The Walking Dead closed out the first half of season seven this past Sunday with a surprisingly decent episode that succeeded primarily because it didn’t end on a lousy cliffhanger (plus it killed off Spencer, which was reason enough to cheer).

However, TWD has been on a downward trend this season in terms of ratings, with season seven ranking as the lowest-rated season since season three back in 2012. Usually, the ratings see a noticeable increase when season premieres and finales roll around, but ratings for this year’s midseason finale, “Hearts Still Beating,” were way down, especially when compared to last season’s winter finale.

According to Deadline, “Hearts Still Beating” was “the lowest any TWD winter finale has done since 2012 and down 24% from the one-hour Season 6 winter finale of November 29 last year — which was the second most watched midseason ender in the history of the AMC blockbuster.” Interestingly, while The Walking Dead did well in the key 18-to-49 demographic (5.1 million), it got beaten hard by Sunday Night Football’s New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys game, which it usually wins against.

Here are the ratings for ever midseason finale to date:

Season 2: 6.62 million
Season 3: 10.48 million
Season 4: 12.05 million
Season 5: 14.81 million
Season 6: 13.98 million
Season 7: 10.58 million

Deadline notes that this ratings drop-off “puts more focus than usual on the February 12 return of part two of TWD season seven.” While there isn’t any one reason for why this latest season has experienced such a dramatic ratings decline, the first half of the season was viewed by many fans and critics as one of The Walking Dead’s weakest offerings to date in terms of quality, with slow-paced, repetitious episodes convinced many to change the channel or just stop watching altogether.

Fortunately, the back half of the season already looks like it’s going to focus more on tighter pacing and feature the return of characters who were largely ignored in the first half (welcome back Ezekiel), so there’s a good chance that ratings could rebound. It will certainly be interesting to compare the ratings for the February premiere and the midseason finale to see if the prospect of Rick going to war with Negan is enough to rope viewers back in.

(Source: Deadline)