Now that the first of six final episodes of HBO’s crown jewel Game of Thrones has aired, let the caterwauling on Twitter commence. The episode didn’t feature any of the battles many viewers came to expect. There were no white walkers, and there was only one aborted attempt at a sex scene. So, yes, it wasn’t the greatest or most surprising hour of the series. What “Winterfell” offered, though, was entirely deliberate. It was a return to the slower, more deliberate pace of the pilot. It echoed that first episode in several very specific ways. A march and not-entirely-welcomed arrival at Winterfell. A visit to the Stark crypt. One of those super weird sunburst-looking symbols that the white walkers like to make out of human body parts. An awkward encounter between Jamie Lannister and Bran Stark.
“Winterfell” is the quiet before the storm that is sure to come in the final season. Fans need not worry. It will deliver, in spades. You’ll mourn it when it’s gone.
On a side note, I already hear that people are laughing at Jon and Daenerys’s dragon flight. Sure, it’s out of place in the “we’re all going to die” world and dreading “the war to come.” But it does serve a narrative purpose. Daenerys has to subconsciously believe that Jon Stark is indeed (SPOILER?) related to her by blood. The show tells us that only Targaryens can ride dragons. We needed some kind of moment where they connect on that level without being told that they’re indeed related. There has to be some kind of proof. That scene serves that purpose, eventually.
But it was a little How to Train Your Dragons…
Emmy-wise, the future couldn’t be brighter for Game of Thrones. Even before a second of the eighth season aired, there’s an overwhelming sense of inevitability. Competing studios feel it too with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Crown, Stranger Things and even HBO’s own Big Little Lies opting to wait until the new Emmy cycle begins on June 1 to premiere their latest episodes. After winning a relatively unexpected (I mean, I predicted it, but I think I was the only one at ADTV) Emmy victory against The Handmaid’s Tale‘s much lauded first season, Game will win the Drama Series Emmy for its final season. It’s a similar pattern to AMC’s Breaking Bad, and the Television Academy will not stray from the path.
Now, the biggest question is, how far will the Emmy love extend?
Game of Thrones currently holds the Emmy record for most wins for a scripted television series. They will extend that lead this year. It also holds the record for most wins in a single year (twice with 12 wins). Can it beat either with its eighth and final season? The technical nominations will certainly come through. The qualifier will be how many episodes are submitted for writing and directing as it typically receives multiple nominations in both categories. My hunch is that the series finale, written and directed by series creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, will be the sole submission. If that’s the case, then the tally may be somewhat more limited than in previous years.
What could push the haul over the top is the number of acting nominations it receives. Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage are guaranteed spots, but recent years have seen the nomination crop expand to more surprising choices. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau picked up a supporting nomination bid last year (losing to Dinklage), but last year only saw three acting nominees against The Handmaid’s Tale‘s large and brilliantly talented cast. They’re not eligible this year, so it opens the gates for a broader embracing of acting talent from the show. Will Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke return after being ignored in their move to the lead races? That depends on their placement again this year? I suspect they’ll go lead and will likely be nominated in the series’s long coattails.
More interesting is the case of Sophie Turner’s performance as Sansa Stark. She’s never been Emmy nominated, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a huge year for her. I’d favor her over the previously nominated Maisie Williams. Also, I wouldn’t count out John Bradley as unsung hero Sam Tarly. He had a very nice few moments in the season premiere, and his character arc is the kind that the Academy could reward with a nomination.
Whatever the ultimate numbers become, there’s no doubt that Game of Thrones will win the day in September’s ceremony. That is, unless, they don’t stick the landing. It’s been said that Weiss and Benioff are huge fans of HBO’s other iconic series, The Sopranos, which had a controversial final episode. The Television Academy still rewarded it with writing, directing and series Emmys, so a controversial and unpopular ending isn’t a deal-breaker.
But I swear if this thing ends with no one on the iron throne, then just burn it all down.
Directing (potentially multiple nods)
Writing (potentially multiple nods)
Supporting Actor (Peter Dinklage)
Supporting Actress (Lena Headey)
Actor (Kit Harington )
Actress (Emilia Clarke)
Supporting Actor (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
Supporting Actor (John Bradley)
Supporting Actress (Sophie Turner)
Supporting Actress (Maisie Williams)
Supporting Actress (Gwendoline Christie)