All shows must die, but a show like HBO’s Game of Thrones is ensured a long afterlife. Despite a final season that could generously be described as controversial, the swords-and-dragons fantasy series retains a large fanbase, a sizable portion of which filled up San Diego Comic-Con’s cavernous Hall H for the post-series finale panel. Some likely came expecting fireworks: in the run-up to SDCC, online rumors suggested that plans were afoot to shame panel attendees—specifically showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss—for the storytelling choices made in the final six episodes.
In the end, the duo opted not to take part in the farewell panel, as did cast members Nathalie Emmanuel and Iain Glen, and director Miguel Sapochnik, who oversaw the Battle of Winterfell for a feature-length episode that was (very) dark and full of terrors. But fans did get to say their goodbyes (for now) to favorites like John Bradley, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Liam Cunningham, Jacob Anderson, Conleth Hill, Isaac Hempstead Wright and Maisie Williams, who took the stage and found Starbucks coffee cups cheekily placed for them. And over the course of the panel, they acknowledged the controversy that engulfed the final season—which, for the record, received a record 32 Emmy nominations—without allowing it to dominate the conversation.
“You look at the amount of people that are here and we here to thank you for watching us all those years,” Hill told the audience. “This is the reality rather than a media-led hate campaign.” Emmy nominee Coster-Waldau, who has vigorously spoken out against the backlash in the past, struck a more positive note. “When it comes to an end, it’s gonna piss you off no matter what…because it’s the end. But it’s fine. If you hated the ending, loved it, that’s great. Just don’t call people names.”
No name calling here! Just a round-up of what we learned about the final season from the actors that appeared in it.
Bran the Broken may not be the change Westeros believed in
Bran Stark’s elevation to Westeros’s throne—though not the Iron Throne, which is more like an Iron Puddle thanks to Drogon—left many viewers scratching their heads. But Tyrion’s arguments in his favor proved more persuasive to the heads of the surviving Houses, who agreed to place the crown atop Bran the Broken’s head. Their unanimous vote would seem to suggest that another destabilizing game of thrones won’t need to be played anytime soon. That said, the small taste of Bran’s leadership we got at the end of the series finale didn’t portend great things for his rule. Mere moments into a meeting with his advisors, which included Tyrion as Hand of the King and Bronn as the Master of Coin, the new king decides his time would be better spent using this Three-Eyed Raven powers to location Drogon and promptly exits, leaving the busy work to the rest of the council.
Wright seems to agree that Bran the Broken may turn out to be more like Bran the Boring in his governing style. “I can’t imagine [Bran’s] government is a barrel of laughs,” the actor told the SDCC crowd. Not only that, but Westorsi citizens may need to push for more privacy laws. “For all intents and purposes it’s a surveillance state with Bran’s powers.” Of course, since Samwell Tarly’s suggestion of implementing direct democracy was cruelly shot down, it’s not like the public has a voice in the government anyway. At least Sam can take some comfort in knowing his idea will flower in a couple centuries after Bran the Peeper’s reign ends.
Here’s another reason to fear Bran’s rule: Wright is onboard with the seemingly debunked notion that his alter ego is, in fact, the Night King. “I like the theory that he is still the Night King,” Wright said, noting that Evil Bran could manifest decades into his reign since he can see the past, but not the future. Still confident you picked the right king, Tyrion?
Arya is going to love seeking out new life and new civilizations
Even before the final season started, Williams warned us that Arya would end the series alone. “Arya’s always bloody alone,” she told The Guardian. That led some to speculate that our favorite assassin would meet a sad and lonely fate—perhaps dying in the crypts of Winterfell during the Long Night or killed by Queen Cersei before she could complete her Kill List. Instead, Arya gets to live the life of a solo adventurer, boarding a ship to explore the uncharted lands west of Westeros. “I’m sure she’s having a wonderful time,” Williams prophesied. “She’s like Dora the explorer with her new bob.”
The actress also put the kibosh on those ‘shippers hoping for a Gendry and Arya reunion if and when she decides to return home. “Arya has always been a lone wolf, always felt a bit of a misfit in her own family. And I don’t think being with a partner is what would make her feel the most fulfilled.” And just as Arya doesn’t need Gendry to feel fulfilled, she didn’t need the aid of Jon Snow to bring down the Night King. Speaking directly to the theory that Jon somehow aided her meme-friendly finishing move, Williams said: “She did it on her own! If I were going to give it to anyone, credit to Melisandre for getting Arya back on track.”
This Spider’s bite is poisonous
Hill came out and said what many people where thinking: Varys was trying to clear the playing field for Jon Snow by poisoning Daenerys before their army invaded King’s Landing. The first scene of the penultimate episode featured the Spider conspiring with a young kitchen servant named Martha to slip some deadly toxin into one of the would-be Queen’s meals. “When a Targaryen is born, [they are] going to be one side or the other," said Hill. "And [Dany's] has come down a bit cray cray towards the end. I think Varys knew long ago he was going to die....So I think all this has an inevitability; he knew he couldn't get through to Jon Snow, or Tyrion because they were both in love with Daenerys. That blinds people's judgements. So he knew he had to try anyway to stop her, and that it was very possible he'd be killed.”
Speaking of his death scene, Hill had previously told Entertainment Weekly that he took being burned alive by Drogon “very personally.” Now, though, he sees the cool factor in going out the way he did. “I thought it was a cool death, very dignified... there are ways to get fired and that was one of the best."
Jaime and Cersei are eternal flames
Lena Headey may be on the record as wanting a “better death” for Cersei, but her on-screen brother/lover thinks their wholly wrong romance ended the right way. “I thought it was perfect for him to end in the arms of Cersei,” Coster-Waldau proclaimed. “It made sense to me, that’s just my opinion.” Some attendees had a different opinion, though, and let the actor know it through a vigorous round of boos and even a stray “Liar!” On the other hand, no one had any disagreements about his pick for favorite line in the series: “Hold the door.”
Grey Worm is a man of few words (but many masks)
When asked to weigh in on why eternal Daenerys loyalist Grey Worm declined to personally execute her killer, Jon Stark, Anderson sought the aid of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Donning the wall-crawler’s mask, the actor simply said, “Grey Worm was just tired of it all,” and let that stand as the explanation for why the Unsullied warrior opted to jump ship for the Isle of Naath. Our Spidey senses are tingling that he’s not a fan of that story choice either.
All eight seasons of Game of Thrones are available on HBO Go and HBO Now
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