Don’t call it a comeback: After being ineligible to compete at the 2017 Emmy Awards due to its seventh season’s later-than-usual summer debut, HBO’s Game of Thrones again finds itself in the thick of awards season with 22 nominations — the most for any single show at the 2018 Emmys.
The pricey HBO fantasy drama, which will wrap in 2019, covered ?a ton of ground in its seventh season, from reuniting many of the Stark siblings to staging massive, bloody battles (fire-breathing dragons included) and one budding romance that has some, um, incest issues.
Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss eschew most awards press, so directors Alan Taylor and Jeremy Podeswa, both nominated for their work this season, spoke to THR about some of its most impactful moments.
One of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons was killed this season. How did you approach that?
ALAN TAYLOR I have a history of killing beloved characters on HBO shows: I killed Ned Stark, I killed Julius Caesar [on Rome], I killed Wild Bill Hickok [on Deadwood]. As a director, it’s great when you have a moment like that because you know it’s going to have an impact. I knew that killing a dragon was going to be like killing a puppy. (Laughs.) It’s an emotional moment when you kill a character that’s flesh and blood and human, but killing a creature that’s beloved the way dragons are? I knew it would have impact.
What was your reaction when you learned that the Wall would fall?
JEREMY PODESWA When you’re reading the script, you’re thinking, “Oh my God. They’re really going there.” Then it was like, “Wow. This is an enormous, spectacular sequence. How are we going to pull it off?” There’s a big question of mine about how much is real, how much is not real, how much is visual effects. You’re so well-supported on a show like this with such great people that I knew I wouldn’t be doing it alone.
The revelation that Jon Snow and Daenerys are likely related comes during their first love scene. What tone were you hoping for?
PODESWA It’s an epic revelation about the past, and that’s suggestive of the future. For us, it was very important that there be a question about what could possibly happen after this moment. In the script, it described the fact that they were lovemaking, but it didn’t go into great detail in terms of what was going on between them in that moment. We built in a moment between ?Kit [Harington] and Emilia [Clarke] where they stopped and looked into each other’s eyes. The intention from my point of view, and their point of view, too, is ?that they’re driven by passion into this. They don’t even fully understand what it’s all about and what the consequences of it are.
WHAT THR‘S CRITIC SAID
“This was a rough season, but I think many people expected a rough, table-setting penultimate season before the show ends ?its run with what we hope will be Throne-shaking insanity. Was it exactly the sort of roughness we feared, though? Probably not. There were too many battles and scorched armies to think of this as table-setting in any traditional way. It was a huge season of Game of Thrones. It was just a season whose hugeness came at the expense of the geographic, temporal, character and narrative logic that we’ve come to expect from the show. Or maybe leaps in continuity and plausibility are just the price you pay for a surplus of dragons, and as the show’s audience has only grown, I can’t doubt that this is a price that most would pay willingly.” – Daniel J. Fienberg, Aug. 27
Reclaiming Emmy gold after taking some time ?off might be as challenging as nabbing a seat on the Iron Throne. That makes Game of Thrones‘ once-solid chances of winning Emmy’s biggest category murky in its return from sitting out the 2017 race. Remember when Mad Men‘s four-year winning streak in the category was followed by a year’s hiatus? The drama never got its Emmy mojo back. Game of Thrones, praised for its pricey production and sprawling storylines, has seemingly stronger chances of returning to the winners circle after coming out on top in 2015 and 2016 — though only if most recent winner The Handmaid’s Tale has lost its thrall over members of the TV Academy. Of course, it’s more than a two-show race. But the fact that no top drama competitor is a first-time nominee this year certainly means that the most momentum is behind past winners. – Michael O’Connell
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.