[Note: "Game of Thrones" spoilers follow.]
One of the most highly anticipated events of Comic-Con San Diego 2013, the "Game of Thrones" panel in the enormous Hall H, brought the cast, producers and fans together for an emotional presentation on Friday afternoon. Among the panel members present were Michelle Fairley and Richard Madden, whose characters Catelyn and Robb Stark died tragically at the end of the show's most recent season. Their reunion with the cast and with fans at Comic-Con on Friday was a high point of the convention so far.
The panel also included stars John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), and Rose Leslie (Ygritte), not to mention "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R. R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in the show's first season, even made a brief appearance onstage to yell into Clarke's microphone. "My Sun and Stars!" she joked.
The event opened with an "In Memoriam" video for characters who have died over the past three seasons. They ranged from Waymar Royce and Will's deaths in the pilot to Ned, Catelyn and Robb Stark, drawing exclamations from the crowd. Countless characters' names flashed across the screen, and by the end they went by so quickly it was nearly impossible to keep track.
HBO also surprised fans with a deleted scene from Season 3 featuring Tywin Lannister ( Charles Dance) and Grand Maester Pycelle ( Julian Glover). The clip finds Tywin during some of his rare "time of leisure," as Pycelle puts it, fishing for his dinner outside King's Landing. Pycelle moans of how Tyrion dismisses him from the small council, stuttering miserably. Tywin, having none of it, challenges his performance. In an amazing transformation, Pycelle stands up straight and speaks in a clear, strong voice. "I don't want to be the tallest or the brightest," he says. "I only want to remain in the garden before my time comes to return to the dirt." Tywin threatens him anyway, and by the end of the clip Pycelle is once again stooped and stuttering.
Season 3 was "Game of Thrones'" most intense yet, as several characters met their brutal, unexpected ends. The event known as the Red Wedding was one of the most shocking events ever portrayed on television.
"When we wrapped the Red Wedding I remember hugging Michelle and Richard," Benioff says.
"I cried quite a lot actually," Madden, wearing a David Bowie t-shirt, says as the crowd erupts in shrill exclamations. "I had a good cry on set with a few other people.
"It was worth the crying," he says, adding that he feels like he should still be shooting the show right now.
"I have many characters, so killing a few, there's always more," Martin adds smugly. "There's job opportunities for actors and actresses."
"We knew immediately that if we can make this happen and we can get this to that place, to this season, and do justice to the 'holy s***!' of that moment, and the throw-the-book-across-the-room of that moment -- if we can get people to throw remotes across the room like I threw my book -- then we would have done something right," Weiss says.
"We'd been waiting for it for so long," Benioff adds. "I just remember standing on set and watching Michelle having to do these takes over and over again...the face that Michelle makes when she pulls up Roose Bolton's sleeve and sees the chain mail, or the face she makes right before she cuts Walder Frey's wife's throat ... it was such a phenomenal performance." He thanked the cast, in particular Fairley, for the effectiveness of the scene.
"It was one of the greatest moment of my life," he adds, thanking "A Song of Ice and Fire" book-readers for not spoiling the episode for show-watchers.
Benioff also praised Ramin Djawadi, the composer of "The Rains of Castamere," the gut-wrenching song that plays during the Red Wedding. "It had to be familiar," Benioff says. "It had to be a song that was in the audience's minds [so that viewers would recognize it]...because that was the experience reading the books."
When the cast was asked whether they read the books, Dinklage says he doesn't want to know what's coming and doesn't read the books past where they are in the show. Other actors' answers varied. The showrunners say they leave it up to the actors, since they want them to portray their characters in the moment and not how they'll be in the future of the series.
The cast had plenty of praise for the showrunners. "I really hate blowing smoke up David and Dan's a**. I've done it too many times," Harington says. "But they're really good at writing dialogue, and it's very easy to deliver because of that fact." Martin even blamed the duo for some of the brutality in the show, saying they "cranked it up" from the books, which themselves are notoriously violent.
Several characters found themselves in transition at the conclusion of Season 3 of "Game of Thrones." In one particularly emotional scene, Jon left Ygritte standing stupefied in the rain, for which Leslie promised her character will "hunt him down and hurt him."
Daenerys, meanwhile, had a triumphant finale in the season's last episode. "You think that she's peaking in episode five with getting her army," Clarke says. "[But] the final episode was absolutely exhilarating to film."
Fans may have been expecting some announcements or new cast members to appear, but unfortunately Mark Gatiss, who many believe will play Mace Tyrell in Season 4, and Pedro Pascal, who's confirmed to play The Red Viper, were absent. HBO had no new footage to show either -- no announcements, and no premiere date beyond Spring 2014. But Martin did speak about the book series and the possibility of prequel novels showing Robert's Rebellion.
"By the time I'm finished these last two books ["The Winds of Winter" and "A Dream of Spring"], I think you'll know everything about that," Martin says. "But I might go back earlier and write something about Aegon and his sisters, or the Mad King, or Aegon the Unworthy, a true scumbag of a king with his nine mistresses."
"There's lot of material to write about if I want to do more in Westeros," he adds. "I just don't want to do the immediate precursor."
"Game of Thrones" Season 4 premieres Spring 2014.
Photo/Video credit: HBO