‘Game of Thrones’ on the Rise

A version of this article was published to Gold Derby on July 11th as “Are We Underestimating Game of Thrones at Emmys?

The first season of Game of Thrones mustered up an impressive thirteen nominations.  In the history of the Emmys, only the 1997–1998 season of The X Files has racked up more nominations for a science fiction or fantasy series in a single year, with sixteen.  Game of Thrones scored the trifecta of series, writing and directing nominations for those 2011 Emmys, a feat that was not even achieved by eventual Outstanding Drama Series winner Mad Men that year.  The HBO epic went on to win two Emmys.

The next year, Game of Thrones received twelve nominations, losing those writing and directing nominations, but gaining an art direction nomination for creating the fictional world of Westeros after being shockingly snubbed the year before in favour of Modern Family.  Despite the reduction in nominations, Game of Thrones tied to lead all programs among wins, with six.

Now, Game of Thrones is coming off of what many consider its strongest season to date, with a 90 score on Metacritic to boast, up from 79 for its very first episodes and 88 for the early second season.  The show also posted its highest Nielsen ratings and had its strongest showing at the Critics’ Choice Awards with four nominations and a win for Best Drama Series.  It could be poised for its best showing yet at the Emmys when nominations are announced next week.

If Game of Thrones can increase its nominations, it stands a strong chance at an upset win for best drama.  Most important is a return to either the writing or directing category because no drama in the 2000s has won the top prize without a nomination for at least one.  The Game of Thrones writers submitted a single episode for best writing in 2011, which focused support and resulted in a nomination.  Perhaps overconfident, they submitted four episodes last year and were snubbed.  This year, they have returned to the formula that paid off by submitting only the annual buzzed-about penultimate episode.  Considering that the so-called Red Wedding episode “broke the Internet” as Gold Derby editor Chris Beachum so shrewdly put it, it is a safe bet to get in and might also compete in directing.

Peter Dinklage is the only cast member to be recognized for his Game of Thrones role by the Emmys, so a good barometer of success might be whether any others can score nominations.  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Emilia Clarke received nominations at the recent Critics’ Choice Awards; Lena Headey and Kit Harrington have been nominated by the both the genre-based Saturn Awards and the international Monte-Carlo TV Festival.  Michelle Fairley is another viable contender for her role at the climactic Red Wedding.  Gold Derby odds rank Dinklage third and Coster-Waldau eighth for supporting actor, while Clarke is tenth, Fairley eleventh and Headey thirteenth for supporting actress.  Diana Rigg is placed fifth for guest actress.

Game of Thrones was dropped from the stunt coordination category last year, but it still went on to win a second consecutive stunt ensemble award from the Screen Actors Guild.  Assuming that its snub was a fluke, this is another category that will help its total nomination number.

Finally, there remains cinematography, editing and music composition that the show has surprisingly not registered in, despite acclaim.  Nominations there could help Game of Thrones become the 2013 series nomination leader, as incumbent leader Mad Men is expected to fall after a disappointing season.  However, total nominations are not necessarily predictive; Homeland actually had the least nominations of all six best drama nominees last year.