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Column: 'Game of Thrones': The Emmys sweep that wasn't

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In the hours before Sunday night's Emmys telecast, a "Game of Thrones" sweep was the second-safest bet in town, the first being Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning her 187th Emmy or whatever for "Veep."

So much for safe bets. Although the "Thrones" cast avoided "Veep's" strange and, one imagines, highly uncomfortable experience of assembling for a farewell in front of an audience that gave it absolutely no Emmys, the HBO epic discovered its much-predicted sweep was fantasy too.

Though it won drama series, and Peter Dinklage took his record-breaking fourth supporting actor statuette, "Thrones" ended its reign more like Cersei than like Arya: Instead of slaying the night, it found many of its Emmy hopes buried, perhaps by the sheer weight of its own legacy.

Although it took five tries before the HBO fantasy epic won drama series, it had entered its final awards season having won the category for each of the last three years it was eligible. In 2015, the series set a record for the most Primetime Emmys won in a single year (12); the following year it became the most awarded series in the history of the Emmys, a feat made even more notable by the fact that it has only ever won in one acting category (although Peter Dinklage had taken the supporting actor prize three times before winning Sunday night).

This year it set another record for the most nominations (32) and won an impressive 10 awards at this year's Creative Arts Emmys.

With numbers like that, what could possibly stand in the way of what Times awards critic Glenn Whipp predicted would be a final-season "Game of Thrones" coronation?

 

Well, fate, which never likes a showoff, for one thing. And that final season for another.

"Game of Thrones" may be the only television show in history that had a better chance of winning a bunch of Emmys for its final season before that season aired. Certainly the anticipation of the story's conclusion was a far more pleasant experience for many than actually watching it. Yes, you could argue, as many have (including me), that the fury and disappointment so many felt about certain twists proved the power of the show. But it was fury and disappointment nonetheless.

Opting for six episodes, several of which ran for 90 minutes or more, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have won two Emmys for writing and lost last year to Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg for "The Americans," amped up the spectacle at, many thought, the expense of character and story.

The final outcome of the piece, which, among other things, saw Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) put on the Iron Throne, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) trudging north of the Wall and Daenerys (whose name we had finally all learned to spell!) drooping lifeless in the claws of her last remaining dragon (who no one seemed at all concerned about, although, you know, it is a dragon and one with vengeful mommy issues) left many, including key cast members, dismayed.

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