While many people would probably choose not to believe it, Game of Thrones Season 5 is no more, with last week’s finale bringing in monster ratings to HBO. Could the timeslot follow-up, the Season 2 premiere of True Detective, maintain the commanding viewership? Not exactly, but the dark-as-night drama managed to rack up some truly solid numbers, as well as a load of opinions on both sides.
For its 9 p.m. ET premiere, True Detective pulled in 3.2 million viewers according to Deadline, ending the night with over 4.3 million watching a brand new cast take over a brand new case for Nic Pizzolatto’s particular brand of mystery-making. This is a markedly larger audience than that of the series premiere last year, which brought in 2.3 million viewers, and the Season 2 premiere is now the second-highest watched episode of the brooding series to date, just below the Season 1 finale, which had 3.5 million viewers.
Many of the people who watched that finale soon took to the Internet to complain that it didn’t match up to their lofty expectations, and it’s no surprise that the same thing happened after the Season 2 premiere. Twitter numbers were also way up as compared to the series premiere, as the nearly 51,000 tweets equaled 83% more than those from around a year ago. Not all of them were negative, of course.
No one really knew what was going to happen with Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn leading the acclaimed anthology series, especially since early reviews weren’t as positive as those for the Matthew McConaughey/Woody Harrelson season. My own take on it was similarly middling, as I found the cast was stronger than the gritty, humorless story being told, which centers on the death of a land developer in the middle of a huge, shady deal. Now that the world has a good idea of what to expect, it’ll be interesting to see if the audience grows by next week’s episode, or if it will drop and eventually rise again as it did for Season 1.
True Detective wasn’t the only thing making an anticipated debut on HBO on Sunday night, though, as viewers also got their first look at Dwayne Johnson in the sports dramedy Ballers and at Jack Black and Tim Robbins in the political satire The Brink. Bringing some South Florida sunlight to the world after the True Detective darkness, Ballers’ debut was watched by 2.2 million people, making it the most watched 30-minute series on HBO since Hung in 2009. It ended the night with a total of over 2.8 million viewers, which was helped along by Johnson’s Twitter presence. The Brink, meanwhile, brought in 1.6 million viewers initially, with over 2.1 million after repeats and the like were accounted for. These numbers made it one of the more successful recent series in the 10:30 p.m. ET time slot on the premium cable channel.
So even though HBO is undoubtedly going to be missing those Game of Thrones audiences for a while, they almost have to take comfort that the first night of what is essentially three brand new series was such a success.