The Walking Dead has always been a ratings winner for AMC. Seasons 1-3 have been a great success for the network, which has boasted Breaking Bad and Mad Men over the past fix years, but season 4’s premiere has topped it all with 16.1 million fans tuning in to see how Rick Grimes can protect his even larger group.

Andrew Lincoln
Rick Grimes had plenty to think about in the opening episode of season 4

If Nielsen are to be believed – and they are – The Walking Dead received the highest rating across all U.S programing on Sunday night. This includes NBC's NFL "Sunday Night Football" game, which usually draws the largest viewership in the 18-49 demographic.

10.4 million of the 16.1 million were in the 18-49 age group, meaning some really cool 50+-year-olds and a load of people who shouldn’t have really been watching it, tuned in. But the 18-49 age group is a key one for advertisers, and they keep shows like The Walking Dead on the air, so 10.4 million represented a great return for AMC.

On social media, AMC claimed that more than 5 million people were talking about the on Facebook, while a further 1.1 million Tweets were sent regarding the premiere, which saw the group back at the prison, having gone 30 Days Without an Accident.

The episode saw mixed to positive reviews come back after it aired.

Norman Reedus Danai GuriraDaryl found the adulation of the new members hard to stomach, while Michonne is hunting for The Governer

“This was a strong start to the season with a great sense of balance between the characters,” said IGN in their review, which gave it an 8.3 out of 10. The episode introduced the beginning of what looks to be a great arc for Carol, a potentially interesting one for Beth, and a new exploration of leadership in the form of group rule."

The show, based on the comic book series created by Robert Kirkman, will return this Sunday, Oct 20, for the second episode in the season. With illness striking the camp – the Woody Allen lookalike and that fat pig certainly took the brunt – and something spooky attacking the camp from the outside, the tension is sure to rise.