Why Sadie Sink Should Be Running Up That Hill to an Emmy Nomination for ‘Stranger Things’

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All it took was a Kate Bush track and the reading of a letter to clue the world into the greatness of Sadie Sink, who plays tomboy Max Mayfield in the fourth season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Her outstanding work in this season of the hit fantasy show has captured the cultural zeitgeist. With phase one voting merely two weeks away, she may have put herself in firm contention to nab her first Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.

The 20-year-old sensation had the most significant arc of any character in the seven-episode season. The story finds Maxine in a very dark place following the death of her stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), where the trauma of the events has taken its toll on Max. Sink’s anguish and technical skill are displayed beautifully throughout each episode. Still, it’s the stellar monologue delivered at Billy’s grave in the episode titled “Chapter Four: Dear Billy,” where Sink furnishes the best acting of the entire series thus far.

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Shawn Levy, who directed the crucial episode from writer Paul Dichter, utilizes the red hues against the backdrop of Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” to create a tension-filled sequence that quickly goes down as one of the best episodes yet. The song has now acted as the “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” of the fantasy series, reaching the top of the Apple Music charts in the United States.

More than just a slam-dunk for music supervisor Nora Felder to land in her respective field, it offers an opportunity for Sink to land a spot in a very competitive Emmys race. Also submitted alongside Sink are her talented co-stars — Millie Bobby Brown, Maya Hawke, Natalia Dyer and Priah Ferguson.

While there’s always a risk of vote splitting between actors, there’s no denying the word-of-mouth this season that Sink has generated on social media and within the industry.

STRANGER THINGS, from left: Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, (Season 4, aired May 27, 2022). ph: ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection - Credit: ©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Colle
STRANGER THINGS, from left: Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, (Season 4, aired May 27, 2022). ph: ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection - Credit: ©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Colle

©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Colle

The young actors of “Stranger Things” have remained a stapled highlight in the show’s phenomenon. The first three seasons have been favorites of the TV Academy, picking up noms for outstanding drama series for each of its outings. Moreover, the recognition of its actors has been steadily consistent. David Harbour (who played Jim Hopper) and Millie Bobby Brown (as Eleven) picked up two noms each for the first two seasons. However, no actors were recognized for the third.

The Hollywood chessboard is set for Sink to have a significant breakout moment in 2022. Aside from “Stranger Things,” she will co-star alongside Brendan Fraser, Samantha Morton and Hong Chau in A24’s “The Whale” from Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, rumored to showcase another considerable outing from her.

It’s worth noting that we’ve expected the Academy members to single out the stellar work of the young actors before, with unfavorable results. For example, Noah Schnapp, who plays the tormented Will on “Stranger Things,” delivered some of the sophomore season’s best moments — but was ultimately snubbed.

Savvy awards campaigner Netflix is being smart on the framework and submissions for Emmy consideration. While actors don’t need to worry about episode submissions until nominations are officially announced, the writing and directing races require submissions to garner noms. For directing, in addition to the Levy-directed episode “Dear Billy,” the streamer also submitted the Duffers Brothers’ finale episode, “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab.” The episode was also offered in the writing (drama) category.

While awards enthusiasts and pundits are looking ahead and hoping the TV Academy will recognize the series in later seasons (i.e., “Game of Thrones”), Volume 2 of this season is set to drop on July 1 with two super-sized episodes. Those will not be eligible for this year’s nominations and will seek love in 2023. However, with the recent elimination of the “hangover” rule by the Academy, those July drops from Netflix won’t be eligible to receive acting or drama series recognition, only for technical achievements.

Depending on what potential travesties await our beloved characters in those two anticipated episodes, this could be one of the last opportunities to recognize the growth and skill of some of the cast. The announced fifth and final season is not expected in the 2022-2023 calendar year.

“Stranger Things 4” is now streaming on Netflix.

Emmy predictions are updated every Thursday on Variety’s Awards Circuit pages.

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