Emmys: How 'Game of Thrones' Hopes to Get Voters' Attention For Its Late-Arriving Episodes (Analysis)

HBO's biggest hit didn't unveil its most acclaimed episode of the season until June 19, six days after Emmy voting began, but it's still staking a claim for consideration.
Courtesy of HBO
Kit Harington in 'Game of Thrones'

HBO has to be hoping that Emmy voters are procrastinators.

The roughly 20,000 members of the TV Academy began voting for the 68th Emmy Award nominations on June 13, but it wasn't until six days later, on June 19, that HBO aired "Battle of the Bastards," the penultimate episode of the Game of Thrones' sixth season, which — spoiler alert — included not only a dragon-fueled showdown in Meereen, but also an impressively mounted battle to reclaim Winterfell, with the heroic Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and villainous Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) facing off.

Critics and fans alike immediately proclaimed it the best episode of the season — and began a breathless countdown to this coming Sunday, June 26, when HBO will air the season finale, "The Winds of Winter," just 24 hours before the Emmy nomination voting window closes.

In terms of courting voters, this timetable was less-than-ideal for HBO's most popular series. The cable network is always very guarded about its upcoming content, hoping to avoid leaks prior to airing, and it guards no show more closely than Game of Thrones, which is why it did not make the final two episodes available to Emmy voters before the episodes aired.

But the network did offer voters an incentive to wait a bit longer before casting their e-ballot: it scheduled the series' big "For Your Consideration" event for this season on June 13, the same night the episode aired, screening the entire episode at the historic, restored Theatre at Ace Hotel, following an introduction by director Miguel Sapochnik. More than 1,000 Academy members made the trek downtown to attend.

So how is "Battle" likely to figure in to the Emmy competition?

Thrones had released enough episodes of its sixth season prior to May 30, the cut-off date for Emmy eligibility, to earn a spot on the best drama series ballot. (Subsequent episodes are considered part of that same season because of the TV Academy's "hanging episodes" rule, but specific episode titles do not appear beneath drama series entries during this phase of voting.)

In other categories, individual episode submissions are required, forcing HBO and the Thrones team to make some strategic decisions. They submitted five different episodes in the best direction category — one directed by each of the season's five directors, with "Battle" serving as Sapochnik's entry. But in the writing category, they submitted only one episode, "Battle," written by show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who are credited with writing the majority of the other episodes during season six. That clearly served as a signal to the show's admirers in the writing peer group that they should wait to see the episode before marking up their ballots.

"Battle" also was submitted for consideration — either solo or among other episodes — in the editing, sound mixing and special visual effects categories. But it was not submitted in a handful of others — cinematography, music composition, sound editing and stunt coordination — that require an early upload of either entire episodes or clips for nomination consideration. (While "Battle" might have been a strong contender in those categories, other worthy episodes from earlier in the season were submitted instead.)

Thrones, which won a record-setting 12 Emmys a year ago, is expected to fare well when nominations are announced July 14. The extent to which "Battle" will contribute to that showing, though, remains to be seen.