"Game of Thrones" spent the lapse between seasons five and six being peppered by questions about Jon Snow's fate. Based on Sunday's extra-long finale, the producers will be spared that irritation, but anticipation for next season should be no less palpable.
"Thrones" is known for loading up its penultimate episode with huge, Imax-quality battle sequences, as it did last week, living up to HBO's old "It's not TV" slogan.
Still, the 69-minute finale Sunday was hardly a low-key exercise. Rather, it contained a major, much-discussed reveal, and advanced the story in ways that bring a possible endgame into much greater focus.
"Game of Thrones" is almost surely the most analyzed, parsed and theorized-about show on television -- one of the high-class problems associated with being a huge genre hit.
As a consequence, much has already been made of the ascendant role female characters haveplayed this season. While scenes of violence toward women have triggered past controversy, this year women not only took center stage but proved every bit as ruthless and resourceful as any of the men.
In the finale, the clear theme was vengeance -- which was exacted on multiple fronts. That included Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) seizing control by eliminating the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his zealot followers who humiliated her.
Having painstakingly transformed herself into an assassin, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) also achieved payback -- in a brilliantly mounted sequence -- for the program's most notorious act of barbarism: the Red Wedding.
Elsewhere, the witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) was banished for her role in the death of young princess Shireen, one of the fifth season's most stomach-turning interludes.
Finally, the multi-episode dive into "Thrones" mythology confirmed what has long been a source of speculation: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is not the illegitimate child of Eddard Stark, but rather his nephew. That creates plenty of tantalizing possibilities, especially with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) beginning her massive invasion.
Even with its narrative leaps, it's almost hard to imagine "Thrones" completing this sprawling story in the two seasons that remain. After all, the finale offered plenty of foreshadowing regarding "the great war ... still to come" with the White Walkers, pitting the living against the armies of the dead.
If this were a play, the curtain calls alone ought to take three episodes, and the producers are talking about wrapping the whole thing up in 13.
Still, at this point it's hard to second-guess producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who, working with Martin, have created a series for the ages. And while it's hard to predict when and how its Winter will end, if what remains rivals what has transpired, calling it "epic" won't fully do it justice.
The European Union will not hold informal talks with the UK until it triggers Article 50 to leave, Germany, France and Italy have insisted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted talks with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin.
The leaders called for a "new impulse" to strengthen the EU.
Last Thursday, British citizens voted 52-48 in favour of leaving the EU in a historic referendum.
UK financial markets remain volatile in the wake of the vote, with sterling plunging to a 31-year low against the dollar, and some share trading temporarily halted.
Together with the UK, Germany, France and Italy have the largest economies in the EU.
'No further steps'
"We are in agreement that Article 50 of the European treaties is very clear - a member state that wishes to leave the European Union has to notify the European Council," Mrs Merkel told a joint news conference at the German chancellery.
"There can't be any further steps until that has happened. Only then will the European Council issue guidelines under which an exit will be negotiated.
"That means that, and we agree on this point, there will be neither informal nor formal talks on a British exit until the European Council has received the [UK's] request for an exit from the European Union."
President Hollande and Prime Minister Renzi emphasised the need to process the UK's exit as quickly as possible and focus on the challenges facing the remaining 27 states.
"Our responsibility is not to lose time in dealing with the question of the UK's exit and the new questions for the 27," Mr Hollande said. "There is nothing worse than uncertainty."
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday, after receiving hundreds of complaints, barred TV anchor Aamir Liaquat’s 'Inam Ghar' show for three days on Geo Entertainment, said a statement released by the regulatory authority.
Pemra had issued a show cause notice after the June 6 episode, which showed a reenactment by the show's host of a girl committing suicide, stated the Pemra statement.
The episode aired also had a guest who used abusive language while on air. Show cause notice was issued in June 14, added the statement.
During the June 25 transmission of the show, a female caller's inappropriate phone call was also reviewed by the regulatory authority.
A member from Pemra's Council of Complaints, also shared a video of Liaquat hugging a pole while singing a song.
Pemra said it had received hundreds of complaints from viewers, after which they took action. Representative from Geo Entertainment has sought 15 days to submit a detailed reply regarding the many complaints recieved during the show's transmission.
The council has directed for a reply to be submitted by the third day after Eid holidays. After the submission of the reply, further action will be debated upon.
As an initial step, the Council of Compliants, due to Geo's continued violation of the code of conduct, recommended suspension of the transmission of the show from June 28 to June 30, said the Pemra statement.
The channel has been advised to apologise for airing non-professional content which hurt the sentiments of the viewers, added the regulatory authority's statement. Liaquat has also been asked to issue a personal apology during the July 1 transmission of his show.
"In case of contempt of the order or no apology, the show will suspended indefinitely," stated Pemra in the statement.
"On the recommendations of the council, the relevant authority under Section 27 has advised Geo to suspend the transmission, and to ensure Amir Liaquat apologises in the beginning of July 1 transmission," added the statement.
India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has suffered a setback following Chinese opposition. The plenary of the NSG ended on Friday without a decision on India's membership.
China said India should not become a member until it signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) - a key requirement for all NSG members.bThe NSG sets global rules for international trade in nuclear energy technology.
In a statement following the end of the plenary session, the group confirmed that India's application had been discussed, reports India's PTI news agency.
"Participating governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime," the statement read.
India needed a unanimous vote in the 48-member group to become a member, but Beijing took the position that the rules should not be bent for India.
"Applicant countries must be signatories of the NPT. This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognised by the international community," the Reuters news agency quoted Wang Qun, the head of the arms control department in China's foreign ministry, as saying.
China was always the main opponent to India's US-backed bid to become an NSG member despite hectic diplomatic discussions between Delhi and Beijing.
US President Barack Obama had publicly endorsed India's candidacy during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month and also urged other NSG members to consider it favourably.
Correspondents say that India's failure to secure a seat in the NSG will be seen as a setback to Mr Modi's foreign policy.
India's main opposition Congress party has referred to the development as an "embarrassment" to the country.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to realise that diplomacy needs depth and seriousness and not public tamasha [spectacle]," a party spokesman said.