Emmy Predictions in Drama: The Dragons of ‘Game of Thrones’ Are Back

After sitting out last year’s race, “Game of Thrones” is back to challenge “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “This Is Us,” “The Americans,” “Westworld” and other Emmys drama contenders

Last Updated: July 9, 2018 @ 10:21 AM

Can “Game of Thrones” possibly be as dominant in the Emmys drama-series categories as it was in the past few years? That’s hard to tell — in the past, it had the advantage that each new season would air right around the same time that voters were considering the previous season, stirring up lots of attention for the show at exactly the right time.

But the complexity of the production not only caused it to sit out last year’s Emmy season, it guaranteed that the season under consideration now is the one that premiered last July. And rather than reminding us what an achievement the show is with a new season this summer, HBO and the producers are taking their time and won’t air the final group of episodes until sometime in 2019.

That means that “Game of Thrones” isn’t nearly as fresh in voters’ minds as it had been in previous years, which could make it a little less of a juggernaut than it was in 2015 (24 nominations, out of which it won a record 12) and 2016 (23 noms and 12 wins).

Still, the show will no doubt collect lots of nominations — and to be honest, some voters might simply respond to the return of their old favorites (Tyrion! Danerys! Jamie! Arya!) rather than remembering exactly what it was they did last season. “Game of Thrones” also has the potential to cut into the take of the HBO drama that stepped into its shoes last year, “Westworld.”

But current events could also help other shows. Worries over the direction of Donald Trump’s America have made last year’s winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” timelier in the eyes of many voters, while the show about Russian agents and Russian meddling, “The Americans,” concluded its six-season run with a universally acclaimed final season.

Outstanding Drama Series
Last year, a record five new shows cracked this category, with “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us,” “Westworld” and the winner “The Handmaid’s Tale” all breaking in with their first seasons. The bad news for those shows, and for this year’s newcomers “Killing Eve,” “Mindhunter,” “Ozark” and “The Good Doctor,” is that “Game of Thrones” is back after a year off, and will undoubtedly claim one of the slots.

But the good news is that two of last year’s nominees, “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards,” didn’t air during the eligibility period and are sitting out this year’s race. That should allow all five of last year’s freshman nominees to be back, and also leave room for “Game of Thrones” and the final season of “The Americans,” which has only been nominated in this category once before, in 2016.

Still, four-time nominee and 2012 winner “Homeland” is also coming off a well-received season, and the new shows “Killing Eve” and “Mindhunter” have significant heat.

Predicted nominees (listed in order of likelihood): “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Game of Thrones,” “This Is Us,” “The Crown,” “The Americans,” “Westworld,” “Stranger Things”
Watch out for: “Killing Eve,” “Mindhunter,” “Homeland,” “Ozark,” “The Good Doctor”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Three of last year’s seven nominees in this category are out of the running this year: “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards” didn’t air during the eligibility period, knocking out Bob Odenkirk and the disgraced Kevin Spacey, while Anthony Hopkins’ role on “Westworld” grew smaller and pushed him into the supporting-actor category.

That leaves four 2017 nominees — defending champ Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), his castmate Milo Ventimiglia, “The Americans” star Matthew Rhys and “Ray Donovan” lead Liev Schreiber — still in the running, and all of them should reclaim those spots. (Schreiber might have the toughest road back, but Emmy voters have supported him in the past even when his show didn’t seem to have much heat.)

“Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington will be competing to join them in this category for the first time, after entering in the supporting category in previous years, while Jeffrey Wright (in another supporting-to-lead move) and Ed Harris are looking to slide into Hopkins’ spot as a “Westworld” nominee. Freddie Highmore (“The Good Doctor”) and J.K. Simmons (“Counterpart”) are also strong contenders, with Highmore in particular having a great chance of making the cut.

We give a slight edge to Harington and Highmore, with the increasingly thorny plotlines of “Westworld” perhaps hurting its contenders.

Predicted nominees: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”; Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”; Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”; Kit Harington, “Game of Thrones”; Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor”; Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Watch out for: Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”; J.K. Simmons, “Counterpart”; Jason Bateman, “Ozark”; Jonathan Groff, “Mindhunter”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
In contrast to the lead-actor category, only one of last year’s lead-actress nominees, Robin Wright from “House of Cards,” is missing in action this year. Of the other five nominees, Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Keri Russell (“The Americans”) seem like locks to return, with Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”) on the bubble and 2015 winner Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”) by no means a lock to repeat.

Mandy Moore’s double-sided performance in “This Is Us” should make her a solid contender, and Emilia Clarke’s move from supporting to lead for “Game of Thrones” makes perfect sense. Sandra Oh and Jodi Comer (“Killing Eve”), Laura Linney (“Ozark”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Deuce”) and Christine Baranski (“The Good Fight”) make up a truly impressive lineup of actresses from newer shows, all of whom have a shot.

And while Claire Danes missed out on a nomination last year for the first time with “Homeland,” her previous record with that show — two wins and five straight nominations — suggests that she should never be taken lightly.

We suspect that Clarke is too much the face of “Game of Thrones” to be overlooked, Moore made too many people cry on “This is Us” and Wood will get a return spot for “Westworld.”

Predicted nominees: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Claire Foy, “The Crown”; Keri Russell, “The Americans”; Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”
Watch out for: Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”; Claire Danes, “Homeland”; Laura Linney, “Ozark”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”; Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
This year’s ballot is missing a full five of last year’s seven nominees in this category: John Lithgow for “The Crown,” Jonathan Banks for “Better Call Saul,” Ron Cephas Jones for “This Is Us,” Michael Kelly for “House of Cards” and Jeffrey Wright for “Westworld.” But two 2017 nominees, David Harbour for “Stranger Things” and Mandy Patinkin for “Homeland,” are looking to repeat, which should be easy for Harbour and likely for Patinkin.

Meanwhile, six-time nominee and two-time winner Peter Dinklage is back in the running after a year off with “Game of Thrones,” while Jon Voight is gunning for his third nomination for “Ray Donovan.” Potential newcomers to the category include Justin Hartley for “This Is Us,” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for “Game of Thrones,” Noah Schnapp for “Stranger Things,” Noah Emmerich for “The Americans,” Joseph Fiennes for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Brendan Fraser for “Trust” and Richard Schiff for “The Good Doctor.”

We’re guessing that voters will go with their two favorite Lannisters, Tyrion (Dinklage) and Jamie (Coster-Waldau), while the respect for the way “The Americans” finished strong will finally make Emmerich a nominee.

Predicted nominees: David Harbour, “Stranger Things”; Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”; Justin Hartley, “This Is Us”; Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”; Noah Emmerich, “The Americans”
Watch out for: Noah Schnapp, “Stranger Things”; Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”; Brendan Fraser, “Trust”; Richard Schiff, “The Good Doctor”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Five of last year’s nominees are back on the ballot: Ann Dowd from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things,” Chrissy Metz from “This Is Us,” Thandie Newton from “Westworld” and Uzo Aduba from “Orange Is the New Black.”

At least four of them — Dowd, Brown, Metz and Newton — will probably be nominated again, though they’ll need to make room for Lena Headey, a returning three-time nominee for “Game of Thrones,” and perhaps for a second nominee from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” either Alexis Bledel or Yvonne Strahovski. (Last year, it was Samira Wiley, but she’s in the guest category now; this year, we suspect it’ll be Bledel.)

Vanessa Kirby from “The Crown” also has a shot, as does Holly Taylor from “The Americans” and the indomitable Stark sisters from “Game of Thrones,” Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner.

Predicted nominees: Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”; Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”; Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”; Thandie Newton, “Westworld”; Alexis Bledel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Watch out for: Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Vanessa Kirby, “The Crown”; Holly Taylor, “The Americans”; Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”; Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is the New Black”