Last night season two of The Walking Dead had a lot to prove to the audience and the network. Fans of season one were rightfully worried with the behind the scenes machinations, which as of late have had problems. Frank Darabont was fired partway through producing season 2, but his absence has not been felt yet. How many loyal fans would remain steadfast in the wake of Darabont’s firing? 7.3 million, or thereabouts, it would seem. That’s the total number of viewers the season two premiere received according to Nielsen.
The only episodic piece of television on cable that is bigger remains Monk’s series finale, which garnered over 9 million viewers. Still, that has to be a relief to everyone working on The Walking Dead. I could have assured anyone worried about the ratings by mentioning what I saw at Comic-Con earlier this year, which was a veritable throng of thousands trying to get into Ballroom 20 for the panel.
AMC has a twofold reputation in the TV world: it’s known as the distributer of some of TV’s most intense and intelligent stories; and they like to cut budgets. The network has a policy of generally leaving the creators alone, but in this they’re faltering with public battles with showrunners like Darabont and Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan.
Last night’s season premiere was a great snapshot of the series as a whole, so anyone jumping in now chose a good spot. Very little of what happened is directly in the graphic novel, up until the shocking end. Season two started out a little cheesy with the rooftop speech, then moved into the best zombie scene in history with the highway herd, and finally meandered a bit with the search for a little girl. But in the end the episode was peppered with incredible moments, and as a whole everything worked. If there’s one thing about Walking Dead I don’t enjoy, it’s that the show can’t seem to keep the quality consistently high.