Even though the series ended, there was one last Game of Thrones battle many fans wanted to see. At Comic-Con International this year, the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were meant to join much of the cast for one final SDCC panel. Yet, a tweet from the show’s official account announced the panel attendees and the Game of Thrones showrunners can’t attend. Reporters reached out to HBO to determine the reason for the sudden cancellation, and the network blamed scheduling ‘conflicts.’
Along with the Game of Thrones showrunners, actor Ian Glen who played Jorah Mormont won’t be there. This is interesting because he’s cast as Bruce Wayne in Titans, so a “surprise” appearance at the DC Universe panel this week seemed likely. Nathalie Emmanuel, who played Missandei, and director Miguel Sapochnik also bowed out. Still Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead, Conleth Hill, Liam Hempstead, John Bradley, and Nikolaj Coster Waldau will all attend.
Are the Game of Thrones Showrunners Just Chicken?
Given that it’s not just David Benioff and D.B. Weiss skipping the panel, there’s no reason to doubt the reason HBO offered. However, the Game of Thrones showrunners have not spoken in public since the finale aired. While the story ended with a satisfying conclusion—meaning the most important stories technically concluded—lingering disappointment remains over how the final season broke all of its best characters. Also, the vocal subreddit r/freefolk appears to have shown up early to Comic-Con International, “ready to vent” about their displeasure. While it may not seem like the Game of Thrones showrunners would be “afraid” of a group of disappointed fans, this is the same group that was able to mobilize members to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the actors’ charities.
Even without pissed-off fans waiting to boo the Game of Thrones showrunners loudly, there is no doubt that the press in attendance would ask about the finale controversy. Benioff and Weiss, like most showrunners, said they wanted the finale to speak for itself in the immediate aftermath. But even the showrunners of LOST, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, eventually took questions about their own controversial series finale. This is the pair’s last chance to appear at SDCC in support of the series that made them famous. It seems strange that they’d cancel their appearance, especially at the last minute. In all fairness, if the Game of Thrones showrunners decided to skip the panel, it might be just because they didn’t want any controversy taking away from the actors’ moments of glory.
Spoiled Fans or Legitimate Complaints?
If the potential for fan backlash motivated the Game of Thrones showrunners’ decision not to attend Comic-Con, is that a bad thing? Passionate fandoms feel angrier than they used to, from the contrived controversy over the last Star Wars film to the contrived backlash to Batwoman. The anger coming from the Freefolk of the world may seem like more of the same, and in some cases it is. A significant portion of fans felt disappointment at which character killed the Night King during the Battle of Winterfell. They felt cheated that Jon Snow and the frozen, undead monarch didn’t face off. Yet, the entire arc of Arya’s character led up to that moment. Also, the dagger used to end him served as “Chekov’s Gun,” in that every character remarked on the blade’s construction from the only metal that destroys White Walkers.
Yet, other complaints about things like the descent into villainy for Daenerys or the lack of payoff for Jon Snow’s true parentage, resonate as unearned moments or wasted potential. These are legitimate critiques of this series. With all of the Emmy nominations the final season received, it’s not asking too much of the Game of Thrones showrunners to defend those choices. Especially because fans of the book series awaited for two decades, and the final six episodes felt like they were plotted as the writers ran to catch a bus. Fans need to learn how to accept the story they get rather than expecting the story they’ve written in their own heads. However, expecting storytellers to explain or justify their choices is just a part of the game.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.