It is the beginning of the end for Game of Thrones and its global army of followers – and the question of who will rule Westeros is finally about to be answered.
The epic drama of politics, war, sex and magic arrived on the nation’s screens in the early hours of the morning, with the first episode of the eighth and final series due for another airing on Sky Atlantic at 9pm tonight.
The six-episode finale will bring to a conclusion the saga of who will rule from the Iron Thrones – almost two years after the previous season ended.
Lena Headey will reprise her role as the scheming Cersei Lannister, while Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, also returns alongside Kit Harington as Jon Snow.
Snow has promised fans that the final instalment of Game of Thrones will be “bigger than any other season – by a long way”.
He said: “We went big, on spectacle and scale and ambition. We went bigger than any other season by a long way. What you get to see is all of your characters’ stories hopefully being served correctly and right and you get to see the culmination of nine years under the blanket of one amazing spectacle.”
Harington said he had been experiencing “every emotion” after finishing filming and now getting ready to finally say goodbye.
He added: “It’s everything from pride to joy to fear. I mean, the whole thing was a rollercoaster – and the ending is just as much of a rollercoaster.
Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth, said: “It feels bigger than all of us. The star of Game Of Thrones is Game Of Thrones and it’s an extraordinary thing to be a part of. It will probably be on my gravestone, but I’m not complaining about that.”
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing. It’s tough to say goodbye but there’s also a sense of accomplishment – that you’d made it without breaking a leg, or getting sacked or killed.”
Based on George R R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, A Song Of Ice And Fire, the series was adapted for television by David Benioff and D B Weiss.
Based in Belfast, it has been filmed around Northern Ireland and in Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Spain and the United States.
Meanwhile, new research has revealed more people are trying to learn the Game of Thrones language High Valyrian than the number who understand Gaelic.
In the UK more than 100,000 people have signed up to a course on Duolingo. The course promises to allow the user to learn enough High Valyrian to have a full conversation.
David Peterson, the creator of the Game of Thrones language, wrote and voiced the course, which has more than 2,000 words, for the website and app Duolingo.
He told CBS: “There was a little of the language in the books created by George R R Martin. It was just ‘valar morghulis’ which means ‘all men must die’, and ‘valar dohaeris’, meaning ‘all men must serve’.
“So basically I used those as a template, fleshed out the rest of the verbal system, the rest of the noun system, and then built on from there so you can basically have a full language you can translate.”
Bookmakers William Hill have named Bran Stark as the surprise 4/5 odds-on favourite in the betting for who will rule the seven kingdoms by the end of the final episode.