What will likely be the final Hall H panel dedicated to Game of Thrones (at least until a major anniversary down the road) had an unusual duality to it Friday evening. Announced as something of a victory lap for HBO’s once universally beloved fantasy series, tonight’s Game of Thrones San Diego Comic-Con panel doubled as both a heartfelt thank you from actors to fans, as well as an awkward confrontation between the creators of once beloved content, and some fans who have become vocally aggrieved by the final season.
Not that you would entirely know it from the panel. The cavernous space that seats nearly 7,000 people offered a hero’s welcome to actors Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Conleth Hill (Lord Varys), Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), and John Bradley (Samwell Tarly). However, before the event even began, a SDCC representative asked fans to respect the actors of Game of Thrones with the same courtesy they’re supposed to show fans of other, opposing fandoms. And sure enough, when anyone said something positive about the final season, including Coster-Waldau praising how Jaime Lannister’s death was written, there’d be a stray boo. “There’s always one,” Cunningham deadpanned to much louder applause.
Yet I suppose there’s a point in that—as there was far more cheers and celebration of the series than there was anything approaching scorn by the audience. Conleth Hill, who also addressed how his own comments about being disappointed Varys died before the final episode were taken out of context, addressed it thusly:
“You look at the amount of people who are here, and we’re here to thank you for watching us for all those years, we were never divisive. We all know each other, we always did our hardest work and crew for you, so we’re very grateful for your fandom over the years. And I think this is the reality rather than a sort of media-led hate.”
Coster-Waldau agreed while pointing out that it is fine for you to dislike the ending, but that the show’s legacy is more than the destination.
“It was surprising the absurdity of that online petition—of course HBO is going to change the whole thing, because that’s the power of the internet,” Coster-Waldau says with some humor. “But every season we had huge controversies, from season 1 where Ned Stark being killed, ‘I’m never going to watch that piece of shit show again. Terrible!’ And then there was the Red Wedding… I feel so lucky to have met so many people, not just here but also fans of the show and realizing this show has brought so many people together watching it, loving it. So obviously it comes to an end, it’s going to piss you off no matter what, because it’s the end. But at the end of the day, it’s absolutely fine. If you hated the ending, if you loved it, that’s great. Just don’t call people names.”
Still, the panel—which oddly did not include time for fan questions despite allowing fans to line up—was mostly a lighthearted and pleasant experience in which the actors relished each other’s company, as well as having fans interested in what they have to say about the show beyond internet backlash.
“I thought was a great ending,” Coster-Waldau says of both how Jaime Lannister died and how Ser Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) protected his legacy. “I thought it was perfect for that character to end up in the arms of Cersei. It made sense to me. That’s just my opinion. I think for me the scene with Gwendoline Christie, as Brienne when she fills in the book, is really beautiful. And I think that showed her understanding of Jaime and her love of Jaime, and I just thought that was a beautiful scene.”
One of the more interesting anecdotes also came from Jacob Anderson who plays Grey Worm. He confided to the audience that he does not think his character will find love again on Naath after seeing Missandei die.
“What’s the right answer?” he initially jokes about not wanting to offend anyone when asked if Grey Worm can find love. Then, “No, not in the same way, no. I think that was a one-time deal, really.”
Anderson later adds about where Grey Worm is at the end of the series (and why he let Jon Snow live):
“I think there came a point for Grey Worm near the end where it was just like, ‘Enough. Enough is enough.’ I think that was a big reason why he left. Everybody who was ever dear to him was dead now, and he already had just learned to have people be dead to him. So I think he just was like, ‘This is a violent place, and this is not what I want my existence to be anymore. I just don’t want it to be violence.’ So I think there was a sense he was willing for there to be a trial.”
Still, at the end of the day, this is goodbye. While I don’t doubt there will be more Game of Thrones panels at SDCC, it will be more about the show that was rather than the current experience that everyone is sharing: the actors on the series; the writers who scripted it for them; and the fans who are enjoying it. Even when so many appear not to be enjoying it, this is still part of a communal connection that is being cut off. Maisie Williams had some interesting words in this regard about what she’ll miss from her time on Game of Thrones.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ever play a character who picks up a dagger without people going, ‘A bit Arya!’” Williams muses. “So like doing all of the combat fighting and working with swords, and doing something of this time period, I’ll really miss that. I don’t think I’ll ever do anything like that again for fear of just repeating myself. So yeah, that’s been incredible and I really loved it.”
Liam Cunningham, however, perhaps most encapsulated what is being lost.
“It’s like a perfect storm,” Cunningham says. “We have these beautiful words that we were handed by George [R.R. Martin] and David [Benioff], and Dan [Weiss], and you’re working with these big crews who are incredibly quiet and efficient and precise, the props and costumes… These words were so right for those characters, and everything else, and it’s very rare that something comes along that feels almost faultless, it feels almost gorgeous.”
It feels like its watch is ended. We will not see its like again.
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