Game of Ratings: Brutal and Violent 'House of Dragon' Season 2 Premiere Sees Stark Viewership Drop


There are very few recent shows that can claim to have genuinely seized the zeitgeist.

“M*A*S*H” isn’t “recent” by any means, but it is an easy choice for this sort of list. As polarizing as it is to many sitcom purists, “Friends” also fits that bill, as does “Seinfeld.” “Lost” and “The Office” also probably make that list.

And as off-puttingly violent and lurid as it can be, “Game of Thrones” — HBO’s brutal adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels — makes that list too.

The show, which ran for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019, was a critical and cultural darling. Modern drama series are constantly trying to chase being “the next ‘Game of Thrones'” for a reason.

Given the expansive lore of Martin’s fantasy world and the legions of fans the show had cultivated, it was inevitable that “Game of Thrones” would see some sort of spinoff series.

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That series arrived in the form of 2022’s “House of the Dragon,” which explores events that take place roughly 200 years before the original show.

Despite a somewhat poorly received final season of “Game of Thrones” (many fans of the franchise felt the show fell off in quality once it outpaced the books, which Martin is still writing), three years turned out to be enough of a waiting period to build up a noteworthy appetite for more “Ice and Fire” content.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the Aug. 21, 2022, series premiere of “House of the Dragon” garnered “nearly 10 million viewers across all platforms.”

First-night ratings for each episode of the inaugural season remained in the range of 9 million to 9.5 million viewers.

The first episode of Season 2 of “House of the Dragon” did not meet those lofty standards — at all — despite the epic score that welcomes viewers:

The premiere Sunday night brought in a much more humble 7.8 million viewers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

And given that viewership tends to trend downward across a given television season (you’re much more likely to lose fans than to suddenly gain them midway through a season), that could be a worrying sign for HBO’s cash cow.

To be clear, 7.8 million viewers is a perfectly fine figure — even if it is a far cry from “nearly 10 million” — and one that most shows would love to garner. And THR did note that “Sunday was a historically low TV usage night, per Nielsen.”

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For a pricey and prestigious show that’s a part of a lucrative media franchise? Those expectations are a bit loftier.

And again, this is just the second season. You would want the arrow trending upward season-over-season, not falling by 22 percent.

As to why the viewership came in a bit softer than some might’ve expected, the intense subject matter of the premiere episode might have scared some viewers off.

Warning: The following contains mild spoilers and graphic descriptions that some viewers may find disturbing.

Chronicling the infamous “Blood and Cheese” storyline from Martin’s books, the season premiere (titled “A Son for a Son”) sees the brutal off-screen murder of a young child. While nothing is shown of the murder itself, you do hear muffled screaming and a wet slicing sound clearly meant to imply a decapitation. That is obviously very disturbing content, even for a show that’s known for its depravity.

And yet — somehow — the HBO version was tamer than what happened in the books.

Given all that, is it a surprise that anyone familiar with the source material might have been squeamish or hesitant to tune in?

Did you ever watch “Game of Thrones”?

And if that’s true, has the show finally found a level of depravity that viewers simply can’t stomach?

The proof will be in the ratings when the second episode of “House of the Dragon” releases across various HBO-affiliated platforms on Sunday.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, Korean
Topics of Expertise
Sports, Entertainment, Science/Tech