Rumors surfaced last week that Jon Bernthal, who played Shane Walsh on the first three seasons of The Walking Dead, might return to the series next season, after he was spotted hanging around the set with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus. The rumors have now become a reality. Bernthal will not only return in the ninth season, but The Walking Dead will announce that return at next month’s Comic-Con.
Details surrounding Bernthal’s role next season, however, have been kept under wraps, although we do know that he will come back for only one episode (after his brief visit to Georgia, Bernthal has already returned to New York to resume shooting The Punisher). It is expected that Bernthal will reprise his role as part of the exit of the series’ lead, Andrew Lincoln. As the character of Shane is most definitely dead, it will necessarily be in a flashback or a hallucination, but I would not rule out something slightly more substantial than the sort of hallucinations we have seen in the deaths of other characters, like Tyrese. It’s possible, even, that we see an extended flashback sequence that actually plays into the plot of the episode.
We don’t know yet, either, how Andrew Lincoln will exit the series, although it’s expected to be as part of the brewing showdown between Rick Grimes and Maggie Rhee teased in the eighth season finale of the The Walking Dead. Maggie didn’t care for Grimes’ decision to let Negan live; he is the man who killed Maggie’s husband, Glenn, after all. In the final minutes of the season eight finale, Maggie began making plans with Jesus and Daryl to rebuild The Hilltop and take on Rick and Alexandria. Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, will also depart the series in the ninth season.
The casting moves have also thrown the series as a whole in chaos, at least for fans who have become accustomed to the series following the general contours of Robert Kirkman’s source material. In Kirkman’s graphic novels, both Rick and Maggie are still alive, so new showrunner Angela Kang will have to re-engineer the series to allow it to move ahead without two of its biggest players. Norman Reedus is expected to take on an even bigger role in the series moving ahead. In addition to the exits of Cohen and Grimes, the series also expects to introduce The Whisperers next season, as well — a casting call was put out a couple of months ago for characters who fit the description of girlfriends Yumiko and Magna, who play a role in The Whisperers War in the comics.
For his part, Lincoln has been foreshadowing his exit in interviews since the Chandler Riggs left the series. He found the death of Carl “unbearable” and struggled to see Rick’s role in the future of the series without his son as his motivating anchor. On the series, Rick Grimes has lost both his son and wife, and the only family member left to live for is Judith, who — ironically — is actually Shane’s biological daughter. Ultimately, that may factor in the return of Shane next season.
The Walking Dead will return in mid-to-late October, and we can expect to see the release of first trailer for next season during Comic-Con late next month.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter