What The Walking Dead’s Shane Walsh Taught Us About Dying

by on 01/28/2013

shane walsh - What The Walking Dead's Shane Walsh Taught Us About Dying

When the Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Walsh was murdered on The Walking Dead (once as a reviled human being, second as a respectable zombie), to comic book fans, it was a predictable and prophesied event–though to cable viewing first-timers it may have been a bit of a shock.

Every storyline needs a strong antagonist and as Sheriff Rick Grimes’ wife-nabbing, rebel-rousing, clandestinely murderous sidekick, Shane was a character who not only invited criticism, but also polarized the audience with his morally ambiguous but efficient leading style. Furthermore, Shane was also a secondary protagonist for a genre that typically holds onto every character possible, that being survivalist folklore, since the living-dead ratio must increase as the end of the apocalypse nears.

Comic book loyalists were not actually surprised that an increasingly ruthless and scheming Shane died—just how long it took. While Rick killed Shane in the series, saving himself from an assassination, in the comic book of The Walking Dead (as early as issue #6) Shane was actually murdered by little Carl, who doesn’t have much innocence left at this point.

rick grimes shane walsh - What The Walking Dead's Shane Walsh Taught Us About Dying

Rick and Shane

Then-executive producer Glen Mazzara (who actually did have the power to keep Shane alive for a longer period of time) ordered the whacking, ultimately deciding that that Rick had to be the one to kill Shane, lest he been seen as a cowardly leader. And indeed, in episodes for the third season, Rick’s confidence increased. Shane’s death was the catalyst that turned Rick Grimes into the New World’s leader—the one everyone greatly needed just to survive another day, or another season, if you will.

Of course, the real issue that Shane Walsh’s death brings up is a political one, not just creative chatter. If you analyze the show closely, and remove all emotional attachment to various characters Shane screwed (some symbolically, one quite literally, in a car), you might have to admit that Shane’s leadership style was ruthlessly efficient and logical to a fault. If you were to live an actual zombie apocalypse, which would be comparable to a plane crash panic situation, would you be more inclined to follow the guy who is trying to protect the populace or the guy who is making too many sacrifices and thus endangering the overall mission?

You may think you know the answer, but wait! Realistically speaking, a populace of any sort has to approve of its leader and his/her “moral” behavior, particularly if it’s a socialist model society. Shane’s biggest mistake was that he was too logical and efficient, and eventually turned most of the clan against him—most importantly, the qualified rival who was capable of killing him.

Leadership lesson numero uno: Always analyze the risk of assassination.

Shane Walsh


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  • 01/28/2013 at 9:41 am

    Oversimplifying, he taught us nothing, dying is dying, you’re dead, you’re gone,that’s it, you’re out of here


  • WalkingDeadFanatic
    01/28/2013 at 3:09 pm

    I don’t know if he taught us anything in particular but i looking back at it, i loved his character and his development was incredible. It was seeing him creep into insanity more and more after every episode, more intensely starting when he kills otis to save carls life, until lori basically drove him to the edge by playing with his heart/emotions way to many times. I wish that after rick saved shane’s life, that would be the turning point where he would of started to change for the better, coming back to humanity and at least of kept him another season. My top two characters that ive had since the beginning are Rick and Daryl.


  • 01/29/2013 at 4:19 pm

    I think you meant “rabble-rousing”


  • rocstarrlyfe
    01/30/2013 at 4:31 pm

    I don’t like Rick’s character arc. It’s turning him from an justifiably, humane leader. Into this muddled, easily-swayed place-holder of a leader. It really sucks how you seem him go from cooly confident to malleable and questionable…who has been writing for the past season and a half?


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