Since its premiere in 2011, Game of Thrones has broken records across the industry — including at the Emmy Awards, the biggest night for (American) TV. The HBO epic currently has the most wins in the history of the Emmys with a total of 45 awards, including last week’s haul of seven at the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys, the counterpart to the main event that’s scheduled for Monday evening in Los Angeles, which translates to Tuesday early morning here in India. Game of Thrones has another seven nominations left going into the 2018 Emmy Awards — including Outstanding Drama Series, that it won in 2015 and 2016 — which it returns to after having sat out last year’s ceremony owing to a delayed seventh season that premiered in July, months after the Emmys’ cut-off point of May.
In its absence last year, the stunning debutante The Handmaid’s Tale — the Hulu dystopian near-future drama where fertile women are forced to become surrogates under a totalitarian power — ruled the Emmy Awards, nabbing the top (drama) prize of the evening in addition to picking up several others for the great work of its cast and crew. The 2018 Emmys then is the first time the two previous winners, Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, are going head-to-head. (Technically speaking, it happened last week at Creative Arts, where the former beat the latter seven to three.) In fact, Handmaid’s has the upper hand in terms of nominations going into Monday’s ceremony, with eight nods across six categories while Thrones has seven across five.
It’s also the first time HBO’s two biggest shows, Westworld being the other, are going up against each other. The sci-fi series about humans and androids won 5 awards out of 22 nominations in 2017 for its first season, and having nabbed three last week, is in the running for four more categories at the main ceremony on the back of another mind-boggling and marvellously acted season. But those aren’t the only strong contenders among the seven drama nominees at the 2018 Emmys. For one, there’s The Americans, the family drama about a pair of KGB spies living with their teenage children in Cold War-era America. It finished its critically-acclaimed run with an excellent final season bolstered by a terrific finale, one that was instantly regarded as one of the all-time best closing episodes a show has produced.
Netflix, meanwhile, has two offerings of its own: The Crown and Stranger Things, two shows that are poles apart in genre, tone and treatment. The former is Peter Morgan’s lavishly-produced passion project, chronicling the over seven decades of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign while rotating its cast every two seasons. The performers nominated at the Emmy Awards this year have already been replaced. The latter is the 2016 summer hit about adolescent kids in a suburban American town in the 80s that regularly trades in supernatural, and whose sophomore run improved on the original. And of course, there’s the bawl-your-eyes-out drama This Is Us that traces the lives of three mysteriously-linked siblings across time, which is considered a shoe-in for lead actor thanks to Sterling K. Brown.
All this is before you consider the quality of Game of Thrones that’s going up against the others nominated for the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy Award 2018. The show’s seventh season was one of the, if not the, weakest on record, given the constant disregard for geographical and narrative logic as the writers made a dash for the finish line. Not having the basis of George R.R. Martin’s written path, Thrones’ penultimate season gave us several plotlines that made no sense or were rushed, such as the foolishness of Daenerys in not disembarking at Dorne, the Stark sisters plot against Littlefinger, and Jon taking a trip north of the Wall to capture a wight during which characters defied time and space to achieve their goals among others. Sure, that doesn’t take anything away from the work of actors and directors, but it ought to hurt its chances in writing and best series.
Speaking of directing, that seems to be the best bet for a Thrones’ win at the 2018 Emmys. Though flawed, the sixth and seventh episodes of season seven were still brilliant in their craft. Meanwhile in acting, Thrones doesn’t have a single nod in the leading categories. Instead, its best chance for an acting win is in the supporting field, where Peter Dinklage — he plays Tyrion Lannister — has won twice previously, in 2011 and 2015. He’s nominated alongside fellow Thrones cast member Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays his on-screen brother Jaime. Lena Headey, who plays the third Lannister sibling Cersei, has a much taller order, going up against three women from Handmaid’s: Alexis Bledel (Emily), Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy), and last year’s winner Ann Dowd (Aunt Lydia).
There are interesting scenarios everywhere at the 2018 Emmys, not least of which is the showdown between the two previous winners — Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale — for the biggest award of the night. You would have to be a brave man to bet against the world’s most popular show; popularity shouldn’t be an awards-show factor, but it always helps. Personally, I’m hoping The Americans scores a win for its farewell year. Despite being a critical darling and never wavering from its roots, it’s been perennially under-watched and off most people’s radar. And though I feel it deserves to win, if The Americans were to actually win at the 2018 Emmys, tomorrow’s headlines would have a common theme (see headline) given the spotlight is squarely on the big two.
The 2018 Emmys will be telecast live on Star World in India, starting 5:30am on Tuesday, September 18.