HBO’s hit fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” returned Friday to Hall H at Comic-Con International in San Diego with a little less star power than usual, and virtually no information about what’s in store for next season.
Hosted by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star Rob McElhenney, the presentation began with a video in which he and co-star Charlie Day interacted as “Game of Thrones” background characters who wanted to know if “winter is coming,” when exactly it will arrive.
“I don’t have any shoes that aren’t open-toed,” Day joked in the short.
HBO confirmed last week that the upcoming Season 7 will consist of just seven episodes -- three fewer than the usual order – it won’t premiere until summer 2017, rather than in the spring.
“Why do you all hate us so much?” McElhenney asked creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
“Winter is here,” Benioff said, referring to the show’s timeline, “and we’ve got to shoot in places with trees and wait for the leaves to turn. Filming will begin in late fall/winter, which means they won’t finish filming until February. The show’s extensive post-production work will then begin, which means the show won’t be ready to air until the summer.
“What are we supposed to do until then?” McElhenney asked.
“You can re-watch the show from the beginning,” Weiss replied.
They also discussed the future of “Game of Thrones,” and the challenges of finishing the story while no longer having the novels to use as direct source material. Season 6 saw the series catch up and surpass the storyline of George R.R. Martin’s books.
“It is still George’s imagination that gave us these characters and this world,” Benioff said. “Hopefully we’re still living out the spirit of George’s imagination. George’s books will be very different in some respects. Hopefully the TV series and the books will be very surprising to people who are reading or watching.”
The showrunners were joined onstage by director Miguel Sapochnik, who helmed the acclaimed final two episodes Season 6, as well as Liam Cunningham, John Bradley, Nathalie Emmanuel, Conieth Hill, Sophie Turner, Iwan Rheon, Issac Hempstead Wright and Faye Marsay. However, it was Kristian Nairn who earned the most enthusiastic response, as chants of “Hodor” broke out in honor of his beloved character, who was killed off at the end of the season.
“I did not expect it to be so crazy,” Nairn said, referring to the reactions of fans to Hodor’s death. “I’m really, really flattered. It’s blown my mind. I was in a hotel in L.A. last week and all their doorstops said ‘Hodor’ on them. The scene was incredibly written and directed, but I didn’t expect the outpouring of emotion.”
Benioff said he and Weiss learned the fate of Hodor three or four years ago while visiting Martin. They loved how the repeated utterance of “Hodor,” which at first made the character comical, suddenly turned tragic when the audience learned its meaning.
Rheon’s character, the sadistic Ramsay Bolton, was also killed off in Season 6, but while that death wasn’t mourned like Hodor’s, the actor believes Ramsay had some redeeming traits.
“He’s had a tough upbringing,” Rheon said. “He’s just looking for his father’s love and acceptance all his life. Everyone can relate to that.”
“Boo-hoo,” replied Turner, whose character Sansa Stark was tormented by Ramsay over the course of the season.
Asked why Sansa didn’t tell Jon Snow ahead of the Battle of Winterfell that she’d sent for the Knights of the Vale, Turner joked, “She wanted all of the credit .... and it makes for really good television.”
She added that she doesn’t think Sansa has much faith in Jon as a leader. “I’m not sure she thinks Jon is capable of running Winterfell and the North,” she said. “I don’t think she thinks he has the intellect or the experience that she has, and I concur. He has wonderful morals, those Stark morals, so she thinks that inevitably he’ll make a good decision, but whether it’s going to benefit anyone is another story.”
Turner also thinks Sansa may have developed a taste for blood after killing Ramsay. “I have no idea if she’s going to become a real leader or if she’s going to become completely sadistic,” she said. “We’ll soon find out.”
One of the other big reveals of last season is that Jon Snow is actually the son of Ned Stark’s late sister Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
Hempstead Wright’s character Bran Stark is currently the only person aware of that. “Bran knows he’s been shown this information for a reason,” the actor said. “He might not know exactly why, but it’s obviously imperative he knows this and will spread the word.”
He joked that he imagines the conversation with Snow going something like, “By the way, I’m a tree wizard, and your dad isn’t your dad.”
The panel concluded with a behind-the-scenes video showing the crew preparing for the production of Season 7, and a blooper reel that focused on star Peter Dinklage struggling to say the word “benevolent.”