After the strongest episode of the season in last week’s “The Big Scary U,” The Walking Dead follows it up with a clunker, “The King, The Widow, and Rick,” which felt more like an hour-long “previously on” segment than an episode. It’s not terribly surprising, I suppose: Last year’s Thanksgiving episode, “Swear,” was the worst of the seventh season and arguably the worst episode of the entire run (it’s the episode where Heath finally re-appeared only to disappear again), so there’s a precedent here.
It’s bad episodes like “Swear,” and this one that do make those of us who write about The Walking Dead question the series’ ability to continue. Last year’s “Swear” came in the midst of a precipitous decline in viewership, and this year, “The King, The Widow, and Rick” follows the lowest rated episode in six years. But, again, that hardly tells the full story, because The Walking Dead is still the highest rated cable show on television by far, besting even Monday Night Football. Among scripted programming, once DVR viewership is accounted for, The Walking Dead is seen by over 13 million viewers, which is triple the next highest rated script program, American Horror Story. It’s going to take a lot more than the occasional misfire to derail The Walking Dead.
That is to say, The Walking Dead has a long, long, long way to fall before it’s future is ever put in doubt, and for the most part, weak episodes of the series still manage to produce some entertainment value. That isn’t exactly the case for “The King, The Widow,” and Rick,” however. This week’s episode felt like filler, a way to check in with the various camps without advancing the storyline very much, in case Thanksgiving viewers decide to skip out this week.
They wouldn’t have missed much.