The end of sorts has come and gone for Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes on AMC’s The Walking Dead, and viewers pretty much took it in stride. However, for the after-show Talking Dead, the ratings blast radius for the character’s departure was wide indeed.
Pumped full of promotion for months, Sunday’s extended “What Comes After” episode of Season 9 of TWD snared an audience of 5.4 million and a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49. That’s a small rise of 6% among total viewers and the key demo from the near series-low of the October 28 “The Obliged” episode, which was Part 1 of Lincoln’s exit lap. The November 4 show is also the best the AMC series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics has done since its Season 9 premiere October 7, which drew 6.1 million viewers and a 2.5 rating.
For a show that has hit new lows this year, any up is good. However, it is a small-screen sign of the times that the adieu of the lead character on what was once TV’s biggest show caused so few ratings fireworks. Even with Lincoln gone from TWD but set to be in at least three Rick Grimes movies on AMC in the new few years, there are a few mitigating factors to consider here.
Most importantly, the once NFL-beating TWD was up against a well-watched Sunday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers on NBC, which the Patriots won 31-17.
Looking back to the fifth episode of Season 8 of TWD on November 19, 2017, this weekend’s show was down 42% in the demo and 35% in viewers. For all those hard declines, TWD remains the top-rated show on cable and the second highest-rated drama on all of TV,
Airing right after a still-alive Grimes was skirted away in a mysterious helicopter to new adventures and new AMC ventures, Talking Dead had a much better night – at least compared to the week before. Featuring a post-episode interview with Lincoln on those stand-alone movies plans, plus ex-TWD showrunner Scott M. Gimple, cast member Melissa McBride and Yvette Nicole Brown in studio, the Chris Hardwick-hosted after-show drew 2.7 million viewers and a 1.0 rating. The flipside of the double-digit declines TWD saw from the year before, Talking was up 48% in total audience from the week before and 66% among the 18-49s.
Though it’s hard to believe many TWD fans decided to wait until later in the week to learn Grimes’ fate, we’ll likely get a better sense of the bigger picture later this week when those Live+3 ratings results come in.