WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS SPOILERS
The great war is finally here on Game of Thrones, but the wildly-hyped premiere of the eighth and final season at 11am on Monday (local time) saw HBO itself under siege.
The first new Game of Thrones episode in 18 months drew one billion viewers – but also saw a decidedly mixed and lukewarm response from die-hard fans and saw the TV network slammed for technical issues.
One fan put his experience succinctly on Twitter: “1st episode sucked.”
As the clock ticked down to the airtime, HBO tweeted a series of countdown announcements – including one featuring Kristofer Hivjuthat (Tormund Giantsbane) – that may have been too successful.
With millions of viewers poised to watch, HBO’s two live streaming platforms appeared to crash.
According to outage website Down Detector, users reported problems logging in to the HBO Go website, followed by apps and Smart TV apps.
As Newsweek put it, “The outage proved winter is really here, bringing frozen televisions instead of snow.”
HBO sites also crashed during the last season premiere in 2017, sparking outrage from users.
Game of Thrones fans heaped scorn on HBO, using language as strong as a Tyrion Lannister riposte. Among the more mild:
Before Monday’s series return, actor Kit Harington (Jon Snow) had promised on US show Live With Kelly and Ryan that the six episodes are “going to be sensational.”
“They’re huge. The one thing I feel right now is we put everything we could into this. We’re just proud.”
Harington’s faith in the behemoth drama wasn’t totally backed up by viewers, who have waited 18 months for a new episode.
One popular complaint was that – gruesome death of a child, Jon Snow riding a dragon and some anticipated reunions aside – nothing major happened.
“Kinda an underwhelming episode considering it’s the premiere of the final season … but I still enjoyed it!” wrote one social media user.
The mildly-paced start provoked online debate between rusted-on fans:
But others were thrilled with what the episode set up.
“They did such a great job,” tweeted one viewer. “There’s so much to process.”
Also at issue with the GoT crowd was their belief the episode – slated at 54 minutes, a time disputed by some who clocked it as shorter – should have been longer.
“HBO, you said the season finale will have a shorter of episodes, the episodes would be longer?” questioned one unhappy fan.
“We wait two years for a whole 50 minutes? Do better on the next episode and take us seriously,” said another.
“Run me the rest of my time. That wasn’t no 90 minutes,” said a third.
Before the premiere, fans placed a slew of bets globally on everything from will kill the ice dragon, who will become a white walker (Hodor!) and who will knock off Cersei Lannister.
SportsBetting.ag punters installed Three-Eyed Raven Bran Stark as 2/1 favourite to rule Westeros at the end of season eight, followed by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow.
Tyrion Lannister was the favourite to speak first in the final season, at unbackable even odds, with the less verbose Jon Snow behind him.
As it turned out, punters had it right. Tyrion opened proceedings exchanging niceties with eunuch Varys about testicles.
Since its April 2011 debut, Game of Thrones has killed off about 195 named characters. In season eight, members of the Greyjoy family are favoured to be the first big name casualties.
But not in episode one, which will be recapped in The New Daily on Tuesday.