As Ratings Falter, ‘The Walking Dead’ Continues To Drift

Entertainment Features
11.28.16 40 Comments

The sixth episode of the seventh season of The Walking Dead aired last night. Here are our takeaways from what was a slow, unnecessarily long episode.

Why are the ratings falling?

Ratings for the 90-minute season premiere of The Walking Dead were huge. It was seen by over 17 million overnight viewers, the second highest rated episode of its run. Those ratings, however, have quickly dropped since the premiere. The second episode was seen by 12.5 million overnight viewers, and last week’s episode — seen by 11 million viewers — was the lowest-rated episode of The Walking Dead since 2013.

What is going on?

There’s a few logical explanations for the ratings drop. It could be natural ratings erosion for a drama now in its seventh season. It is not often, after all, that a show manages to maintain its hold as the most popular scripted program on television much longer than seven seasons. More likely, however, the fall in ratings can be attributed to a season premiere that strung viewers along for six months before revealing Negan’s victim. A lot of viewers felt burnt by that, and while many tuned into the season premiere to satiate their curiosity, they bailed afterwards. Others also thought the season premiere went too far and broke up with the series over its level of brutality. The Negan problem that ensued in subsequent episodes didn’t help matters.

Beyond the backlash to the season premiere, however, anyone looking for an explanation for the faltering ratings need look no further than the most recent episode, “Swear.” It wasn’t the series’ worst episode, but like much of this season, it felt like an episode of another show. The entire episode focused on Tara and Heath, two characters we haven’t seen since the 12th episode of last season, which aired on March 6th. Many viewers don’t even remember Heath, who was elevated to series regular on The Walking Dead but never made much of a mark.

Yet, after spending most of the first three out of four episodes with Negan this season, The Walking Dead writers decided, “Hey! We should devote an entire episode to a tertiary character and a character no one remembers!”

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