and became one of AMC’s most popular series. Each week, millions of fans tune in to watch Rick Grimes and his friends battle the dead and the living.
But since its eighth season premiered in October 2017, TWD has seen a decline in ratings. And if you’ve been paying attention to how The Walking Dead has played out, it’s easy to see why some fans have moved on.
1. Season 8’s ratings started lower than usual
AMC worked hard to convince fans that The Walking Dead’s eighth season would be a thrill ride. But after a dismal Season 7, it looks like many former Dead-heads weren’t buying it.
The first episode of Season 8, “Mercy,” drew the lowest number of viewers for any Walking Deadpremiere since Season 3. And that was despite the fact that it was not only an extra-long premiere, but also the series’ 100th episode. Even the number of viewers pirating The Walking Dead premiere fell. If fans don’t even want what you’re selling for free, it’s not a good sign.
And news on the ratings front hasn’t improved since TWD kicked off the All Out War.
2. Viewership has dwindled throughout Season 8
The Walking Dead hasn’t convinced fans that Rick’s fight with Negan is worth tuning into. Episode 6, “The Big Scary U,” saw the series drop to a six-year low in viewership. And the midseason finale, “How It’s Gotta Be,” was the lowest-rated fall finale in The Walking Dead history – even after it was hyped up as a can’t-miss shocker.
Some blame the rise of Negan for TWD’s declining viewership. But there’s plenty of blame to go around.
3. Season 8 has been all over the place
The Walking Dead’s seventh season shook things up in a big way. By introducing Negan and making him a central character, the series gambled big — and in some ways, they lost.
So there was a lot of pressure on Season 8 to make up for the sins of the previous season. Fans wanted to see more action — and they definitely got it. But the first half of the season felt chaotic, and all over the place. And that left much to be desired.
There’s still a lot riding on some big reveals — like what is going on with the flash-forwards centering around Rick. But fans may not stick around to find out after the midseason finale.
4. The controversial death in the Season 8 fall finale won’t help
We learned in the most recent midseason finale that Rick’s son, Carl, was bitten. Though he hasn’t died yet, he’s definitely on his way out. Carl’s death marks a huge divergence between The Walking Dead comics and the series. And it also feels cruel on a series that’s already been criticized for its nihilistic tendencies.
Fans were outraged by the shocking revelation. Some have even petitioned AMC to fire The Walking Dead’s current showrunner, Scott Gimple.
And this most recent backlash isn’t the only qualm that fans have with how TWD is playing out on screen.
5. You can’t blame the lower ratings on Carl’s death — at least not yet
It’s easy to point to Carl’s death when people ask why The Walking Dead is losing popularity. But that’s a pretty recent development, and the series, once a ratings juggernaut for AMC, has been losing steam for years. Some blame the arrival of Negan in Season 7 for the waning enthusiasm. Some even say the series started to lose its way back in Seasons 6, with that Glenn-under-the-dumpster fake out.
And when it comes down to it, the constant “Who will die next?” theme has taken a toll on The Walking Dead’s ability to tell a compelling story.
6. We’ve lost a lot of beloved characters in the last few seasons
Fans have always known that their favorite Walking Dead characters are at risk. On a show that features plenty of zombies and murderous sociopaths, no one is safe. But in recent seasons, TWD has made it a point to kill off some much-loved characters. All that death and loss has taken a toll on the remaining survivors. But it’s also been hard for fans to endure.
Hershel’s decapitation in Season 4 was hard to swallow, because he’d brought a sense of much-needed hope to The Walking Dead. The same was true of Bob, Beth and Tyreese’s deaths in Season 5.
When Negan smashed both Glenn and Abraham’s heads in during the Season 7 premiere, it felt like too much. Sure, we get it, it’s a brutal, post-apocalyptic world. But TWD’s habit of killing off characters that offer any sense of optimism has started to feel less like a way to move the story and characters forward, and more like a way to toy with fans’ emotions.
And that sense of distrust among fans is key to understanding why many have abandoned the series.
7. The Walking Dead has built fans up and let them down for years
When you’re a Walking Dead fan, it can feel like there’s a lot of peaks and valleys. There are huge stretches of episodes where not much seems to happen – then an explosive burst of action and drama. At times, it can feel thrilling. But lately, it feels like it’s just all a bit too much.
The Walking Dead’s creative team often feeds into this manic frenzy. They’ll give interviews and market the series around the next shocking death (or fake out). In doing so, they’ve made the show all about the big moments, when they are so few and far between. And they’ve done a disservice to the series and to the fans.
8. The Walking Dead has to give fans a valid reason to stick around
When The Walking Dead first started, fans were attracted to its savvy blend of character development and post-apocalyptic drama. These days, that balance feels like it’s gone. And it’s hard to keep track of what the point of the series, and all its endless sadness, even is anymore.
For The Walking Dead to survive its downward ratings spiral, it needs to refocus. It needs to stop relying on shock value. And it needs to give fans something besides death if they want us to keep watching.