In an emotional last panel, cast members Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), and Conleth Hill (Varys) joined moderator James Hibberd, writer for Entertainment Weekly, to discuss fans’ burning questions.
Despite Hall H being filled to the brim, the panel felt more like a hang-out between fans and the cast, now that they had the freedom to discuss everything fans want to know about the series. They spent most of the panel answering “what if” questions concerning the show and their take on the characters. They also addressed the now infamous Starbucks cup in the last season, and John Bradley defended himself after fans noticed a water bottle next to him in one scene. “I am right handed. I’ve thought about this very strongly,” said Bradley in an attempt to exonerate himself from the guilt. “I’m not trying to clear my name, but … I think I’ve taken enough blame for this one.”
When asked what Bran’s new government would be like, Wright responded with, “I can’t imagine his government is a ‘barrel of laughs,’” adding that, “Westeros is probably a surveillance state,” since Bran can see everyone and everything they are doing. When questioned as to Arya’s future travel plans, Williams said, “I’m sure she’s having a wonderful time, like Dora the Explorer, minus the bob.” Jacob Anderson also described his take on Grey Worm’s new society, claiming it would probably have a “Wakanda kind of vibe.” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau defended the ending of his character and received a “boo” from the crowd as he agreed that his character’s ending “in the arms of Cersei” was befitting. He responded to the boo nonchalantly with, “there’s always one,” and laughed it off, adding, “that’s just my opinion.” He added that Brienne’s writing of Jaime Lannister’s fate in the White Book was the actual end of his character, calling it “a beautiful scene.” This received cheers from the crowd, smoothing over the momentary tension.
The elephant in the room, however, was the casts’ burden to defend the last season, since showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss pulled out of the panel a few days prior. Conleth Hill joked that “I don’t regret starting the petition” after some of his comments had initiated the petition to recreate the last season. He clarified that his comments, which had been taken and run with by fans who disliked the final season, were due to his dismay at nearly making it to the end. “To be very honest, I did an interview way after we’d finished the show,” Hill stated. “The question was, ‘How did you feel at the time?’ 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.” He claimed that his comments were “picked over like a whale on the beach” and that only his negative statements were used. “For the record, I loved all my 10 years on Game of Thrones. I started when I was 15,” he added, lightening the mood once more with a room full of laughs. “It was a life-changing experience and I met wonderful people on and off screen.” Lastly, he spoke on the theme of the last season, which he claimed was “the futility of conflict and the pointlessness of war, and if you get one thing from the show, take that.”
Hill also added that they are grateful for the fans despite the backlash, and wanted to focus on the unity of the show rather than its divisiveness. “Look at the amount of people here,” said Hill, referring to the packed Hall H. “We’re here to thank you for all those years. We were never divisive in the past,” he added, thanking the fans. “We’re very grateful to your fandom over the years, and I think this is the reality rather than a sort of media-led hate campaign.”
Coster-Waldau, who had previously defended the writers, concurred: “every season we had huge controversies. From Ned Stark being killed, it was like, ‘I’m never going to watch that piece of sh-t show again.’ And then there was the ‘Red Wedding,’ and every season. And I think, obviously, the end, in a show that… when it comes to an end, it’s going to piss you off no matter what, because it’s the end.” Coster-Waldau finished by saying everyone is entitled to their own opinion, “but just don’t call people names.”
Cunningham gave a philosophical addition to this, stating that “it’s almost a metaphor for life: it’s not arriving at the end that’s the point of this whole thing, it was the journey.” When asked if they would have done anything differently to the ending, Hill, always in good humor, responded, “I should’ve been on the throne! Isn’t it obvious?”
The season finale drew 13.6 million viewers, breaking the record for the most-watched single telecast on HBO, as well as Game of Thrones’ prior ratings records. Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), and Carice van Houten (Melisandre) are also nominated for Emmys after submitting themselves. The final season aired May 19, 2019.