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Swansong of ice and fire: HBO's record-breaking finale of Game Of Thrones riles fans

After eight seasons and 73 episodes, HBO's long-running smash series, Game of Thrones, wrapped up on Sunday, with one more shocking demise and an unlikely character named as king of the fictional kingdom of Westeros.

The last episode of the fantasy series, based on the novels of George R.R. Martin's medieval epic A Song Of Ice And Fire, ran roughly 80 minutes to conclude the storyline of more than a dozen characters and intertwining plots.

The series had become the cornerstone of HBO's primetime offerings but its final season was also its most divisive, with both fans and critics finding specific plot twists troubling, a Reuters report said.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

HBO says the record-breaking final season drew 43 million viewers on average for each episode in the US alone, an increase of 10 million over Season 7 in 2017.

Most notable in fans' criticism was the malevolent turn by Emilia Clarke's Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen, who used her dragon to lay waste to the show's fictional capital after her enemies had surrendered.

The move angered fans, as the episode, titled The Bells, with many viewers saying the decision to kill tens of thousands of innocent people as too drastic.

The final episode features her death at the hands of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who stabs his new queen and lover.

Her last living dragon then burns the Iron Throne, melting it down with his fiery breath.

Clarke opened up about the ending in an interview with The New Yorker. She said that while she understood the tragic path of her character, she admitted that she had struggled to come to terms with the ending.

"I've given so much to and I've felt so much for, and for a character that's seen and lived through so much, I don't know that there was any other way. But it was a shocker to read," she said.

"I care for her so much," Clarke explained. "She's been a part of me for so long that, in reading this script, I did what any actor is told to do and would do. You have to agree with your character. If you don't agree with your character, then you shouldn't take the job.

"I really just had to sit there and wrestle with how I could make good on what they had written. Because that's her... They have made this woman, and I'm going to take on what it is and try and interpret that to my best ability."

HBO already is in the planning stages for a prequel series to take place thousands of years prior to the show's fictional timeline, Reuters said, while its creators, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, are slated to make the next series of Star Wars films.

The series finale might have hinted at another possibility.

Arya Stark, who saved humanity early in the season, decides to sail on to unknown lands, and her departure on a ship is among the series' final images.

"What's west of Westeros?" she asks her Stark siblings. "No one knows. It's where all the maps stop. It's where I'm going."

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