HBO’s hit show, Game of Thrones, is to the Emmy Awards 2016 what The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) was to the Oscars between 2001-2003. DB Weiss and David Benioff’s television adaptation of George RR Martin’s fantasy epic series of blood, sweat, sex and tears—with a large dose of treason thrown in for good measure — swept this year’s awards with an impressive haul of 12 wins, including the big one — Best Drama Series, beating House of Cards, Mr. Robot, Downton Abbey, Better Call Saul, Homeland and The Americans — all excellent shows in their own right.
Just like Lord of the Rings before it, most its awards have been in the technical category with nine technical awards this year. The show, which made its debut on HBO in 2011, has dominated both popular culture and the viewers’ imagination, watched obsessively by millions of fans across the world. It is arguably the most successful television adaptation of any work of fantasy fiction, if not fiction. Just like LOTR, Game of Thrones (GoT) has succeeded in paving the way for fantasy as a genre to be reckoned as a real contender in mainstream television.
The show has received its fair share of criticism for its seemingly gratuitous violence and the blatant “sexploitation” of its female cast members. But GoT has also demonstrated that while computer generated images (CGI) make it possible to have dragons swoop in to save the day, it cannot eclipse the power of the original story.
For too long, both in the international publishing world as well as the television industry, genres such as science-fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction has been relegated to the fringes of the mainstream, not quite in the running for major awards, notwithstanding the phenomenon of Harry Potter. In the case of the Potter series, J K Rowlings’ books were well established before the film franchise began.
Martin, on the other hand, became a household name only after his books were adapted for the small screen; the same goes for Diana Gabaldon whose time-travelling genre-bending series, Outlander, is witnessing a new lease of life on television.
Weiss and Benioff’s masterful storytelling in GoT is a combination of stellar performances from its diverse cast (four of the lead actors, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams and Kit Harrington were nominated for awards this year), breathtaking cinematography and innovative CGI — not much different from LOTR.
And let’s not forget, when a ceiling is broken anywhere, it provides an opening for others. This year, Tatiana Maslany, the Canadian actor who plays more than six roles at any given point in the science-fiction, clone-drama, Orphan Black, won Best Actress in a Drama Series after being nominated for the first time last year, three years after the series made its debut in 2013.
Mr Robot, a brilliant hacker-drama (also labelled a “techno thriller”) received six Emmy nominations this year and a Best Actor (in a Drama Series) win for Rami Malek. Ryan Murphy has won for The People v. O.J. Simpson although he has seen Emmy success twice before when cast members Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates won for their performances in his horror series, American Horror Story.
Due to its new schedule, GoT may not be in the running for Emmys next year, but its work is already done.