Which cult se­ries will reign at tele­vi­sion’s night of nights? Chris Bar­ton re­ports.

The West Australian - - SPORT -

Blessed be the fruit, or all men must die? One of these tele­vi­sion quotes is en­coded with sub­servience, the other with retri­bu­tion, but each comes from a pow­er­ful drama bat­tling for promi­nence.

The 2018 Em­mys race will be about many things, but front and cen­tre is the smack­down be­tween HBO’s Game of Thrones and Hulu’s The Hand­maid’s Tale.

Both earned mul­ti­ple nom­i­na­tions — 22 for Thrones, 20 for Hand­maid’s — and both are pre­vi­ous win­ners for best drama se­ries. But Hand­maid’s won last year, when Thrones wasn’t el­i­gi­ble, so this will be the first time the shows are in com­pe­ti­tion against each other.

Will Wes­teros or Gilead pre­vail?

Sched­uled to en­ter its eighth and fi­nal sea­son next year, Game of Thrones, which airs in Aus­tralia on Fox­tel, has been a fix­ture on the pop-cul­tural land­scape longer, to say noth­ing of the im­pres­sion it has made on Emmy vot­ers. Since its 2011 de­but, the se­ries based on the nov­els by Ge­orge R.R. Martin has earned a re­gal 132 nom­i­na­tions and 45 wins. At the 2016 awards, it be­came the most dec­o­rated fic­tional se­ries in Emmy his­tory. It has also, rather un­ex­pect­edly, be­come a sym­bol of the rise of pow­er­ful women in the new TV land­scape — the in­fa­mous brothel and rape scenes that plagued early sea­sons have fallen away to a bat­tle be­tween queens.

Set amid more con­tem­po­rary hor­rors, Hand­maid’s cap­tured the zeit­geist with a speed to ri­val Game of Thrones. Based on the 1985 novel by revered Cana­dian au­thor Mar­garet At­wood, adapted by Bruce Miller and star­ring Elis­a­beth Moss, the se­ries — which airs in Aus­tralia on SBS — has re­mained a hot topic for ex­am­i­na­tion by au­di­ences and crit­ics alike.

De­pict­ing the rise of an op­pres­sive theoc­racy that views women on the mer­its of their re­pro­duc­tive value, the se­ries’ dystopia aligned with the 2016 elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the re­newed promi­nence of fun­da­men­tal­ist ideals. Em­bat­tled hero­ines and vi­o­lent power strug­gles are not the shows’ only com­mon at­tributes; both share a lin­eage in genre fic­tion that has stretched be­yond their source ma­te­rial, and each finds its char­ac­ters at dif­fer­ent points in sim­i­lar rev­o­lu­tions.

In one of Thrones’ many story arcs, the once-ex­iled Daen­erys (Emilia Clarke), who spent early episodes traded to her hus­band like live­stock, seems now on the cusp of unit­ing two war­ring houses and be­com­ing, per­haps, Wes­teros’ first just queen.

In Hand­maid’s, the pa­tri­ar­chal state of Gilead re­tained its fo­cus on the red-cloaked fe­male breed­ers as a dark sec­ond sea­son be­gan with a flicker of hope but ul­ti­mately marked a sort of en­durance chal­lenge as view­ers were con­fronted with the depths of op­pres­sion and to­tal­i­tar­ian rule that seemed all too plau­si­ble in the present day.

There are, of course, po­ten­tial spoil­ers in this duel.

With 21 nom­i­na­tions de­spite a sec­ond sea­son that di­vided view­ers with an­other time-skip­ping plot­line, HBO’s West­world should not be counted out, es­pe­cially with all those act­ing nods — Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie New­ton, Ed Har­ris and Jimmi Simp­son.

And The Amer­i­cans has sen­ti­ment on its side — the FX show could go out a win­ner in its fi­nal sea­son.

Game of Thrones could also be harmed by tim­ing — its most re­cent sea­son aired last sum­mer, which feels like a life­time ago, and com­pared with Hand­maid’s, it feels re­moved from the real world.

But it too is draw­ing to a close, and as many have learnt, it’s tough to face off against dragons.

The 70th Prime­time Emmy Awards airs to­mor­row at 8am on Fox­tel’s Fox8 chan­nel.

Em­bat­tled hero­ines and vi­o­lent power strug­gles are not the shows’ only com­mon at­tributes.

Elis­a­beth Moss in The Hands­maid’s Tale. Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones.

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