'Game of Thrones' hits new ratings record with Season 5 finale shocker

'Game of Thrones' hits new ratings record with Season 5 finale shocker
Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, center, appears in a scene from the record-breaking Season 5 finale of "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

[Note: This post contains spoilers.]

Cersei Lannister may have been forced on a walk of shame through King's Landing, but "Game of Thrones" had no reason to feel abashed by the ratings of Sunday's Season 5 finale.

The blood-filled episode delivered 8.1 million total viewers, according to Nielsen -- a new series high for HBO's fantasy smash.

That's slightly higher than the 8 million who turned out for the season premiere in April. And it's a fitting capper for "GoT," which has steadily grown its audience since its relatively modest premiere back in April 2011, which delivered viewership of just 2.2 million.

Sunday's episode -- and indeed, the entire season of the show -- drew criticism from many fans irritated by the producers' handling of rape and bloodshed, as well as the endless plot twists.

The episode featured the gruesome stabbing death of a major character -- the complex hero Jon Snow -- as well as a public humiliation for Cersei, who was shorn of hair, stripped naked and forced to march through an angry, baying mob on the street.

What did you think of this past season of "Game of Thrones"? Are you done or will you keep watching?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT