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Second-to-last ‘Game of Thrones’ episode had the highest ratings in the show’s history

Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5

Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones was certainly a controversial one, with Daenerys finally making good on the fan theory that she was destined to go full-on dark — which she did by using her last of three dragons to literally roast King’s Landing and its inhabitants.

The internet pretty much exploded once that happened, with many fans distraught over Dany’s turn and about the direction the eighth and final season of the hit show now seems to be taking. Nevertheless, Episode 5 — The Bells — has scored a milestone achievement for the series, separate from being now ranked as among the most controversial.

Based on newly released figures, The Bells earned the highest initial viewing numbers in the show’s history.

The previous record holder was the Season 7 finale, which brought in 12.07 million viewers. Sunday night’s episode, however, was watched by an impressive 12.48 million viewers, which presumably sets things up for blowout ratings this weekend, when the series finale will air and bring the whole thing to a close.

Per Variety, the release of multi-platform viewership figures is still to come. But once they’re in, it’s likely that The Bells will also be the most-watched episode of GoT ever across all platforms, including linear TV, HBO Go and HBO Now. The figure to beat, Variety notes, is 17.4 million. That’s how many people watched the long, bloody, battle-heavy third episode of Season 8, The Long Night.

This Sunday’s episode will again last 80 minutes and explore the aftermath of the destruction of King’s Landing, the presumed death of Cersei Lannister and what all that means for Daenerys’ apparent assumption of the Iron Throne. So many burning questions remain, like where Arya is headed — we last saw her riding a white horse with purpose away from King’s Landing. Likewise, Jon is apparently unhappy with Daenerys’ actions, unhappiness we began to see manifest itself in The Bells when he implored his soldiers in vain to stop killing people who’ve surrendered.

No matter how things turn out, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Ramsay Bolton’s warning back in Season 3 was eerily prophetic: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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