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November 01, 2018 at 08:15 AM EDT

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow return on this week’s cover of Entertainment Weekly.

In the latest issue, we go behind the scenes of Game of Thrones, the most secretive series on television, for the HBO epic’s final season.

From an emotional table read to staging the show’s biggest battle yet to a preview of the season 8’s mysterious storyline, the new issue is an exclusive first look at the show’s six remaining episodes from the set in Northern Ireland.

“It’s about all of these disparate characters coming together to face a common enemy, dealing with their own past, and defining the person they want to be in the face of certain death,” co-executive producer Bryan Cogman says. “It’s an incredibly emotional haunting bittersweet final season and I think it honors very much what [author George R.R. Martin] set out to do — which is flipping this kind of story on its head.”

On the cover, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington embrace — tellingly, in the snow — in the first official photo from the set of the final season. The actors endured a grueling 10-month shoot to create just six episodes amid the cast and crew’s obsession to make every detail of the final hours as excellent as possible.

Helen Sloan/HBO

“It’s relentless; scenes that would have been a one-day shoot five years ago are now a five-day shoot,” Harington says. “They want to get it right, they want to shoot everything every single way so they have options.”

Agrees Clarke: “[Camera] checks take longer, costumes are a bit better, hair and makeup a bit sharper — every choice, every conversation, every attitude, has this air of ‘this is it.’ Everything feels more intense.”

Read the full cover story, online right now: The End of Game of Thrones

For more on Game of Thrones, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novels.
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