NEXT Monday sees the start of one of the most eagerly-anticipated TV series of recent years: the final series of Games of Thrones. Beginning back in 2011, the show is the critically acclaimed adaptation of George R R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. In recent years, the TV shows have overtaken Martin’s books: the last two books of his series are yet to be published (or even finished).

Everything about both the show and books are on an epic scale: the first five volumes of Martin’s series clock in at 1.7 million words, or a mere 195 hours if you’d prefer to listen to the audio version. By contrast, the 67 episodes of TV that make up the first seven series feels somewhat brief in comparison. The final series might consist of just six episodes but given that they are cinematic in length as well as scope, no-one is going to feel short changed.

So how do you successfully end a programme so big and so popular? Getting a finish that satisfies everyone is no easy task. William Goldman once said that the secret is to give people the ending that they want but not in the way they expect. That’s fine in principle, but in practice it can be easier said than done. The ending of Lost in 2010 was one that left many fans scratching their heads, waiting for a resolution that never came.

Sometimes (spoiler alerts ahoy) the ending can feel inevitable – how could Friends finish without Ross and Rachel getting back together? For others, the conclusion is less clear cut. The finish of The Sopranos remains one of my personal favourite endings – Tony Soprano is at a diner, on the verge of his past catching up with him, but as the door to the diner opens to reveal Tony’s possible fate, the screen cuts to black, with the music of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing cut on ‘Don’t Stop’. The finish was somehow both closed and open-ended – allowing viewers space to draw their own conclusions.

Endings don’t have to be happy ever after to satisfy. The comedy Fleabag, which also finished this week, played its closing cards extremely well. Or the close of Blackadder Goes Forth is one that remains lodged in my mind – the group of beloved characters going over the top, before the scene merges and fades into a field of poppies.

I’m not sure that Game of Thrones will go for something quite so poignant. Given the preceding volume of murder, death, incest and dragons, it’s probably not going to end well. But who knows? The best endings, after all, are the ones that take you by