By Meredith Blake / Los Angeles Times
An army of the dead marched on Radio City Music Hall April 4 for the New York premiere of the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones.”
Hundreds of fans gathered in Rockefeller Plaza to greet Charles Dance, Jack Gleeson, Jason Momoa, Sean Bean and other actors who played some of the many, many characters who’ve been killed off in spectacular fashion on the famously brutal HBO fantasy series.
Among the dead, there appeared to be no hard feelings: Pedro Pascal, the actor who portrayed Oberyn Martell, hammed it up on the red carpet with Hafþor Julius Bjornsson, whose brutish character the Mountain crushed Oberyn’s skull in Season 4.
After taking a selfie in front of a “Game of Thrones” poster on the venue’s balcony level, Anthony Carrigan, who plays a Chechen crime boss on the HBO series “Barry,” drew parallels between the shows: “You root for the bad guy, the characters are very complex and there are moments of humor.”
He also recalled the shock he felt after the death of Oberyn Martell, saying, “That one left me in a really dark place for a few days.”
To commemorate the final season, HBO erected a 35-foot replica of the Iron Throne in the middle of Rockefeller Center, a totem symbolizing the enormous global popularity of the series, which follows warring clans in the fictional land of Westeros.
“It would be hard for me to overstate how meaningful this show has been for HBO and I think TV in general,” said Casey Bloys, president of programming at the premium cable network, in remarks onstage before the screening.
He recalled the internal skepticism at HBO when executive producer Carolyn Strauss first pitched a series based on the popular novels by George R.R. Martin a dozen years ago: “So the brother and sister are in love and they have sex and there’s dragons?”
Bloys credited his former boss, Richard Plepler, who stepped down from his post in late February, with having the vision to understand the show “was not about incest or dragons — it was about family and power and who sits on the throne.”
Co-creators and show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also praised Plepler for having the vision to stick with the show, even after they turned in a a famously bad pilot, and Martin for creating the colorful characters and richly detailed world of the show (even if they’ve long since moved beyond what he has written).
“Tyrion, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen were born in a single, ruthless mind,” said Weiss. “Thank you for letting us take your children into our care. Sorry we didn’t treat them better.”
Details about the final season are more closely guarded than the contents of the Mueller report, although apparently star Emilia Clarke’s mother knows how it ends. Otherwise, little can be said about the episode before its broadcast on April 14, except that it features people wearing capes and riding horses.
But the audience of 6,000 or so on Wednesday night clearly enjoyed it, applauding in unison when various members of the sprawling ensemble cast made their entrance on screen.
As the crowd spilled out of the venue afterward, a group of police officers speculated about who they thought would claim the Iron Throne and ultimately rule the Seven Kingdoms.
“It would be nice to see a woman in charge,” said one officer, referring to the dragon-riding Queen Daenerys Targaryen (played by Clarke).
His partner shrugged, professing ignorance: “I don’t really know much about the show.” After a pause, he added, “But it could be Jon Snow. He’s got Targaryen blood.”
The afterparty at the Ziegfeld Ballroom a few blocks away celebrated the show’s fiery side, with blazing red portraits of the (still-living) characters hanging from the walls and animated flames flickering on a screen behind a molten red version of the Iron Throne.
As a DJ spun a playlist of incongruous wedding-reception favorites — apparently “Uptown Funk” is also ubiquitous in Westeros — Jerome Flynn, better known as charming mercenary Bronn, absconded from the bar with a jar of wasabi peas.
“Silicon Valley” star and “Game of Thrones” megafan Thomas Middleditch adjusted his bolo tie while deep in conversation with Martin. And Bloys huddled with Bob Greenblatt, who now oversees HBO as chairman of the newly formed Warner Media.
Wearing a pastel pink dress and a voluminous blond hairpiece reminiscent of Dolly Parton, a drag queen named Vanna Deux gushed over the episode — especially one element. “I’m so excited about Daenerys’ wig,” she said.
They were joined by cast members whose characters have been dramatically reborn, including Kit Harington, whose Jon Snow was resurrected from the dead, and Clarke, whose Daenerys Targaryen emerged from the flames of her husband’s funeral pyre carrying freshly hatched dragons.