When characters definitively die on The Walking Dead, they don't really come back in the flesh unless as a zombie. When characters stop getting chances to slide under dumpsters and surviving what seem like unsurvivable wounds, dead is pretty much gone. That's not necessarily the case for Walking Dead actors, however, as the show has managed to bring back cast members whose characters already bit the zombie apocalypse dust. Now, the show is reportedly bringing back a character who died way back in Season 2: Shane Walsh.
Despite Shane's death on the farm in the penultimate episode of Season 2, The Walking Dead will apparently bring Jon Bernthal back in Season 9. According to a report from sources to TVLine, Bernthal will appear in one episode of the ninth season. The report comes shortly after photos hit the web of Jon Bernthal in the Atlanta area with members of the cast; given that those sightings came while Season 9 is filming and not too long after news broke that Andrew Lincoln was leaving the show, the odds seemed to be that Bernthal was simply back for the traditional "death dinner" held in honor of an actor after their character died. It's still possible that he'll attend Andrew Lincoln's death dinner, but he'll evidently also appear in a Season 9 episode.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time that Jon Bernthal appeared on The Walking Dead since Shane's death. He turned up in a tense scene in Woodbury in Season 3, although only as a hallucination of Rick's. Rick is no stranger to hallucinations, as he also spent an arc of the third season hallucinating Lori. Given that history and the precedent set by other characters (such as Tyreese) of hallucinations after being bitten by a zombie, my money is on Rick hallucinating Shane after taking a fatal bite. Of course, there are no reports at this time of either Sarah Wayne Callies or Chandler Riggs appearing in Season 9 at this time, so Rick probably won't be hallucinating all the people he loved from his pre-zombie apocalypse life.
That said, we shouldn't rule out Shane returning via flashback rather than hallucination. The Walking Dead has used flashbacks in the past, and the Season 8 finale actually featured Carl -- albeit not played by Chandler Riggs -- via flashback, so Shane could definitely pop up during a blast from the past. Jon Bernthal has been working on The Punisher, so without a wig, he almost certainly won't have the full head of hair he had in the first season of the show. The upcoming version of Shane could be from a memory long before the zombie apocalypse. We might have to suspend out disbelief that Rick and Shane somehow look younger than they did in Season 1 in these flashbacks, but we've been suspending our disbelief to enjoy the zombie apocalypse ride for the better part of a decade, right?
We'll have to wait and see. AMC has not yet commented on reports of Jon Bernthal's on-camera return, and the details of Andrew Lincoln's departure are still scarce. Norman Reedus is expected to step into the spotlight as Daryl and get a substantial pay bump, but nothing concrete has been announced yet. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest on The Walking Dead. While the show won't be back until the fall, you can get your fix of zombie apocalypse fun sooner with the second half of Fear the Walking Dead Season 4, which hits the airwaves on August 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. For what you can watch in the meantime, check out our summer TV premiere guide.