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Emmys: Will ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Win the Drama Series Trophy?

It’s a battle of the heavyweights. Both already have won the top prize. Both stand atop the nominations leaderboard, with 20 noms for Hulu’s drama and 22 for HBO’s groundbreaking epic. But they’ve never competed head-to-head at the Emmys, since “Game of Thrones” sat out last year’s competition when “The Handmaid’s Tale” took home the trophy. Yet the last time they faced off, back at the Golden Globes, it was the red-cloaked denizens of Gilead who triumphed.

The Case for “Game of Thrones
There’s a school of thought that says voters might want to wait for the series finale, but next year is a long way away — and this is the show that broke the Academy’s longstanding genre bias. Simply put, there’s nothing like it on TV (er, it’s not TV, it’s HBO), and the unparalleled production has already swept up 38 trophies over 129 nominations throughout its run. And while the specific plot points of the eligible season — the show’s sixth — may seem a distant memory, voters aren’t likely to forget those fire-and-ice breathing dragons.

The Case for “The Handmaid’s Tale”
The timing couldn’t have been better for the second season of Bruce Miller’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel. It debuted on April 25, at the height of the nomination period, and its weekly installments ran right through the middle of July. The show’s deeply troubling plotlines eerily mirrored what was happening in the headlines, ensuring references to Gilead extended from pop culture to the front page. And while some carped at the drama’s shadowy twists, it was hard to escape the deafening buzz — not to mention star Elisabeth Moss’ riveting performance.

The Competition
“The Americans” — FX’s spy drama went out with a (heartbreaking) bang, delivering a final season — and series finale — that scored with critics. Might voters want to recognize the thriller for all it accomplished throughout its run?
“The Crown” — Netflix’s heralded regal drama could well play spoiler, riding the goodwill of the swift resolution of the pay parity dispute — and the last chance to reward the Claire Foy/Matt Smith iteration of the royal family.
“Stranger Things” — The ’80s-set thriller earned 12 noms for its sophomore effort, a sure sign that voters are as obsessed as the show’s many fans. But stiff competition may keep it from claiming the ultimate prize.
“This Is Us” — NBC’s family drama, with its eight noms, stands a better chance in the acting categories, where Sterling K. Brown is a favorite to repeat as lead actor, along with Gerald McRaney in the guest race.
“Westworld” — HBO’s would-be successor to “Game of Thrones” landed 21 noms, but its intricate storytelling may well prove the ultimate stumbling block to Academy voters.

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