Spoiler alert: this blog discusses plot points from past seasons of various TV shows, including Dexter, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Sherlock and More
Now the dust has settled on this year's San Diego Comic-Con International and we've had a chance to sift through the nerdgasms, geekouts, what have we learned from the TV panels?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
After he wrangled the characters of four blockbuster franchises for Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon's place at the helm of the good ship Marvel seems assured. Comic-Con may not be where you find the most unbiased of audiences, but judging by the whooping after they watched the pilot episode, it looks as if Whedon is going to be able to turn that goodwill into a TV show that sits at the heart of the Marvel universe even without calling on any of the costumed heavyweights – there's no Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man or even Deadpool. "We may see some people, and we may see some new people from the Marvel universe – but the most important thing is that we see these people here," Whedon teased, pointing to his new cast assembled for the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division. Which of course includes Clark Gregg – who credits "badass geeks" around the world for bringing Agent Coulson back from the dead. "I didn't like being dead – but I really liked my death," he said.
It's an understatement to say that Comic-Con attracts people who know their way around the dressing-up box. But there was one outfit that stood out – or rather, didn't. The prize for best costume goes to Bryan Cranston, who elevated the whole game with his cosplay-selfie: walking out into the public arena wearing a Walter White Heisenberg mask. During the panel, we learned that the moment where Walt throws the giant pizza up on the roof of the garage was a "one-take" move, and that the writers came up with the "improbable but not impossible" story of "the evil juice-box man" to explain how Walt almost killed Brock (the son of Jesse's girlfriend Andrea) – crushing up some lily of the valley, sneaking into Brock's school and swapping his drink carton for a poisoned one. Bring on season five, part two.
Creator Dan Harmon was ejected from Community's hotseat after the end of season three, and very publicly slagged off season four under the stewardship of Moses Port and David Guarascio. Now he's back. Awkward. Luckily, nothing says "sorry" like donning an Iron Man suit ("I am billionaire playboy and creator Dan Harmon") and calling yourself "a creepy jerk" while modestly offering: "I'm not saying I have created a machine that eats pain and crafts joy …" Alongside Jim Rash (Dean Dean), Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley), Alison Brie (Annie), Ken Jeong (Chang), Danny Pudi (Abed) and Gillian Jacobs (Britta), Harmon revealed that "six seasons and a movie" is still the dream – but that his focus is on the next 13 episodes. There will be another animated episode (though no specifics on the style this time round), they've lined up a sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons episode, and they've planned a proper send-off for Troy. Cool-cool-cool.
Time for the Comic-Con audience to say goodbye to one of TV's most enduring serial killers. Dexter himself, Michael C Hall, was joined by some of those who didn't quite make it to the end of the run: Erik "Doakes" King, Lauren "María LaGuerta" Velez and Julie "Rita" Benz, with the Trinity Killer, Jon Lithgow, appearing via video ("Hello, Dexter Morgan fans. I wish I could be with you but, as you all know, I'm dead."). Hints about the end of the final season were suitably thin on the ground:
Charlotte Rampling plays Dr Vogel, a character who will "reframe" Dexter's origin story, and Yvonne Strahovski is returning as Hannah: "No one knows whether her motivation is based on revenge or love or what".
Game of Thrones
The clans of the seven kingdoms were in force on the Westeros panel – including a run-on return for Jason "Khal Drogo" Mamoa (prompting a quick burst of "My sun and stars!" from Emilia Clarke). After another bloodthirsty season, the In Memoriam clip seemed fitting, reminding us of some of the cast we've lost along the way: Kraznys (don't mess with a dragon lady), a selection of Robert's Bastards, the Thirteen and of course, the Starks' ever-expanding graveyard. Writer David Benioff was pleased to note the attitude of the book fans when it comes to revealing spoilers for the TV audience
once he realised that Ned Stark's fate had remained a surprise, he knew they'd be able to pull off events such as the Red Wedding. George RR Martin said that he'd be open to writing a prequel (although not one featuring any Ned), even though "the locomotive is coming up behind me and I'm still laying the tracks". Fans (and the TV crew) would probably be more happy if he gets round to finishing the last two books in the series first.
Alongside fellow writer Mark Gatiss and producer Sue Vertue, Steven Moffat pretty much repeated the "tell 'em nothing, leave 'em wanting everything" schtick that he turned in at the Doctor Who panel. As well as saying we'd get more Mycroft, no Moriarity and an assurance that all the clues to explain Sherlock's survival are there in the Reichenbach Fall episode, he did offered up three words to lead us into season three's The Sign of Three: "rat", "wedding" and "bow".
The Walking Dead
As we see from the season-four trailer, Rick and the extended group from some of the Woodbury survivors are back in the prison. It's still surrounded by walkers – and it looks as if someone is coordinating a series of walker breaches into the perimeter. Could it be the Governor's handiwork? As ever, the producers promised that season five will be "way crazier" – and what could be crazier than Carol's "welcome to knives" school class?
The X Files
It's not just living TV shows that get a hearing at Comic-Con. The cast and crew of one of the all-time TV sci-fi greats were on hand to soak up some 20th anniversary reunion applause: Mulder and Scully (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny), plus creator Chris Carter and writers Vince Gilligan, James Wong, Howard Gordon and the Morgan brothers. Gillian Anderson, who's been having something of a small-screen renaissance with The Fall and her excellent cameo in Hannibal as Dr Lecter's shrink, was quick to shut down any possibility of a return to the series, but did say she'd be up for a third film. Of the show's writers, Vince Gilligan's memories stood out: without The X Files there would have been no Breaking Bad ("It was like going to film school, except getting paid to attend") and it's where he first met Bryan Cranston, who guested as Patrick Crump in an episode called Drive.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Marvel Films showed off footage from its upcoming space opera, showcasing the new additions to its cinematic universe – including Chris Pratt as half-human hero Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as alien assassin Gamora and Dave Bautista as burly warrior Drax the Destroyer. Former Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan provided the shock of the convention, whipping off a ginger wig off to reveal a newly-bald bonce for her role as space pirate Nebula.
The film's billed as "an anti-hero superhero movie," and it's Marvel's biggest gamble to date – a space opera with few connections to Earth as we know it, and a cast of outlandish characters including Groot (a talking tree) and Rocket Raccoon (a, er, anthropomorphic raccoon). Mind you, people said that Thor would be too much of a stretch for cinema-goers, and that's turned out well enough…
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
The highlight of the convention was undoubtedly Tom Hiddleston's ham-tastic performance as Loki, introducing new footage from Thor: The Dark World in full Asgardian regalia.
The film itself looks set to invert the plot of the original; instead of Thor being sent to our world, here it's Natalie Portman's Jane Foster who's the fish out of water in Asgard. Rather wonderfully, she gets to smack Loki in the chops ("That's for New York!"). Expect plenty of action, too – no surprise, given that the film's directed by Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor – with Thor battling a giant rock monster.
Warner Brothers took to the stage to announce the sequel to Superman film Man of Steel – and this time around, Batman is along for the ride. Man of Steel writer David S Goyer and director Zack Snyder are returning for the sequel, which will reportedly be inspired by Frank Miller's seminal 80s Batman comic The Dark Knight Returns. However, the Dark Knight himself, Christian Bale, won't be returning for this movie – it will, according to Warner Bros, kickstart a new Batman franchise.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
In a bid to outdo the official Marvel Studios movies, 20th Century Fox has stuffed its new X-Men film with almost every actor to have appeared in the franchise over the last decade – and they all turned up for Comic-Con.
The biggest X-Men news from the convention? Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage has been revealed as playing Bolivar Trask, creator of the mutant-killing robot Sentinels. Director Bryan Singer also revealed key details of the plot, which will follow Hugh Jackman's Wolverine as he travels back in time to avert a mutant apocalypse – by teaching the young Professor X (James McAvoy).
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
The Avengers sequel isn't dropping until 2015, but we now have a few tantalising details about the superhero royal rumble courtesy of director Joss Whedon. Avengers: Age of Ultron will feature the killer robot Ultron (unsurprisingly) though it won't be based on the recent comic-book miniseries of the same name.
In the comics, Ultron's a sentient robot created by scientist Hank Pym – also known as Ant-Man. Although The World's End director Edgar Wright is working on an Ant-Man movie, that element of Ultron's backstory won't feature in the Avengers sequel. Instead, it's likely that Tony Stark will be the brains behind the robot. Whedon's also revealed that the film will be "globetrotting" and "darker," and that Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye will have more to do this time around – not being possessed and all.
It's the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this year, and the BBC's celebrating its long-running sci-fi series in style – with a special episode that'll team up Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor with his predecessor David Tennant. As well as sending Smith out onto the convention floor in disguise as Bart Simpson, the BBC also revealed some tantalising details of the special – the Daleks will be back, while it's looking increasingly like John Hurt is playing a previously-unseen Ninth Doctor.
A trailer for anniversary docudrama "An Adventure in Space and Time" also got an airing – featuring David Bradley in a melancholy turn as William Hartnell, the first actor to play Doctor Who. It's packed with recreations of the original 1960s series, including vintage Daleks and the old-school Cybermen that were realised with sticky tape and a bag over their heads.