Reports have confirmed that original The Walking Dead character Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) will return for season 9, but how will he manage to do so? As is fitting for a show centered on the apocalyptic rise of zombies (dubbed Walkers in Robert Kirkman's universe), AMC's The Walking Dead has seen lots of great characters meet their demise in horrifying fashion. One such character was Shane Walsh, best friend and police partner to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) before the world went to hell.
Shane didn't begin the proceedings as a bad guy. In fact, he looked to be doing decently well as the kinda, sorta leader to his own small group of survivors before Rick woke up in the hospital and made his way back to his wife and son. Unfortunately, jealousy soon reared its ugly head, as Shane had embarked on a romantic relationship with Rick's wife Lori in the time since the undead rose. In their defense, both people believed Rick to have died, as he was in a coma after being shot in the line of duty.
This emotional turmoil led to Shane growing progressively more ruthless and unstable, eventually being stabbed to death by Rick in a kill or be killed situation. Shane then revived as a Walker, before being put down again via gun by Carl. Shane briefly appeared in a hallucination sequence in Season 3, during one of Rick's many bouts with temporary insanity. Other than that though, Jon Bernthal's been gone ever since. With the news that Bernthal's Shane is returning to The Walking Dead for at least one Season 9 episode, here's how it might happen.
For starters, The Walking Dead's deaths are realistically portrayed, in the sense that death is death. If a character is shown dying or as a Walker, there's no magical resurrection coming their way. So Shane obviously won't be back alive in TWD - at least in the present timeline of the series. With Lincoln's Rick set to depart the series in Season 9, it makes sense that Shane might return in flashback form, perhaps as a way of contrasting Rick's relatively mundane life pre-apocalypse to his tortured existence post-outbreak. This would also provide an opportunity for fans to see more of Rick as a normal guy - something that's never been shown much of in the past - and further illuminate the closeness of Rick and Shane's friendship and the tragedy of how things ended between them.
Based on recent seasons of The Walking Dead, though, two other possibilities for a Shane return are that he appears in some type of dream sequence, or a character's - likely Rick - vision of what the future might have been had things been different. The latter could echo Carl's imaginings of an ideal, post-war world prior to his death, in which even Negan is shown having reformed his murderous ways and become a productive member of the community. Along those same lines, a vivid dream could allow Rick to engage in one last conversation with his old deceased pal, and perhaps seek his advice or counsel about things that are troubling him at the time. While their relationship may have ended badly, the two men were said to be very close, and it's not hard to imagine that Rick might sometimes think about how a pre-villain Shane would have handled a situation or settled a dispute.
Whatever the circumstances that end up surrounding Shane's temporary return to The Walking Dead, fans will surely be very happy to see him again after such a long absence. One wonders what other deceased characters might also pop in for one last goodbye prior to Andrew Lincoln's exit from the show.