One of The Walking Dead’s oldest villains is slated for a return next season, just in time to say goodbye to Rick Grimes forever, as actor Andrew Lincoln is reportedly leaving the show at some point during Season 9.
TVLine revealed Monday that actor Jon Bernthal would return to The Walking Dead during Season 9 to reprise the role of Shane Walsh. And The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that it would be for a single episode. So all signs point to his reappearance coinciding with Rick’s death or departure.
Fans no doubt remember that series lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) fatally stabbed Shane at the end of Season 2, and then Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) shot Shane’s zombie form in the head. There’s absolutely no room for interpretation that could creatively allow Shane to return to the show in the present day, fully alive that is.
He’s totally very dead.
Jon Bernthal, who now plays the lead Frank Castle on Marvel’s The Punisher over on Netflix, will likely reprise his role as Shane in some sort of flashback or hallucination as opposed to a genuine reprisal.
Rick’s hallucinated plenty of things over the years as his sanity’s ebbed and waned. In Season 3’s “Made to Suffer,” he even hallucinated Shane coming at him through the smoke during a huge firefight, when his former friend was already dead. He’s also hallucinated seeing his dead wife Lori before. So who’s to say Rick won’t suffer another kind of mental break before his exit from the show and hallucinate all kinds of stuff?
The Walking Dead has also grown increasingly fond of messing with time in its narratives, even flashing forward to things that don’t exist and never will, so maybe it’ll all be a daydream fantasy. Season 8 frequently showed visions of the future that were essentially fake.
Or it could just be a flashback. Most recently, the Season 8 finale flashed back to a scene with Rick Grimes walking hand-in-hand with a much younger version of Carl.
The show’s writers seem fond of doing these types of things as a means to commemorate characters that have died. It would only make sense for several of the most important figures in Rick’s life to show up for his big finale, especially because the character will probably die, right?
In May, Collider reported that “fans can only expect to see [Andrew] Lincoln in half-a-dozen episodes of the upcoming season.”