Sunday’s fourth episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones certainly had a tough act to follow, given that the bloody, battle-heavy third episode of the season had been so highly anticipated and delivered on its promise of pretty much wall-to-wall action. The following episode was more of a rearranging of the players and getting everything in place ahead of the final confrontation of the season — and the series, sniff! — against Cersei and her forces that have been massing at King’s Landing.
As such, the ratings for Sunday’s episode The Last of the Starks did drop a bit from The Long Night, the preceding episode focused on the battle for Winterfell against the army of the dead. But while the just-released figures do show a dip, they’re still on par with season 8’s record-setting premiere and speak to the sustained level of excitement that this season of GoT has generated.
Comparing episodes 3 and 4 is slightly apples-to-oranges, given that the former was the longest episode in the series’ history. Nevertheless, according to HBO, 11.8 million people watched the initial broadcast of episode 4, down about 200,000 viewers from the 12.02 million who watched the The Long Night during the same timeframe. Those numbers refer to the initial viewing, with HBO as of the time of this writing not having yet released the multi-platform viewership totals.
The other thing to note about episode 4, though, is that in spite of that drop, that figure is still roughly equal to the record-setting initial audience total for the season 8 premiere. It also beat episode 2’s audience total of a little more than 10 million viewers — and it’s currently the episode with third-best initial viewing figures in the series’ history. The only two that posted higher initial numbers were The Long Night and the season 7 finale, which a little more than 12 million people watched initially.
It will be interesting to see if the numbers tick back up, given that only two episodes remain — and one final epic confrontation is in store between the survivors of the fight against the Night King who will now face off against Cersei & Co to decide who will rule Westeros once and for all. No doubt the curiosity factor alone will be high as audiences tune in to see the conclusion of one of the biggest, buzziest TV franchises in recent memory.