Emmys 2017: Why Westworld should win Outstanding Drama Series


Game of Thrones is ineligible this year, leaving the Emmys drama categories wide open. Here’s why Westworld – another HBO series – deserves the crown.

It feels like ages have gone by since Westworld wrapped up its first season. However, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s sci-fi/western series stuck in the memories of Emmy voters, who granted it a whopping 22 nominations — tied with Saturday Night Live for the most of any show. Of course, it helps to have HBO on your side.

That network’s involvement is the main reason why Westworld feels like the natural successor to Game of Thrones. After winning Outstanding Drama Series in consecutive years, the fantasy behemoth will be absent from the 2017 Emmys, since its latest season aired outside the eligibility period. What’s better suited to take its place than another provocative genre epic from HBO?

You might cite its youth. For a freshman drama, Westworld displayed uncommon self-assurance; you sensed that Nolan and Joy knew exactly what they wanted to do. Still, it’s a freshman drama. Hopefully, we haven’t seen its peak yet. That said, it is hardly alone: five of the category’s seven nominees are only one season old. Besides Westworld, there is Netflix’s Stranger Things and The Crown; Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale; and NBC’s This Is Us. As a result, Outstanding Drama Series seems less representative of television’s best than of television’s hottest. But at least it has some variety.

You might also point to the polarized critical response. Many found fault with Westworld’s slow-burning mysteries and reliance on exposition. For me, though, both elements felt organic, even essential, to the show’s deconstruction and subversion of narrative. In attempting to dramatize its characters’ internal journeys, it sidelined action in favor of dialogue. Or rather, it turned dialogue into action. Nearly every pivotal plot point consisted of one person talking to another person (and, on occasion, themselves); the shootouts were merely embellishments, as Robert Ford might say. Debate whether they pulled it off, but this approach certainly made for an interesting and unique experience.

Besides, the most widely acclaimed nominee is AMC’s Better Call Saul. Let’s be honest: seeing the trophy go to a Breaking Bad spin-off, no matter how well-crafted, would be kind of boring.

With its formidable cast, breathtaking visuals, and incisive meta commentary, Westworld has all the makings of a great show. And if it hasn’t quite reached greatness yet, it never hurts to reward ambition.

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The 69th Emmy Awards air Sunday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.