Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Breaking Down Game of Thrones' Most (and Least) Deserved Emmy Nominations

Let's take a look at the HBO hit's record-breaking 32 nods

Sadie Gennis, Noelene Clark

People on the internet really didn't seem to like Game of Thrones Season 8, but apparently the Television Academy did! The final eight episodes of the HBO hit scored 32 nominations, breaking the record for the most nominations for a show in a single season.

Game of Thrones' impressive sweep of the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards nominations includes nine nods for acting, three for directing, one for writing, and one last chance to steal Best Drama Series right out from under Better Call Saul. But how many of these nominations does Game of Thrones actually deserve? That's what we want to find out so we can make sure we are calibrating our annoyance at this overwhelming show of support for the lackluster final season appropriately. Because hey, Game of Thrones wasn't all bad, so maybe it really did deserve some, or even most, of the nods! There's only one way to find out, so let's break down which Emmy nominations Game of Thrones deserved... and which ones it didn't.

Emmys 2019: Complete Coverage of the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards

Outstanding Drama Series
Does the fact that we all tuned in week after week (leading the HBO series to break multiple ratings records) negate everything that was wrong with Game of Thrones' final season -- the character betrayals, the rushed story arcs, Harry Strickland? No. No, it doesn't. Should Better Call Saul or Killing Eve beat Game of Thrones to win the Emmy? Definitely. But was Game of Thrones as good as fellow nominees Ozark and This Is Us? Yeah, probably. The final season wasn't good, but at least it was (mostly) a good time.
Verdict: Yes

Game of Thrones: "The Iron Throne"

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in the Game of Thrones finale, "The Iron Throne."


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Kit Harington as Jon Snow
Even Kit Harington has said that he isn't pleased with "70 percent" of the scenes he performed as Jon Snow. But that being said, the final season was Harington's strongest to date. That still doesn't mean that he's delivering on the same level as fellow nominees Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Billy Porter (Pose), or Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), though.
Verdict: No

Emmys 2019 Nominations: See the Full List

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Game of Thrones threw seven seasons of careful planning and compelling character development to the wind in its reckless sprint to the finish line, and the rushed depiction of Daenerys Targaryen's free fall into madness left fans and critics disappointed. However, Emilia Clarke herself failed to disappoint, and the harrowing performance she offered as the Mad Queen was one of the highlights of the final season, and of Clarke's entire run on the series.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
Brienne might have gotten shafted by Jaime, but Gwendoline Christie turned this polarizing storyline into an incredible showcase of her skills and we're happy to see the Academy recognize such a memorable performance.
Verdict: Yes

​Cersei Lannister (​Lena Headey) on ​Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5: "The Bells"

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) on Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5: "The Bells"

HBO/Helen Sloan

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
Lena Headey's talent is undeniable, and even in the show's weakest seasons, she has always managed to lift the writing up. She is one of the most deserving (if not the very most) of an Emmy nom out of the entire Game of Thrones cast. And yet... all she really did this season was drink wine, talk about elephants, and get crushed by rocks in one of the most anticlimactic TV deaths in recent memory. If we pretend this nomination is for her body of work as a whole, sure. But just based on this season, it's a no from us.
Verdict: No

Game of Thrones' Most Polarizing Season Just Broke an Emmys Record

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
Sophie Turner got in a few great one-liners and gave the fans exactly what they wanted when Sansa Stark was officially crowned Queen of Winterfell. But it's hard to accept seeing her nominated in this category when people like Better Call Saul's Rhea Seehorn were shut out. It's not that Turner isn't a captivating actress, it's just that there were better performances this year.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Maisie Williams gave us some standout moments this season (watching her evading the White Walkers in the Winterfell library comes to mind), but unfortunately, the material she was given this season didn't really give her many excuses to deliver anything with real nuance. We've seen Williams operating at her peak before, and this season just wasn't it.
Verdict: No

Game of Thrones Final Season Spoilers and Theories

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
Theon Greyjoy's teary-eyed reunion with Sansa Stark was a Great Final Season Moment. But the same can't be said for his pointless death "defending" Bran against the Night King. And frankly, there was little else for Alfie Allen to do this season that might warrant a nomination.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
There's no denying that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a great actor. And he did fine in his final season as Jaime Lannister, ping-ponging between the woman he loves and the woman he ought to love. He did fine portraying Jaime's emotional farewell to his brother, Tyrion. He did fine running through King's Landing to try and ring the bells. He did fine in his pointless sword-fighting scene with pirate Euron Greyjoy. And he did fine is his anticlimactic death scene, crushed by rocks at Cersei's side. Should "fine" get an Emmy?
Verdict: No

​Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan/HBO

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Peter Dinklage has three Emmy Awards for his performance as Tyrion Lannister, who for multiple seasons served as both the show's beating heart and its welcome comic relief. Unfortunately, Tyrion's emotional farewell to Jaime Lannister aside, Season 8 saw Dinklage confined to one-note scenes filled with pondering and agonizing or pontificating and speechifying. Tyrion, and the showrunners, may fervently believe in the power of stories, but Season 8 didn't offer much of a story for Dinklage to work with.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Carice van Houten as Melisandre
Carice van Houten was fantastic as Melisandre in Game of Thrones, and yet the first (and only) time she received a nomination for her performance was for the season in which she appeared in a single episode, said a few cryptic sentences, and then fell over.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: "The Last of the Starks" (David Nutter)
You shouldn't be allowed to get Emmy nomination for an episode this bad. It was a true clown hour, even coffee cup aside.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series:"The Long Night" (Miguel Sapochnik)
There had never been a battle this big (or this long) on TV before; it's just a shame that we weren't able to actually see it.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: "The Iron Throne" (David Benioff, D.B. Weiss)
We can't quite fathom why the season's two strongest episodes ("Winterfell" and "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms") didn't receive any directing nominations. While the nod for "The Iron Throne" isn't as objectionable as the ones for "The Last of the Starks" or "The Long Night," it still was far from the best this season had to offer.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: "The Iron Throne" (David Benioff, D.B. Weiss)
Again, with smart, funny, emotional episodes like Dave Hill's "Winterfell" and Bryan Cogman's "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" this season, it's a shame this overwrought snoozefest of a finale was the only one submitted for nomination.
Verdict: No

Game of Thrones: 'The Last of the Starks'

Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and Varys (Conleth Hill) in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4, "The Last of the Starks."


Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

Game of Thrones would never have become the megahit it was without the incredible supporting cast. And though we wish the series had been more willing to kill off some of its leading players in this final season, they still managed to squeeze in a few memorable new faces into the already crowded cast. We're talking, of course, about Harry Strickland. Whoever cast that guy definitely deserves an Emmy.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour): "The Iron Throne"
Although we don't think this shot is going to be studied in film classes for years to come, the cinematography in Game of Thrones series finale gave us at least one reason why we'll miss the show now that it's done.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More): "The Bells"
As much as people ragged on the writing this season, there really was no dip in the quality of how Game of Thrones looked. And the production design for "The Bells," which chronicled the fall of King's Landing, was spectacular to observe.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Special Visual Effects: "The Bells"
There was a lot of criticism surrounding "The Bells," the episode in which Daenerys went full Mad Queen and torched King's Landing. But one thing fans couldn't knock was just how good this torching looked. Did we need to spend so much time seeing people getting roasted? Of course not. But did it look cool when they were? Of course.
Verdict: Hell yes

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie
Have you seen this show's battle scenes? Arya's scenes alone would have earned the show this nomination.
Verdict: Yes

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Game of Thrones

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan / HBO

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score): "The Long Night"
When viewers couldn't exactly follow what was happening in the battle against the Night King, the score was there to do the heavy lifting, providing all the right emotional cues and creating a sense of tension even when fans couldn't tell what they should be tense about.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Main Title Design
No matter how much of a slog an episode turned out to be, viewers could always count on the main titles to get them hyped at the beginning of the hour. And heck, there were some episodes in which the main titles really were the creative high point.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series: "The Iron Throne" (Katie Weiland)
You got a lil' something.
Verdict: No

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series: "The Long Night" (Tim Porter)
While the show's biggest battle scene was historically laughable and almost too dark to watch, it kept us at the edge of our seats, with editing that misdirected us so well, most of us never saw the show's biggest moment coming.
Verdict: Yes

​Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1: "Winterfell"​

Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1: "Winterfell"

HBO/Helen Sloan

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series: "Winterfell" (Crispin Green)
After a middling Season 7, the final season premiere sucked us back in, thanks to Green's expert balancing of the high stakes and perfectly timed comedy.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour): "The Long Night"
From the whooshing of arrows to the crunch of Lyanna Mormont's bones in a wight giant's hand, there's no knocking the sound editing in the show's biggest battle episode.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour): "The Long Night"
We may not have been able to see the battle, but we could definitely hear it!
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes: "The Bells"
Michele Clapton is the Eric Clapton of costume design, and she deserves literally every possible honor that can be bestowed upon her.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series: "The Long Night"
From what we could see in the epic battle, the hairstyling was just fine. And we'll never criticize Daenerys' elaborate braids.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic): "The Long Night"
What the battle episode lacked in writing, it made up for in spectacle, and the bloodied and dirtied faces of its characters had a lot to do with setting the scene.
Verdict: Yes

Game of Thrones Night King

The Night King on Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3: "The Long Night"

HBO/Helen Sloan

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special: "The Long Night"
The wounded warriors, the shambling wights, and the Night King's ability to express shock and fear as well as malevolence are a testament to the show's stellar use of prosthetic makeup.
Verdict: Yes

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within a Scripted Program: "Fight for the Living: Beyond the Wall Virtual Reality Experience"
Just because we weren't impressed with the show's ending doesn't mean we don't wish we could spend more time in the world of Westeros. HBO's VR game let fans step into the boots of a ranger at the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms and fight off a wight polar bear and a bunch of undead assailants. It was cool!
Verdict: Yes

So how many of Game of Thrones' 32 nominations did the series actually deserve? According to our very scientific, and not at all biased study above, the answer is 19. And you know what? That's actually pretty impressive for a season that inspired such backlash that fans started a petition to remake it.

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will air live on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8/7c on Fox.

Game of Thrones is available to stream on HBO. Need HBO?Add it through Hulu or through Amazon.

PHOTOS: Every Episode of Game of Thrones, Ranked from Worst to Best

Game of Thrones: "The Iron Throne"

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in the Game of Thrones finale, "The Iron Throne."