And with Shane's -- Jon Bernthal -- departure Sunday night, the many fans of "The Walking Dead" have now come full circle: They are, in a very real sense, back to the very beginning.
Or to put this another way, the entire series Sunday night rebooted. Moments like these arrive in any major show and the list as we know is kind of long -- Big Pussy ("The Sopranos"), Kutner ("House"), Terry Crowley ("The Shield"), Caitlin Todd ("NCIS"), Rita ("Dexter") -- and they all serve to remind viewers that a.) Life is short; b.) don't fall in love with a major character unless he/she is the lead; c.) when they start to display serious character flaws that would compromise the health, safety and well-being of their loved ones, then it's lights out; d.) when they display ungodly amounts of hubris, then it's also lights out; and e.) when their names pop up in the trades as someone who thinks they are central to the series' success and therefore deserving of a raise, then you can be certain that death will come knocking soon, too.
Bernthal's Shane's fate was sealed, I believe, behind doors a.), b.), c.) AND d.) In other words, anyone who didn't see this one coming -- especially after Dale bought the farm - had to be a walker himself or herself. Shane also dies (essentially under the same circumstances) in the comic book series, although he assumed such a huge role in this series, there was reason for fans to assume this Shane's fate might be different.
That said, this is still a major reboot, in the same way that Jimmy Darmody's end on "Boardwalk Empire" (though not quite Eddard's death in "Game of Thrones") had to be a reboot. Shane -- was, is -- the father of Lori's baby. Shane is -- was -- clearsighted enough to understand Rick's family even more than Rick did. And Shane was more of a father to Carl than Rick as well. Shane had turned murderous of course -- breaking Randall's neck in the woods, effectively killing Otis -- but he and Rick were still brothers' in arms at the very outset of this series, with Shane as loyal partner, comrade and friend, who wouldn't even leave Rick in the hospital bed until he was certain (or at least believed) he was dead.
But the show has come full circle now because that relationship -- initially a fraternal one -- had became so fraught and antagonistic on every level that something had to give, or someone had to give, and because that someone was not about to be Rick, we end up with last night's conclusion. Like Darmody/Nucky Thompson, there was pretty much no where else to go with the story, and if you decide -- as showrunners do -- that a series (like these two series) is really about the evolution (or devolution) of the lead characters, then Shane's fate was foretold from the very first scene.
Now, where does this goes from here? It’s all Rick from here on out. Glenn Mazzara seems to confirm as much in this debriefing that aired on MTV News: