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.