As the dust settles, one thing becomes clear: More people hated the Walking Dead season finale than adored it. In fact, despite Season 6 earning an overall “fresh” rating of 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Last Day On Earth” received an abysmal 45 percent “rotten” rating.
It gets worse for The Walking Dead, as Deadline reports that the finale ratings were down about 10 percent from last year. Ratings for a Walking Dead closer haven’t been this low since Season 3. It could be explained by the fact that The Walking Dead faced direct competition from the 51st Academy of County Music Awards on CBS.
However, it’s also possible that the lower ratings are a small sign that the Walking Dead showrunners could have overestimated their fans’ patience with cop-outs and gimmicks, with that bizarre cliffhanger involving villain Negan and his bat “Lucille” being the last straw.
Almost immediately, showrunner Scott M. Gimple began to defend the episode. Gimple told the Hollywood Reporter that the cliffhanger represented “a new beginning” for The Walking Dead.
“The world is not what they thought it was so how do you start over in this new world?”
He is promising that if fans tune into the Walking Dead Season 7 premiere in October, the wait will be well worth it. The problem for Gimple is that Season 6 ended with the comic book moment that many Walking Dead fans had been anticipating for years now. The unfortunate reality is that regardless of which character the Walking Dead writers ultimately decide to bump off, the chance for a genuinely shocking and standout moment has already passed.
Whatever fans do feel in October, it’s hard to argue it will be nearly as intense as what could have been felt on Sunday.
Through his words, Scott Gimple also unwittingly put himself in the position of failing to live up to the hype. If the first episode of Season 7 isn’t the incredible game-changer that he’s promised Walking Dead fans, Scott runs the risk of losing quite a bit of his audience forever.
— Den of Geek (@DenofGeekUS) April 5, 2016
It doesn’t help Scott that a growing number of Walking Dead fans aren’t buying his explanation, something they view as an arrogant insult to their intelligence.
One commenter responded to the Hollywood Reporter interview by stating, “The cliffhanger decision was a poor one. It was completely unnecessary and an obvious move to get people to come back for season seven, which they would have done already. For seasons, people have waited for this one moment, and when it came, the show runners held their hand. Shame on them.”
Another commenter was even more indignant about the Walking Dead showrunner’s explanation.
“Gimple doesn’t care what you think, he doesn’t care about putting the effort into the writing, he’s happy to just coast along on the show’s momentum and cash his checks.”
The reaction on Twitter wasn’t much better.
— P.H. James (@seventhaspect) April 4, 2016
S7 opener: flashback or flashforward episode, you don't see who died until the end. Scott Gimple nominates himself for an Emmy. #TWDFinale
— Amy Hates TWD ✌️ (@McGani) April 4, 2016
— Gayle Patricia (@backtothebeach2) April 4, 2016
All in all, it suggests that the Walking Dead writers are going to have to step up their game with Season 7 in a way that they haven’t done in quite some time.
It’s one thing to talk up your big plans for future episodes; it’s another thing entirely to actually deliver the goods. Regardless of what the writers think of their work and their justifications for why things are playing out in a certain way, it’s always going to come down to viewer opinion — and that strongly held opinion is what ultimately drives ratings.
Thanks to a poorly received Season 6 finale, so many things now ride on the Season 7 premiere. If that premiere fails to impress, The Walking Dead could be headed for a ratings disaster.
Do you believe AMC’s The Walking Dead can win back fans and critics with Season 7? Share your thoughts below!
[Image via AMC/screen grab from Rick Grimes YouTube Channel]