The Walking Dead finally received a boost in ratings. The exiting of lead star Andrew Lincoln, not surprisingly, spiked ratings for season 9. The increase wasn’t enormous though. An improvement over previous episodes in season 9 wouldn’t require a substantial audience either. The series currently faces its lowest ratings ever. With the swan song episode “What Comes After,” the series drew an audience of 5.4 million viewers. The number reflects half of what some previous episodes logged.
Concerns exist about how low the ratings can go. With the departure of Andrew Lincoln and the phasing out of the Rick Grimes character, the show now stands at its crossroads. A complete reboot of the series with Norman Reedus as the star reflects the new direction. The charismatic Reedus and his multi-dimensional character of Daryll Dixon could be what The Walking Dead needs to avoid a dire ratings situation.
Compounding the loss of Andrew Lincoln is the departure of Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie. Cohan went from supporting player in season two to a major character as the seasons progressed. After accepting a role on a new television show, Cohan opted out of The Walking Dead. Inexplicably, the creative team did not craft a departure for Cohan’s character. In the coming episodes, the timeline jumps a few years. Cohan/Maggie won’t factor into anything. Such a curious decision won’t build trust or enthusiasm with the remaining loyal viewers of The Walking Dead. Departed viewers won’t likely return either.
Are the lost viewers indeed lost forever? Can new viewers come to the series? The answer depends on what direction The Walking Dead ventures in its soft reboot. The series resets itself and its storylines from this point forward. While TWD will doubtfully return to an audience of 10 million people, the program may do well with its remaining audience.
Curiously, AMC ordered three television movie spinoffs featuring Andrew Lincoln. Rick Grimes eventually returns, but the character won’t reunite with his former friends. How well the new adventures of Rick Grimes does with viewers is a question mark right now. AMC has high hopes. If not, the network would only request a single pilot and not three movies.