Overlooked

07.17.13

Give Mandy Patinkin an Emmy Nomination for ‘Homeland,’ Already!

‘Homeland’ cleaned up at last year’s Emmys—but Mandy Patinkin’s Saul was criminally overlooked. Jason Lynch offers five reasons why Patinkin simply must get a Supporting Actor Drama nomination on Thursday.

After its magnificent freshman season, Homeland was rewarded last summer with nine Emmy nominations, followed by six wins, including Outstanding Drama Series, Actor (Damian Lewis), and Actress (Claire Danes). It’s a feat any show would be proud of, but in Homeland’s case, those accolades weren’t enough. Woefully excluded from recognition was Mandy Patinkin, whose understated, soulful turn as CIA Middle East division chief Saul Berenson and mentor to Danes’s brilliant yet bipolar Carrie Mathison was unable to crack the Supporting Actor Drama category.

One year later, it’s time for Emmy voters to correct their egregious oversight. The 65th Primetime Emmy Nominations will be announced Thursday, and while the Showtime drama occasionally veered off into cartoonish 24 territory during the back half of its second season, I still expect it to rack up a healthy number of nominations, including repeat nods for Lewis as Nicholas Brody, the POW who was turned by his al Qaeda captors and is now a congressman, and Danes. But Patinkin, 60, is the most deserving of the bunch, and he should be duly recognized along with his Homeland colleagues. Here are five reasons why:

1. Sometimes less is more.

Usually known for showier TV, film, and stage roles—like Chicago Hope’s eccentric Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, for which he won an Emmy in 1995, or his most famous performance, Spanish swashbuckler Inigo “You killed my father. Prepare to die” Montoya in 1987’s The Princess Bride—Patinkin buttoned himself up suffocatingly tight to play the understated Saul.

Such a quiet performance can be overlooked by Emmy voters, who are often drawn to more vivid, pronounced work like that of his two costars. But Saul’s restrained, contemplative nature is equally as effective and stirring. Besides, when called upon, Patinkin can emote with the best of them, particularly in Season 2’s dynamic seventh episode, “The Clearing,” when his façade splinters and he breaks down, cradling a newly dead body in his arms.

2. His gravitas is unmatched.

Patinkin imbues Saul with a hulking presence that fills entire rooms. Saul may be a man of few words, but Patinkin makes each of them count. Near the end of the Season 2 finale, after a horrifying twist I won’t spoil here, he calls Carrie’s cell phone in a desperate, seemingly futile attempt to locate her. His words are simple. “Carrie, it’s me. I’m looking for you. Please call me back.” But Patinkin packs more desperation and anguish into them than you’d find in a five-minute monologue.

Even his jokes cut quick and deep. Forced to take a polygraph test, Saul is asked a question to establish a baseline reading: “Are you sometimes called ‘The Bear’?” His curt, unexpected reply (“Fucking hope not!”) is easily the funniest thing uttered all season.

3. Saul is the glue that holds Homeland together.

He is the only relatable character in a show stuffed with emotional basket cases. Patinkin’s deft, grounded work was particularly essential in a year that ultimately tested even the most ardent viewers’ devotion, as it devolved into (spoilers) Brody and Carrie channeling their inner Jack Bauer, single-handedly trying to dispatch, respectively, the vice president and, oh, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. Through some of the far-fetched nuttiness, Patinkin’s steadfast presence almost single-handedly kept the show on course. If Saul ever meets his maker, all will be lost. (Memo to showrunners Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa: don’t ever kill Saul!)

Saul is also the only Homeland character capable of nurturing the fragile egg that is Carrie. He is her biggest cheerleader but also is the most gutted by her many missteps, including the (again, spoiler) realization late in the season that she has fallen back in love with Brody. “You don’t know a goddamn thing,” he says in a bitter whisper, his voice raw with incredulity. “You’re the smartest and the dumbest fucking person I’ve ever known.” It’s Carrie in a nutshell, and Saul at his most bracingly perceptive.

Video screenshot

4. That punim!

Quite simply, Patinkin unleashes the best facial expressions on television. And Season 2 of Homeland allows him—and his glorious beard—to give a master class in nonverbal communication: whether discovering a shocking, damning video of Brody, realizing too late exactly why an asset gave him bad intel, or most hilariously, his chagrined, embarrassed response as he’s forced to hear two characters have loud, boisterous sex during a surveillance op.

And he saves his finest moment for last: the season ends with a quiet, extended shot of his face as it slowly morphs from unbearable grief to utter bliss. It’s an extraordinary transformation, and it’s all Patinkin.

5. Half the slots in his category have opened up.

This one is key: Emmy voters tend to recognize the same actors year after year (ahem, Modern Family cast), but out of last year’s six supporting actor drama nominees—Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito, Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle, Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, and Mad Men’s Jared Harris—only three are eligible to return this time around. (Coyle did not submit himself for consideration this year, and let’s just say that Esposito and Harris are no longer eligible on their respective shows.) That leaves plenty of room for Patinkin to swoop in and claim one of the spots that is rightfully his.

I hope he’s able to do exactly that come Thursday. Then we can start talking about why he deserves to win…