[There are some spoilers for season seven of The Walking Dead, which you’ll note was last season, but we can’t be too careful.]
The season-seven premiere of The Walking Dead last year drew 17.6 million viewers, who were all wanting resolution to the season-six capper: Who shot Mr. Burns? Whoops, wrong show. Actually, the sixth season ended with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his pals at the mercy of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his bat, and his merry band of Saviors. He bashed someone’s head in but good just as the show went on hiatus, and fans who spent the summer creating projection models based on character height eagerly awaited being proven right in fall 2016.
Negan wailed on on not one, but two members of the Alexandria group, then spent the rest of the middling season threatening people from afar. Last season ended not with a cliffhanger but with a big confrontation between the various groups of survivors, which might account for why the season-eight premiere, which aired just two days ago, had considerably lower ratings. According to Variety, the episode, “Mercy,” nabbed 11.4 million total viewers, a number that’s down 35 percent from the seventh season’s premiere.
In the coveted 18-49 demographic, “Mercy” was also down 40 percent when compared to “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” Again, that sounds pretty rough, especially when compared to a season opener that guaranteed a major character death instead of some bullshit fakeout, which might be why the show had its lowest rated premiere in five years. As Variety notes, season three’s premiere drew 10.86 million viewers, which “Mercy” just squeaked past.
TWD was still the number one show on Sunday night, and the premiere’s ratings were up 5 percent from the average episode of the second half of season seven. That’s a lot of qualifying, we know, but no one ever said that the zombie apocalypse would be easy.