For the second year in a row the Outstanding Drama Series race is one of the most competitive categories of the night opening up the rest of the drama categories in exciting ways. The past two winners (Game of Thrones & The Handmaid’s Tale) are nominated against each other for the first time and they couldn’t be more opposite. Game of Thrones is a world-wide phenomenon and it now holds the record for the most wins by a drama series. The Handmaid’s Tale is the first streaming show to win the top award while also commanding attention as one of the most politically and socially relevant shows of the moment.
From family separation to women’s reproductive rights The Handmaid’s Tale has drawn constant comparisons to our current administration whether the creative meant it to or not. The show’s ability to speak to the moment without a doubt catapulted the streaming series to its first win last year and in all likelihood will convince voters to reward it again for a second year in a row. On top of that the sophomore season has produced some of the most thrilling moments of the year culminating in an extremely rewarding finale. With the season so fresh in the voters’ minds it is in a good spot with the voters heading into Emmy night – especially among the actors branch.
As politically relevant as The Handmaid’s Tale is some viewers have found the second season too hard to watch with some even comparing it to torture porn . These criticisms didn’t hurt the show in the nominations round with the second season earning 20 nominations (8 of which were for the ensemble). The increase in nominations could be a hint that voters simply aren’t bothered by how grueling certain aspects of the show are or it could simply mean they want to honor how well-crafted the show is before voting for something as taxing to watch.
Over the past couple of years Game of Thrones has become quite the Emmy juggernaut. Season five and six hold the record for the most wins by a drama series in a single year with 12 wins and the show as a whole has won 38 awards over the past six seasons with by far the most nominations (128). Gearing up for the final season Game of Thrones seems to be only growing in popularity which means it could easily sweep through this year’s ceremony.
Working in the television epic’s favor is the fact that we are still talking about some stellar water cooler moments over a year later. Diana Rigg gave one of the best final monologue’s in recent memory with her “Tell Cersei, I want her to know it was me” speech. Years old rumors of incest turned out to be true. Most shocking of all were the inclusion of zombie dragons and the white walkers finally breaching the wall. All of these moments aside there have been complaints that the penultimate season felt incomplete and more of a buildup to the end than its own complete season. Some voters might choose to wait to vote for it until next year or they might just continue to check it off year after year until the groundbreaking season airs its last episode.
Everyone has been zeroed in on a showdown between the two former winners and ignoring the possibility of a major upset in the category. Over the course of six seasons The Americans has built up a loyal fan base that is desperate to see the Soviet spy drama to win a major Emmy in its final year. The finale was met with universal praise from critics and audiences. In its final season the show has also been thrust into our current political climate regarding Russian collusion and giving a show an air of relevancy might draw in new voters. As voters go back and forth between Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale the newfound momentum for The Americans might be enough for the show to squeeze through the middle. Still in the history of the Emmys only three dramas have won in their final season (Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Upstairs, Downstairs) and no show has won for its first time in its final season.
Front Runner: The Handmaid’s Tale
Strong Contender: Game of Thrones
Don’t Count Out: The Americans
Writing & Directing Categories
Three years ago when the television academy scrapped the blue ribbon panels in favor of a popular vote the drama writing & directing awards have both gone to the eventual big winner of the night (The Handmaids, Tale and both years of Game of Thrones). This year the categories are as competitive as ever and for the first time in a while the writing and directing branches probably won’t agree.
The writing category is filled with five drama series nominees and a well-deserved standout nomination for Killing Eve. A surprise win for Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be extremely welcome however this is probably the year of The Americans. The writers branch was the first group to nominate The Americans and the branch has always been good at rewarding shows in their final season (Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos).
This year’s directing category is probably a close race between The Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones. If Game of Thrones had submitted a single episode the HBO favorite would be an easy win but both of its submitted episodes (“Beyond The Wall” and “Dragon and the Wolf”) are CGI heavy episodes with epic battle scenes that risk splitting the vote. “After” from The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t necessarily stand out by name but it is one of the most well-liked episodes of the season with June and Serena working together and an emotional arc for Moira that has already won Samira Wiley an Emmy. It’s also possible that voters go in a completely different direction and reward Stephen Daldry for his exquisite direction of The Crown.
Front Runner – The Americans, “START”
Strong Contender – The Handmaid’s Tale, “June”
Dark Horse – Killing Eve, “Nice Face”
Front Runner – The Handmaid’s Tale, “After”
Strong Contender – Game of Thrones, “The Dragon and the Wolf”
Dark Horse – The Crown, “Paterfamilias”