The Walking Dead is coming up on its ten-year anniversary of being on the air, and with nine seasons so far, it's important to look back in TWD history before Season 10 premieres in October. The hit AMC drama had the odds against it when it first aired back on Halloween night of 2010. The cast was a small group of relatively unknown actors, it was then-showrunner Frank Darabont's first stab at a TV series, and the entire show was based on a fairly obscure comic series.
But The Walking Dead managed to not only significantly succeed expectations; it eventually became one of the most viewed shows on primetime television. This series used to have ratings and views that most shows could only dream of, but in recent seasons, that's begun to change.
With almost a decade of TWD and many changes in both the writing and cast departments, let's take a look at every Walking Dead season, ranked by their Rotten Tomatoes scores.
9 SEASON 7 - 63%
At 63%, the seventh season of The Walking Dead sits at last place (beating season 8 by just a smidge). The critical consensus for Season 7 praises the character depth and world-building while criticizing the season's dependency on over-the-top violence to paper over the cracks.
It's undeniable that Season 7 was probably one of the most exhaustively hyped seasons to date, and that's primarily due to the fact that Season 6 ended on the infamous cliffhanger in which Negan's (first) victim remained anonymous for the entire hiatus.
8 SEASON 8 - 64%
Coming in right behind Season 7, The Walking Dead's eighth season holds a score of 64% on the Tomatometer. The critics praised the heightened intensity and action, especially following Season 7, but found the lethargic pacing less than impressive.
Season 8 is most well-known for the fact that almost the entire season took place over a ridiculously short span of time. About a week - at the very most - passed during this sixteen-episode season, while over half a decade was covered in Season 9. This demonstrates the extremes that The Walking Dead tends to lean toward.
7 SEASON 6 - 77%
Season 6 is probably not anyone's favorite season, but it's certified fresh on the Tomatometer at 77%. The critics were impressed that the series managed to remain relatively fresh despite being on the air for more than half a decade, even if the plot moves along at a glacial pace.
The point made about The Walking Dead still finding ways to top itself remains (mostly) true to this day. The series is ambitious for sure, but that sometimes seems to cause the writers to lose sight of other important aspects such as character development.
6 SEASON 2 - 81%
Out of every season of The Walking Dead, fans seem to complain the most about the infamous second season. Being notoriously slow and following little more than one main plot for nearly its entirety, it's understandable that the majority of the fanbase might skip Season 2 when rewatching the series. The season may have been slow in places, but it's worth noting that it brought a depth to the main characters that other seasons simply did not.
The critical consensus for The Walking Dead's second season highlights the shift towards character development while still maintaining the tension of the debut season.
5 SEASON 4 - 83%
The end of Season 3 saw the departure of the second showrunner, Glen Mazzara. In Season 4, long-time staff writer Scott Gimple took over and became The Walking Dead's third showrunner - a change that would later become quite infamous. Season 4 started off fresh but foreshadows some of the series' later problems in the subsequent seasons.
The critical consensus for TWD's fourth season was largely positive, focusing on the still enjoyable characters and the fun gore that defines the show.
4 SEASON 3 - 88%
Season 3 is frequently remembered as one of the best - if not the very best - season of The Walking Dead. The season premiered to audiences brimming with anticipation and garnered some impressive ratings. Season 3 brought a lot to the table, including compelling dynamics between characters and the introduction of the notorious Governor.
Season 3's critical reception was nothing short of glowing. At the time, The Walking Dead was still relatively fresh, offering plenty of visceral action and relatable characters to keep viewers coming back for more.
3 SEASON 1 - 88%
Season 1 had a lot to prove. The Walking Dead began as a fairly low budget series that was a lot different than anything anyone had ever seen on TV before. George Romero was the genius behind the zombie genre, with notable films such as Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and Dawn Of The Dead (1978). A zombie show on TV that was helmed by little known writers and cast members, was something uniquely different.
The critical consensus of The Walking Dead's pilot season was defined by cautious optimism, as the zombie genre seemed to finally produce a modern TV show worth watching.
2 SEASON 5 - 89%
Following the significant success of Season 4 and hyped with the much-anticipated Terminus storyline, The Walking Dead's fifth season premiered to record-breaking ratings. The first episode coined the highest ratings for a TWD episode yet, and with good reason.
The critics describe The Walking Dead's fifth season once again praise the characters and action, which seems to be a recurring theme throughout the franchise. By this point, The Walking Dead was not necessarily breaking new ground, but the horror series had found its rhythm.
1 SEASON 9 - 91%
It may come as a surprise that the most recent season of The Walking Dead has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score, but due to some much-needed changes, this one's certified fresh. After some unforgettable uproar from fans regarding the questionable (and sometimes ridiculous) decisions made over the previous few seasons, veteran writer Angela Kang stepped in as showrunner. From what Season 9 delivered, it seems that Kang definitely has a better sense of where to take the show than her predecessor.