Bosses at HBO are likely to be smiling wide like Cheshire Cats this week, as it's being reported that 16.1 million viewers tuned in for the 'Game of Thrones' season 7 premiere across all of the network's differing distribution platforms. Giving the show its biggest number of viewers to-date, it's up a whopping 50% on last season's premiere, which took in what now looks like a minuscule number of 10.7 million viewers.

Lena Headey's Cersei Lannister currently sits on the Iron ThroneLena Headey's Cersei Lannister currently sits on the Iron Throne

The number is not only hugely impressive because it beats out all 'Thrones' episodes that have come before it, but because the show premiered later than usual this time round. Usually taking a higher-performing slot in the spring, the season 7 premiere was held back until the middle of summer, in a position that's usually one of the weakest for performance.

Despite that, it would seem that 'Thrones' fans couldn't care less about the time of the year the series makes its return; they just want to see what comes next for their favourite characters.

The episode, titled 'Dragonstone' not only saw a celebrity guest cameo by Ed Sheeran (which has completely divided the fan base), but the significant pushing forward of storylines that have been hanging in the balance for some time. As the episode's title hints at, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finally returns to her home of Dragonstone, readying her allies for the King's Landing attack she has had in her cross hairs for some time.

The show stealer however perhaps came with the episode's opening scene, as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) took the ultimate revenge against House Frey, for betraying her older brother Robb Stark, slaughtering him, his pregnant partner and her mother, along with all of those who had pledged their allegiance to the once-King of the North.

It's become instantly clear that this season, there's no room for a snail's approach. With just seven episodes coming to fans this year, as opposed to the usual 10 that have made up the six seasons of the past, drama, twists, turns and development is going to have to come thick and fast. When these seven episodes are done, a final eighth season will cut back even more on episodes, delivering just six at some point in 2018.

A real test will come with next week's episode, when we discover just how many of those 15 million viewers make their return to see what happens next. We imagine a fair chunk will be tuning in.

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'Game of Thrones' continues Sundays in the US on HBO and Mondays in the UK on Sky Atlantic.