The Game of Thrones cast leapt to the defense of its much-maligned final season in front of a boisterous crowd at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, blaming the backlash on negative media coverage.
The HBO fantasy epic’s conclusion enraged fans around the world, and organizers of the pop culture convention had to remind attendees before the retrospective panel to make the cast “feel welcome.”
While the cast drew a rapturous reception, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau—who played Jaime Lannister—was booed after describing his character’s death in the arms of his sister and lover Cersei as “perfect.”
“It made sense to me,” said the actor, before being interrupted by a heckler. “This show has brought so many people together, watching it, loving it. So obviously when it comes to an end it’s going to piss you off no matter what … just don’t call people names,” he added.
An online petition to HBO to remake the final season with “competent writers” was signed by 1.6 million people. The panel in the convention center’s cavernous Hall H was billed as the show creators’ first public outing following the backlash. But showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss quietly withdrew along with two cast members earlier in the week.
The remaining members expressed support for the final season, although Conleth Hill—who played Varys—joked: “I don’t regret starting the petition.” He described the fan response to the show over the years as extremely positive, referring to the negativity as a “media-led hate campaign.”
Isaac Hempstead Wright, whose character Bran ended up as king to much fan disgruntlement, said the show’s unexpectedly ambiguous ending was a strength. “One of the cleverest things about the ending is that it doesn’t conclude everything very neatly,” he said. “The kingdom’s in disarray … They’re not finished, there’s no full stop. It’s not finished conclusively, it lets you read into it.”
The atmosphere quickly lightened as cast members joked about stealing props from the set. Hempstead Wright said he “ended up with a wooden spoon,” while Maisie Williams—who played Arya Stark—reduced the panel to giggles after admitting to stealing fake blood from one scene and leaving it on the bathroom floor of her dressing room.
John Bradley, known to fans as Samwell Tarly, addressed another controversy, shooting down theories that he was to blame for a plastic water bottle accidentally left in shot during the final season. “Pardon me for being thirsty,” he joked.