The current biggest threat to Rick’s group isn’t Negan and the Saviors, it’s audience disinterest.
AMC’s plan worked initially, and The Walking Dead put up record numbers as 17 million tuned into the Season 7 premiere to see who Negan had actually killed during after the Season 6 cliffhanger. But afterward? The show’s ratings have fallen off a cliff in the weeks that followed. They dropped precipitously from 12.5 in episode 2 to now just 11 million viewers in episode 5.
So what the hell is going on?
It’s not just one thing if we’re looking closely. I think it’s sort of a perfect storm of factors, some of which may be out of AMC and the showrunners’ control, while others they are directly responsible for. Here’s what it looks like to me
1. Fans Did Not Like How The Negan Premiere Played Out
This would seem to be the most obvious answer, given the enormous drop we saw from the premiere to the other episodes this season. If 17 million people tuned in to watch that premiere, and the show loses 6 million of those in a month, that probably says something about the content of that much-watched premiere.
Glenn and Abraham were fan’s favorite characters, and it was gut-wrenching to lose them. I’d argue that their deaths were less sad then they were disgusting, with the show not holding back any of the gore from the comic, which is obviously more graphic when acted out in real life.
2. Fans Are Tired Of AMC And The Showrunners Jerking Them Around
I just mentioned this above, but fans are getting tired of AMC purposefully trying to mess with them, like what we saw with the entire “Glenn is dead but not really” plotline of Season 6, where there was some ridiculously convoluted arc where Glenn was supposed to have been eaten alive by zombies, only for us to find out later he survived by crawling under a dumpster.
But rather than creating mystery in any traditional way, AMC used tricks to fool the audience directly, like pivoting camera angles so it looked exactly like Glenn’s entrails were being torn out of him as he screamed (when really they were from another corpse).
That whole arc didn’t sit well with fans (and was made worse by Glenn’s actual death not that many episodes later), but there was an even greater uproar when the show gave us an absolutely unforgivable cliffhanger that had Negan beating someone’s head in during the Season 6 finale, but again, another camera angle change hid the truth from the audience, and it was seen as a deliberate ploy to blackmail viewers to tune into the next year’s premiere.
3. Fans Just Don’t Like Negan
I mean, you’re not supposed to like Negan, given that he’s a villain, but there are good villains and poor villains, and over these last five episodes, I have not been surprised to learn many fans think Negan is more lame than menacing.
4. Fans Don’t Like Seeing Rick’s Group Subjugated
Here’s the thing, when over the past seven years you have seen Rick’s group take on every single horrible foe on earth and emerge the group of collective badasses that they are, it’s going to be more than a little uncomfortable to see them being endlessly whipped like dogs by Negan and the Saviors.
5. Fans Hate How Fractured The Show Is
I spent a long time discussing this last week, but the show just hasn’t split the group this time around, they have shattered it. So far, every single episode this season has taken place in a different location with a mostly different group of people.
Ep. 1 – The Woods
Ep. 2 – The Kingdom
Ep. 3 – Savior’s Fortress
Ep. 4 – Alexandria
Ep. 5 – The Hilltop