“Walking,” which is currently airing its fifth season, set a new record for itself when it debuted on Oct. 12, drawing 17.3 million viewers total, according to Deadline. According to AMC, the installment was the show's highest-rated episode ever. For its second episode on Oct. 20, viewership dropped slightly, with 15.1 tuning in to watch. By comparison, “Sunday Night Football” on NBC brought in 17.4 million viewers, according to Deadline at the time of reporting.
The AMC show, which follows people trying to survive in a world populated by zombies, has drawn praise from some critics for its plot so far this season. David Sims of The Atlantic called previous seasons of the show “unwieldy” but wrote that “the show’s fifth season seems much more propulsive, setting up new plots and then moving through them with surprising haste,” though he noted that “I have started many a season of this show with eager anticipation for its new direction,” and that he was afraid of “regression.”
Kate Kulzick of The A.V. Club was also pleased with the show's quick plotting, writing, “This quick-burn approach to plot is a welcome change for the series and one that will hopefully continue, at least for a while,” and Neely Tucker of The Washington Post noted that the show “ain’t playin’ no more.”
However, some other reviewers noted the continuing and escalating amount of violence on the show. In an article titled “Are we all numb to the atrocities of ‘Walking Dead’?,” Entertainment Weekly writer Jeff Labrecque wrote, “By definition, it’s a gruesome show that doesn’t flinch from grotesque violence, and always has been… But is it too far? And is The Walking Dead getting a free pass because its explicit depictions of violence are framed within a zombiefied landscape?... The Walking Dead boasts some of the most compelling, most complex characters on television, but for a show that relies more and more on shock value, the scariest thing to me is the knowledge that we’re nowhere near the end – or the bottom."
Meanwhile, Melissa Leon of The Daily Beast called a section of the premiere the show’s “most gruesome scene yet… Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead concluded with a scene now permanently etched into millions of traumatized brains.”
And Bear McCreary, the show’s composer, wanted to make sure younger viewers weren’t tuning into the show, tweeting,
An unnamed spokesperson for McCreary told the Hollywood Reporter, “Over the years Bear has signed a lot of Walking Dead autographs for kids that are 10 and under who regularly watch the show. And as a new father he is very worried – particularly because season five is scarier and much more hard-core than in years past. He wants parents to be aware that it's getting rough and to not let young kids watch it.”