‘Walking Dead’ Death Was Necessary, Producer Says

'The Shane element was just not part of Rick's continuing story,' show runner Glen Mazzara tells MTV News about Jon Bernthal's offing.
By Josh Wigler, with reporting by Kara Warner

Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh in "The Walking Dead"
Photo: Gene Page / AMC

Warning: Major spoilers for the latest episode of "The Walking Dead" lurk ahead!

The inevitable has finally happened: Shane Walsh is dead. Double-dead, in fact.

In the latest episode of "The Walking Dead," titled "Better Angels," Jon Bernthal's disgruntled ex-cop finally met his demise at the hands of old friend-turned-new foe Rick Grimes. After luring Rick out into a field in search of missing prisoner Randall — whom Shane had already killed — Shane turned his gun on Rick, ready to kill his former partner and inherit his "broken wife" and "weak boy" as his own family. Rick ultimately talked Shane down, but what looked to be a peace offering was a trick of its own: Grimes plunged a knife through Shane's heart, killing him in seconds ...

... and seconds later, Shane was back on his feet, a bloodthirsty zombie looking to finish the job. Thankfully for Rick, his son Carl arrived in the nick of time, gun in hand, to put a bullet through the undead Shane's brain.

Shane's death was always a foregone conclusion in the minds of fans. Rampant rumors of Bernthal's "Walking Dead" exit aside, the character's demise occurs in the sixth issue of Robert Kirkman's comic book series, making his eventual death a virtual certainty from the time Bernthal's casting was announced. But speaking with MTV News, "Walking Dead" show runner Glen Mazzara revealed that Shane's death wasn't always part of the plan.

"At one point, we considered not killing Shane," Mazzara told MTV News. "But what's important about this season is, Rick has to step forward. He has to assume leadership of the group and he has to confront Shane."

With that in mind, there was only one way for the Rick/Shane confrontation to end. Though Shane is killed by young Carl in the comics, it was important to the "Walking Dead" writers that Rick be the one to pull the trigger — or bury the knife, as the case may be — on the show.

"Rick has to be the one to kill Shane. He needs to take control of the group," Mazzara said. "That's a huge loss for him, personally, for the group, but that's what's important about that: that it's at Rick's hand. We had considered doing it with a gun, but the knife was as personal as possible."

Many onlookers agree that Bernthal's work as Shane has been the highlight of "Walking Dead" season two, so losing the character and the actor — especially so soon after Jeffrey DeMunn's departure — is certainly a blow for the show. But for the writers, season two has largely been about transforming Rick from reluctant leader to confident decision-maker. In Mazzara's opinion, the successful metamorphosis was made possible by Shane's death.

"It's about Rick's leadership, and if you see Rick [currently], when he steps forward and he discusses things with the group, you know that that's a very different Rick than the one that came in at the beginning of the season," the show runner said. "That's what this season was about. It was about Rick, and the Shane element was just not part of Rick's continuing story. It was a problem that Rick had to deal with."

Will you miss Shane on "The Walking Dead," or do you think he needed to die? Tell us in the comments section!

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