Data Visualization: Game of Thrones seasons 5 most divisive

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

We now know the truth – that Game of Thrones season five was the most viewed and highest rated season of the epic fantasy drama to date. We know this because we used Business Intelligence software and data visualization to explore the latest HBO viewership and IMDb ratings data in our blog post Data visualization shows most popular Game of Thrones season.

But, was it universally more loved than any previous season?

Game of Thrones rating per episode by season (according to IMDb)


Insights

  • Season five of Game of Thrones produced the highest rating episode of the series so far, with episode eight (‘Hardhome’) rated 9.9 by viewers on IMDb.
    • This episode contained a significant plot deviation, featuring the unwritten (not in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels) siege of the Wildlings settlement at Hardhome by the White Walkers and their army of the dead.
  • Season five of Game of Thrones also produced the equal lowest rated episode of the entire series, with episode six (‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’) receiving a rating of 7.8 (as did episode two of season two, ‘The night lands’.
    • Episode six sparked significant online reaction and fierce debate among fans, with another plot deviation (not contained within Martin’s novels), depicting Sansa unexpectedly and graphically submitting to her sadistic husband.
  • While season five scored the highest average per episode rating on IMDb (8.78), it certainly wasn’t the most highly rated season across-the-board on an episode-by-episode basis
    • Season five produced the equal lowest ranked sixth episode of any season in the series to date
    • The season five finale was the second lowest concluding episode of the saga to date
      • Season 1: Episodes one, six and ten of season one outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
      • Season 2: Episodes six and ten of season two outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
      • Season 3: Episodes four, six and nine of season three outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
      • Season 4: Episodes one, two, six and ten of season four outranked the corresponding episodes in season five

Season 5: A season of deviation
While season five of Game of Thrones had the highest overall rating of any season to date (8.78) – for comparison of average season ratings according to IMDb, check out our previous data blog, Data visualization shows most popular Game of Thrones season – it contained a huge amount of episode-by-episode fluctuation.

Season five produced both the highest rating episode of the series so far (episode eight, ‘Hardhome’, rated 9.9 on IMDb), as well as the equal lowest rated episode of the entire series (episode six, ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’, rated 7.8 on IMDb). Interestingly, both these episodes contained significant deviations from the fantasy novels on which the series is based – George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Hardhome featured the unwritten siege of the Wildlings settlement, while Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken depicted Sansa unexpectedly and graphically submitting to her sadistic husband.

The season five finale was the second lowest concluding episode of the saga to date, with IMDb raters most probably rebelling against the sudden death of fan favorite, Jon Snow.

It’s also clear that a number of high rating episodes towards the end of the fifth season – namely episodes seven, eight and nine – were responsible for the season’s highest overall rating.


The ‘slow’ start to season five meant that it only narrowly ousted season four the best overall IMDb rating (8.78 vs 8.76).

Digging into the detail, and further proving that season five was not a wall-to-wall fan favorite, it’s clear that earlier seasons actually out-rated various installments of season five on an episode-by-episode basis:

  • Season 1: Episodes one, six and ten of season one outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
  • Season 2: Episodes six and ten of season two outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
  • Season 3: Episodes four, six and nine of season three outranked the corresponding episodes in season five
  • Season 4: Episodes one, two, six and ten of season four outranked the corresponding episodes in season five

Game of Thrones average rating per season (according to IMDb)


Most curiously, unlike viewership, the overall season rating has not increased each season – season one had a higher average per episode IMDb rating (8.45) than seasons two (8.25) and three (8.33).

So, it begs the question: What factor(s) in the Game of Thrones series have produced this ratings pattern?

Where to next?

Visit us again soon as we attempt to unearth the cause of the abovementioned pattern, and reveal why season five of Game of Thrones was the most popular season yet.

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