[The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, "The Long Night"]
Millions of people tuned in to Game of Thrones' highly anticipated mid-point episode surrounding the Battle of Winterfell on Sunday night, breaking a ratings record for the hit HBO series. The episode, titled "The Long Night," was an hour and 20 minutes, making for Game of Thrones' longest episode to date. It was also the longest battle scene that the show has ever filmed. Production consisted of 11 weeks of night shoots and 750 extras involved in front of and behind the camera, creating an episode that surpassed a record previously held by Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for its battle scene at Helm's Deep.
The stakes were high in this episode, as many fan favorites gathered on the front lines to defend the walls of Winterfell from the cold grasp of the Night King and his army of wights. The battle raged on for a large portion of the show's runtime, ending with Arya driving a Valyrian steel dagger directly into the Night King, ending the resurrection of blue eyes for good. Fans across the world rejoiced in this victory for the living, with some celebrities even poking fun at the somewhat anticlimactic demise of the Night King. Regardless of viewer's opinions on the episode itself, it was clear that the show was watched by many during the Long Night.
According to HBO, the series hit a ratings high with "17.8 million viewers watching the battle of Winterfell," including, "two linear airings from Sunday night and streaming on HBO NOW and HBO GO." Previously, the series had a gross audience high of, "17.4 million viewers for the premiere episode of the season." The show's 9pm airing had amassed upwards of 12 million viewers, "marking a season high for the time period broadcast." Its on-air debut is the second largest audience for a premiering episode of Game of Thrones, following the season 7 finale which was viewed by 12.07 million people at its initial airing.
The hype for Thrones' series finale is understandable, considering fans waited two years for the show to make its return. From here on out, the episodes will remain over an hour long, leaving many wondering where the story will be heading from here. Now that the Night King is done and dusted, our characters have one battle remaining in King's Landing with the series' final villain, Cersei Lannister.
For only having a six-episode run, it makes sense why Game of Thrones' showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, decided to have the Battle of Winterfell be one massive, sweeping, cinematic fight for our characters. The ebb and flow between genres was a great way to keep audiences on their toes regarding the outcome of fan favorite characters. Even if some of the scenes felt a little too dark at times, and some scenes felt all-too-hopeless, the battle itself was a white-knuckling experience that surely captured the attention of all 17.8 million viewers that tuned in on Sunday night. Not everyone can be pleased with the outcome, but they can surely be impressed with the content itself.
Game of Thrones season 8 airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.