The Emmys are supposed to take into consideration the long-term view of a TV show's season, avoiding the knee-jerk reactions fans have. "In the long run of television, season 8 of Thrones will seem, and indeed, already does, both a piece of work with glimmering moments of beauty amidst bits that work less well, and like a sharp and pointed argument for the extant power of the medium," says Daniel D'Addario. He adds that "the nominations list comes as a striking reminder, once again, that the industry and the commentariat represent two groups that speak different languages. But the show’s nominations are not, entirely, the result of a burst of valedictory love for a departing series, or recognition of the show’s status as a smash hit. (In other words, it’s not like this year’s other great example of pure populist appeal trouncing critical bona fides, when Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody ran the table on Roma at the Oscars.) Within the burst of Thrones love are nominations that come as genuinely pleasant surprises — as, for instance, in the best actress nomination for (Emilia) Clarke, a performer who sold Daenerys’s heel-turn but who might as easily have been snubbed, had voters felt as betrayed by the plot turn as the loudest components of the general audience seemed to. Similarly, Kit Harington picked up only his second nomination for Thrones for a season’s worth of work — dogged, persistent, and un-flashy — that epitomized his character over the show’s run, but that was less inherently grabby than some of his castmates’ performances."
A dirty secret of TV awards is that final seasons are graded on a curve: "When voters have one last chance to award a show, they often do," says Travis M. Andrews. "Sometimes, the nominations roll in as a course-correction, so to speak. For six seasons, the TV-watching community scratched their heads and wondered how Jon Hamm hadn’t won an Emmy for his portrayal of Don Draper, the Mad Men character so popular that he became a household name. Hamm finally took home the trophy in 2015, coinciding with the show’s seventh and final season. The same thing happened last year when Matthew Rhys won the best lead actor Emmy for his role as Philip Jennings on The Americans. Here, as well, years had passed, filled by the sounds of critics decrying the awards show for not recognizing Rhys. Then, at the last possible moment, the Television Academy did just that. Of course, Game of Thrones isn’t exactly like these examples. For one thing, the show has been heavily awarded throughout its eight-season run. As of Tuesday, it has racked up a whopping 160 nominations and 47 Emmys. Those numbers probably account for why the frustrating final episodes were so highly recognized. The show had built up an incredible amount of good will, not to mention viewers, over the years."
Game of Thrones benefitted from being familiar when Emmy voters have to choose from hundreds of shows: "If voters saw a show, they voted for it. And most likely, if they used to watch a show, they voted for it. And if they voted for it, they voted for it in everything," says Libby Hill. "This is how Game of Thrones ends up bringing in 32 nominations. Everyone in Hollywood, at one juncture or another, has seen an episode of Game of Thrones or, even more likely, worked with someone who worked on Game of Thrones at some point. There is a level of goodwill towards the show that revolutionized the industry and despite intense critical and audience backlash, Hollywood insiders opted to celebrate not just the craftspeople behind the scenes, but fully 10 actors who’ve labored for years on the series, sometimes with very little to show for it."