The upcoming Primetime Emmy Awards won't be HBO's last chance to take home awards for Game of Thrones. They'll still be eligible for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards in 2020, but given that those two awards organizations have never warmed to GoT, the Emmys might well be the end of the line for the fantasy series, where its award history has been suitably epic. The series has been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series every year it's been eligible (winning for its three most recent seasons), and over the years, they've pulled in a total of 22 acting nominations -- including four for Lena Headey, three for Emilia Clarke, four for Dame Diana Rigg as a guest actress, and one apiece for Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, and Max Von Sydow for his seminal guest work as the Three-Eyed Raven. Towering above all these in Emmy esteem, however, has been Peter Dinklage, whose performance as Tyrion Lannister has been nominated for every GoT season, and he's the only cast member to have won (three times at that!).
So, what's the problem? HBO clearly knows what it's doing with this show's Emmy strategy. And in Dinklage's particular case, things could scarcely be going better, so why rock that boat? Look … I hear you. But also: shut up, I've got an idea. Or I had an idea, it's just that HBO and Game of Thrones opted against it: Peter Dinklage should have been bumped up to Lead Actor this year. Now that the gargantuan Emmys ballot is online, we can all see that he wasn't. But he should have been! For several reasons.
Reason #1: Shake Things Up. Dinklage has already won three Emmys in Supporting Actor. The Emmys are too repetitive as it is, and with Dinklage looking to springboard off of Thrones into something new, why not level up? It's not an unprecedented thing with the Emmys. Allison Janney did it twice, first with The West Wing and most recently with Mom.
Reason #2: He Could Win! As we mentioned last week, most of GoT's competition from last year either ended or took the year off. In Lead Actor in a Drama, that means last year's winner Matthew Rhys is gone, and Westworld's Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright are ineligible. And This Is Us might not be buzzy enough to support two nominees (Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia) like it did last year. Dinklage's top competition would be Jason Bateman in Ozark and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul. It's crazy to think Dinklage couldn't take them.
Reason #3: He Actually Was a Lead This Season. While there were several characters who felt as though they had full beginning-to-end arcs over the course of Season 8, none felt more prominent by the time the finale aired than Dinklage. We watched him lose faith in his queen, mourn the last of his family, stand up for Daenerys's villainy, and finally, resurrect the monarchy with the power of his speechifying. Sure, Jon Snow killed his love, then trudged out into the snowy North, but this proved to be Tyrion's story.
Reason #4: It'll Help the Rest of the GoT Cast. Peter Dinklage is beloved by Emmy voters. If he moved to Lead Actor, they would vote for him there, and as a bonus, another cast member like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) might reap the benefits of all those old Dinklage votes in the supporting category. To me, that would seem far more likely to happen than Dinklage winning in supporting and Kit Harington winning in lead, which is what HBO's currently betting on.
Alas, HBO screwed this one up. Peter Dinklage could have made history this year as the first little person to win a lead actor trophy at the Emmys. He could also have been only the second HBO star to win Lead Actor since James Gandolfini for The Sopranos in 2003. (The other? Jeff Daniels for The Newsroom.) But that won't happen now. Much like Tyrion Lannister's fate, Peter Dinklage will once more take a back seat.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.