Why the Supporting Actor in a Drama Category is the Emmy Race to Watch

For all of this year's Emmy snubs (and believe us, there are plenty), there's one race in which we can't imagine anyone finding a single thing to complain about. The Supporting Actor in a Drama category, which features six incredibly talented men on incredibly good shows, is, in our minds, the toughest and best race this year. We don't envy any Emmy voter who has to choose between Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks, Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, Homeland's Mandy Patinkin, Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale, and Downton Abbey's Jim Carter. Can you say supergroup?

All six of those men are so immensely talented and gave such strong performances last year that regardless of who wins, it'll be a triumph. Still, one of them's going to have to be declared the best. Here's how we'd rank them:

1. Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad)

Banks was phenomenal as Mike, Breaking Bad's private investigator/fixer/hitman with a soft spot for his granddaughter. His performance in his final season on the show was brilliant in its subtlety, and not a single viewer's heart didn't break when his character (spoiler alert) perished at the end of Season 5.

Image: AMC

2. Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)

As Saul, a brilliant CIA agent and tough mentor to Carrie (Claire Danes), Patinkin is reliably wonderful. Over the course of two seasons, his character has developed into a father-figure for Carrie, and it's always a pleasure to watch the two of them work together. Patinkin, with his measured, calming way of acting, manages to steal the spotlight in every scene he's in. Pretty impressive when you're in a room with Claire "ugly cry" Danes, Damian Lewis, David Harewood and other members of Homeland's talented ensemble.

Image: Showtime

3. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

Aaron Paul deserves an Emmy just for being Aaron Paul. He's already won two for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad's resident meth dealer with a heart of gold, and his heartbreaking performance last season warrants a third statue. Yet if anyone from Breaking Bad is going to get honored, it's going to be Paul's co-star Jonathan Banks, who's currently Emmy-free.

Image: AMC

4. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

As cunning, likeable Tyrion on HBO's hit Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage is perfection. His sharp tongue and hidden vulnerability make every one of his scenes hugely enjoyable, and we can't imagine Thrones without him. It's unfortunate that the Emmys continue to refuse to acknowledge any of his castmates (with the exception of Emilia Clarke), but we're thrilled that Dinklage has garnered three nominations for his wonderful work on the show. Still, with Breaking Bad and Homeland contenders in the mix, it's doubtful he'll win, like he did in 2011.

Image: HBO

5. Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire)

Bobby Cannavale is something of a favorite with Emmy voters, who've given him three nominations and one win (for Will & Grace) since 2005. This year, he's nominated twice, for Boardwalk Empire and a guest-starring role on Nurse Jackie. But despite his mile-long resume and face you're bound to recognize, he's still not too well-known by the public, and it's unlikely he'll win the Emmy over more recognizable names like Aaron Paul or Mandy Patinkin.

Image: HBO

5. Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Jim Carter's performance makes his Mr. Carson a beloved character on the PBS series, but it's unlikely Emmy voters will give him recognition beyond a nomination. While Downton Abbey is still doing excellently in the ratings, it's lost much of the momentum it had when it first began, and voters tend to honor actors from shows that have everyone talking, like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

The supporting actor race isn't the only heated competition in this year's Emmys, of course; Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, Mad Men's Jon Hamm, and House of Cards' Kevin Spacey duke it out for Lead Drama actor, and the Lead Comedy Actress category comes down to 30 Rock's Tina Fey vs. Girls' Lena Dunham. The nominations may have been predictably boring, but a few of the show's more competitive races will make for an interesting night come Sept. 22.

Image: PBS