Shane Walsh (The Walking Dead)
|The Walking Dead character|
Shane Walsh, as depicted in the comic book series.
|First appearance||Issue #1 (comics)
"Days Gone Bye" (TV series)
|Last appearance||Issue #6 (Alive) (comics)
Issue #15 (Undead) (comics)
Issue #37 (Flashback) (comics)
"Better Angels" (Alive) (TV series)
"Made to Suffer" (Hallucination) (TV series)
|Created by||Robert Kirkman
|Portrayed by||Jon Bernthal|
|Occupation||Cynthiana Sheriff's Deputy (comics)
King County Sheriff's Deputy (TV series)
|Significant other(s)||Lori Grimes (ex-lover)
Andrea (TV series)
In the comic series, Shane is portrayed as a Cynthiana Sheriff's Deputy, as well as the longtime friend and fellow police officer of series protagonist Rick Grimes. After Rick is shot and put into a coma, and the zombie outbreak occurs, he rescues Rick's family and leads a group of survivors, becoming romantically involved with Rick's wife, Lori. When Rick returns to his family alive, Shane grows increasingly jealous of their relationship, as well as Rick's role in the group.
In the television series' first season, Shane is initially shown as a secondary protagonist, acting as a temporary leader until Rick's arrival and eventually assisting Rick's decisions. However, the reunion was never completely amicable, and in the second season, Shane develops into an antagonistic character, becoming more aggressive and unpredictable, due to both his envy of Rick and a growing obsession, stemming from his past relationship with Lori.
Comic book series
Shane was a police officer in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and best friend of the town's deputy sheriff, Rick Grimes. After Rick is shot and put into a coma, and after the dead begin to rise, Shane accompanies Rick's wife, Lori Grimes, and Rick's son, Carl, to a purported safe zone in Atlanta, Georgia. They later form a group of survivors living on the outskirts of the city, with Shane repeatedly telling them that the government will one day return to save them. During this time, Shane and an emotionally destitute Lori share a night of sex, something Shane had wanted for a long time.
Shane is first overjoyed when Rick joins the group, but gradually becomes jealous of Rick and Lori getting back together. Eventually, Lori brushes off Shane's advances and says their brief romance must stop. Sent into an emotional meltdown by Lori siding with Rick, Shane attempts to lure him into the nearby woods to kill him in secrecy. However, Carl happens upon the scene and shoots Shane through the neck, causing him to die seconds later from choking on his own blood. Shane's body is buried in a makeshift grave, marked by a cross of twigs. Rick later returns to the grave site and finds that Shane has reanimated; he shoots him in the head in order to finally put him to rest. However, he does not rebury him.
Shane is portrayed in the television series as a Georgia sheriff's deputy, and is the best friend and partner of Rick Grimes. Shane is wracked with grief when Rick is severely wounded in a firefight with escaped convicts. When the dead began to rise, Shane tries and fails to rescue a comatose Rick at the hospital. He is tormented by having left Rick in the hospital, but also knows that he never would have been able to save Rick's wife and son, Lori and Carl, had he not done so. Shane harbors feelings for Lori, and the two begin a sexual relationship after assuming that Rick is dead. Upon gathering the group of survivors on the outskirts of Atlanta, Shane becomes its de facto leader.
Shane is later shocked when he finds Rick alive and well among a returning scavenger group. Lori, believing Shane manipulated her into having the affair, ends their relationship. At the same time, Shane finds his leadership within the group challenged by Rick. This leads to several instances in which Shane loses both his temper and self-control. In the episode "Wildfire," he is seen contemplating whether or not to shoot Rick in the back. Later, at the CDC's Atlanta compound, Shane gets drunk and nearly rapes Lori, believing she secretly loves him.
In Season 2, Shane reveals to Lori that he plans to leave the group. However, he changes his mind when Carl is accidentally shot by a man named Otis, who leads them to the farm of his employer, veterinarian Hershel Greene. To save Carl's life, Shane goes with Otis to retrieve medical supplies where, in order to escape with the supplies, he shoots Otis and leaves him to the advancing "walkers." Lori is later revealed to be pregnant with what may be Shane's baby. When Shane learns about the pregnancy from Rick, he confronts Lori, who makes it clear that although she is uncertain who the biological father is, she and Rick alone will be raising the baby.
Shane's behavior steadily becomes even more unstable. He becomes focused on turning Lori against Rick, presumably with the hope of reigniting a relationship with her, fathering the child, and resuming leadership of the group. The group resolves to execute Randall, another survivor taken prisoner by the group after he attacked them. However, when Rick refuses to kill an unarmed man, Shane verbally taunts him, boasting that he (Shane) would make a better leader and that Lori loves him instead. Eventually, Shane secretly releases Randall and kills him in the woods, later making it appear that Randall attacked Shane and escaped. Shane then lures Rick into the woods under the pretense of searching for Randall, intending to kill Rick instead. Rick initially refuses to attack his friend and states that he believes Shane will not attack him if he is unarmed. To make this point, Rick begins to hand over his gun to Shane, which ends up being a ruse, as Rick pulls out a knife and stabs Shane. He sobs as he tells Shane that Shane made him do it. Carl, confused about what has taken place, happens upon the scene and shoots Shane through the head when Shane reanimates as a "walker."
In the season finale, it is revealed that Rick - knowing Shane's intentions in bringing him out to the woods - had played along; Rick says he had just wanted it to be over. Shane is mentioned in the first episode of season three by Carol and Daryl, and during episode eight he appears to Rick in the form of a hallucinatory version of a defender of Woodbury, whom Rick shoots dead after initially hesitating to do so. Andrea, with whom Shane had a sexual encounter, learns of his death in "I Ain't a Judas". Andrea tells Carol that Rick has gotten colder and admits her surprise that, since Shane loved Rick, Shane could have tried to kill Rick; Carol defends Rick's reasoning and explains Shane's betrayal by saying that Shane loved Lori more than Rick.
Shane Walsh was created by Robert Kirkman, the writer and creator of The Walking Dead comic book series and franchise. The character first appeared in the first issue of the comic book series in October 2003, but was expanded upon greatly in the television show adapted from the comics in 2010. As a result, Shane lives much longer in the chronology of the story in the show than he does in the comics. Kirkman described the comic book version of Shane's character as a short and quick "wham, bam, thank you ma'am" arc compared to that of his counterpart in the television series. Kirkman said he preferred the show's version of Shane and that the differences between the two versions of the character illustrate the ability to explore and evolve elements from the comic book in different ways on the show.
Jon Bernthal portrayed Shane in the television series, marking the actor's most high-profile role to date. Bernthal and Andrew Lincoln, who was eventually cast as protagonist Rick Grimes, auditioned for the show together and were the first to be chosen for the regular cast. Series creator Frank Darabont originally had all actors audition for the role of Rick, including Bernthal, and then brought back the actors under close consideration to audition for Shane and other roles. Bernthal, however, wanted to portray the part of Shane from early on and fought for the part, despite knowing that the character would die early in the series.
It was planned from the beginning of the show's development that Shane would be killed, as he was in the comics, but Darabont originally expected the character to die at the conclusion of the first season. However, when the season proved to be only six episodes, which was shorter than originally expected, Darabont decided to save the character's departure until some point in the second season. Once planning for that season began, it was decided Shane would not be killed until the season finale. Bernthal said he liked playing a role he knew would end early because it allowed him to craft a full story arc from beginning to end and "really show the colors" of the character.
Bernthal grew very close to Darabont and publicly voiced his disappointment when Darabont was forced out of the series. This led to speculation that Bernthal asked to be written out of the series due to Darabont's departure, but Bernthal stated that this was not the case. Kirkman said he loved Bernthal's performance as Shane and hated to see him leave the series, but felt it was necessary for the story. Likewise, Bernthal agreed with that direction for the character, and said he saw his role as "being a soldier for the story". Shane's death at the hands of Rick was the last scene Bernthal filmed for the show. The filming lasted all night until sunrise, and the entire cast attended out of respect for Bernthal, including Jeff DeMunn, who at that point had already left the series and flew in specifically to be there.
Bernthal did not realize until very late into filming that he would portray himself as a zombie, and said he had difficulty seeing due to the contact lenses he was fitted with. He tried to convince executive director Greg Nicotero, to allow him to say the word "Rick" as a zombie, which would mark the only time a zombie spoke in the show, but the request was denied. Upon departing from The Walking Dead, Bernthal was cast as Joe Teague in Mob City, a television drama series Darabont began developing for TNT about crime in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. Bernthal later returned to film a brief cameo in the third season episode "Made to Suffer", in which Rick hallucinates that he sees Shane alive. Bernthal had just concluded filming his role in the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street when he returned for the scene. The Walking Dead successfully worked to keep Shane's reappearance secret until the episode aired. Shane's death was accidentally leaked by the AMC TV store on March 1, 2012 in promotional materials for the Season 2 Blu-ray set.
In reviewing Shane's death, The Atlantic wrote: "With Shane out of the picture in the comics, Otis doesn't die until a zombie attack that happens many issues later. And 94 issues into the series, Sophia is still going strong. (Viewed in this light, the TV series is a kind of Bizarro-World version of It's a Wonderful Life for Shane: How many lives were worse because he lived?)."
Robert Kirkman said Shane's death was planned for the TV Series adaptation "before the first episode of season one was shot." "Frank Darabont had actually planned to do it at the end of the first season before he knew that the first season was going to be six episodes. Once the show was given a six-episode order it was decided that we would hold Shane’s death for the second season. But from the very first day of planning the second season it was mapped out that Shane would be kicking the bucket at the end of this season."
Glen Mazzara explained why Shane became a walker in "Better Angels" much faster than Amy, and why he still turned despite not getting bit: "We worked hard to make sure that revelation landed. We knew what we were doing there. We knew it would land a punch. We've never had a main character become a zombie to this extent. Those [rapid flashes of zombie mayhem] represent the storm in Shane's brain to some extent ... Amy was a weaker character. Shane is in a murderous rage ... he's going to reanimate quicker. There's just more life in that zombie, believe it or not. We do have internal rules for that."
At the 2012 Emerald City Comic-Con featuring a panel with Jon Bernthal and Laurie Holden, Bernthal revealed what his version of Shane's death would have been. The ending would have been the same up until the point when Shane and Rick walk into the clearing while searching for Randall. Rick would have asked why they are stopping in the field as they need to find their prisoner, to which Shane would have confessed that he had killed Randall which is a job Rick should have done himself. Shane then would have pulled his gun on Rick leading to similar dialogue between the two men as in the final episode, with the second change being that Shane would have admitted he was there to kill Rick. Rick would then have had similar dialogue as in the episode asking why he was doing this, as he thought they settled their issues in "18 Miles Out." Rick would have then thrown his gun away, instead of holding it in a non-confrontational position, insisting that Shane would have to kill an unarmed man. Shane would have then charged Rick and putting his gun into Ricks' face using the same insults as in the final episode about Carl and Lori, but adding a new insult such as "I tasted your wife." Rick would have then stabbed Shane to death as in the final episode, having the same dialogue as in the episode telling Shane it was his fault that he was being killed, not his own. When Shane would have came back as a zombie, Rick (having thrown his gun away), would have picked up Shane's gun to shoot him. When attempting to pull the trigger Rick would come to the realization that Shane never put any ammo into his gun, and must've brought Rick out there to have him kill him, forcing Rick to finally be more like Shane. Carl would have then had shown up and killed zombified Shane, similarly again to the final episode.
In the comics, Kirkman resolved the love triangle between Lori, Shane, and Rick very quickly, but in the TV show he decided to spend more time exploring this relationship. Bernthal said of the character in the first season, "I love the way that he feels about Rick [...] I love the friendship there. I love the way he uses this unbelievable dialogue that Frank [Darabont] wrote to be a good friend to Rick and to be by his side. Any time you can have a character that starts in one place and go somewhere completely different, that's the journey that we're mostly hungry for."
By the second season, Shane becomes the show's antagonist as his character grows darker and he finds himself at greater odds with Rick Grimes. He deteriorates throughout his run in the series, going from a confident leader who keeps the group of survivors under control to an increasingly desperate man whose actions become increasingly reactionary and morally ambiguous. However, Frank Darabont and the series producers did not seek to establish Shane as a villain because they wanted the characters to be authentic and complex rather than black-and-white.
Robert Kirkman and Jon Bernthal have rejected the classification of Shane as a "bad guy" as too simplistic, noting most of his actions stem from good intentions even when they seem dangerous or irrational. They argue that Shane is primarily driven by his desire to protect the other survivors, particularly Lori, Carl and Lori's unborn child. Shane believes he has the most pragmatic view of the post-zombie world, and thus is best qualified to both lead and protect the survivors. Bernthal feels that the character becomes more and more antagonistic as he starts to lose control of the group and, in his mind, losing his ability to protect them. Shane becomes combative with Rick out of frustration upon ceasing to be the group's de facto leader. But Bernthal also feels it stems from Shane's genuine belief that Rick is too virtuous and not pragmatic enough to lead the group, and thus is a hindrance to their safety. This difference in philosophy between the two characters is illustrated in the episode "18 Miles Out", when Shane tells Rick, "You can't just be the good guy and expect to live. Not anymore."
Bernthal argued that Shane better recognized the reality of the world after the zombie outbreak and was able to adapt to it in a more severe and arguably better way than other characters like Rick. Shane shed such concepts of guilt, shame and moral correctness in favor of the concept of survival for himself and those he cares about at any cost. From that perspective, Bernthal argued Shane's killing of Otis could be interpreted as the correct course of action in this world because, by slowing Shane down, Otis was negatively affecting Shane's ability to protect the other survivors. However, Bernthal also believes Shane recognizes on some level that shutting down all emotions is an impossible task, even in a zombie-infected world, which makes the character that much more complex and multi-layered. Bernthal called Shane "probably the most emotional character on the show".
While Kirkman likewise called Shane "one of the most nuanced characters on the show", he differed from Bernthal's interpretation of the character in that he believes Rick has adapted better to the new world than Shane. Kirkman believes much of Shane's actions stem from fear and that he is not as prepared for the post-zombie world as he claims. In contrast, Kirkman feels Rick is more centered and better prepared, as illustrated by his ability to act cold and detached at one moment, while kind and sympathetic in another. Kirkman called The Walking Dead "really a tragic story" for Shane, and said of the perception of the character, "I feel like you should be feeling sorry for Shane more than anything."
- The Walking Dead #1 (October 2003)
- The Walking Dead #8 (May 2004)
- The Walking Dead #3 (December 2003)
- The Walking Dead #7 (April 2004)
- The Walking Dead #15 (January 2005)
- "Days Gone Bye"
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- Comic Con
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