AMC’s The Walking Dead has always been a pretty gruesome show, never shying away from graphically depicting the sickening violence inflicted on the protagonists by the hoards of the undead, and sometimes other survivors. However, the recent season 7 premiere had even the hardcore fans reaching for the remote when one of the most popular characters, Glenn, had his head mercilessly bashed in by the villainous Negan.
Though a good portion of the audience seemed to be okay with the shocking scene, a significant number of viewers were clearly outraged enough to stop watching altogether, as the series suffered its biggest drop in ratings in the last four years. It seems that the showrunners took note, too, as during a National Association of Television Program Executives conference, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd admitted that a decision was made to tone down the show’s violence after the season premiere.
We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season. When something matters a lot and it has a universality, then you’re bothered by it and you care about it.
Though Spencer’s demise was still fairly bloody, we do know that Fat Joey’s death at the hands of Daryl was originally a lot more gory, so that’s probably what Hurd is referencing here. Will this new stance continue into future seasons? One would assume so if it proves to make a difference to the viewership.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its seventh season on February 12, and you can check out a new image of Rick encountering a previously unseen group of survivors above.