The helicopter that carried Rick Grimes off The Walking Dead did not take the show’s audience with it.
Ratings for the AMC series held up just fine in the first episode without former lead Andrew Lincoln, whose last appearance on the flagship series was Nov. 4. (He’ll continue as the character in a set of feature-length Walking Dead movies.) That episode improved on the previous week’s numbers, and while the first post-Lincoln episode, “Who Are You Now,” did indeed decline slightly, the losses were negligible.
Sunday’s episode drew 5.4 million viewers, off a scant 1 percent from the prior week. About 2.6 million of those people fell in the key ad-sales demographic of adults 18-49, down 3 percent versus Lincoln’s farewell. (Sunday’s show had a 2.0 rating in the demo vs. 2.1 a week earlier.)
The episode’s 25-54 audience of 3.1 million was even with the prior week.
It should be said that The Walking Dead‘s ratings are at a historically low ebb: Season nine is currently the show’s weakest in the 18-49 demo and just barely ahead of season one in same-day viewership. Its numbers have fallen hard and fast in the past two seasons, but the audience that remains — and which still outdraws any other cable series — didn’t erode any more in the immediate wake of Lincoln’s departure.
After-show Talking Dead did take a hit Sunday, falling 28 percent in adults 18-49 (941,000 viewers in the demo versus 1.3 million the previous week) and 22 percent in viewers (2.12 million vs. 2.7 million). It remained ahead of its numbers from two weeks ago.