This was “Game of Thrones'” year to win big at the Primetime Emmy Awards. The show was up for 17 Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress, but only walked away with two wins: Outstanding Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series. Even though “Game of Thrones” had its best season yet in 2013, that wasn’t enough to land it major Emmy gold.
Instead, 2013 was “Breaking Bad’s” year to reign supreme. Right as the show is poised for its series finale, the AMC drama finally won Outstanding Drama Series and leading lady Anna Gunn got her first Outstanding Supporting Actress statuette. The show, which is groundbreaking in its genre just like “Game of Thrones,” is slated to enter into the 2014 Emmys with similar momentum with its final eight episodes.
In fact, “Game of Thrones” series author George R.R. Martin already predicted “Game of Thrones” will lose to “Breaking Bad” next year. “There’s no way in hell that anyone is going to defeat ‘Breaking Bad’ next year, when their last season is the one in contention,” he wrote on his blog.
He also mentioned that “Game of Thrones” could learn a thing or two from the saga of Walter White. “Walter White is a bigger monster than anyone in Westeros. (I need to do something about that),” Martin wrote after the airing of “Ozymandias.” Beyond creating someone as horrible as Walt in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” universe (though arguably Ramsay Bolton is getting there), here are some other lessons “Game of Thrones” could learn from “Breaking Bad.”
Focus on a small cast of characters. This sort of goes against much of what “Game of Thrones” is about, because a big part of the show is its massive cast and constantly rotating central characters. But part of what makes “Breaking Bad” so great is its concentrated group of lead actors. Sure, guest stars will come and go, but at its core “Breaking Bad” has always focused on Walter, Skylar, Walt Jr., Hank and Marie. Even if “Game of Thrones” can’t minimize the amount of characters it contains, it should focus on really developing its central core of leads.
Have characters transition from good to evil, and vice versa. Jaime Lannister is the best example of this viewers have seen to date, but his transformation is nothing compared to Walter White. Don’t make a character’s spectrum on the scale of good to evil be stuck in place. What if Daenerys starts being a bad leader and exhibiting similar traits as her father the Mad King? What if the death of Arya’s brother and mother leads her to become a villain? What if Joffrey Baratheon suddenly becomes redeemable? Seeing characters develop in these ways allows for the actors to have more opportunities to show off their craft and makes the show more engaging.
Keep the end date in sight. “Breaking Bad” definitely gives off the sense that its end is inevitable, whatever it may be. “Game of Thrones” obviously has a set end date (whenever Martin gets around to completing the final two books in his series), and the show should stay focused on that. While the tendency with networks is often to drag out a success story for as long as possible, sometimes it’s good to remember that less can mean more. If “Game of Thrones” focuses on the journey it’s on instead of getting sidetracked, it will only benefit in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. In many ways “Game of Thrones” is a fairly traditional show in its format, and maybe that is one of its flaws. “Breaking Bad” has frequently experimented with its storytelling, from Rian Johnson‘s “Fly” episode to the Season 4 finale’s flashforward to the constant focus on the plane crash aftermath in Season 2. “Game of Thrones” shouldn’t be afraid to loosen up sometimes if it means it can create a better television experience.
Be patient, and don’t lose faith. It took “Breaking Bad” three years of losing Outstanding Drama Series (and one of not being nominated) to finally take home the prestigious Emmy statuette. “Game of Thrones” is at least being recognized by the Emmys year-after-year in nominations, so of the show can keep delivering quality content that gets better year-after-year — just like “Breaking Bad” did — it shouldn’t take long for it to finally earn a much-deserved win.
“Game of Thrones” Season 4 premieres on HBO in Spring 2014. “Breaking Bad’s” final episode, “Felina,” airs on AMC on Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. ET.