We already knew that zombies are hugely popular right now. Just yesterday I saw an ad for a collection of Nerf weapons that have the word “Zombie” prominently displayed on the packaging, despite the fact that nothing else even remotely related to this product has anything to do with the undead. The commercial was 30 seconds of kids running around, firing foam darts at imagination zombies. As big as they’ve become, I didn’t think they were quite this big, but the recent midseason return of AMC’s The Walking Dead this past Sunday clobbered the Olympics in the ratings.
Every four years, the world works itself into one fine hullabaloo for the Winter Olympics, which are currently under way in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics, winter or summer, are usually such massive ratings winners that everything else goes on a two-week hiatus. You may have noticed that your regular TV watching schedule has been full of reruns and repeats since the Games kicked off. Think of it like a mid-winter break for your favorite shows. But AMC decided to go head to head with the sports like snowboarding, ice skating, and curling (the ultimate sport) in a prime time duel, and walked away on the winning end.
The adult 18-49 demographic is like the goddamned golden ticket as far as networks are concerned, and that is precisely where AMC and their mobile walking corpses took a big bite out of NBC and their mediocre coverage of the Olympics—seriously, the Canadian channels, if you have them, provide a vastly superior product as far as the Games go. “After,” The Walking Dead midseason premier, scored an 8.2 rating among these coveted viewers, and while I don’t exactly know what that means, I know it’s better than the 6.9 NBC managed in the same timeslot. Take that, international goodwill.
Overall, The Walking Dead wrangled 15.8 million viewers for “After,” making it the highest rated midseason return in the show’s four year history. This isn’t the biggest episode, however, that still belongs to the season four premiere, which brought in 16.1 million sets of eyeballs last fall.
AMC president Charlie Collier said, “With a number of high-profile choices on television last night, for The Walking Dead to deliver record ratings is remarkable. Thanks to the fans, who have been so supportive of this show in so many ways. We share your passion for this world.”
While not perfect or mind-blowing, “After” is a solid episode, and shows that new showrunner Scott Gimple still has the zombie drama moving in the right direction. Instead of lingering on gore, or dragging you along for tedious asides, the episode focused in close on two individuals—Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira)—and actually did a lot of work developing them as characters. Right now, both are as interesting and complete as they’ve ever been.
Check out this preview for next week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Inmates.”