On Sunday, the long awaited season 7 finale of The Walking Dead loomed fans with the promise of war against the Saviors. 11 million viewers, the best the AMC TV series has seen since it’s Feb. 12th return, tuned in with eyebrows raised. The ratings however, pale in comparison to last season’s finale, rounding 14.2 million viewers. While this decrease in viewership doesn’t nudge the show’s stronghold, it does beg an investigation on other factors that may have contributed to less than substantial ratings for the loved zombie apocalypse flavored show. And, while Nielsen reports are quick to spell out doom and gloom, the show continues to lead in it’s time slot everywhere. So, whats the fuss?
To recap, after Rick bled and bartered for guns and supplies with nearby communities Hilltop, The Kingdom, and the Garbage People, for their support in war against the Saviors, the miscalculated attack on Negan by Sasha going-it-alone, meant that her capture and demise could serve Alexandria well one last time via Eugene’s concoction of death by pill. Thereby, inadvertently creating a diversion to shock-knock Negan to the ground, giving Rick and his crew the moment they needed to turn their guns on the Saviors and the two-timing Garbage People.
This was a finale our Alexandria heroines needed to redeem of their sorrows throughout this tumultuously sluggish season. And, while Rotten Tomatoes gave the finale ‘The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life’ a certified fresh rating of 82% for its “action-packed battle sequence”, fan reviews went out, nixing this win, claiming the episode was “predictable” and “rushed”.
Wikipedia provides a breakdown of each season finale’s rating in U.S. viewers (millions):
- Season 1 “TS-19” 5.97
- Season 2 “Beside The Dying Fire” 8.99
- Season 3 “Welcome To The Tombs” 12.42
- Season 4 “A” 15.68
- Season 5 “Conquer” 15.78
- Season 6 “Last Day On Earth” 14.19
- Season 7 “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life” 11.31
Polygon suggests that while the finale fared well ‘story-wise’, the show needs some rejuvenation to keep with the pace of a zombie apocalypse world evolving us within their intricate web of increasingly interactive communities, noting: “the primary problem in season seven is that the show is unequipped to deal with a wider post-apocalyptic world that includes multiple hostile and non-hostile communities.”
Another factor to consider with the substantially lower than average ratings of the finale, could be due to its competition with one of the biggest TV events of the year, WrestleMania, Polygon goes on to report. Undoubtedly, there may have been some crossover from ‘Dead’ fans to WrestleMania. Last year, the TV event drew in 18 million viewers.
Vanity Fair speculates that “a show that once got major juice from jump scares, dazzling set pieces, and bumping off major characters will, of course, naturally run the risk of audience fatigue.” Executive Producer Greg Nicotero tells Vanity Fair, he recognizes the audience fatigue and the need to address it. His team is experimenting with special effects as it relates to the plot, and that his crew has “been able to express ourselves more powerfully visually.” Perhaps this may account for why we’ve seen some of the more action-packed sequences take a backseat this season. Nicotero concludes, that the show has “to remind the audience every once and awhile that the world is dead.”
It’s worth noting that TV ratings do not factor in video-on-demand, digital downloads or streaming viewership. So, that’s one more point favoring our beloved AMC show.
The Walking Dead retains it’s star power, and we can safely say the show is not in jeopardy. While the season finale saw a significant drop in ratings compared to prior season finales, the comic turned TV series nevertheless maintains its top spot for cable shows among adults 18-49 for Sunday, April 2, 2017. See the chart provided by TV By The Numbers.