The wait is almost over for the last ever series of Game of Thrones... but what's going to happen?!
The biggest TV show on the planet returns for its eighth and final series on Monday when the rival Westeros houses battle for the Iron Throne and face off against the Army of the Dead in a monumental conclusion to epic fantasy drama Game of Thrones.
As usual, the new episodes will be shown on Sky Atlantic in the early hours of Monday morning – the same time as the US broadcast – and again on Monday evening at 9pm. This year, there are just six episodes, but the last four instalments reportedly run to 80 minutes each.
The series has long outstripped its source material from George RR Martin’s novels, and even the 70-year-old author says he has no idea how the story will end.
So what’s in store in the final series of Game of Thrones? Here, are seven things you need to know as we return to the Seven Kingdoms…
1. The action begins at Winterfell, the Stark stronghold in the North, where Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) arrive to meet Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maise Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) after they rid themselves of the scheming Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen).
2. Expect shockwaves from the revelation that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s illegitimate son, but the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen – and the true heir to the Iron Throne. Will it tear Jon and Daenerys apart after he bent the knee to the Dragon Queen and the pair began a romance?
3. Each of the six episodes has cost around $15million to make, with producers spending $2million on the construction of a new Winterfell set next to the series’ studios in Belfast. "Building the new Winterfell is the biggest thing we’ve ever done," says construction manager Tom Martin.
4. There’s so much secrecy surrounding the new series that even the cast were kept in the dark. "The scripts came on this app and they all disappeared after 24 hours," says Maisie Williams. "I’d only got to episode three and I couldn’t see them anymore! I had to email Sophie [Turner] for help."
5. Former EastEnders actress Alice Nokes has joined the cast, playing a character named Willa, though there’s little information about her role as yet.
6. The terrifying Night King will have a huge role to play in the proceedings. The part was played initially by Richard Brake with Thrones stuntman Vladimir Furdik taking over in season six. "I don’t think of the Night King as evil, I think of him as Death," says showrunner David Benioff. "And that’s what he wants – for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after."
7. The new series of Thrones will sadly be the last, but fans can look forward to an upcoming spin-off which will explore a different, but equally bloodthirsty time period in Westeros history. As yet untitled, the series is written by Jane Goldman (who penned movies Kick Ass and Kingsman) and will star John Simm and Miranda Richardson.
Game of Thrones returns on Sky Atlantic on Monday.
Main picture: HBO/Sky
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