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'Walking Dead' season finale shatters record ratings

Gene Page / Today
The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Sunday's bloody and shocking episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead" shattered its own basic-cable ratings records for a second time this season.

The zombie drama, based on the graphic novels created by Robert Kirkman, drew 9 million total viewers, including 6 million in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo, 5.3 million in adults 25-54 and 3.2 million in 18-34; the demo numbers topped basic-cable records set by February's Season 2 midseason premiere. That episode, which followed the show's two-month hiatus, drew 8.1 million total viewers, 5.4 million in 18-49 and 4.4 million in 25-54.

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The episode was up more than 50 percent in total viewers compared with its Season 1 finale. Including repeats at 11:30 p.m., the installment drew 10.5 million total viewers.

The February numbers topped another mark set by October's 90-minute Season 2 premiere. That episode, which followed a nearly one-year wait after the six-episode freshman season of the drama starring Andrew Lincoln, marked a then-record for any drama in basic-cable history in the demos; it drew 4.8 million in 18-49 and 4.2 million in 25-54, shattering a nearly 10-year-old mark in the demos.

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In the episode, the survivors learned the results of the Season 1 cliffhanger: what Jenner (Noah Emmerich) whispered to Rick (Lincoln) at the CDC before its dramatic explosion. In addition, the final moments introduced the location of the third season -- the highly anticipated prison featured in the comics -- as well as the introduction of the iconic heroine, Michonne (Danai Gurira), featured in the series.

Sunday's finale was up drastically over the "monumental" penultimate episode, which featured the heavily hyped (and somewhat anticipated) departure of Shane (Jon Bernthal). It drew 6.9 million total viewers and 4.6 million in 18-49, with 4.1 million in the 25-54 metric.

Sunday's record ratings come as Kirkman faces a lawsuit from childhood friend Tony Moore over financial compensation to the lucrative franchise.

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AMC announced in January that the third season of the series, topped by showrunner Glen Mazzara, will expand to 16 episodes. Season 3 of "The Walking Dead" will begin in October.

Some ratings highlights from the series:

• Season 2 finale, 3/18/12: 9 million total viewers, 6 million in 18-49, 5.3 million in 25-54

• Season 2 midseason premiere, 2/12/12: 8.1 million total, 5.4 million* in 18-49, 4.4 million* in 25-54

• Season 2 premiere, 10/17/11: 7.3 million total, 4.8 million* in 18-49, 4.2 million* in 25-54

• Season 2 midseason finale, 11/27/11: 6.6 million total, 4.5 million in 18-49, 3.9 million in 25-54

• Season 1 finale, 12/5/10: 6 million total, 4 million in 18-49, 3.5 million in 25-54

• Season 1 premiere, 10/31/10: 5.4 million total viewers, 2.7 million in 18-49

* Record at the time

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