A girl may have no name, but Maisie Williams certainly does at the Emmys after bagging her second career nomination for playing heroine Arya Stark in the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Like in 2016, when she received her first nom, she’s competing in Best Drama Supporting Actress, and the season’s battle-heavy third hour, “The Long Night,” serves as her submission to Emmy judges.
In the episode, with the ultimate battle between the living and the dead looming, Arya watches from Winterfell’s battlements as the Dothraki charge at the army of the dead in front of the castle. When the dead, however, break through the trenches and start enclosing Winterfell, Arya enters the fray, putting her series-long training into practice.
The brutal campaign takes her all the way through Winterfell’s halls and almost places her at death’s door. Eventually she, the Hound (Rory McCann) and Beric (Richard Dormer) retreat to a room for shelter, where they encounter Melisandre (Carice van Houten), who reiterates her prophecy that Arya will shut several eyes. Arya deciphers that she’s to kill the Night King, so she ambushes him in the godswood and delivers the fatal stab.
Will Williams be able to say, “Not today,” to her Emmy rivals who would deny her a victory? Let’s dive into the pros and cons:
This was a very good season for Arya, both in terms of storyline and screen presence. Even though “The Long Night” is more of an ensemble piece, Williams gets the lion’s share of screen time and benefits from Arya having a conclusive, satisfying character arc. Audiences have seen her transition from a determined young girl into a skilled warrior who saves the Seven Kingdoms, which makes Williams’s physicality one of the most important and impressive aspects of her performance.
Williams is also equally prominent in co-nominee and co-star Lena Headey’s submission, “The Bells,” where the camera’s locked on Williams’s face as Arya tries to survive Daenerys’s (Emilia Clarke) ruthless attack on King’s Landing.
“Thrones” snatched a record 32 nominations, and Arya was much more of a focus this season than ever before, so Williams could cash in on the goodwill she established with her first nomination in 2016, especially since it’s the last chance to reward her for playing this fan-favorite character.
The show has always been good at producing acting noms — and this year was no exception with 10 cast members being shortlisted — but only Peter Dinklage has ever made it across the finish line; in fact, he’s poised to nab a record fourth win in Best Drama Supporting Actor this year. This could point to a lack of ample support for the show within the acting branch of the TV academy. And it could prove difficult for a two-time nominee to bring an end to the show’s drought in the acting races when voters could pick, for instance, overdue five-time nominee Headey.
Speaking of Headey, she isn’t Williams’s only internal competitor in this category, as both Gwendoline Christie and Sophie Turner were able to sneak in as well. Since all four actors have strong narratives, and there’s arguably no clear standout among them, they could split the vote and pave the way for one of the other two nominees — Julia Garner (“Ozark”) or Fiona Shaw (“Killing Eve”) — to snatch the gold. Vote-splitting might have been a cause for Williams’s loss in 2016 as well: she was nominated alongside both Clarke (who’s now competing as a lead) and Headey, and Maggie Smith ended up prevailing for the final season of “Downton Abbey” instead.
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