Hall H, a room that holds thousands, was packed for the farewell Game of Thrones panel held at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The event was filled with emotion — mostly that of joy and laughter, but also the sadness of saying goodbye to a series that has inspired television fans to engage with a show on a whole new level.
Moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd and featuring Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), Conleth Hill (Varys), and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), the panel opened with a video recapping the entire series before the cast came out to a table lined with coffee cups, a wink to the beverage, and the internet frenzy around it, that found its way into a scene with Daenerys. The joke started the panel off on a playful note, and from there, the cast kept the audience laughing throughout.
“This year is different; this year is special... all the spoilers are out. There is nothing the cast cannot talk about,” Hibberd said before jumping into the bigger questions, one of the first being how Coster-Waldau felt about Jaime’s ending now that he had had time to sit with it.
“It’s sitting the same way with me as when it aired,” responded Coster-Waldau. “I thought it was perfect the ending, him dying in the arms of Cersei. It made sense to me. And the scene with Gwendoline [Christie] as Brienne filling in the book was really beautiful. I think that showed her understanding of Jaime.”
Hibberd moved on to ask Hill about an interview he had done with Entertainment Weekly that had been featured heavily in other outlets. “I did an interview with EW way after we finished the show, and I was very honest that I was absolutely gutted to get so close and not make it to the end,” explained Hill. “But I put it in the context as one of the risks of being in a multi-character show. I thought the initial interview was very balanced, but it was picked over and [other outlets] took the negative and left the positive out of it.
“For the record I loved all my 10 years on Game of Thrones. I started when I was 15,” he joked. Then he added, earnestly, “And it was a life-changing experience. The last season was about the futility of conflict and the pointlessness of war. If you get one thing from the whole show, take that.”
The panel acknowledged the final season was divisive, but the show had always been so, citing moments like Ned Stark’s execution and the Red Wedding. But what hadn’t been divisive at all — which was very clear from the cast’s interactions on the panel itself, constantly poking fun at and hugging — was the cast and crews’ love for each other. Cunningham offered, “The show is a metaphor for life: It’s not about arriving at the end; it was the journey. I started in Season 2 when it began to create waves and watched it grow. We didn’t know where it was going to go or how big it was going to get.” He, in a nod to the room of fans, added, “We all went through it together. We’re all fans of the show.”
Later in the panel, when Hibberd asked each actor what their favorite line from the series had been, many fan-favorites were listed, including “Hold the door,” “Not today,” and “I drink and I know things.” Bradley added a throwback line from Sam that had come to mean more to him as the series went on: “I’ve always wanted to be a wizard.”
“I’ve always liked lines of dialogue that tell their own story,” Bradley explained. “Back in Season 1, I thought, ‘That’s a funny line,’ but the more you learn about Sam you realize how much that line tells you about his childhood. It was so tough and brutal that he had to create an alternate reality to live in; he wanted to be something other than what he was. It tells you everything about where he came from and what he’s grown out of.”
The cast also had fun discussing things they had taken from set. (Hempstead Wright only managed a wooden spoon.) They analyzed whether Arya might ever change her mind about being with Gendry — “I don’t think being with a partner is what would make her feel the most at home or fulfilled,” shared Williams. But mostly they wanted to say how much they loved working with one another and to thank the fans for their support over the years.
In the end, Hibberd wouldn’t let them get away without answering a few fan theories. One of which was the question of “Evil Bran.” Had he foreseen the destruction of King’s Landing and allowed it to happen so he could take the throne? Hempstead Wright was ready with an answer. “I don’t think Bran knows per se exactly what’s going to happen in the future. He isn’t a fortune teller. He has the entirety of the past, but his vision of the future is slightly cloudier. But I think it’s cool it’s left ambiguous and you can read into it.”
Hempstead Wright continued, “I think that’s the cleverest thing about the ending. It doesn’t conclude things very neatly. It’s left totally open. The kingdom is left in disarray… the Starks’ storylines could warrant their own spinoffs. There’s no full stop. It’s almost as if the world of Game of Thrones exists somewhere in the ether.” And this, perhaps, is the best possible way to say goodbye to a show that has meant so much to so many.
Watch all eight seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO, and discover more about the series at HBO.com.