Despite the promise of a major death to amp up the suspense going into the Season 8 midseason finale, the most recent episode of The Walking Dead still couldn't generate enough excitement to combat a ratings downturn that may signal the beginning of the end of the zombie drama's dominance. Sunday's episode, titled "How It's Gotta Be," scored just shy of 7.9 million viewers and a 3.4 rating among adults 18-49, making it the lowest-rated midseason finale since Season 2.

"How It's Gotta Be" drew 25 percent fewer eyeballs than the comparable episode last fall. This is in keeping with the generally lackluster performance of a season that started with the promise of an all-out war against the Saviors but struggled to find momentum after trapping its bad guys in a besieged warehouse week after week. (Last week's episode, "Time for After," captured the show's smallest audience in six years.)

Although The Walking Dead continues to be among the most-watched shows on television — even the dismal midseason finale was second only to Sunday Night Football in terms of sheer viewership volume — AMC has to be hoping that the big twist in the most recent episode, in which Carl (Chandler Riggs) revealed that he'd been bitten, will spell a ratings bump from folks anxious to see Riggs' final performance when the show returns next year.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9/8c.