This Thursday (July 14), "Game of Thrones" bested "The People v. O.J. Simpson" in the 2016 Emmy nominations race, with a whopping 23 overall and nine in the major (AKA actually televised) categories.
Many of these were writing and technical nominations, but the cast cleaned up big time, too. Mainstays Lena Headey (Cersei), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) received their typical supporting actor nominations, with newcomers Kit Harington (Jon) and Maisie Williams (Arya) finally joining the party six seasons later as well.
But of course, Emmy nomination day is as much about the snubs as it is the pleasant surprises — and when it comes to "Game of Thrones," the academy fucked up big time by ignoring its best performance.
Over the past two seasons, Sansa Stark's storyline has consistently been the best part of "Thrones."
Here's how I break down these "Thrones" acting nominations:
Maisie Williams is precious, powerhouse human whose talent we mere mortals do not deserve to behold, but Arya's Season 6 "Game of Thrones" plot line was a time-wasting head-scratcher. Peter Dinklage, undoubtedly an immense talent, has been phoning it in for two seasons. Emilia Clarke ... exists. Lena Headey is majestic, and deserves to win. Kit Harington has grown into the role of Jon Snow impressively, and his death and resurrection was easily one of the biggest talking points of the past pop culture calendar year, so he can stay, too — even though Jon played second-fiddle to the current most fascinating character on "Game of Thrones" (besides Lyanna Mormont, of course), Sansa Stark, throughout most of the season.
But it isn't just that Sansa's path from tween Belieber to stone-cold Stark matriarch has been thrilling to behold that makes Sophie Turner deserve that Emmy nomination over a performer like Williams, or ideally, Clarke.
... It's that Turner's performance itself has become the number one reason I still tune into "Thrones" each week, even when things like Dorne or Sansa's rape or whatever the hell happened with Arya this year make me want to throw in the towel and go back to doing Sunday night yoga instead. Over six years, Turner has made Sansa the most nuanced, fully-formed character on the series next to Cersei; imbuing the character with both the natural honor she inherited as a Stark and the cunning self-interest she picked up from Cersei and Littlefinger. These two sides of Sansa have been at war inside her over the past two seasons, and Turner has shouldered the burden of a very internal performance effortlessly.
And while it's unfortunate that it was a rape that formed the shell around Sansa's heart that causes her to deliver whoppers like "Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear" (to Ramsay) and "You can't protect me. No one can protect anyone," (to Jon), it's undeniable that the "Game of Thrones" crew listened to what fans were saying about that disastrously handled scene, and thought long and hard about what they wanted to do with Sansa 2.0. Turning her into a hardened survivor worked — not only because Turner has thrived with this new material, but because Sansa has become easily the number one talked about character on "Game of Thrones."
After Jon came back from the dead, "What the hell is the deal with Sansa?" became easily the number one talking point for "Game of Thrones" fans.
Sure we prayed for Arya's return to Westeros, cheered for Cersei's vengeance, enjoyed repetitive scenes of Daenerys burning things, and realized that R + L totally = J, but when it comes to think pieces and fandom debate, no "Game of Thrones" plot earned more fandom chatter than Sansa's possible conversion from Gryffindor to Slytherin. The Week declared that "'Game of Thrones' has a Sansa problem," Vanity Fair wondered if she was making "huge mistakes, or just playing the game," Decider called her a badass, MTV declared Sansa "the only hero worth rooting for." Even Revelist joined in on the fun, as our own Victoria McNally wondered if the "boss bitch" wrote Ramsay Bolton's nasty letter. (Alas, she did not.)
Getting the most press doesn't 100 percent mean you deserve an Emmy nomination, but in Turner's case, it was her steely performance that had fans and critics so fascinated with what was going on in Sansa's head. I know the Emmys have a weird tendency to nominate the same people year after year for the same performance, long after said performances have stopped being awards-worthy, (what's good, "House of Cards," Claire Danes, and "Modern Family?"), but it fully blows my mind that the Academy watched their "Game of Thrones" Season 6 screeners and were like, "yes, let's go with these two dudes who are doing the same things they did three seasons ago and also these two newbies, who have pretty awful plot lines this year but also look super cool with a sword."
I joke, I joke. Mostly. But when I'm talking about "Game of Thrones" with my theoretical future daughter 20 years from now, it's Sansa's journey from victim to survivor I'll be most excited to share, and particularly her performance from the past two seasons. I really am thrilled for Harington and Williams and always and forever Ms. Headey, but the Emmys are supposed to go to the best, and when it comes to "Game of Thrones" Season 6, well ...