When you've outstripped the competition to become the biggest show on television, the only thing left to do is push forward and strive to break your own records. Or at least, that's what The Walking Dead will be hoping to achieve when it returns with Season 8 — and its 100th episode — on October 22.
For years now, #TheWalkingDead has left other shows in its dust as it dominates the ratings charts. The series' seventh season was the number one ranked show with viewers ages 18 - 49, and it was the third most watched series overall — with the cable series only being beaten out by network shows, The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.
With such an impressive history, it makes sense that the AMC show has no intention of resting on its laurels, and will be firmly setting sights on a record-breaking Season 8 premiere. But it'll be no easy feat. The series rating record currently belongs to the Season 5 premiere, which managed a massive 17.29 million viewers. This result was likely down to the extraordinary storylines of Season 4 being so well received by fans, as well as the audience's desire to learn the fates of Rick and the survivors, who were imprisoned by the Termites in the Season 4 finale. While the Season 7 premiere came close to topping the record thanks to Negan and that savage cliffhanger, it still came up short when it pulled in 17.03 million viewers — 260,000 less than Season 5, Episode 1.
A Long Shot But Not Out Of Reach
Despite the ambitious goal, the Season 8 premiere does have a few aces up its sleeve. Firstly, it's guaranteed to be filled with action due to the declaration of war. The Season 7 finale firmly showed which groups were allies and enemies, and the Season 8 trailer promised that the new season will kick off with some explosive drama.
Another factor the Season 8 premiere has going for it is a fantastic villain. While the Season 5 premiere had the evil Termites, we were nowhere near as invested in them as we are with Negan and the Saviors. Sure, we've had the Governor, but he was one man with a few followers; Negan is basically an evil cult leader with enormous resources, in both human and weapon form. Fans have developed some pretty intense feelings about Negan since his introduction, and there's no doubt they'll be tuning into the Season 8 premiere in the hopes his troops take a brutal hit.
But the one major thing that AMC seem to be particularly hoping will draw in the fans is the fact that the Season 8 premiere is the show's 100th episode. The network has been hitting those nostalgic feels pretty hard recently, with The Walking Dead social media accounts posting clips of the most memorable moments from past seasons and using the hashtag #TWD100.
There were also hints in the Season 8 trailer that the 100th episode will include its fair share of callbacks to scenes familiar to dedicated fans. This included a shot of Carl peering through the window of an abandoned car, similar to frames of Rick and Lori in the premieres of both Season 1 and 2. There was also footage of Carol glancing at a flower which had been graffiti'd on the highway, a nod to the iconic Season 4 episode when she told Lizzie to "look at the flowers."
While a record-breaking Season 8 premiere will definitely be a big ask — needing an additional six million viewers from the Season 7 finale, which managed 11.31 million — The Walking Dead has always been a show about overcoming incredible odds, and that just might extend to the ratings as well.
The Walking Dead returns with Season 8 on October 22.
Will you be tuning in for The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere?