I don't know, I think the only reason he signed on to begin with was Frank Darabont. They had a close relationship from working together for years. I'm not sure of the details, but he was so perturbed with how things went down with Darabont I'm not sure there was anything the writers could do to keep him. It's a shame it worked out the way it did. Hershel is a fine character - one of the best on the show at this point - but Dale was better.
Originally Posted by Sanitarium78
I'll agree that Shane's death came along at the right time. His death is really the only major one that was done for a good reason.
I strongly disagree. Sophia's death was just as meaningful, impactful (arguably), and also had a great contribution to the plot. A huge chunk of a season revolved around her arc.
I think Merle's death was also arguable from a plot standpoint. Though I still happened not to agree with it.