After two queens, 11 kings, 

67 episodes and hundreds of millions of new fans, the final stretch on the race for the Iron Throne is upon us. 

In the early hours of Monday morning, lights will remain on and the public will huddle on their sofas, fighting the urge to sleep as they wait for the distinctive orchestral signal that Game Of Thornes is back. 

The Long Night is now almost over, and producers have given little away about what fans will experience in the coming weeks, with long-awaited reunions and blossoming romances promised alongside a threat of apocalyptic proportions closing in on Westerosi society (think global warming but a bit chillier).

What more could we want from multimillion-dollar escapism, but the wiping out of the human race? 

These high stakes are a far cry from the now seemingly insignificant focus of earlier episodes, with the murder of pets or a little feudal in-fighting now surely considered an altogether pleasant day in the Seven Kingdoms.

It is these smallest of turning points that have brought the series to where it currently sits, with characters an equal distance from both oblivion and ultimate power. 

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, draped in their new-found love, head north unaware their connection may be a bit too close for comfort. An Army of the Dead marches south, fully kitted out with their own ice dragon. 

All the while, Queen Cersei sits warmly in the south, abandoned by her brothers and hoping the last word in this epic will be hers. The answer to who will claim the throne is tantalisingly close to being answered. 

However, for the millions who will tune in to the season eight opener, a much more brutal reality awaits in little over six weeks. The very show they have longed for is set to be snatched away from us – this time for good. 

Solace can be found in the promise of more tales told in this world of dragons and direwolves, maybe even a book or two if George R R Martin can be believed. 

But whether prequels, sequels or spin-offs follow Game Of Thrones, it will be difficult to match this dose of fantasy rooted in brutal reality. 

This is the beginning of the end. Our watch has almost ended.