Like it or loathe it, Game of Thrones’ penultimate episode was its most watched yet

Fans were divided on episode 5 in season 8 - but regardless of what they thought, they watched in record numbers.
Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen

The second to last episode of Game of Thrones aired on Monday May 13th, and to say it received mixed reactions from viewers would be an understatement.

Episode five of season eight, the final ever series of the show, had fans completely divided as an unexpected series of events unfolded.

Note: story below contains spoilers.

Daenerys Targaryen, whose sole purpose on the show has been relaunching her family’s claim for the Iron Throne, and has been shown throughout to be a fair and just ruler, suffered a character turn no one saw coming.

The Bells’ episode saw Dany completely lose the plot, and with the firepower of her dragon, Drogon, utterly destroyed not only King’s Landing, but most of its inhabitants.

Although the plotline sparked fierce debate, with many fans aghast at the outcome of the episode, it has now been revealed that it was most-watched episode in the history of the show.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, ‘The Bells’ drew an initial audience of 18.4 million viewers, around 600,000 more than episode three – ‘The Long Night’, which held the previous viewer record.

In defence of the episode, the show’s co-creators have shed light on Dany’s shocking change of heart, with producer David Benioff saying in an interview, “I think that when she says, ‘Let it be fear’ she’s resigning herself to the fact that she may have to get things done in a way that isn’t pleasant. She chose violence. A Targaryen choosing violence is a pretty terrifying thing.”

He added, “If circumstances had been different, I don’t think this side of Dany ever would’ve come out. If Cersei hadn’t betrayed her, if Cersei hadn’t executed Missandei, if Jon hadn’t told her the truth… if all of these things had happened in any different way, then I don’t think we’d be seeing this side of Daenerys Targaryen.”

Jaime and Cersei left this world in the same way they came into it – together.

Even Emilia Clarke who plays Dany wasn’t happy about how her character turned out. She told Vanity Fair that filming the final episodes of the series messed her up (she actually used a much stronger word than ‘messed’). She was unhappy “knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is.”

It wasn’t just Dany’s complete 180 that had fans up in arms. Many were disappointed at the way in which Cersei died, hoping for a more gruesome ending than just being a victim of “faulty infrastructure,” as many joked on social media.

Lena Headey, who plays Cersei, admits she was initially unhappy with her character’s end, wanting instead for “her to have some big piece or fight with somebody.”

But the more she thought about it, the more it made sense to her. “They came into the world together and now they leave together,” she said of the fact that Cersei died with her twin brother Jaime.

The Hound on the way to meet his maker.

Others fans felt unsatisfied at the outcome of what is now being dubbed ‘Cleganebowl,’ in which The Hound and his brother The Mountain fought to the death without a clear winner.

Regardless of what fans thought of the episode, it was always going to be a difficult task for the makers to please everyone. And like it or loathe it, season 8 has so far delivered four of the five most-watched episodes in Game of Thrones history.

As we count down the days to the final ever episode, here are our favourite fan reactions to episode 5.

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