The Walking Dead was one of the most popular shows on television. For a few years, over 10 million people each week watched people try to remain people. But that time is over. Last Sunday the long running AMC drama garnered its lowest ratings since season 1. Sure, it went up against the Academy Awards, but the the previous week’s season premiere only did slightly better than the season 2 premiere.
Before we continue, there are a bunch of spoilers in this. Guess that doesn’t matter since you’re probably not watching anymore.
So what happened? Are we suffering from zombie fatigue? Is real life scarier than a fictional apocalyptic event? Did Carl not die soon enough?
Stopped Watching After One Minute
Ah, The Walking Dead. What will I do with you. Not watch you for one. Two, I will respond “No, stfu” every time someone asks me if I watch you. I have technically seen the show…for about one minute where I quickly formed the same face I make when I see a puddle of vomit on the streets of Dupont. One minute was enough to have about 50 questions I wanted answered. No, I don’t care about the damn plot. I don’t care about unrequited love. I want to know why everyone’s hair is constantly wet? Is it hair oil? Where are they finding styling products let alone the time to use them? No one has acne under these apparent living conditions? Why is everyone wearing neutrals? If you’re going to take on a show with seemingly very serious and dramatic life or death themes you just gotta fill these gaps, I’m sorry. I’m actually not, but you should be for wasting a minute of my time. -Anna Stevens
Stopped Watching After Season 1, Some of Episode 1
I don’t remember when I decided to attempt watching The Walking Dead, or specifically why, although there is a chance it was because of Tara and Denise. (Queer baiting. It works every time.) All I really recall about the first episode was that the stalker-y guy from Love Actually wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma, and it’s full-blown zombie mania outside or some shit. And then he tries to find shelter with that dad and his kid? And they have to be quiet or turn out the lights? The details are fuzzy dot com. What I do know is I did not make it through the full episode, or if I did, I did not advance to E2. This is not necessarily due to the quality of the show, it’s more that anything zombie-related makes me equal parts stressed out and sad. If I wanted to be stressed out and sad, I’d turn on the news. Go watch the Great British Baking Show instead, you guys. Zombies are for loser saddos. -Megan Burns
Stopped Watching After Season 1, Episode 1
Back in maybe 2011 I was still actively watching 3-5 horror movies a month and had been meaning to check out the newish zombie TV series that friends were even then referring to as “pretty good” and “worth watching.” Despite my enthusiasm for over-the-top zombified gore, I was still hesitant to go all-in on a new high concept TV series, having been burnt by the massive whiff that was the final season of Lost one year earlier. I eventually gave it a shot, throwing on the pilot one night; I barely remember anything about but I think I didn’t hate it. Either way, it didn’t inspire enough passion for me to keep going with the series. Now, seven years later, I’m relieved I never got involved in what seems from the outside to be a punishing exercise in brutal tedium. -Matt Byrne
Stopped Watching After Season 1, Episode 6
The world is rife with horror TV now, but 2010 was a different era. American Horror Story wouldn’t premier until 2011, Channel Zero hadn’t even been conceived and Shudder exclusives like Jordskott, Wolf Creek and Neil Gaimen’s Likely Stories were still many years out. At the same time, the horror industry was coasting on a wave of zombie based films. I Am Legend, REC, Quarantine (an English remake of REC) Dead Snow, Zombie Strippers, Blood Creek, Pontypool and Zombieland had all been released in the few years before. Combine this dearth of horror driven TV with the zombie obsession sweeping the nation and you have the potent mixture that birthed The Walking Dead. It was just nihilistic and gory enough to reel in the horror crowd with the polished touch (and slick AMC backing) needed to bring in the normies. It was a perfect storm and I bought it hook, line and sinker. I zipped through the first three episodes and found myself enthralled by the combination of drama and action. “Guts”, the second episode, was a high point for me. I was impressed with the amount of gore The Walking Dead was willing to show on TV and delighted by their creative takes on zombie genre staples. Things slowed down a little after that point, but that sixth episode, when they finally reach the CDC and have all their hopes demolished as the full scope of the apocalypse reigns down on them was truly a spectacle. It was great. So great, I never watched another episode. I was entirely satisfied. I don’t know anything about the other seasons of The Walking Dead and when people try to talk to me about it, every third word that comes out of their mouth sounds like gibberish. What the hell is a Neegan? Who gives a shit about some Governor when you’re living through the end of the world? Is there really a season where they all live on a farm? I’m glad I got out when I did. In my mind, The Walking Dead was a one season mini-series and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. -Kaylee Dugan
Stopped Watching After Season 3, Episode 1
Blame Carl. I mean not entirely, but pretty much. I can tolerate a precocious child actor. I stan for all the Stranger Things and It kids. I just can’t handle a consistent whiner in an oversized hat who only seems to be getting worse heading into puberty. I stopped watching at the very beginning of Season 3. I think I watched the premiere of Season 3, when they discover the prison, and then threw in the towel.
I was amped to watch the show at the start. My husband read the comics and I was really into Frank Darabond’s 2007 movie The Mist. That film and The Walking Dead seemed to have a familiar vibe: a group of strangers fighting an emerging and confusing evil. Also I needed a new AMC prestige show because Mad Men’s end was nigh. The first season I was really into the show. I loved how realistic it looked and I was very into Jon Bernthal. Lots of good horror and sex appeal. Post-Bernthal, I felt kind of meh about the show but trudged on but the farm felt so small and boring. I also couldn’t stand that they zombified/killed off characters I liked yet Carl still inexplicably remained. Perhaps sulky, hormonal boy sweat scares off zombies? I just couldn’t go on.
My only regret is that I didn’t get to see Danai Gurira as Michonne because I really like her as a playwright and actress. But instead I’m just going to go watch her in Black Panther a bunch of times and see her play Familiar at Woolly Mammoth. -Diana Metzger
Stopped Watching After Season 3, Episode 16
Third time was the charm.
The Walking Dead unimpressed me pretty quickly when it debuted in 2010. The characters were flat. Star Andrew Lincoln couldn’t really do a Georgia dialect. Composer Bear McCreary, who set the gold standard with the Battlestar Galactica remake, was just one member of the crew who felt like he was cribbing from 28 Days Later. Worst of all: It wasn’t scary. So I gave it my standard three-episode trial period and then bailed. But the series was a hit — including among people whose opinion I respected — and I’ve been wrong before. So when AMC later did a marathon of the first season’s six episodes, I hunkered down and watched them all, including the ones I’d already seen. Nope. Not only was there no improvement, the kerploding season finale would have been a major buzzkill — if, indeed, there was any buzz to kill. So hasta luego, Walking Dead! There’s tons of better stuff on.
Flash-forward two years and people still won’t stop talking about this stoopid zombie show. They’ve trimmed the fat, they tell me. You just need to get into it, they tell me. Lots of good shows have bad first seasons, blah blah blah. Fine, fine, everybody shut up, once more into the breach. I watched the last couple episodes of Season 2 as a refresher, and then joined in the fun for Season 3. And you know what? It really was better. I would not at all be surprised if one day fans consider Walking Dead‘s third season to be its high point. The right combination of characters had been introduced/not killed off yet (Michonne became a major player, and we still had the wild card of Merle), the direction and writing was considerably upgraded, and, best of all, actor David Morrissey provided a delightfully chewy villain as the Foghorn Leghorn-accented Governor. I watched the whole season as it aired and yet … it was fine, not great, and I did not continue with Season 4. Even at its best, Walking Dead feels inhumane and is full of sloppy storytelling. Updates and spoilers on where the plot has gone since have not tempted me to come back. Life is too short for mediocre TV. -Tristan Lejeune
Stopped Watching After Season 5, Episode 16
I read recaps from season four, five and six in order to figure out when I stopped watching. It all blended together. The stills from each episode on The Walking Dead Wiki have a grimey, sad feel. It’s depressing. Depressing is fine for a show about zombies. Some time between season 1 and 6, the show forgot to stay compelling.
I do not remember what was happening to Rick, Daryl and everyone else when I stopped watching. I do remember AMC was heavily promoting the spin-off Fear The Walking Dead. More depression.
I remember seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan in ads for season 7. I like Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But he was holding a bat with nails in it in the ads. Which is fine because The Walking Dead is a show about survival but how is a dude with a good looking leather coat and crisp haircut holding on a bat with nails in it compelling after 6 seasons? Shouldn’t he be filthy? Wouldn’t his hair be a bit more unruly? It appeared the show had crossed over from somewhat believable to video game. I don’t enjoy depressing video games. -Brandon Wetherbee
Stopped Watching After Season 7, Episode 1
The Walking Dead always had delusions of grandeur, but at its core, it is a cross between a soap opera and a geek show. There is florid melodrama, padded out over one good episode for every three, peppered by grisly horror violence. Audiences clearly lap this up, and I fully expect the show to last another twenty years (at least). Where I finally gave up, however, was when Negan beat Glenn to death. I have no problem with killing off a beloved character – more shows should have that courage – but the image of Glenn’s brutalized body was so ghastly, so beyond bad taste, that something clicked inside my brain. I realized I no longer gave a shit about what happened to any of these people. The show will probably last another twenty years, but I wish the zombies would hurry up and kill them off sooner. -Alan Zilberman
Have Not Stopped Watching Yet
I binged The Walking Dead Season 1 & 2, loving Season 1 and liking Season 2 more than everyone else because I wasn’t watching live and having to wait a week between episodes where not much happened. After that, the prison and Woodbury set up some interesting stories, and the show was still fun to talk about around the watercooler (note to self: get a water cooler for the BYT office and force everyone to stand around it when we talk about TV shows. Maybe fill it with Kool-Aid). As the seasons trudged along though, things started to go off the rails. The repetition set in. The pure camp elements became distracting. Characters nobody cared about came and went, while the writers insisted in vain that we were really supposed to care. I began to emotionally give up on the show, culminating in the Glenn death fakeout, and subsequent aforementioned poorly handled actual death. I could no longer recommend it and most people I knew were no longer watching. But then I got on board with the idea that Rick realized he was the star of a hit TV show and can’t die or do wrong, and I no longer had to take anything seriously. I basically decided to give a pass to the rotating incompetent writers and showrunners and go along for a bumpy ride of plot holes, emotional manipulation, nonsensical geography, bonkers timelines, pure unbridled incompetence of so many characters, wildly shifting motivations, huge arcs whose impact last one episode, inconsistent rules, occasionally terrible CGI, and the same philosophical ideas played over and over again and… well… it just didn’t bother me anymore. To be clear, there are still thrilling moments, bursts of feels and creativity, some likable characters, interesting set pieces, and a never ending parade of violent sweaty fun that I actually genuinely like and look forward to, and all the terrible stuff just sort of rolls off and is forgotten. Somehow The Walking Dead has been able to maintain this razor wire balancing act for me where if it got any worse or better, I would probably give up. I guess there is always next week. -Cale