After eight epic years of chivalry, sex, death and dragons, “Game of Thrones” fans worldwide have just 79 pulsating minutes remaining Sunday to get their final fix in one of the most hotly anticipated events in TV history.
The blood-spattered tale of noble families vying for the Iron Throne has just one episode to go and buzz is at fever pitch for a ratings juggernaut that has demolished audience records like a Dothraki barbarian finishing off a skillet of horse meat.
While many will watch at home, thousands will celebrate and mourn the show’s denouement at viewing parties in bars, banqueting halls and backyards from Alaska to Armenia.
One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series ever made, “GoT” has been the target of criticism over the years for senseless violence and its repeated use of rape as a dramatic device.
The scriptwriters have brutalized women, killed children, depicted graphic sex and had their characters hacked, stabbed, flayed, poisoned, decapitated, burned alive, eye-gouged and eviscerated — all in glorious close-up.
Even principal character Jon Snow (Kit Harington), whose fellow Night’s Watch troops would chant “And now his watch is ended” at comrades’ funerals, suffered the indignity of being briefly dead after a particularly violent quarrel.
The adult themes have not deterred fans, however, nor the industry itself, which has seen fit to make it the most decorated series in history, with 47 Emmy Awards.
Airing in 170 countries under its portentous tagline, “Winter is Coming,” the show is also the most expensive ever, with a budget of $15 million per episode in its final run.
The season seven finale set an all-time US record for premium cable TV with 16.5 million people watching live or streaming on the day of transmission and 15 million more tuning in later.
Viewing records also tumbled across the world, with Britain’s Sky Atlantic and OCS in France showing episodes in the middle of the night in sync with their US premieres.
Assuming there is no do-over, the biggest mystery of all remains who will be sitting on the Iron Throne and ruling Westeros when “Game of Thrones” comes to an end.