After a wait that felt as long as winter north of the Wall, Game of Thrones returned for its final season on Sunday night.
And if you spent the evening cringing when Jon made out with his aunt, or cheering when Bran stared daggers into Jaime’s soul, you certainly had plenty of company.
The numbers for the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 8 are in — and they are staggering.
Across all platforms (HBO, HBO GO and HBO NOW), a whopping 17.4 million people tuned in on Sunday night.
And that number is certain to grow as more viewers return to Winterfell in the days to come.
It’s officially GoT’s biggest episode to date, edging out the Season 7 finale, which drew in a then-unbelievable 16.9 million viewers.
What may be even more surprising than the multi-platform numbers is the fact that more than 11 million people watched the premiere the old-fashioned way — by sitting down in front of the TV and turning on HBO.
That’s the sort of event viewing that rarely happens anymore — and it’s what every network exec prays to the Seven Gods for.
It’s also just one of many ways in which Thrones is a throwback juggernaut in the ratings department.
These days, even popular shows tend to limp along and lose viewers as they reach the seven or eight season mark. But not Game of Thrones.
GoT ratings have been climbing steadily since the very start, beginning with a comparatively paltry 9.3 million in Season 1 and swelling to a whopping 32.8 million for Season 7.
(Those figures incorporate delayed viewing, on-demand, and streaming figures.)
For comparison, huge network hits like This Is Us and The Big Bang Theory very rarely crack 20 million live viewers — and GoT is putting up similar numbers on a subscription service.
In terms of the response from viewers, the premiere was met with overwhelming acclaim.
Though there were a few holdouts who seemed to expect more after such a lengthy absence (The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale aired way back in August of 2017.), and felt that the installment had the feeling of a “place-setting” episode that was more concerned with setting the stage for things to come than with delivering an explosive hour of television.
And to that we say, [SPOILER ALERT] only Game of Thrones could deliver dragons, zombies, revelations of incest, characters reuniting after seven seasons, and other major characters crossing paths for the very first time — and still have viewers demanding more.
Oh, how we’ll miss it when it’s gone.