This season of The Walking Dead got off to a rough start, both in terms of ratings and critical approval. The series hit its lowest point with Nielsen since season four, and its lowest critical scores ever. In fact, Rotten Tomatoes gave the first eight episodes of this season an average of 74% compared to the 78% of season six and 90% of season five.
With Glenn and Abraham dead, Daryl stuck in a cell for a stretch of episodes, Carol sidelined, Rick miserable, Maggie sad, Carl crying, and Spencer dying, there wasn’t much to enjoy about the first eight episodes of season seven (although, let’s all admit that Spencer’s death was the best part of the half season). With a couple million viewers leaving the show after one miserable episode after another, The Walking Dead entered this year’s hiatus on a low note.
But then February arrived and with it, a new sense of enthusiasm. The RISE UP marketing campaign teased a second half of the season that would embrace the fight. Negan’s role was significantly reduced. the main characters were featured more frequently, and good things finally started happening for Rick and his growing alliance. Audiences have stuck with it, too. While overnight ratings have dropped a tick, the series still commands a whopping 15+ million viewers a week. In fact, more people watch The Walking Dead on their DVRs than any other show on cable is watched live plus DVR right now.
Better news still is the fact that the episodes are not only better, but critic’s are responding more favorably to this half season of The Walking Dead than they have to the show since season five. Through the first six episodes of season 7B, The Walking Dead is averaging an 84.5% Rotten Tomatoes score, which puts it on the same level as season four of the series.
Season 7b: Certified Fresh at 84%
Season 7a: Certified Fresh at 74%
Season 6: Certified Fresh at 78%
Season 5: Certified Fresh at 90%
Season 4: Certified Fresh at 84%
Season 3: Certified Fresh at 88%
Season 2: Certified Fresh at 83%
Season 1: Certified Fresh at 89%
Note, too, that the score is at 84.5% despite last week’s episode — the worst of the last six episodes — which dragged down this half season’s overall average. All of which is to say: Viewers who bailed during the slog of season 7A may want to reconsider and jump back on The Walking Dead train, because it’s as good as it was during the earlier seasons and tonight’s penultimate episode of the season continues its strong back half of the season.