"The Walking Dead" Season 7 just stopped falling from its high ratings cliff, but around seven million people are still missing. They were last seen watching the Season 7 premiere, helping it reach the near-record high of 17 million viewers. Since that proud moment, TWD has only managed to make headlines for its sharp fall, with everyone and their second cousin espousing theories on why the show is now at 2012 levels.

Here are the Sunday night viewer and ratings numbers for Season 7 so far (via TV by the Numbers):

  • Episode 1: 17.03 million, 8.4 rating (18-49)

  • Episode 2: 12.46 million, 6.1

  • Episode 3: 11.72 million, 5.7

  • Episode 4: 11.40 million, 5.4

  • Episode 5: 11 million, 5.2

  • Episode 6: 10.40 million, 4.9

  • Episode 7: 10.48 million, 4.9

As you can see, the long drop stopped with the December 4 Episode 7 -- although barely -- and it's possible Episode 6's 10.40 was rock bottom. Since the Episode 8 midseason finale airs this Sunday, December 11, the ratings should tick up a bit; that would be welcome news, since 4.9 is the lowest rating since Season 3 in November 2012. (The ratings are usually high for season premieres, midseason finales, midseason premieres, and season finales, with dips during the middle of each half-season.)

TWD still has the kind of viewer and ratings numbers other shows only dream of. But still. Why is TWD struggling to retain its fan base?

A few fans, apparently more than a few, quit after the extra bleak premiere. Some viewers initially blamed the World Series and other competition for the ratings drop, but the World Series has been over for weeks now and there has been no rush to return. We wondered if HBO's "Westworld" was taking some viewers, and that may be true -- but "Westworld" Season 1 just ended last Sunday, with its own record high to date, so it won't be a factor in this Sunday's midseason finale ratings. The overall drop seems to be from quality, and even some loyal TWD fans who are still watching every week have voiced complaints about weak sections and pacing issues. But the first half of the season is almost over, and it's possible Season 7B will turn everything around.

Season 7, Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating," airs Sunday, December 11 from 9 to 10:26 p.m. ET on AMC.

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