Some of Game of Thrones’ major players appeared at a panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con Friday. But there were some notable absences—a handful of the show’s cast and crew, including showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and “The Long Night” director Miguel Sapochnik, all cancelled their appearances before the event.
It’s not hard to imagine that they may not have been very excited about the prospect of facing a hoard of Thrones super fans. Despite racking up a record-setting 32 Emmy nominations, the show’s final episodes divided fans and was the most poorly received season in its history. But stars including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Conleth Hill, and Maisie Williams took the stage for an hour-long discussion during which they defended the show from its critics, even when it earned them some boos.
Coster-Waldau pointed out that the show had taken some potentially fan-alienating plot turns before its final season. “Every season we had huge controversies. From Ned Stark being killed and then there was the Red Wedding,” he said during the panel. “So obviously when it comes to the end it’s gonna piss you off no matter what, because it’s the end.”
But when the actor said that he thought Jaime’s death in Cersei’s arms “made sense,” he was greeted by a smattering of boos from the audience. “That’s just my opinion,” he laughed.
Footage of Varys actor Conleth Hill’s facial expressions during the cast’s final table read went viral after the finale, with some fans interpreting his reactions to the show’s last episodes as being less-than-enthusiastic. But at the panel, he set the record straight. “For the record, I loved all my ten years on Game of Thrones,” he said.
Of the controversial fan-lead petition demanding that HBO remake Season Eight, Hill said that thousands-strong panel audience proved that critical voices were being unduly magnified. “You look at the amount of people who are here. We are here to thank you for watching us all those years,” said Hill, according to Vulture. “I think this is the reality rather than a sort of media-led hate campaign.”
“I don’t regret starting the petition,” Hill joked at one point.
But despite his insistence that the criticism of the show was press-driven, even a cast member has expressed dissatisfaction with the ending. Cersei actor Lena Headey told The Guardian last month that she’d wished her character had been written “a better death.”
Liam Cunningham, who played Ser Davos, pointed out that the show’s ending may not be its most important element. “You have to remember, it’s almost a metaphor for life,” he said, “It’s not arriving at the end, that’s not the point of this whole thing. It’s the journey.”