HBO, the streaming service from the cable network that produces and broadcasts the movie, was down for hours before and during the airing of the first new episode of the fantasy series.
But viewers were not disappointed, taking to social media in the thousands to express delight at the explosive start opening, the arrival of dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen in Westeros and a widely-hyped cameo by pop sensation Ed Sheeran.
“So it’s all the more bittersweet that not only is winter here, but the end is in sight.”
The debut episode, entitled “Dragonstone,” saw evil Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), now ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, making alliances that threaten newly-anointed King of the North Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
Trained poisoner and throat-slitter in chief Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) exploded out of the blocks in a shocking opening by taking vengeance on the killers of her family at the infamous Red Wedding.
The comic relief was provided by multiple Grammy-winning Sheeran in a cameo as a soldier who sang a ditty — a “new one,” apparently — about a woman’s hand.
His appearance started a torrent of memes and excited comments from fans on Twitter, but not everyone was pleased to see him.
Variety magazine called the cameo “ridiculous” while one fan on Twitter quipped: “If Arya kills Ed Sheeran it’ll be worth it.”