AMC's The Walking Dead has been one of TV's biggest franchises to date, turning the Image Comics title into a ratings juggernaut. However, over the last few seasons, ratings have steadily declined, though not to a point to warrant cancellation (as the show's been renewed for a 10th season, after all).
But while that audience depreciation could have been attributed to waning storylines and an overall dip in quality, Season 9 has recaptured the magic of the first few seasons, crafting some of the series' most emotional work to date. With that in mind, we have to wonder why the viewership isn't increasing when it seems TWD is finally getting back to its best.
One of the main reasons for this could be that the show's titans have left. Andrew Lincoln, who played Rick Grimes, long considered the bedrock of the series, departed last season. The actor has even admitted that, despite a movie trilogy being lined up for his character, he feels like he left at the wrong time because of how well new showrunner Angela Kang is shaping the Whisperers and their war.
When Chandler Riggs' Carl (Rick's son) died, a lot of fans also jumped off the bandwagon because it was clear much of the series' original cast was departing, which may have irked fans who were invested in them from day one. Lauren Cohan's Maggie was another departure that longtime fans may not have taken well to, especially as there wasn't much resolution to her arc with Negan over Glenn's death, or how she wanted to shape a future for her son, Hershel. With Danai Gurira's Michonne set to leave soon too, it could be that viewers won't be getting the ending they want with the people they were most connected to.
But it's not just down to character departures. A lot has to do with how the Negan story was handled. Sure, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is sinister as can be, but the entire Saviors debacle was dragged on way too long, and it felt like then-showrunner Scott M. Gimple killed off any sense of hope and optimism the show had. When you lose that driving force, it's hard to bounce back. TWD didn't dwell too much on the Governor previously, which helped make his stint short but impactful. However, with Negan, fans simply began feeling like the humanity of the show -- its heart and soul -- was being lost.