Season 9 will mark the end of an era on The Walking Dead when Andrew Lincoln takes his leave as Rick Grimes after the better part of a decade. Details are still scarce about how and why Rick will leave the series, but it seems that a long-lost friend-turned-enemy will turn up before the end. Jon Bernthal will reprise his role as Shane in one episode of the ninth season, and it's probably safe to say that Shane's arrival will be connected to Rick's departure.

Of course, Shane died way back at the end of Season 2, so The Walking Dead will have to find a way and a reason to bring him back without resurrecting him. After all, Shane died as a man and as a zombie, so he's not coming back in the flesh. The odds are that he'll be back in a dream or a flashback or a hallucination. The bigger question is why Shane will be back on Rick's mind after so many years, especially since Rick is probably going to have to die for Andrew Lincoln's departure to make sense in the show. So, in honor of the upcoming return of Shane, we've put together some ways that the show could totally bring him back.

Rick Remembers The Good Times And Finds Closure

Rick has lost a lot of people over the years of The Walking Dead, and Shane was arguably the first big personal loss for Rick. Sure, he was affected by the deaths of Sophia and Dale, but Shane was Rick's best friend and basically brother from before the zombie apocalypse. Even worse, Rick had to go ahead and kill Shane himself after Shane's mind was warped from jealousy and guilt, and Rick hasn't really gotten closure the way he did for Lori and Carl. Season 9 could see Rick thinking back on the good times before Shane lost his mind and gaining a sense of closure. Flashbacks to the good times could help Rick make peace with what happened to Shane, likely shortly before Rick himself bites the dust.

Rick Remembers The Bad Times

Hey, just because Rick feels forgiving enough not to murder Negan doesn't mean he's happy to forgive and forget everything that's happened in the zombie apocalypse, and Carl didn't leave any notes explicitly instructing his dad to think back to the farm and get over Shane's betrayal. Rick could flash back to moments of Shane showing his darker side, either before the zombie apocalypse or in scenes taking place back when the characters were still on the farm. Remembering the bad times could make sense if Rick is doubting himself for keeping Negan alive; if he remembers how everything went sour with Shane, he may be inclined to go ahead and kill Negan. Maggie, Daryl, and Co. wouldn't exactly disagree. Closure may not be a priority for Rick when it comes to Shane. Maybe he'll remember Shane as a hard lesson he had to learn about what it takes to survive.

Rick Revisits Shane's Death

Shane's death was kind of a disaster for Rick and the other survivors back in Season 2, and not just because Carl's gunshot to put zombie Shane down attracted a herd. The other survivors were shocked at what Rick did to put Shane down, and killing Shane kicked off the Ricktatorship and led him to declare that their group wasn't a democracy anymore. Thinking back on the lead-up to and consequences of Shane's demise could be relevant to Rick in Season 9. Given that The Walking Dead presumably won't bring Jon Bernthal back just to reshoot Shane's death, Rick could revisit that fateful night via hallucination with Shane appearing to him. Rick has a history of hallucination as we saw with Lori in Season 3, and Tyreese's death set a precedent for dead friends appearing after a zombie bite. A dying Rick trying to get his affairs in order with a vision of Shane over his shoulder could be interesting and poignant.

Rick Grows Paranoid Of Being Betrayed Again

The Season 8 finale ended on the reveal that Rick's decision (with Michonne's support) to keep Negan alive did not sit well with three important people: Maggie, Daryl, and Jesus. The three agreed that they would bide their time until they would "show" Rick that what he did was wrong. If Rick begins to suspect that his pals are plotting against him, he could definitely start to see parallels to the downfall of his relationship with Shane, especially since Daryl stepped up to become Rick's right hand man after Shane was taken out of the picture. Rick has called Daryl his brother, and both of Rick's kids have been big Daryl fans. Perhaps a sleep-deprived Rick or even a bitten Rick could begin to hallucinate/dream about Shane if he begins to fear a Shane situation arising with Daryl, and we know Daryl isn't going anywhere.

Rick Goes Back To The Start

Rick's zombie apocalypse journey really began with Shane, who attempted to rescue him from the hospital back when the dead first started rising. When he was unable to get Rick out and believed Rick to be dead after the power went out, the medical equipment stopped working, and walkers started to swarm the hospital corridors, Shane had no choice but to flee. Still, he didn't run before pulling a stretcher in front of Rick's door, preventing any zombies from entering and getting an easy meal. Perhaps Rick's journey will end the way it began: unwell with a vase of flowers next to his bed and Shane by his side, even if this Shane is a hallucination or dream. Rick's story could come full circle at the very end by going back to the start.

The End Of An Era

The death of Rick would mean the end of an era. He's currently the only living character on The Walking Dead who appeared in the pilot, although Morgan is technically still alive. Nevertheless, Rick's passing would mean the end of the family unit that set out from King County, Georgia all those years ago. Shane was the first member of that family unit seen with Rick in the entire series; wouldn't it make sense for The Walking Dead to mark the end of such a huge era by reuniting Rick and Shane somehow? We can bet that the show has something special planned for Rick's big exit, and bringing him back together with Shane at the end of everything could make for a fitting farewell, assuming the Shane who shows up is sane Shane and not Season 2 Shane.

We'll have to wait and see. The Walking Dead returns for Season 9 in the fall on AMC. Be sure to tune in to see Rick's final arc and catch Jon Bernthal's return as Shane. For what you can watch in the meantime, check out our summer TV premiere guide. If you want to relive some of Shane's early days on The Walking Dead, you can find the full first seven seasons of the show streaming on Netflix.

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