There is a certain kind of acting performance that gives a viewer chills. You got it in Game of Thrones Season 4 during Tyrion’s courtroom scene; during Jaime Lannister’s Season 3 bath monologue when he told Brienne what really happened when he became the Kingslayer; during Catelyn Stark’s Season 3 confession that she used to wish for baby Jon to die, or while watching anything Charles Dance did as Tywin Lannister. Those were all magnetic performances of the highest caliber. Acting with a capital A.
Now, when was the last time you felt that way after watching a scene featuring Daenerys or Jon? Sure, you might have been moved to see Jon crowned King in the North; to see Daenerys set sail for Westeros at long last, but those were events happening to the characters. Those weren’t the simple ingredients of stellar acting.
This isn’t to call Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington shoddy actors. They aren’t. Both do an admirable job of bringing their characters to life. But neither character requires either to use the kind of range that give you those good-acting goosebumps.
That’s why it’s absolutely baffling that Daenerys has gotten multiple Emmy nods while Michelle Fairely never got acknowledgement; why Kit Harington is getting an Emmy nod for adjusting his pout varying degrees while Charles Dance was never recognized; or why Nikolaj Coster-Waldau never got his due for that monologue.
The fact that they got Emmy nods is like if the Harry Potter movies nominated the central trio for awards but disregarded Maggie Smith or Alan Rickman. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were not bad — neither are Harington and Clarke — but that would have been a laughable decision. It would have provoked a worldwide, “Really?”
Hell, Natalie Dormer brought Margaery Tyrell, a character who could easily have been a one-note femme fatale type to life, and the Emmys have missed their last chance to acknowledge her, content instead to give a nod to Daenerys, a character who has three facial expressions (Quietly Haughty, Imperiously Pleased, Imperiously Pissed).
Nobody can say, with a straight face, that that performance was better than Natalie Dormer’s, or than Carrie Coon’s in The Leftovers. There is no universe in which that has logic.
It’s not that Game of Thrones doesn’t deserves its accolades, but the Emmys need to get it together in the acting category. As of now, they’re proving as lawless and arbitrary as the balance of power in Westeros.