Let’s not bury the lede here. The ratings for The Walking Dead aren’t what they used to be. The lead-up to Rick Grimes’ exit has garnered some intrigue and interest, but not to the level of, say, the Season Seven premiere where fans waited all summer to find out who Negan killed. And as Rick was flown out of The Walking Dead alive, the ratings for the most recent episode, “What Comes After,” were slightly better than prior episodes this season, but not by a huge margin.
What do I mean by that? Well, this past Sunday’s episode saw the preliminary ratings at 5.4 million and a 2.1 in the key 18-49 age demographic. For perspective, the prior two episodes leading up to “What Comes After” were 5.05 and 5.10. Again, all preliminary. This doesn’t factor in delayed viewings, DVR, the Live+3 and Live+7 ratings, all things that networks do take into account when considering ratings for their programs. And while The Walking Dead may do better than its competition, the bump is only minor.
In fact, when you consider how much AMC has been marketing this run as the last hurrah for Rick Grimes, how “What Comes After” was marketed as “Rick Grimes’ Final Episode,” and the fact that the episode, when it aired, was already trending on Twitter a few minutes in- which rarely happens for a show outside of its season premiere and finale- showed that there was indeed more curiosity among fans and viewers alike in regards to how Rick Grimes would exit the world of The Walking Dead.
And as you saw, he did not die, but was flown away via helicopter by Jadis to parts unknown. Andrew Lincoln is set to reprise his role of Rick Grimes in films about The Walking Dead as AMC begins its expansion plans for the zombie universe, but as far as the flagship show is concerned, it will be interesting to see the week-to-week ratings now that Rick Grimes is no longer part of the show. Does Rick’s exit serve as an exit for fans as well? In particular those who felt he would die, even though neither the show nor AMC indicated that Rick would lose his life.
It’s an interesting time for The Walking Dead right now. Both the main show and Fear the Walking Dead have lost their main characters, but the rest of the ensemble cast lives on. And now that the main series has jumped forward again six years based on how “What Comes After” ended, there are even more changes coming to the world of The Walking Dead. Now we see if those changes can keep viewers around as well. But what do you think? Will this ratings boost continue for the show moving forward?
And what can AMC do to keep viewers around who might be on the fence because of Rick Grimes’ exit? Where do you lean? Let us know in the comments below.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights at 9 P.M. on AMC.