IF you know nothing (Jon Snow) about Game of Thrones, even the references in this opening sentence will have flown over your head like one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons.

And if you don’t like this TV phenomenon, have never watched it, or simply couldn’t care less, I’m afraid that’s tough. Rectify that immediately, and start a 60 odd episode marathon viewing session before its final season ends in a few weeks.

You will be thankful you did, because Game of Thrones is one of those rare TV series that has maintained an exceptionally high standard of writing, acting and production values over its nine-year run.

Thirty million people across the globe tuned in to watch as the eighth and final season returned earlier this month after a two-year absence.

Long-time viewers have been rewarded for their patience with great performances and unusually nuanced characters who develop hugely.

There are very few TV shows (I would argue The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, West Wing and The Wire are the best examples) that manage to be consistently brilliant from beginning to end.

Understandably, some have been put off from jumping into the series because of its mix of swords, sorcery and graphic sex and violence.

But there is much more to Game of Thrones than fountains of blood and nudity. Over the course of its run, there has been a sometimes mind-bogglingly large cast of characters. All have their own motivations and back stories and have been intricately drawn and developed by author George R R Martin who wrote the original books upon which the programme is based and who also serves as executive producer to the TV series.

I can’t think of another TV programme where my opinion of a particular character has changed back and forth so many times. That takes great writing and acting skill.

Of course, if you are already a GOT devotee, you will be well aware that the episode in Monday’s very early hours (of course, you get up at 2am to watch it, don’t you?) will be massive. It’s no secret that much of its 82 minutes will feature what is believed to be the longest consecutive battle scene committed to film.

It took more than 70 days to shoot that single episode alone and it seems certain that some of the characters we have got to know and love over the years aren’t going to make it out alive.

One of the best things about Game of Thrones is that anyone can – and often does – die, regardless of star status or perceived importance to the story. When Sean Bean’s Ned Stark was beheaded in the penultimate episode of the first series (and this shouldn’t be a spoiler as it happened nine years ago) viewers were left reeling. There have been plenty of other shocking deaths as the story of the battle for the Iron Throne has unfolded and the next episode looks intent on piling on the heartbreak for tense fans. And if you’re thinking, it’s just a TV programme, please refer to a paraphrase of the line from my opening paragraph – you know nothing …