Emmy episode analysis: Kit Harington (‘Game of Thrones’) makes the ultimate sacrifice in ‘The Iron Throne’

Kit Harington makes a triumphant return to the Emmy race this year for the final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” After competing in the Best Drama Supporting Actor race in 2016, Harington secured a nomination in the leading category this year for his sympathetic portrayal of Jon Snow. In hopes of scoring his first ever win for his performance, he has submitted the series finale “The Iron Throne” for consideration.

After Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) destroyed King’s Landing, Jon discovers Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) executing Lannister soldiers even though they surrendered. Jon then watches as his queen praises her army’s savagery as “liberation.” Arya (Maisie Williams) warns her brother that his true heritage and claim to the throne will result in Daenerys eventually turning on him. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) similarly pleads with Jon to kill his love in order to save Westeros from her fury.

Jon finally confronts Dany in the throne room about her war crimes, but she refuses to take responsibility and promises more “liberation.” Jon wearily pledges his commitment to his queen, but fatally stabs her as the two kiss.

When a council of lords later chooses Bran as ruler of Westeros, the newly elected king orders Jon to rejoin the Night’s Watch. Having brought down the mad queen and saved the Seven Kingdoms from tyranny, Jon returns once more to Castle Black and joins a band of Wildlings to live North of the Wall.

SEE Emmy episode analysis: Maisie Williams (‘Game of Thrones’) keeps winter at bay as Arya Stark in ‘The Long Night’

Let’s examine the pros and cons of this submission.


Jon’s entire character arc reaches its climax in this episode with the assassination of his lover. He must weigh his own personal feelings and emotions against the treachery Daenerys has unleashed on the people of Westeros. Harington charts Jon’s emotional journey beautifully across his face before plunging a dagger into Daenerys. It’s the pinnacle moment of the entire series.

There has been a recent trend in Best Drama Actor that could benefit Harington: for the last eight years the award has gone to an actor either in a first-year show or last-year show. Harington competes for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” so he would follow in the footsteps of recent farewell winners like Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”). They all collected trophies for their shows’ swan songs.

SEE Emmy episode analysis: Alfie Allen (‘Game of Thrones’) finds redemption on the battlefield during ‘The Long Night’


As opposed to characters like Dinklage’s Tyrion or Lena Headey’s Cersei, Jon has never been given the type of rousing monologues that often attract Emmy attention. While Harington does get one dynamite, dialogue-heavy scene with Dinklage in this episode, the actor tends to use his expressions and physicality more than his words to express his inner emotions. This more subtle acting style could hurt his Emmy chances when competing against showier roles.

An outpouring of backlash flooded the internet after the series finale failed to live up to the impossibly high expectations of many fans. Luckily, Jon Snow was granted a sympathetic ending, so Harington could be insulated from any negative feelings about the finale that may exist within the voting body. Still, the divided reactions could affect the performer’s chances in such a crowded field.

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