Fan reaction to The Walking Dead‘s big season seven cliffhanger was overwhelmingly negative, so it’s kind of impressive that the resolution to that cliffhanger caused almost as much if not more outrage from followers of the show. We didn’t have several months to complain about it, but the message was clear: Viewers felt like the premiere beat everyone over the head with the almost joyful violence used to kill off show favorites Glenn and Abraham.
Worse than the angry reviews online was the decision by many fans of the show to simply stop watching. Ratings dropped following the premiere and continued on a steady downward trend over the remaining first half of the season, with the latest mid-season finale down over 3 million viewers versus last season’s. Whether you attribute that to the general slide in quality of the show or to the violence, it’s not good.
AMC at least is hoping it’s the violence. Via Variety, The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd recently spoke at a National Association of Television Program Executives conference with AMC president-CEO Josh Sapan, and they admit the season seven premiere reaction caused them to change the level of gore in future episodes.
“We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence,” Hurd said. “We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season.” “When something matters a lot and it has a universality, then you’re bothered by it and you care about it,” Sapan added.
There were rumors going around that a couple of season seven deaths were toned down, but this is the first time we’ve gotten confirmation. While Spencer’s gutsy death proves the show is still willing to shed a lot of blood from time to time, we never ended up seeing all the gruesome footage filmed in the death of Fat Joey. Did the different levels of popularity between the two characters affect which one got graphically eviscerated on screen? Fat Joey was one of the bright spots in a largely grim and dull season, so perhaps the showrunners decided to spare us the full view of his death.
So what do you think? Did The Walking Dead make the right decision in reigning in the violence after the season seven premiere, or are they misunderstanding the reason fans were so unimpressed with the bloody opener?