Maybe just blame the CGI deer? "The Walking Dead" Season 7 has been struggling with viewer retention since the second episode, when nearly five million people suddenly vanished. A couple more million have left since then, and the most recent episode -- the March 5 Episode 12, "Say Yes" -- had the lowest overall viewer numbers since Season 3, and the lowest 18-49 ratings since the Season 2 finale.

According to TV by the Numbers, the Sunday at 9 p.m. hour had a viewership of 10.16 million, with a demo rating of 4.7:

"'The Walking Dead' had its smallest 18-49 rating in nearly five years Sunday night. While it's still the No. 1 show on cable by huge margins, its 4.7 rating among adults under 50 was the lowest it's been since the Season 2 finale March 2012."

Even the previous week's episode, "Hostiles and Calamities" had better numbers, and it was up against the Oscars. When Season 7 returned from winter hiatus with 12 million viewers and a 5.7 rating, we figured things were looking slightly better for the show, but now it's barely scraping 10 million on premiere night. Sure, there was plenty of competition on March 5, but there always is. And this was an episode that focused on Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), so you can't argue that it's because the hour was a standalone ep focusing on minor characters.

Fans still love the show, and it's still the biggest thing on cable, and it'll pick up more viewers throughout the week and beyond. But still. It's possible the zombie apocalypse peaked back in Season 5. It doesn't mean the show is dying -- it's still getting numbers even network shows dream of -- but it does suggest TWD fans do not have infinite loyalty or patience. And without course correction, it may no longer be realistic to think of this show reaching Season 12.

"The Walking Dead" Season 7 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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The Walking Dead TV Show Poster
The Walking Dead
AMCTVMAOctober 31, 2010
Based on 11 critics

In the years following a zombie apocalypse, survivors seek refuge in a world overrun by the dead. Read More

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