The Walking Dead received a bit of a boost for its last episode, but still ended up as one of the lowest season finales in the show’s history.
No matter how many viewers abandon a show during its run, there is always something about a series finale that draws them back to see how everything ends. That is certainly true of The Walking Dead, which logged its highest audience in two years for its final episode on Sunday. Although the series will continue through a number of spin-offs, there were plenty of endings and resolutions to be found in the final outing of the iconic show for those who turned up to the party.
The Walking Dead hit screens in 2010 as one of the most ambitious and celebrated horror series ever made. With an almost movie-like budget – something that was not common at the time – and director Frank Darabont at the helm, the series was an instant hit, with up to six million people tuning into its first season. Viewer numbers continued to grow until it reached a phenomenal peak of 17.3 million viewers during its fifth season. The season six introduction of Negan was another high point, and from there, the numbers steadily declined, from season 7’s 17 million premiere to 11.4 million for the season 8 premiere. By season 11, that was down to 2.2 million.
In line with this, the season finale pulled in 2.27 million on its debut, which is the highest number since February 2021, according to THR. Despite that accolade, the series finale also came in just above the lowest-ever season finale from season 10, making it a definite crawl to the finish rather than a sprint.
What Happened to The Walking Dead’s Popularity?
The Walking Dead may have seen its viewing numbers halving season after season since its peak, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the show has become a failure in its final years. Over the last several years, fans have abandoned the series for several reasons, none more so than the departure of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes in Season 9. With the comic book narrative being set around Rick, it was a big blow to see him depart, and following the loss of some other main characters, some long-term fans just lost interest in the “soap-opera with zombies” that the show became.
However, there have been other reasons for the decline in “on the night” viewers of the show, mainly the huge increase in streaming platforms, catch-up services, and more that have allowed audiences to hold off watching shows when they premiere and binge their way through entire seasons at a later date. Also, with so many shows arriving in a constant stream, viewers have become picky about what and when they watch. Overall, The Walking Dead has still remained one of the highest-rated scripted shows on cable TV.
There is no doubt that The Walking Dead spin-offs will gain some interest from those who have previously abandoned the show. Focusing on the most popular characters, such as Negan, Daryl and the return of Rick Grimes, will draw in fans of those characters. In the case of Rick, there will likely be quite a few older fans tuning into the Rick and Michonne series to find out exactly where the character has been in the last few years.