Anyone who watched the Game of Thrones season finale knows that stories are important. The right story can get you elected king with very little leadership experience, and the right story can win you an Emmy in the final season of your hit fantasy series. So it’s extremely intriguing to see which episodes HBO submitted today to the 2019 Emmy Awards, especially in the Writing and Directing category.
It’s the Writing category that gets the most side-eye from me, personally. The network submitted just the series finale itself, “The Iron Throne”, written by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Say what you will about season 8 as a whole, but the finale is a weak writing entry, filled with loose ends, forced conclusions, a Tyrion speech about stories that seemed stapled in from a significantly worse show, and a dragon who suddenly grasped the concept of metaphor. It’s especially baffling when you consider season 8 had an episode like “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”, a genuinely great episode that—not to take away too much from director David Nutter—was comprised almost completely of stellar monologues and meetings by writer Bryan Cogman. (For the record, “The Iron Throne” is totally gonna’ win. Nothing matters. The episode with the “bad pussy” line won for writing in 2015.)
Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks” directed by Nutter, was submitted in the Directing category, as was “The Iron Throne.” But it’s HBO’s third pick here that raises an eyebrow: “The Long Night” directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Make no mistake, the massive battle at Winterfell between the living and the dead was a grand technical achievement, and the work put into bringing it to the screen is certainly impressive. But once it was on the screen, it was kind of a visual mess, mostly notable for the fact a good portion of the audience said they couldn’t see what the hell was going on. (Fun fact: “The Long Night” was also submitted for cinematography.) I can’t understand why “The Bells”, also directed by Sapochnik, didn’t get any love for directing or cinematography; set right in the clear daytime, the show’s penultimate episode features some of the most gorgeous, horrifying fantasy and disaster imagery I’ve seen on screen in a long time.
You can check out the full list of nominating ballots right here. The 2019 Emmy Awards air on September 22.
[Edit: I originally identified Cogman’s episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”, as “The Last of the Starks.” To be very clear, “The Last of the Starks” should not be nominated for a writing Emmy under any circumstance.]