Shane from The Walking Dead died early in the show’s canon — too early for some fans of Jon Bernthal’s character. Shane Walsh was killed before The Walking Dead season 2 finale, and the decision was rooted in the long-term plan for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Despite only being on the AMC series for two seasons, Bernthal remains one of the most beloved actors to come out of the TV adaptation based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series. In fact, despite Shane from The Walking Dead dying so early on, he still stands as one of the most memorable Walking Dead villains, and arguably the best in the show’s history.


Shane’s death put a sour taste into fans’ mouths at first. He proved himself to be a complex and formidable Walking Dead villain in the first two seasons, sometimes a friend and other times a foe. So, it brought up a question about why Shane from The Walking Dead died. Truthfully, Shane’s death is partially why the character became so popular post-mortem. His arc ended on an intriguing note, which firmly solidified Rick’s place as the leader of the pack. That being said, some wanted to see Jon Bernthal’s character make it past his demise. Here’s why Shane’s death was so necessary for The Walking Dead.

Related: Every Hidden Detail Walking Dead’s Finale Revealed About Rick Grimes

Shane Dies In The Comics Too (But Much Sooner)

Shane Rick final words walking dead

Even though Shane from The Walking Dead’s death happened early in the series, he would have died sooner if the show followed comic canon. Shane may have met his death early in the eyes of viewers during season 2, answering the question “when does Shane die in The Walking Dead?” but he lasted far longer than his comic book arc. Like the TV series, Shane was Rick’s partner at a local sheriff’s department. When Rick was left in a coma in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, Shane looked after Rick’s wife, Lori, and the pair’s son, Carl.

Over time, Shane started to have romantic feelings for Lori, but their affair came to an abrupt end when Rick miraculously found the group and reunited with his family. Shane’s rage and jealousy started to take over to the point that he attempted to murder Rick. During the sixth issue, Rick’s son Carl found the men fighting and ended up shooting Shane in the neck, killing him. He later turned into a walker, forcing Rick to kill his friend a second time. Shane’s arc was expanded in the AMC series, but the tension between him and Rick was still a major focus.

While staying at Hershel Greene’s farm, the two began arguing over how to lead the group of survivors. There was also an underlying conflict regarding Lori and the fact she was pregnant. Shane had plans to kill Rick in The Walking Dead season 2 episode “Better Angels”. Rick was well aware of the plan and countered by stabbing Shane in the chest. Carl then appeared, shooting Shane in the head after the man was reanimated. According to showrunner Glen Mazzara in 2012 (via MTV), it wasn’t always the plan to kill off Shane from The Walking Dead, but it made sense for the story direction.

Rick Had To Take Over As Leader For The Future Of The Series

Rick kills Shane in The Walking Dead.

Mazzara claimed that Shane from The Walking Dead’s death was “necessary” based on the bigger picture. Shane emerged as a threat to the group and Rick realized something needed to be done. In order to effectively lead the survivors, Shane needed to be removed. Rick could only assume the leadership role if Shane was no longer around. The idea to kill Shane was rooted in the plans for Rick to become the group’s main leader before they headed to the prison and came into contact with the Governor. Furthermore, if Shane was still around, he would hinder their chances of survival based on his unhinged behavior.

Related: Rick & Michonne’s Walking Dead Spinoff Must Answer 2 Season 11 Mysteries

It was also important for Rick to be the one to kill Shane, as Mazzara wanted Rick to feel a sense of loss considering Shane was his friend. Instead of using a gun, Rick used a knife, thereby making it a more personal kill. The trauma transformed Rick, changing his demeanor from that point onward — evidenced by how he treated the group after the farm burned down. Though Shane was a compelling character in The Walking Dead, he was always just an element of Rick’s story and a problem that needed to be fixed.

Shane’s Death Kick-Started Jon Bernthal’s Career

Shane Walsh holding and aiming a gun in The Walking Dead

The character of Shane from The Walking Dead and his demise is what launched Jon Bernthal’s career. The character became so beloved that his death has been talked about, and debated, by fans to this day, a full nine seasons later (and counting). Bernthal’s portrayal of Shane Walsh didn’t go unnoticed by executives in Hollywood, as Bernthal has gone on to have an illustrious career since leaving The Walking Dead. In fact, Shane from The Walking Dead’s death may have actually been a gift to the actor, as his short stint on the show allowed him to pursue other projects once Shane was no longer in the show.

Since appearing on TWD, Jon Bernthal has gotten to play the titular role in Marvel and Netflix’s The Punisher, star in The Wolf of Wall Street, and play Rick Macci in King Richard. Other characters, such as Norman Reedus’ Dale, have also been immensely popular. However, because they’ve been so attached to The Walking Dead over the years, they haven’t been able to fully explore their acting careers for the most part. So, even though Shane Walsh died off early in TWD, it did wonders both for the show and Jon Bernthal’s career.

Could Shane Return In The Walking Dead Spinoffs?

Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead.

While some fans want to see Shane from The Walking Dead return for one of the spin-offs, it is unlikely. One of the upcoming spin-offs features Rick Grimes and Michonne, and this will possibly lead Rick back to his daughter unless it follows the comic book storyline and features his death. The only way Shane could return to The Walking Dead is through flashback scenes or hallucinations by Rick. This is a possibility and has been done before though it’s not really something anyone should expect. However, if Tales of the Walking Dead returns for a second season, there is a chance Shane could get a standalone episode.

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