The Walking Dead aired its ninth season premiere this weekend, with the aging series’ attempts at forging a new path under incoming showrunner Angela Kang being relatively well received—at least, by those who actually saw it. That’s a number that’s dropping faster than a side character’s chances of survival after a redemption-focused story arc, though, with Vulture reporting that the long-running AMC series just posted its worst-rated season premiere ever.
Only 6.1 million people tuned in to watch the show’s premiere on Sunday, a number that’s roughly half the amount who watched at the start of season 8. And even with delayed viewing numbers factored in, it’s still a worse premiere than the show’s previous record holder, the series premiere back in 2010. It’s also a drop from last season’s finale, which is unusual for long-running shows; usually, even people who lose touch with a series over the course of a season tend to check in to see how it’s doing when premiere time rolls around.
It’s a shame, too, because Kang’s Walking Dead really does feel like a breath of fresh, only slightly musty air. Freed (mostly) from the tyranny of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s charismatic-but-focus-devouring supervillain bad guy Negan, the series seems determined to tell a story about the rise of a new civilization, rather than the incessant drone of mourning a dead one. On the other hand, maybe 8 years of relentless bleakness was just too much for people, with the news that star Andrew Lincoln is on his way out this year being one step into nihilism too far.