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There are six nominees representing four different shows (Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Good Wife) competing for Best Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and they each have a compelling case for why they should win. Of course, in any entertainment-industry-based decision made by voters — in an election year, no less — there are bound to be wide crevices between what should win and what will win. Perhaps politics will not taint meritocracy here, however, with such a distinguished pool of quality candidates from quality series. I believe we’ll have the proper winner.

Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith would appear to be slumming it with a Best Supporting Actress Emmy opportunity, but this often happens to the great elder thespians of yesteryear; let’s not forget, Smith already owns two Emmys: one for her sterling performance in My House in Umbria, and last year — when Downton Abbey was classified as a miniseries — Smith was rightly honored for her work in that category. Now that Downton Abbey is marked as a drama series, Smith faces a tougher battle in her quest to repeat, but not one I would ever expect the dogged Countess of Grantham to back down from. In fact, she should rise to the occasion and install another golden entry into her already crowded trophy case.

Joining her on the ballot is Smith’s co-star, Joanne Froggatt, who plays the soft-but-determined Anna Bates, much beloved by Downton fans in the U.K. and stateside. And unlike Smith, Froggatt does not have a lifetime’s worth of accolades to fall back on. I was so happy to see her honored with this nomination, because she brings so much heart and delicacy to a character she’s shaped through many hardships and misfortunes. Smith’s popularity and well-deserved reputation will probably drown out Froggatt’s chances, but let’s hope this is the first of many recognitions for this lovely actress. She’s a worthy candidate.

Much like PBS’ Downton Abbey, CBS’ The Good Wife also brings two highly qualified actresses to the table, each with her own résumé of achievements. Archie Punjabi won this award two years ago for her portrayal of Kalinda Sharma, so a Grover Cleveland-like repeat after skipping a turn is certainly possible. With her comes Christine Baranski, who has been nominated for an Emmy ten times, including a Supporting Actress in a Comedy win in 1995 for Cybill. Both of these actresses pack a solid punch, mixing strong-willed personalities with vulnerability. There’s a chance they could cancel each other out, though the same thing could happen with the Downton candidates. How well The Good Wife does throughout the evening could be a good barometer for whether either Punjabi or Baranski can gather enough votes.

The final two nominees come from different shows in the AMC universe, which is clearly a good network to be involved with right now. AMC has been dominant at the Emmys of late, with Mad Men and the increasingly popular Breaking Bad dazzling viewers seemingly a bit more each year. By now, Christina Hendricks is well known for her Mad Men performances, and the strength of the series could really boost her chances. If voters are compelled to anoint Mad Men universally down the board, expect Hendricks to have a great chance of coming out ahead. The question is, has she done enough to distinguish herself from within the Mad Men cloth, or is she simply a symptom of the show’s roaring popularity? This is her third straight year on the Supporting Actress ballot, and the longer she continues to be nominated but not awarded, the more challenging it could be for her to claim that statue.

Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn has never been considered for an Emmy before, which may not necessarily work against her; many first-time poker players have busted up games, and novelty could be a good thing in this case. It all depends on if she’s familiar enough – the same problem Froggatt has – something that would have seemed a bigger concern when Breaking Bad wasn’t as scorching hot as it is right now. The other problem for any actor on the set of Breaking Bad is trying to appear award-worthy when cast opposite Bryan Cranston; he’s just so good, nobody can match his abilities. Consider her a strong contender, but one who may need a little more seasoning when matched up against such an exemplary field.

Of all the nominees, Smith is the most talented and most recognized. All the cards would seem to be in her favor, but the hand hasn’t been dealt quite yet, and there are plenty of deserving players ready to cast in their chips. This should be a very exciting presentation!