Ahead of Sunday night’s Andrew Lincoln farewell, former Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal shared a touching photo of his reunion with his one-time co-star. Bernthal’s character Shane was of course killed way back in season 2 by Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, but Bernthal has returned in season 9 for a one-off appearance as part of Lincoln’s last episode. Scott Wilson (Hershel) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) also shot cameos as part of Lincoln’s swan song.
Lincoln’s impending departure from The Walking Dead was revealed to the public over the summer, and since then fans have been waiting with nervous anticipation to see how Rick Grimes will exit the series. Things were set up in last week’s episode when Rick was thrown from a horse while trying to lead away a herd of walkers and was impaled on a metal rod. Tonight, Grimes’ ultimate fate will be learned, as Lincoln puts in his final hour as the character he’s played since 2010.
Jon Bernthal’s Shane and Andrew Lincoln’s Rick were partners and best friends early on in the series, before their relationship fell apart due to Shane entering into an affair with Rick’s wife Lori while everyone thought Rick was dead. Bernthal’s Instagram post commemorating his brief reunion with Lincoln on The Walking Dead takes fans back to the early days of the show when Rick and Shane were still BFFs, long before Rick had to take Shane out with a knife to the chest (followed by Carl putting down zombie Shane with a gunshot). See the image below:
How exactly Shane figures in to Sunday night's episode remains to be seen, but it's likely he'll appear as part of a hallucination or dream experienced by Rick as he deals with the wound he suffered after being run through by a metal rod. Indeed, the episode is sure to be excruciating, as Rick battles to stay alive while still dealing with the massive walker herd he was attempting to lead away from his people. The Walking Dead has been criticized in the past for the way it's handled the departure of certain characters, but the show is certain to give Rick the send-off he deserves after more than eight seasons of heading up the ensemble cast.
The big question then becomes, what happens to The Walking Dead after Rick leaves? Ratings for the show have fallen off in recent years due to a number of factors, and have continued to trend downward during season 9 despite many critics saying the show has actually improved in quality. Rick's farewell episode is sure to give the show at least a temporary bump, but what happens next will ultimately prove to be more important, as the show tries to win back some of the fans who have left over the past few seasons. It's unlikely The Walking Dead will ever regain its throne as far and away the top-rated show on TV, but with season 9 proving to be more intriguing than the somewhat sluggish past two seasons, perhaps it can at least enjoy a partial rebound.
Source: Jon Bernthal