The fact that 18.4 million people tuned in to watch Game of Thrones‘ penultimate episode is not very surprising. Game of Thrones is the last juggernaut TV series, maybe the last forever, and its culture dominance cannot be overstated. To miss out on Thrones ending is to miss out on a huge entertainment moment, and even those who have never watched the series will probably tune in out of curiosity to its finale (which will likely draw even bigger numbers).
What is disappointing is that the episode, titled “The Bells,” wasn’t better. Game of Thrones rose in popularity for a number of reasons, but one of the foremost was that its storytelling was so interesting and dense and unlike anything else on television. It told long stories about characters we came to know and care about enough that their deaths truly wounded us. That was true, at least, until Season 7, when the show eclipsed George R. R. Martin‘s book series and started barreling to its endgame, which has (clearly) happened all too soon because of the showrunners, Dan Weiss and David Benioff, wanting to wrap things up.
Credit where credit is due, “The Bells” was spectacularly directed by Miguel Sapochnik (who also directed “The Long Night,”) and the show’s core cast — many of whom met their ultimate fates over the course of the episode — gave their scenes their all. Did Jaime’s character arc make sense? Did Tyrion’s bad advice and forgetting his hatred for his sister make sense? No on all counts, and yet, the scene between the two brothers where Tyrion told Jaime he wouldn’t have survived his childhood without him felt like old-school Thrones. The moment was earned not because of these last two seasons, but because of the actual character work done previously. The show’s actors — all clearly consummate professionals — continue to provide us with outstandingly acted scenes despite the questionable scripts and overall arcs, and bless them for that.
According to HBO,
“The Bells,” which aired this past Sunday, was watched by a record 18.4 million viewers across HBO’s platforms (linear, HBO GO and HBO NOW), exceeding the previous series high of 17.8 million viewers two weeks ago for the episode “The Long Night,” focusing on the Battle of Winterfell. In addition to the series high for the night, the 9:00 p.m. airing reached a time-period high for GAME OF THRONES, with an average of 12.5 million viewers, surpassing the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers. Season eight of GAME OF THRONES is averaging 43 million viewers per episode in gross audience, an increase of more than ten million viewers when compared to season seven.
Again, the series finale is sure to be the show’s most-watched episode ever, and yet, one wonders if we will wish we had seen it at all …