Rise of Westeros' women keeps 'Game of Thrones' an Emmy front-runner

Subject to unspeakable violence at the hands of brutal men over the years, the women of Westeros came back with a vengeance in the latest season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" and strengthened the show's leading role in Sunday's Emmy awards.

The popular medieval fantasy series enters the Primetime Emmys as the most-nominated show with 23 nods, including three in the supporting drama actress category and two in the supporting drama actor category.

The show, which follows the ever-expanding battle for the Iron Throne to rule over the Seven Kingdoms based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire," is nominated again for the best drama series Emmy award, which it won for the first time last year for its fifth season.

That season saw the leading women in precarious places at the end: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) endured a naked walk of shame; Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) encounters the desert warrior tribe Dothraki after her dragon leaves her stranded; Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is blinded and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) tries to escape her sadistic husband.

In the sixth season that concluded in June, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne, Daenerys has control of the Dothraki and is heading to battle, Arya's sight returns and she reclaims her mission to get revenge and Sansa sits alongside her resurrected brother as rulers of the North.

Headey, Clarke and Williams are all nominated for best supporting actress at the Emmys, television's highest honors.

"'Thrones' hasn't won this category yet, but Lena Headey has been earning this role since the beginning. The final scene of her ascending to the throne almost feels like a metaphor for the Primetime Emmy awards ceremony," James Hibberd, editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, told Reuters.

But Headey might be hampered by having to split the "Game of Thrones" vote at the Television Academy with her fellow cast members. They are competing with "Downton Abbey" veteran Maggie Smith, Maura Tierney for Showtime's "The Affair" and Constance Zimmer for Lifetime's "UnReal.

The show's leading men are also recognized in the best supporting drama actor category: Kit Harington, whose Night Watch leader Jon Snow is brought back from the dead, and Peter Dinklage, whose Tyrion Lannister role has won him two previous Emmys in the category, will go head to head for the award.

Despite Dinklage's previous wins, Hibberd believes Harrington might have a chance for having mastered a wide range of emotions.

"Under-acting is undervalued ... but Kit's scene coming back from dead is an amazing bit of physical acting," Hibberd said.