Is it going to be a bloodbath? “Game of Thrones,” the winningest drama series in Emmy history, is up for the awards for one last time — and it’s hard to imagine voters not giving it more nominations than any other series, even if its final season left some fans disappointed.
But once you get beyond HBO’s dragon-fueled juggernaut, the Emmy drama categories are undergoing one of the biggest category turnovers in history. Of the seven shows that were nominated in the Outstanding Drama Series category last year, five are ineligible this year. “The Americans” has gone off the air, and the other four – “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things” and “Westworld” – didn’t air enough episodes during the eligibility period to qualify for this year’s awards.
(One exception: “The Handmaid’s Tale” aired a few “hanging episodes” at the end of Season 2 that are eligible in some individual-achievement categories.)
So there’s going to be a huge turnover in the drama categories this year. The nominations will likely contain a few past nominees who’ll be able to return to the top categories, as well as a crop of new faces. And all of them will have the unenviable task of trying to knock “Game of Thrones” off its Emmy throne.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Of last year’s nominees, only “Game of Thrones” and “This Is Us” are eligible again this year; the former is a lock, the latter a question mark. (But it was a question mark last year, too, so we shouldn’t underestimate it.)
The only other shows in the running that have been nominated in this category in the past are “Better Call Saul,” which seems likely to return after being bypassed last year; “Orange Is the New Black,” which hasn’t really been a significant Emmy player for years; and “House of Cards,” which had plenty of Emmy cachet in its early years, before the sexual misconduct accusations against Kevin Spacey forced him off the show and required producers to dramatically retool for their final season.
And while the “American Horror Story” franchise has been a formidable contender in the limited-series categories for years, this season’s use of returning characters and storylines has pushed it for the first time into the drama-series field, where it will no doubt face stiffer competition.
Newer shows vying to break into the category include “Killing Eve,” “Succession,” “Ozark,” “Pose,” “Bodyguard” and “Homecoming.” The first of those shows probably has the most heat – it landed a lead actress nomination for Sandra Oh last year, so voters are probably ready to give it an upgrade — with “Ozark” and “Succession” next in line.
That leaves one more slot, which could well go to “Homecoming” (Julia Roberts, after all). Voters might also continue their embrace of LGBTQ themes and go to “Pose.”
Predicted nominees (in order of likelihood): “Game of Thrones,” “Killing Eve,” “This Is Us,” “Better Call Saul,” “Ozark,” “Succession,” “Pose”
But watch out for: “Bodyguard,” “Homecoming,” “The Good Fight,” “House of Cards,” “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Three of last year’s nominees are eligible to return, the most of any drama category. But while Jason Bateman (“Ozark”) and Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) seem likely to repeat, Brown’s castmate Milo Ventimiglia is likely on the bubble, challenged by three-time nominee Bob Odenkirk for “Better Call Saul” and by newcomers like Richard Madden from “Bodyguard,” Brian Cox from “Succession” and the scene-stealing Billy Porter from “Pose.”
And don’t count out the final stand for “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington, who was nominated once (in supporting) and may well have had enough big moments to earn recognition.
Predicted nominees: Richard Madden, “Bodyguard”; Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”; Jason Bateman, “Ozark”; Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”; Billy Porter, “Pose”; Kit Harington, “Game of Thrones”
But watch out for: Brian Cox, “Succession”; Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”; Stephan James, “Homecoming”; Paul Giamatti, “Billions”; J.K. Simmons, “Counterpart”
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
This is another drama category where most of last year’s nominees aren’t eligible. With Claire Foy, Tatiana Maslany, Elisabeth Moss, Keri Russell and Evan Rachel Wood out of the running, that leaves only Sandra Oh from “Killing Eve” to represent for the Class of 2018, and that she will do.
The only other past nominees who are eligible are Robin Wright, who may get bonus points from voters for taking over “House of Cards” after Spacey’s departure; Christine Baranski, who was nominated in the supporting category six times for playing Diane Lockhart in “The Good Wife” and could break into lead in its spinoff “The Good Fight”; and Emilia Clarke, a three-time supporting nominee for “Game of Thrones” who hasn’t received a nod since she switched to lead. The Mother of Dragons took no prisoners this year, and voters wouldn’t dare snub her.
They’ll be up against newcomers like Sandra Oh’s “Killing Eve” castmate Jodie Comer, a good bet for a nom; “Homecoming” star Julia Roberts, who’d definitely add star power to the Emmys; four-time Emmy winner Laura Linney, who has yet to be nominated for “Ozark”; and transgender actor Mj Rodriguez, the heart of “Pose.”
Predicted nominees: Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”; Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”; Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”; Julia Roberts, “Homecoming”; Laura Linney, “Ozark”; Robin Wright, “House of Cards”
But watch out for: Christine Baranski, “The Good Fight”; Mj Rodriguez, “Pose”; Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”; Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”; Elizabeth Olsen, “Sorry for Your Loss”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
The Lannister boys will be back for sure: Peter Dinklage is already the most-nominated person ever in the category with seven previous nods for “Game of Thrones,” and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau finally broke into the category last year and isn’t going away this year.
But with four of last year’s nominees ineligible (Joseph Fiennes for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” David Harbour for “Stranger Things,” Mandy Patinkin for “Homeland” and Matt Smith for “The Crown”), that opens the field both for the return of past nominees like Michael Kelly from “House of Cards,” Jon Voight for “Ray Donovan” and Jonathan Banks and maybe even Giancarlo Esposito from “Better Call Saul.”
Justin Hartley could also break through for the first time for “This Is Us,” but Kieran Culkin or Matthew Macfadyen (“Succession”), Bobby Cannavale (“Homecoming”) and Peter Mullan (“Ozark”) are liable to get in his way.
Predicted nominees: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”; Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”; Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”; Kieran Culkin, “Succession”; Bobby Cannavale, “Homecoming”
But watch out for: Justin Hartley, “This Is Us”; Peter Mullan, “Ozark”; Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”; Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”; Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Six of the seven 2018 nominees aren’t eligible because they’re from the inactive shows “Westworld” (Thandie Newton), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd and Yvonne Strahovski), “Stranger Things” (Millie Bobby Brown) and “The Crown” (Vanessa Kirby). That leaves “Game of Thrones” villainess Lena Heady as the only potential returning nominee. And make no mistake, she will land that spot for the fifth time – the only question is how many of her castmates she’ll bring along for the ride.
After a final season in which the women dominated, “Game of Thrones” could easily grab three slots here with Headey, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner – and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Gwendoline Christine made it a quartet. But the gang from Westeros will have to make room for a few others, with Julia Garner (“Ozark”) a likely nominee and Rhea Seehorn (“Better Call Saul”), Susan Kelechi Watson (“This Is Us”) and Fiona Shaw (“Killing Eve”) strong contenders.
Maura Tierney (“The Affair” and Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”) have been nominated before, which always makes them a threat to repeat.
Predicted nominees: Maisie Williams, “Game of Thrones”; Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”; Julia Garner, “Ozark”; Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”; Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”; : Susan Kelechi Watson, “This Is Us”
But watch out for: Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve”; Keeley Hawes, “Bodyguard”; Gwendoline Christie, “Game of Thrones”; Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”