As Robert Kirkman's zombie apocalypse shuffles back onto screens, hopes are high that The Walking Dead can improve on its seventh season, which some fans found to be lackluster. However, instead of taking a massive bite out of the competition, the Season 8 premiere actually pulled in the lowest premiere ratings since Season 3 in 2012.
Given that Season 7's opener wrapped up the cliffhanger ending of the Season 6 finale, some 17 million viewers tuned in to watch Abraham and Glenn taste Negan's baseball bat. It was already hard to imagine that Season 8 would be able to top that, but considering that the show was celebrating its 100th episode, one might expect a little more interest. With the drop from season 7's premiere ending up so severe, the big question is, will this slide continue?
According to Variety via Nielsen same-day ratings, the Season 8 premiere drew 11.4 million viewers and a 5.0 rating for the key demographic of adults under 50. While that may not sound too dismal, "Mercy" stands as The Walking Dead's fourth least-watched premiere of its entire run. Combined with ratings drops that occurred during season 7, critics will likely soon start to see this as the beginning of the end for the record-breaking show.
"Mercy" was actually a bit of an all-around disappointment when you look at the history of The Walking Dead, as it's surprising that the big 100th episode did poorly, relatively speaking, while previous episodes of much less significance were able to hit the 13 million viewer mark. One wonders if the highly negative response to last year's season premiere bloodbath led to a hesitance to tune in this year.
This may seem like a bad omen for the largest jewel in AMC's crown, but it is important to remember that The Walking Dead still currently rules the roost of cable TV. As the highest-rated scripted show out there, TWD tops stiff competition from the likes of This Is Us, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones. Also, when compared to the ratings erosion of some other shows, TWD's drops seem less dire. For example, USA's Mr. Robot pulled in 1.8 million viewers when it launched in 2015 and is now down to an average of 700,000.
Whatever way one looks at it, audiences are still tuning into The Walking Dead in large numbers, and it'll likely be a long time before the numbers get low enough to put the series' future in danger. With the "All Out War" saga only just beginning, the bullets are surely about to start flying, and the ratings may also very well go up along with the body count. All in all, it'll be a long time before The Walking Dead starts dragging itself off to a shallow grave.
The Walking Dead season 8 continues with “The Damned” October 29 on AMC.