SAN DIEGO — A staple of Comic-Con since 2011, "Game of Thrones" cast members took the stage for one final victory lap for the hit HBO fantasy series on Friday, imagining "where are they now?" scenarios for their characters while also discussing the show's divisive finale.
"Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss dropped out of the panel on Wednesday, but the presentation still had the guy who ended up on the proverbial Iron Throne, Isaac Hempstead Wright, who played the enigmatic Bran Stark.
"Bran was always kind of a peripheral character, and all of a sudden he's the king. So that was pretty cool," Hempstead Wright said about the last episode. "I've forced my friends and family to only refer to me as 'your grace.'"
As for Westeros under his reign, "I can't imagine his government is a barrel of laughs," the actor said. He also joked that it's now "a surveillance state," since Bran is the all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven.
Maisie Williams imagines her fierce, dagger-wielding legend Arya Stark, who set sail at the end of "Thrones," is "having a wonderful time, like Dora the Explorer — minus the bob. But the west of Westeros might like the bob."
Jacob Anderson, who played Unsullied commander Grey Worm, figures his soldier went to the island of Naath and "just started a new society, like Wakanda. I think he kept his promise to Missandei, sitting on the beach drinking piña coladas and protecting everyone."
Nikolay Coster-Waldau's knight Jaime Lannister didn't quite make it to the end, dying under a pile of rubble at King's Landing with sister/lover Cersei (Lena Headey). Still, it was "a great ending for him" and "perfect" to go out with Cersei, said Coster-Waldau, a recent Emmy nominee alongside Williams.
He also appreciated the sequence with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) filling in Jaime's pages of the knightly White Book in the finale. "That showed her understanding of Jaime and a love for Jaime. Just a beautiful scene."
If Jaime had survived, would he and Brienne have had a happy ending together? "He's got a lot of baggage," Coster-Waldau said, "and she would find out after a few weeks and she'd need to move on to someone else."
Conleth Hill, who played this the manipulative Lord Varys, also loved his "cool death:" getting torched by a dragon. "I swear the dragon thought twice about it," he quipped. "There's ways to get fired, and that was the best."
The actors bantered with each other and shared their favorite lines — Williams' unsurprisingly "Not today" while Anderson's is "Valar Morghulis." "It's a very obvious statement — 'All men must die' — but it encapsulates the show in a really powerful way. And it sounds cool."
But the conversation got a little more serious when they talked about the controversial last episode, which divided the fanbase and led to an online petition with more than 1 million fans asking HBO to remake the eighth and final season with "competent writers."
Hill pointed to the packed convention hall to show the continued love for the series. "This is the reality rather than a media-led hate sort of thing," he said.
Coster-Waldau said every season had its angering moments — the death of Ned Stark, the Red Wedding — yet was surprised by the level of the backlash and "absurdity" of the petition.
"I feel so lucky to have met so many people," Coster-Waldau said. "This show has brought so many people together watching it, loving it. It's going to (tick) you off no matter what — it's the end. If you hated the ending, if you loved it, great — just don't call people names."
Hempstead Wright loves how the ending was cleverly "left totally open," so much that fans still talk about the "bad Bran theory," which posits that Bran was secretly evil and possibly in cahoots with the Night King.
Characters' story lines "could warrant their own spinoff but they're left. There's no period," Hempstead Wright said. "It's almost like the world of 'Game of Thrones' still exists somewhere in the ether."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Game of Thrones' cast members discuss divisive finale at Comic-Con