San Diego Comic-Con 2017

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At last - winter has came for Hall H. Just like in the show, the road to this panel was long and hard. Many fans had camped out along the marina behind the convention center since day one of San Diego Comic-Con 2017. On Friday July 21, the day of the panel, everyone braved long lines and sat through all the morning and noon panels. Finally the time had come and the panel for the HBO sensation, Game of Thrones, had arrived. The packed room was a sea of Khaleesis, Dothraki, Unsullied, and Lords and Ladies of the seven kingdoms, all eager to get a glimpse of their favorite Westerosi characters.

As the season seven premiere sent shockwaves around the world just a week prior to SDCC, fans of the show were itching to see their cherished characters (those who have survived thus far of course) in person, and grab any piece of information that they can use to confirm or deny theories as to what will unfold during this final season. 

The panel kicked off with a resounding standing ovation as the moderator, Kristian Nairn, walked out onto the podium. He stood there for 10 seconds, smiling from ear-to-ear at the warm reception, eventually uttering the infamous word, “Hodor.” This brought about even more explosive shouts and applause. Nairn played the beloved character, Hodor, for six seasons; to all in the crowd he was a sight for sore eyes. His character was one of the more painful losses of the show’s existence, despite only being able to communicate one word throughout the series.

In a not-so-coincidental fashion, the first cast member he introduced was Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark, the Little Lord that he carried and protected from anyone, and anything, after Bran was deemed handicapped. During the panel the biggest “awwwwww” from the crowd was drawn when Nairn asked Wright if he missed him. Wright did not hesitate to skip a beat when explaining that the show wasn’t the same without Nairn’s presence on set.

Joining Hempstead shortly after was Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, Jacob Anderson, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Conleth Hill. Absent were more of the show’s main players including Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Peter Dinklage. Nevertheless, all were excited to see the cast that took to the panel and graciously answered both Nairn and the fans’ burning questions.

The first question was for Christie in regards to her thoughts on Tormund Wolfsbane, the Wildling that whom, for a couple episodes now, has had a romantic eye on her. The crowd loved this question as during the last season, one of the few instances of comedic relief came from Tormund’s pursuit of Brienne’s heart. These scenes included a lot of awkward winking and turkey leg eating. Christie replied that Tormund’s advances are definitely catching Brienne’s eye, no matter how uncomfortable they may seem.

Another inquiry about a budding romance was directed at Anderson and the relationship between his character, Grey Worm, and Missandei. He says that there is definitely sparks for both, and that they’re trying to be happy amidst the looming danger of war. Jokingly Nairn hinted at a wedding, which Anderson cheerfully said Queen Daenerys would probably throw the wedding for them and even be the officiant.

As the panel delved into character arcs, Cunningham gave the crowd a look into a seasoned fighter, emphasizing the wisdom and heart that only someone who has been on multiple sides of the game can bring. Emmanuel and Anderson also spoke of the fiery path that Queen Daenerys has blazed herself, showing that every ruler is just as strong as the team that supports her.

One character that gave fans a great perspective on his development in the season opener was Samwell Tarly (portrayed by Bradley). An attendee asked Bradley if Gilly and baby Sam have given the character a sense of belonging. Bradley explained that Samwell has always felt like an outsider. As a child his father saw him as a disappointment and as an adult sent to Castle Black he was mistreated because he was the least knight-like at the Night’s Watch. Believing he would belong at the Citadel for his love of learning and academia, the same experience happens. The first episode of this season depicts him more as a caregiver in an old folks’ home, rather than an intellectual in Westeros’ most treasured library. Bradley explained that since his character and Gilly have grown together during their crazy experiences, Samwell has learned the importance of being loved by the few that matter, then the many that don't.

The major panel ended with a treat of sweet freebies, for the fans, courtesy of Box Lunch stores. Our swag bag included an exclusive Thrones t-shirt, a White Walker ice cube tray, and a logoed metal water bottle. 

What made this panel special was that we, mega Game of Thrones fans, had the opportunity to explore this group of characters more closely. Nairn even quoted George R.R. Martin, author of the books that inspired the show, stating that, “No matter how small the role, each character is multi-layered.” In other words, although there was a clear absence of major players and heads of houses, that did not mean that we were robbed of a special insight to what will become of the seven kingdoms, and all the people that we have come to care so much about over the last six seasons.

Catch new episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO Sunday at 6PM EST.

Follow Stef B. on Instagram: @Stefa_Knee