes aren't airing each week, as voters are left to sit and marinate on the entire season until Emmy nominations voting begins June 17.

So grab a cup of wooder and settle in, because this race is only just getting started.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Emmys analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's TV shows and performances.

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Mare of Easttown

Kate Winslet stars as a small-town Pennsylvania detective whose life starts to crumble around her as she investigates a local murder.

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