Netflix’s horror phenomenon,”Stranger Things,” topped all craft categories Tuesday with 12 nominations, riding the strength of Season 4’s popular Vecna monster story line — and becoming the streamer’s most viewed English-language series. However, right behind was HBO’s acclaimed gritty teen drama, “Euphoria,” which grabbed 11 nominations for its breakthrough Season 2, after collecting only two craft wins out of seven nominations for Season 1 and two subsequent special episodes.
Meanwhile, grabbing nine nominations apiece were “The White Lotus” satirical anthology series (HBO) and “Only Murders in the Building” comedy series (Hulu); Getting eight was “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime Video), while the critically-acclaimed “Severance” sci-fi thriller (Apple TV+) shared seven along with the surprisingly strong “Moon Knight” (Marvel/Disney+), “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+), “Barry” (HBO), and “Hacks” (HBO Max).
Securing six craft nominations were “Succession” (HBO), “Squid Game” (Netflix), the first non-English speaking show competing for Best Drama Series, “Loki” (Marvel, Disney+), “Ozark” (Netflix), and the “Pam & Tommy” sex tape scandal limited series (Hulu). This was followed by the opioid addiction drama, “Dopesick” (Hulu), which earned five, and “The Book of Boba Fett” (Lucasfilm/Disney+), “Star Trek: Picard” (Paramount+), the “Station Eleven” dystopian miniseries (HBO Max), and the “Gaslit” Watergate political drama (Starz), which took four apiece.
On the downside, “Pachinko” (Apple TV+), the sprawling Korean immigrant saga, only managed a single nomination for its inventive main title design. Same with “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” (HBO), which scored only a cinematography nomination. Netflix’s smash historical drama, “Bridgerton,” underperformed with only two nominations for period production design and costumes. Same for “Foundation” (Apple TV+), the ambitious and expensive Isaac Asimov sci-fi adaptation, which vies for special visual effects in a single season and main title design.
By contrast, the historical satire, “The Great” (Hulu), finally broke through in Season 2 with two nominations for period production design and costumes. And “1883” (Paramount+), the “Yellowstone” Western prequel limited series, also broke through with the franchise’s first craft nominations (two for cinematography and one for dramatic score).
Eddy Chen / HBO
However, the big news is how much “Stranger Things” and “Euphoria” dominated the nominations. For the ’80s horror fest from the Duffer Brothers, this penultimate season marks a comeback after scoring only six nominations in Season 3. This season, though, “Stranger Things” was nominated for period/fantasy production design, casting, editing, period hairstyling, period non-prosthetic makeup, and prosthetic makeup, music supervision, sound editing, sound mixing, special visual effects in a season, stunt coordination, and stunt performance.
Yet despite amassing 37 craft nominations thus far, “Stranger Things” has only won seven craft Emmys (three for sound editing, and one each for editing, main title design, main title theme music, and casting). And it’s only won for sound editing its last two seasons. The question is: Can it finally break through with a visual effects win for its bravura Vecna character work? It faces competition from “Foundation” (Apple TV+), “The Book of Boba Fett” (Lucasfilm/Disney+), “The Witcher” (Netflix), and the surprising “Lost in Space 2” (Netflix).
Atsushi Nishijima / Apple TV+
Also, “Stranger Things” production designer Chris Trujillo is a serious contender for the first time since Season 1, with Vecna’s mind lair as an ambitious addition to the Upside Down. But he faces tough competition in the narrative period or fantasy design category from “Loki,” “The Gilded Age,” “The Great,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which transitioned to the ’60s, providing production designer Bill Groom another opportunity to win his first Emmy for the series after winning four for “Boardwalk Empire.”
“Euphoria,” of course, has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right as HBO’s second most-watched show after “Game of Thrones.” But the knock has been that it’s been a triumph of style over substance, and it previously has only won craft Emmys for contemporary (non-prosthetic) makeup and original song.
Yet Season 2 saw a dramatic change in direction — exploring the internal psyche of the characters through more introspection and a new visual aesthetic. Obviously, the TV Academy took notice, with the series getting nominated for casting, choreography, cinematography for one-hour drama series, contemporary costumes, editing, contemporary hairstyling, contemporary makeup (non-prosthetic), twice for original music and lyrics: “All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned For A Thing I Cannot Name” and You Who Cannot See, Think Of Those Who Can,” music supervision, and sound mixing.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
However, “Euphoria’s” greatest change in direction came in cinematography with creator/director Sam Levinson and cinematographer Marcel Rév going from large-format digital to 35mm, reviving Kodak’s Ektachrome film stock. The result was a switch from mirroring the visual language of its teenage protagonists in Season 1 to nostalgic memory of evoking old photographs in Season 2. This look was conveyed by Ektachrome’s creamy green and amber glow and blown-out contrast of a thin negative.
The strongest episode, “The Theater and Its Double,” showcasing the provocative high school play, “Our Life,” is a tour de force, and could earn wins for cinematography, choreography, editing, contemporary hairstyling, and contemporary makeup (non-prosthetic). Too bad the production design of Jason Baldwin Stewart, who was integral to the work on the “Our Life” play, was overlooked among the nominations.
The other standouts are “Severance,” “Loki,” “Moon Knight,” and “Squid Game.” “Severance” (from showrunner Dan Erickson and directors Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle) offers an ingenious premise — a surgical procedure that splits its characters’ workplace and personal memories, along with a minimalist aesthetic. And it was rewarded for its brilliant Orwellian nightmare by being nominated for contemporary production design, casting, twice for editing, main title design, original dramatic score, and main title theme music. However, Jessica Lee Gagné was overlooked for her exquisite cinematography (as she was for Stiller’s previous series, “Escape at Dannemora”).
“Squid Game” (Episode 7: “VIPS”)
The mind-bending “Moon Knight” and time-bending “Loki” were rewarded with a combined 13 nominations. That’s nearly as many as “WandaVision’s” 15. The limited series “Moon Knight” was nominated for cinematography, fantasy/sci-fi costumes, dramatic score, sound editing, sound mixing, stunt coordination, and stunt performance. The “Loki” series was nominated for period/fantasy production design, cinematography, fantasy/sci-fi costumes, dramatic score, main title theme music, and sound editing.
Finally, the significance of “Squid Game” as a global juggernaut is very special. The Korean-language survival drama from Hwang Dong-hyuk has already made Emmy history as a Best Drama Series nominee, and it has made an impact in the craft categories as well. It is nominated for contemporary production design, cinematography, editing, main title theme music, special visual effects in a single episode, and stunt performance.
Production design is its key category. Chae Kyoung-sun has already won the ADG award for contemporary series for her enormous, custom-build space that accommodates six large-scale game sets. The shape language and color palettes were inspired by fairy tales and the sets were built around the notion of chaos and confusion. The submitted episode, “Gganbu,” which is devoted to survival for all the marbles, is noteworthy for its recreations of a suburban neighborhood that evoke childhood nostalgia.
It will be interesting to see how “Squid Game” fares in head-to-head competition with “Euphoria” and “Severance” — its main contemporary rivals.