The Night's Watch might be journeying through wildling territory at the moment, but somebody is watching over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in their absence — a lot of somebodies, too, if the massive ratings "Game of Thrones" just posted are any indication.
HBO's sweeping fantasy epic returned for its second season on Sunday, and the results are almost as big as the great ice Wall north of Winterfell itself. Variety reports that 3.86 million viewers tuned in for the "Thrones" season premiere, titled "The North Remembers," with the final number climbing to 4.22 million when taking two subsequent airings into account. The end result is the most-watched episode of "Game of Thrones" ever, rising significantly above its previous series best of 3.04 million for the season-one finale.
"Game of Thrones" was easily the top-ranked scripted series on cable on Sunday night, too, far outpacing the second episode of the fifth season of "Mad Men," which posted a strong 2.94 million viewers. "Thrones" made even shorter work of "The Killing," which netted 1.8 million for its second season premiere. The AMC murder mystery's ratings tumble likely owes thanks to its controversial season-one cliffhanger, which refused to resolve the season-long mystery of who killed Rosie Larsen.
With more than four million viewers back in the Westeros fold, a season-three pickup for "Thrones" seems all but guaranteed. Indeed, it's possible that we're on the verge of a two-season order; producers and show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been very open about their desire to split the third novel in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, titled "A Storm of Swords," into two distinct seasons, as opposed to the tried-and-true one-book-per-season method that's worked so well so far.
"As George and all his fans have said for a long time, there's no way to do it in a single season, so it's being broken into two," Benioff told EW.com last month about his intentions to turn "Storm" into two seasons of "Thrones." "We're still kind of figuring out exactly what goes where. We don't want it to feel like a two-part season."
Tell us what you thought of the "Game of Thrones" season premiere in the comments section!