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‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Wins the Best Limited Series Emmy — the First Streaming Series to Top the Category

Scott Frank's seven-part literary adaptation continued its run through awards season, capping off a big night for Netflix.

The Queen's Gambit

Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Queen’s Gambit”

Phil Bray/Netflix

At the time of last year’s Emmys ceremony, a seven-episode literary adaptation about the tumultuous life of a fictional chess prodigy might not have been an obvious awards mainstay. Yet, after a year when “The Queen’s Gambit” never really waned in its quest for TV’s highest prize, the Netflix show finished its calendar-spanning run by taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series.

Prior to 2021, no originals series from a streaming service had won the Outstanding Limited Series Emmy. HBO’s programs won three of the last four years, with “Watchmen,” “Chernobyl,” and “Big Little Lies” beating out competition from Netflix like “When They See Us,” “Unorthodox,” and “Unbelievable.” FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” broke up the premium cable network’s hot streak by winning the category in 2018, topping Netflix’s “Godless.”

In one of the 73rd Primetime Emmys’ most competitive races, Limited Series was a wealth of artistic standouts and fan favorites. “WandaVision” was Marvel’s first significant TV splash in the Disney+ era, “I May Destroy You” reached across continents and signaled the evolution of Michaela Coel as an undeniable creative force, and “The Underground Railroad” was a singular achievement from a team led by writer/director Barry Jenkins.

Though there were strong cases to be made for any of these other nominees, “Mare of Easttown” likely had the best shot to knock off the queen (apologies, it’s our last chance to make these chess puns for the foreseeable future), what with its prime pre-summer premiere and HBO’s long history of success at the Emmys.

But, as many of the show’s Creative Arts Emmy wins as well as its trophies on Sunday night’s Primetime ceremony certainly signaled, “The Queen’s Gambit” ended up being the one to beat. It’s the first win for Netflix in the category, after previously scoring nominations for “Unbelievable,” “Orthodox,” “When They See Us,” and “Godless,” the latter of which came from “Queen’s Gambit” writer/director Scott Frank.

After losing out for “Godless” in a year when “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” was the academy’s favorite, Frank also won Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series.

The 73rd Primetime Emmys aired Sunday, September 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. The three-hour event was hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and, for the first time, available to stream on Paramount+. Follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest Emmys news, including live updates, as the virtual awards ceremony airs Sunday night.

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