On Monday, Rotten Tomatoes revealed that “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, was one of the series’ worst-reviewed entries with its “lowest Tomatometer score” ever. As disappointed as critics and fans alike were with the episode, however, it seems that it is also responsible for garnering the show’s highest ratings ever.
According to a report from Variety on Tuesday, “The Bells” was “watched by 12.48 million viewers during its initial broadcast” and amassed “18.4 million viewers across all of the cabler’s platforms,” including HBO GO and HBO NOW. The initial figure narrowly beat the season seven finale’s record of 12.07 million for broadcast viewings, while the latter one surpassed the 17.8 million overall record previously established by “The Long Night.” Before that, the gross ratings record holder was the season eight premiere “Winterfell.”
So, what does this mean for Thrones, then? On the one hand, it suggests that this Sunday’s yet-untitled series finale is going to break the broadcast and overall ratings records just established by “The Bells” with ease. On the other hand, it seems that the divisiveness of these final season episodes — like “The Bells,” which earned a Tomatometer score of 47 percent across 70 reviews, consisting of 33 “fresh” and 37 “rotten” individual scores — is having no real effect on the viewership numbers.
Nor should it. As Matt Zoller Seitz has astutely argued, Game of Thrones very well may be one of the last shows everybody watches together in the age of “Peak TV” and bingeable streaming shows. Of course, everyone who can is going to tune in this weekend!