Game of Thrones won some big prizes at the Emmy Awards 2019, but not quite as many as most people expected. The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards took place on Sunday night, with Game of Thrones heading into the event with 14 nominations, and the possibility of claiming as many as five awards on the night (having already won 10 at the Creative Arts Emmys).
Despite the backlash to Game of Thrones season 8, the series was still expected to win big at the Emmys for a number of reasons, not least because this was its final year. The Emmys has rewarded Game of Thrones a lot in the past, and this represented the last chance to do so, meaning it was anticipated that the HBO series would be lavished with awards. In the end, it walked away with Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (for Peter Dinklage's performance as Tyrion Lannister), but even though it won the biggest award of the night, those involved in Game of Thrones might nonetheless be feeling disappointed.
Game of Thrones had a total of 9 acting nominations on the night, with four wins possible from them. To come out with just one isn't a great success great, but is indicative of the fact that Game of Thrones season 8 wasn't as well-received by fans and critics. In Best Actor, Kit Harington had some strong competition, and wasn't a favorite. Emilia Clarke would've been a worthy victor in Outstanding Actress, but also had tough competition, and was perhaps hamstrung by the controversy around Daenerys Targaryen's arc. Dinklage won Outstanding Supporting Actor for the fourth time, which was a sign of how the Emmys like to play favorites (although he did some great work too), while the four nominations in Outstanding Supporting Actress likely canceled each other out. That said, there was a strong overdue narrative around Lena Headey, and if Game of Thrones season 8 had given Cersei something to do, then she probably would have won.
Perhaps even more surprising was that Game of Thrones lost in both Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing, beaten by Ozark and Succession respectively - and even Jason Bateman couldn't quite believe the former happened. The writing was widely criticized as the worst aspect of season 8, so that explains why it didn't win there, although it would've helped if they'd nominated the right Game of Thrones episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms". For direction, there may again have been some vote splitting - three episodes were nominated - but it's another sign that many of the criticisms were heard by voters: "The Long Night" was too dark; "The Last of the Starks" was the infamous coffee cup episode; "The Iron Throne" was extremely controversial all-round.
Game of Thrones did win the Emmys biggest award, Outstanding Drama Series, which is perhaps enough to make this look like a successful night. That, like Dinklage's win, ties into the Emmys often having repeat winners, but even more broadly is that voters likely felt there was no way they couldn't give it this award (which it's won twice before) one last time. By giving it this, but mostly ignoring it elsewhere, the Emmys was able to allow Game of Thrones to go out on a high, while recognizing the flaws with and reception to season 8.