The Emmy Awards are a sham and everyone knows it, and yet every July we all crowd around our computers waiting with bated breath to find out who and what will be nominated. This year was supposed to be the year Better Call Saul's not-so-secret weapon, Rhea Seehorn, finally got her due. She's long been the best thing about the AMC drama, but she was robbed yet again because Emmy voters went straight down the ballot, selecting every single person who ever appeared on Game of Thrones during the show's final season.
In all, Game of Thrones received 32 nominations -- a new record for a drama series -- and while a high number of nominations for the HBO series is not surprising given this was the last time Emmy voters could honor the show, Season 8 was also the series' worst season. And yet four of the show's 32 nods came in the supporting actress in a drama category -- the same category Seehorn was submitted in -- as Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams were all nominated for their performances. (Rounding out the category were Killing Eve's Fiona Shaw and Ozark's Julia Garner, the latter of whom is likely to actually take home the award come September because Emmy voters love Ozark and because there's likely to be vote-splitting among the Thrones women.)
Now, I am not suggesting some of these nominations were not earned or that these women are not talented performers -- Headey is a truly exceptional actress who has been nominated for her performance on Game of Thrones five times now, and as I wrote earlier this year, she's one of the few Thrones actors who deserves to be rewarded for their work. She regularly elevated even the sloppiest writing. But the writers failed to give Cersei a substantial storyline in the show's final six episodes -- she spent most of that time staring out a window and drinking wine before being crushed to death under the Red Keep in the penultimate episode.
Still, Headey's nomination is not a surprise -- she's a previous nominee, which does a lot to help come nomination time. If she wins for a final season that gave her so little to work with, though, her moment of triumph runs the risk of feeling like a consolation prize after being snubbed for years. Meanwhile, first-time nominee Christie had a stand-out moment in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," the episode in which Brienne finally became a knight, but it's highly unlikely she will win for it. Which brings us to Turner (another first-time nominee) and Williams, both talented actresses who certainly carried a lot of the narrative weight over the years, but despite their respective achievements, it's hard to reconcile the idea that Emmy voters apparently saw more in their performances than they saw in Seehorn's.
In Season 4 of Better Call Saul, Seehorn's Kim Wexler, who has long been the show's MVP and moral center, was questioning both her career and the future of her relationship with Jimmy (Emmy nominee Bob Odenkirk) as he appeared to slip further and further away from the man she once knew. The lone woman in a cast full of incredible men who often get bigger, more show-stopping moments simply by virtue of their characters' professions or personas, Seehorn impressively holds her own, especially in scenes opposite Odenkirk.
Seehorn deserves to be recognized for the way she has built Kim into a complex character season after season, elevating her performance even when Kim is at her quietest. Because even though the scene in which Kim loses it on Howard (Patrick Fabian) after Chuck's death is a powerful moment for a character who is used to being in control, and although the rooftop blowout between Kim and Jimmy in the penultimate episode was necessary and cathartic, the moments that truly stand out are the quiet ones when it's all about what's left unsaid. When Kim realizes that she has been duped by Jimmy at the hearing in the finale's final moments, the crushing blow lands because of the way the camera lingers on Seehorn and her stunned expression as she processes what has just happened. It is the final image of Season 4, and it speaks volumes. Such is the power of Seehorn's performance.
It's truly unfortunate Better Call Saul, which might actually be better than Breaking Badin some regards, continues to be overlooked at the Emmys -- while the series itself has been nominated before alongside stars Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, they have never won (and Giancarlo Esposito, who was nominated this year, was previously nominated for playing the same role in Breaking Bad but lost to co-star Aaron Paul) -- but Emmy voters consistently ignoring Seehorn's powerful work is almost criminal. There could be no Better Call Saul without Kim, as she is one of its strongest pillars. I'd personally hoped that, like Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn before her, Seehorn could break into the race after enough time -- Gunn received her first nomination for Season 4 and took home the Emmy the next two years -- but apparently no one can stop the momentum of Game of Thrones, not even when it's a trash fire.
Thankfully, we won't have to worry about it after this year.
The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Fox.