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You’ve probably heard some rumblings over the last few weeks that Game of Thrones is back. Last Sunday, the HBO epic kicked off its eighth and final season, airing the first of just six episodes set to conclude the story.

While this may seem like just another final season of a beloved television show, it’s actually something a bit more notable. Author George R.R. Martin published the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series back in 1996. That book titled “A Game of Thrones” is what truly began the saga of Westeros which would be adapted into the HBO series so many of us know and love. After that publication in ‘96, Martin released three more installations in the next decade. Then, the pace slowed as the fifth book in the series took an additional six years to be completed and published back in 2011. Since then, readers of the books have been playing the waiting game. The sixth and penultimate installation, set to be titled “The Winds of Winter” has been delayed multiple times and was once expected to be released in 2016. If “The Winds of Winter” ever is published, then the plan is for it to be followed up by a final installment titled “A Dream of Spring.” There’s just no telling how long that novel may take.

Because of the delays, fans have begun to openly question whether either of those books will ever be completed at all.

And with no definitive proof that the saga Martin began publishing in 1996 will truly resolve itself, fans have turned to HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation to give them closure. The TV series has jumped ahead of where the books left off, and their stories have grown to vary significantly but the bare bones remain intact.

Many book readers don’t consider this final television season to be “the” ending to the story of the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryans, but rather “one possible” ending. Still, it is possible it could be the only ending fans ever get, so the hype around this final season comes with an awful lot of baggage. No pressure.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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