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‘Game of Thrones’ at the Emmys: Analyzing Whether or Not This Year’s Most Nominated TV Show Will Win Big

22 nominations don't guarantee total Emmys domination, even if you have zombie dragons on your side.

"Game of Thrones"

“Game of Thrones”



The most fascinating aspect of the “Game of Thrones” presence at this year’s Emmys is the fact that the show took a year off. The first six seasons were an annual presence at “TV’s biggest night,” becoming relatively predictable for their ability to dominate, especially in the below-the-line categories. But the HBO fantasy drama was absent from the 2017 awards after premiering too late in the year to qualify, allowing a whole new crop of dramas to vie for glory.

That delay meant that one of TV’s winning-est series is eligible again this year, and anyone who might have thought a summer premiere would lead to a decrease in nominations was very much mistaken; the veteran series received 22 nominations for its seventh season, the most of any show. However, many of those upstart new dramas are still in the race, making this year’s competition a fascinating one.

Below, we break down all the “Thrones” nominations and make our best guesses at who might ultimately take the top prize. Because having the most nominations is no guarantee of a win, as “The Handmaid’s Tale” showed us last year… and could show us again in September.

Outstanding Art Direction For A Period Series Miniseries Or A Movie Single Camera

Deborah Riley, Production Designer; Paul Ghirardani, Art Director; Rob Cameron, Set Decorator

When this category was defined as “Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)” from 2014 to 2017, “Game of Thrones” won every year it was eligible. (During the 2017 gap year, “Handmaid’s Tale” took the prize.) This year, it faces some very interesting competition from “The Crown,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and fellow HBO sibling “Westworld,” but it still feels like an easy win.

Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series

Nina Gold, CSA, Casting by; Robert Sterne, CSA, Casting by; Carla Stronge, CSA, Location Casting

This is another category where “Game of Thrones” has always done well, but its biggest competition is also nominated, and there’s no denying that the “Stranger Things” team (last year’s winners) did a magnificent job of finding a talented assortment of young actors. Given that “Thrones” didn’t add too many new faces to its roster in Season 7, this might be “Stranger Things'” award to lose.

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Alan Taylor (“Beyond the Wall”) and Jeremy Podeswa (“The Dragon and the Wolf”)

Two nominations in one category can sometimes mean splitting the vote, or can mean a groundswell of support that leads to an eventual win. This is definitely not the first time that “Game of Thrones” has faced this dilemma, and in fact the times it was nominated twice for directing, one of the directors nominated did end up winning. So who wins this year? Podeswa has been nominated before, for the fifth season episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” and he’s nominated here for directing the finale, so we’ll guess that he’ll win.

Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series

Tim Porter, ACE, Editor; Crispin Green, Editor; Katie Weiland, ACE, Editor

“Thrones” has absolutely no chill in this category, with three nominations crowding out every other contender except a nomination each for “Stranger Things” and “Handmaid’s Tale.” It clearly wins — the question is who takes it? Our guess: Always bet on the most badass battle, which in theory means that Katie Weiland, as the editor of “The Spoils of War,” is a strong contender. (Though “The Dragon and the Wolf” didn’t lack for action, so Crispin Green might just snap it up.)

Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington, "Game of Thrones"

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single Camera Series

Kevin Alexander, Department Head Hairstylist; Candice Banks, Key Hairstylist; Nicola Mount, Hairstylist; Rosalia Culora, Hairstylist

Could “The Crown” or “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” knock out “Thrones” here? Maybe, but last year’s winner, “Westworld,” is also in the mix again — and honestly, it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing if this meant a loss for the dragon drama.

Outstanding Makeup For A Single Camera Series

Jane Walker, Department Head Makeup Artist; Kay Bilk, Makeup Artist; Marianna Kyriacou, Makeup Artist; Pamela Smyth, Makeup Artist; Kate Thompson, Makeup Artist; Nicola Matthews, Makeup Artist

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series Miniseries Movie Or A Special

Jane Walker, Department Head Makeup Artist; Paul Spateri, Special Makeup Effects Artist; Emma Faulkes, Special Makeup Effects Artist; Barrie Gower, Prosthetic Designer

On the prosthetic side, this feels like an easy win for “Thrones,” just on the basis of Jorah Mormont’s greyscale. As for regular make-up, it’s also not hard to imagine the show winning again, though two of the show’s competitors do stand out: “The Handmaid’s Tale” episode nominated, “Unwomen,” faced the insane challenge of making Alexis Bledel and Marisa Tomei not look as stunning as they are in real life. And “Westworld” (which won last year) was nominated for “Akane No Mai,” which brought us a whole new Delos world. Shogun World was beautifully executed, right down to the traditional geisha make-up. It’s not hard to believe that “Thrones” could lose this one.

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series Original Dramatic Score

Ramin Djawadi, Music by

The competitors in this category are a bit odd, to be honest — “Thones” is up against the animated series “Star Wars Rebels,” CBS drama “SEAL Team,” and “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” among others. But nominee Ramin Djawadi’s most notable competitor is…himself! Djawadi was also nominated for his work on “Westworld,” specifically the episode “Akane No Mai.” This episode featured maybe one of the show’s greatest musical moments ever — a cover of Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” infused with Japanese influences. So Djawadi might win here, but “Thrones” may lose.

Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series

Tim Kimmel, MPSE, Sound Supervisor; Paula Fairfield, Sound Designer; Tim Hands, Supervising ADR Editor; Paul Bercovitch, Supervising Dialogue Editor; Bradley C. Katona, MPSE, Sound Effects Editor; John Matter, Foley Editor; Brett Voss, Foley Editor; David Klotz, Music Editor; Jeffrey Wilhoit, Foley Artist; Dylan T. Wilhoit, Foley Artist

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series One Hour

Onnalee Blank, CAS, Re-Recording Mixer; Mathew Waters, CAS, Re-Recording Mixer; Richard Dyer, Production Mixer; Ronan Hill, CAS, Production Mixer

Two different “Thrones” episodes — “The Spoils of War” and “Beyond the Wall” — are nominated for two different sound awards, and their competitors are the usual suspects (though congrats to “Star Trek: Discovery” for breaking into Sound Editing). These are tricky to guess at, but “Thrones” has always done very well here, and so this feels like a safe win.

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

Steve Kullback, Lead Visual Effects Producer; Joe Bauer, Lead Visual Effects Supervisor; Adam Chazen, Visual Effects Associate Producer; Michelle Blok, Previs Lead; Sam Conway, Special Effects Supervisor; Ted Rae, Visual Effects Plate Supervisor; David Ramos, Visual Effects Supervisor; Wayne Stables, Lead CG & Animation Supervisor; Derek Spears, Lead CG Supervisor

This category is 100 percent HBO versus Netflix, and there’s no denying that the effects budget for “Lost in Space,” “Stranger Things,” and “Altered Carbon” is epic. But honestly? Always bet on dragons.

Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series Miniseries Or Movie

Rowley Irlam, Stunt Coordinator

There are some worthy contenders here, but as exciting as the stunts on “The Punisher” or “The Blacklist” might have been, Season 7 of “Thrones” did deliver some amazing battle moments that should lead to a win. That being said, “Thrones” should consider itself grateful that YouTube’s “Cobra Kai” was considered in a different category.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones"

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

David Benioff, Written by; D.B. Weiss, Written by

It’s not hard to imagine “Thrones” winning here, but it’s also not hard to imagine two dozen TV critics setting fires in protest of it winning over “Killing Eve” or “The Americans.” To ensure that none of our peers get sent to jail for arson, let’s just hope here that “The Dragon and the Wolf” loses.

Outstanding Fantasy Sci Fi Costumes

Michele Clapton, Costume Designer; Alexander Fordham, Assistant Costume Designer; Emma O’Loughlin, Assistant Costume Designer; Kate O’Farrell, Costume Supervisor

This is tough because the competitors here include “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which introduced a few new Gilead elements with the nominated episode “Seeds,” and “Westworld,” which was nominated for its beautifully executed trip to Shogun World. Not only that, but last year, when this category encompassed both fantasy and period costumes, the winner was “The Crown” — so it’s tough to predict how this one will shake out. But it’s easy to think that this is one which “Thrones” could lose.

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series

Diana Rigg, as Lady Olenna Tyrell

This is Dame Diana Rigg’s fourth nomination for playing one of the baddest bitches of Westeros (one we will sorely miss) — she’s never won, though, which could mean either her time has come or like so many other actresses in recent history, she’ll lose to Viola Davis (who’s nominated for playing her character from “How to Get Away With Murder” in a “Scandal” crossover). But also, don’t count out the three nominees from “The Handmaid’s Tale” — Cherry Jones and Samira Wiley especially stand a real shot.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Jaime Lannister; Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion Lannister

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Lena Headey, as Cersei Lannister

For all the other acting categories, we defer to IndieWire’s Ben Travers, who has already issued his predictions for this year’s Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. In the case of Supporting Actor, Travers categorizes Peter Dinklage as a contender who could win (sorry Nikolaj), while Lena Headey may not be able to break through the “Handmaid’s Tale” gauntlet in that category.

Outstanding Drama Series

In the end, deferring to Mr. Travers and his own predictions in this category: “Thrones” is a legit contender that “could win,” but “Handmaid’s Tale” gets his official “Will Win” pick. But even if “Thrones” loses, it will still stand out as a true champion this year. After all, as they say, “it’s an honor to be nominated.”

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