From 2011-1019, the sweeping epic Game of Thrones revolutionized the medium of television. The story adapted from George R.R. Martin‘s series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire took the world by storm and broke all kinds of records along the way. Some of those records were for the number of Emmy Awards the show received over its 10-year 8 season run (an amazing 59 out of 112 nominations — a record for premium cable/streaming verticals). But probably the singular most astounding mark set by Game of Thrones is the record for Emmys won in a single season. In the show’s final year, the fantasy drama blockbuster took home a whopping 12 statues out of an amazing 32 nominations. A mark that is made more impressive by the fact that the David Benioff and D.B. Weiss-directed masterpiece tied its previous record of a dozen wins from both the fifth and sixth seasons in 2015 and 2016. The wins included Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor for star Peter Dinklage. Let’s take a deeper dive inside that whopping total and highlight some of the more impressive feats.
For the first six years of Game of Thrones, each season consisted of ten episodes. That was trimmed to seven in the penultimate seventh season in 2018. By the time the show reached its final season in the summer of 2019, there were only six episodes — just over half of what it had produced for the majority of its illustrious run on HBO. Though there was a good amount of scuttlebutt from fans that the final season felt a bit rushed and didn’t fully flesh out the final portion of the main character’s story arcs (particularly those of main characters Daenerys Targaryen and the bastard, Jon Snow) the Emmys didn’t quite see it that way and awarded the show the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. So whether it was for a cumulative nod for all the spellbinding characters, storylines, acting, cinematography, or visual effects, Game of Thrones was still the apple of Emmys’ eye despite the rather loud protestations of fans worldwide.
The first five seasons did a commendable job of adhering to the bountiful source material provided by George R.R, Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. But as the show grew more and more popular, the demand for it outgrew the storylines in the books, Combine that with a lengthy delay in Martin’s efforts to conclude more tales of Westeros and the showrunners Benioff and Weiss were more or less left to their own devices to provide scripts that continued the established plot points and character arcs. Despite this major inconvenience, the final season was still good enough to garner the top Emmy for its efforts. And 19.3 million viewers tuned in to the season and series finale on May 19, 2019, to see what would become of Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen and specifically their favorite characters like Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), and Tyrion Lannister (Dinklage) among others.
No one took home more statuettes than the diminutive Peter Dinklage who absolutely shined as Tyrion Lannister for the entirety of the show’s run. Dinklage was so good, that he earned Emmy nominations for all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. And as if Dinklage needed an extra feather in his cap, his remarkable run was punctuated with an Emmy win in the final season. The Emmys rewarded him four times including the cherry on top with the win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2019. Although many of the cast members received three or more nominations like Diana Rigg for Olenna Tyrell, Clarke for Daenerys Targaryen, and Headey for Cersei Lannister, Dinklage was the only member of the main cast to win the award. In all, twelve members of the cast received a total of 32 individual nominations over the 8 seasons of Game of Thrones.
In order to set the record for most Emmys in a single season, Game of Thrones had to slide by a number of very familiar and successful shows. The next closest with nine is both the first season of Aaron Sorkin‘s The West Wing in 2000 and the 2020 season of Schitt’s Creek which included a sweep of the “big four” acting categories of Best Actor, Actress as well as Best Supporting nods. With eight wins in 2018 and 2019, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel comes in fourth, and several other great shows have had between three and six wins including other HBO dramas The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.