The cast of Game of Thrones took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, and although the series is over, the actors had plenty to share, especially as the panel’s narrator–Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd–didn’t hesitate to ask tough questions about the controversial final season.
The panel included Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Conleth Hill (Varys), and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark).
Hibberd opened with a banger, asking Isaac what his reign as King Bran the Broken is like.
“I can’t imagine his government is a barrel of laughs,” Hempstead-Wright said. “I think it must be quite serious. And I guess for all intents and purposes, Westeros is now a surveillance state, with Bran aware of everything everyone is doing.” It’s nice to know Hempstead-Wright shares the opinion of the many fans who have speculated about how Bran might use his powers as king.
Meanwhile, what would King Bran do if he did manage to locate and take control of the runaway dragon, Drogon?
“Burn a couple of cities down, go back and get the revenge,” Hempstead-Wright joked.
Later during the panel, Hibberd raised the issue of the “evil Bran theory”–that Bran let events unfold as they did, despite the massive loss of life, so that he would wind up on the throne at the end.
“I don’t think Bran knows, per se, exactly what’s going to happen in the future–he’s not a fortune teller,” Hempstead-Wright explained. “He’s got the entirety of the past at his fingerprints, but his vision of the future is slightly cloudier. That’s my excuse for why Bran didn’t say anything. But I think it’s quite cool that it’s left slightly ambiguous and you can read into it.”
“I think that’s one of the cleverest things about the ending, is it doesn’t conclude everything very neatly,” the actor continued.
Coster-Waldau addressed the backlash to Season 8 directly. “It’s gonna piss you off no matter what, because it’s the end,” the actor said. “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.”
Coster-Waldau addressed his character’s ending directly, as well. “I thought it was a great ending,” the actor said. “I thought it was perfect for that character, ending in the arms of Cersei–it made sense to me.” Members of the audience disagreed, judging by the scattered boos that emerged in Comic-Con’s Hall H.
“That’s just my opinion,” Coster-Waldau replied, not without a sense of humor.
As for Arya Stark, actress Maisie Williams has her own theories about what’s going on “west of Westeros”–and opinions about the memes surrounding her character’s ending.
“I’m sure she’s having a wonderful time, like Dora the Explorer, minus the bob,” Williams laughed. Of course, Hibberd followed up with the obvious question: Why didn’t Bran simply tell Arya what’s west of Westeros?
“That was my favorite meme actually,” Williams said. “It’s like, ‘What’s west of Westeros? No one knows!’ and then Bran’s there like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
Grey Worm’s actor, Jacob Anderson, even addressed the theory about the poison butterflies that book readers know are present on Missandei’s home island Naath, where Grey Worm was headed the last time we saw him in the series.
“People keep telling me that butterflies kill him,” Anderson said, chuckling. “He gets there and there’s poisonous butterflies. But I think he kept his promise to Missandei.”
“I think he’s just starting a new society, like a Wakanda kind of vibe, in another part of the world,” Anderson explained.
For his part, Varys actor Conleth Hill was vocal in the past about being dissatisfied with his ending–in an interview, in fact, with Hibberd, this panel’s moderator. Hill took this panel as an opportunity to set the record straight.
“I don’t regret starting the petition,” he joked (to be clear, he definitely didn’t). “To be very honest, I did an interview with EW way after we finished the show, and the question was, ‘How did you feel at the time?’ and I was very honest that I was absolutely gutted to get so close but not make the end…I thought I gave a very honest answer to how I felt, but I put it in the context of, that was one of the risks of being in a multi-character show.
“I thought the initial interview was very balanced, but as you say, it was picked over like a whale on a beach…for the record, I loved all my ten years on Game of Thrones…it was a life-changing experience.”
Many more questions were answered during the panel.
Cunningham said he wasn’t sure whether Davos would have gone through with killing Melisandre after the Battle of Winterfell. “I’m not sure. Davos, I mean, he was described by some people as the moral compass of the piece, and you never saw him killing anybody,” Cunningham said. “I think he’d have wanted to do it, but whether he would or not–I think his humanity was always going to rise to the surface. I’d like to think he’d have got someone else to do it.”
What about why Grey Worm didn’t kill Jon Snow after Jon assassinated Daenerys? “In my head, I think there came a point toward the end where it was just like, enough is enough,” Anderson said. “I think that’s a big reason why he kind of left. It was like, everybody that was ever dear to him is dead now, and he’d only just learned how to have people be dear to him. So I think he just wanted to get–he was like, this is a violent place, and this is not what I want my existence to be anymore.”
Hilariously, Sam’s actor, John Bradley, addressed one of the elephants in the room during the final season’s airing–not the coffee cup present in the Winterfell feast scene, but the water bottle visible during the council scene in the final episode. The bottle was, of course, located next to Bradley’s feet, but the actor actually believes it wasn’t his.
“I will say this, actually: that I’m right-handed,” Bradley explained. “I thought about this very strongly. I’m right-handed, so if I’m drinking a water bottle with this hand, if I was going to put it on the floor, I think I’d put it on this side of my leg. But the bottle was on this side. So as a conspiracy theory…I will say that there’s a guy on this side who might be right-handed as well. I think I’ve taken enough blame for this one.”
For the record, the character sitting to Bradley’s left during the scene in question is never actually introduced, though fans speculated that he was actually Howland Reed–a character book readers have long looked forward to meeting, but who never wound up appearing officially in the show. So, sure, let’s blame it on him.
Overall, the tone of Game of Thrones’ final Comic-Con panel was surprisingly warm. Everyone present seemed to have a sense of humor about Season 8’s shortcomings–but also a realistic perspective regarding the bigger picture. Game of Thrones became a cultural phenomenon because so many fans love it and obsessed over it for many years, and an ending that many fans found disappointing didn’t change the years of enjoyment preceding it. As Davos Seaworth once said, “Nothing f***s you harder than time.” But luckily, nothing can change the past.