The eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was one of the most anticipated TV events of recent years, and last weekend, Episode 3 finally delivered the Battle of Winterfell. Fans have waited a long time for this epic confrontation, and as a result, the episode has smashed viewing records.
HBO states that the episode, titled “The Long Night,” delivered 17.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched episode in the show’s history. This figure includes replays and streaming; in terms of on-air viewing, the episode drew an audience of 12 million across two airings on Sunday night. The previous record was held by Episode 1 of Season 8, which was watched by a total of 17.4 million viewers earlier this month. “The Long Night” was also the longest Game of Thrones episode ever, clocking in at 82 minutes.
While these figures make Season 8 the most popular to date, the show has been a ratings hit from the very start. The show is HBO’s most popular series of all time and the most watched scripted show on TV. There are three episodes remaining in Season 8–Season 4 airs next Sunday, while with the final one hits on May 19.
Despite the huge viewings figures, “The Long Night” received a mixed response from some critics and viewers. In his review, GameSpot’s Michael Rougeau argued that the episode “subverted all our expectations in the worst ways possible. We expected some real, impactful main character deaths in this episode, and it turned out the stakes weren’t nearly as high as we thought. We expected some payoff for things Game of Thrones has spent seven seasons setting up, and the reality is much of it was simply pointless.”
Although Game of Thrones is nearing the end, there is a prequel spin-off on the way. X-Men: First Class’ Jane Goldman will serve as showrunner and has developed the story with George RR Martin, who wrote the original novels. Earlier this year it was reported that the show will start filming early this summer. However, another potential spin-off, from Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman, is no longer happening.