In the fourth post of our final countdown to the 2013 Emmy nominations, we look at the increasingly unpredictable lead drama actress competition.

Turnover is fair play: My argument throughout Emmy season has been that lead drama actress has as much possibility for change as any other category:

… Of last year’s lead drama actress nominees, Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), Julianna Marguiles (“The Good Wife”) and defending champ Claire Danes (“Homeland”) are the safest bets to return. … Kathy Bates is ineligible following the cancelation of “Harry’s Law” a year ago, and it’s questionable whether Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” can make it back with a season in which she was far less central to the show’s plot than in 2012. Your guess is as good as mine on Glenn Close (“Damages”) – the show is yesterday’s news, but then again, it’s Glenn Close. …

Swarm, swarm: Even if three spots open up, it’s not as if there won’t be strong competition for those spots. Kerry Washington (“Scandal”) has been percolating all season, while Connie Britton (“Nashville”) could be nominated for her third program in three years.  And honors are overdue for Emmy Rossum (“Shameless”), Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”) and — obligatory “Treme” mention — Khandi Alexander.

Four on the fore: A quartet of top candidates emerged just from shows that have premiered since January: Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”), Robin Wright (“House of Cards”) and the most interesting acting story of the Emmy season, Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”). Maslany was almost completely unknown to Americans before March (and remains unknown to many), but now she’s a big Emmy wild card.

More on the four: It’s not impossible for these challengers to collectively deliver a shocking shakeup to the category. But if they’re reduced to battling for a final spot, it’s anybody’s guess who emerges. Some clearly had more exposure than others, but you can make a case that any of them could win enough votes. No one really knows, for example, what kind of impression a digitally distributed show like Wright’s “House of Cards” has made, or what kind of effect the prominent film backgrounds of Farmiga and Wright will have.

One man’s wish list: Alexander, Danes, Maslany, Moss, Rossum, Washington

One man’s best guesses: Danes, Margulies, Maslany, Moss, Washington, Wright

Emmy Drama: What Will Happen?
Emmy Comedy: What Will Happen?
Emmy Drama Lead Actor: What Will Happen?