Since its peak in season six, ratings for The Walking Dead have dropped from 13 million overnight viewers to around 5 million overnight viewers (although, once DVR viewership it accounted for, The Walking Dead is still seen by around 8 million viewers a week, still making it the highest rated TV show on cable). The point, however, is that a large number of viewers stopped watching the series in seasons 7 and 8, after Glenn and Abraham were brutally murdered by Negan, and the show became dominated by the All-Out War.
Honestly, I don’t blame some viewers for abandoning the series when they did. It simply wasn’t as good in season 7 and 8 as it was in seasons four through six. Negan needlessly dominated the series; it got mired in a two-and-a-half season war, and the series lost some of its best characters, e.g., Glenn, Abraham, and Sasha. During that period, it was at times an oppressively difficult series to watch because the “good guys” were getting their asses kicked week after week after week.
However, if you are a viewer who loved earlier seasons of The Walking Dead but bailed because the series started to slide creatively, I am here to tell you that there is no better time to restart the series than in season 9. For three more days, viewers can watch all of season 9 of The Walking Dead for free on AMC without a cable subscription and then on Sunday, September 1st, season 9 begins airing on Netflix.
It’s worth reinvesting in. More importantly, season 9 also offers the perfect reentry point for those who bailed, because it begins after time jump following the events of the All Out War. All viewers need to know, basically, is that Carl and Sasha are dead, and Dwight and Morgan have left for Fear the Walking Dead. Beyond that, viewers only need to know that the series brought in a new showrunner, Angela Kang, and she creatively rejuvenated the series, turning in arguably the best season of the entire series’ run.
Granted, there are a few early episodes in which Kang has to shake off the debris of the previous era, namely write Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes off the show. The first five episodes of the season are essentially devoted to that storyline (and it’s definitely worth watching, because Grimes gets a terrific send-off). After Rick leaves, however, the show jumps ahead another six or seven years, and it completely takes off. It transforms into a legitimately scary series. Kang incorporates a lot of horror elements, adds a few storylines original to the series, and brings in a number of terrific new characters, most especially including Nadia Hilker’s Magna and Lauren Ridloff’s Connie, who becomes something of a potential love interest to Daryl, in addition to Judith Grimes, who is now around 10 years old and splendid.
Without Rick, The Walking Dead becomes a true ensemble series, and a terrific one, anchored by arguably the best pure villains the series has ever seen in Alpha (Samantha Morton), Beta (Ryan Hurst), and The Whisperers, a group of survivors who wear the skin of zombies over their own faces. It’s legitimately intense and terrifying, and there are a number of surprising deaths (though, none of them are torturous or prolonged).
Season 9 of The Walking Dead is fun again, reclaiming its place as one of the best dramas on television, and even better, viewers who catch up on season 9 of the series on Netflix next month will be ready when season 10 premieres in October, and based on the trailer, it looks like Angela Kang will continue to deliver excellent television.