The Walking Dead: Hershel and Father Gabriel

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) - The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney/AMC
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) – The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney/AMC /

What makes Hershel  such a beloved character and Father Gabriel so hated when they have so many similarities-so many things in common. It seems like we loved Hershel even when he was forever telling Rick to get off his land. He consistently told Rick not to get comfortable there. He assumed that once Carl was better they would be moving on. He warned Maggie not to let then get to cozy in their kitchen and dining room when Lori and Carol were making dinner. He told Maggie he wished she weren’t getting close to Glenn. Hershel wasn’t very welcoming for most of season two.

Hershel was naive about the walkers. He had his family in the barn-Patricia feeding them. The Greene family keeping a huge secret. But even before we knew that secret, we knew that Hershel didn’t see the walkers for what they were. But we were okay with Rick trying to negotiate and work with Hershel. We gave Hershel a lot of wiggle room. We felt for Hershel when his family came out of the barn and we watched his mind open just like those barn doors and what the world had become came shuffling toward him.

Father Gabriel is a religious man like Hershel. Also like Hershel, he was sheltered from the reality of the situation with the walkers and what the world had become since the dead started roaming the land. Gabriel offered a safe place for our survivors in the church, much like Hershel offered the farm after the group left the quarry. So why is Gabriel so universally hated and Hershel so loved?

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The first answer I imagine hearing in the minds of the reader is that he’s a coward. That’s fair. I wonder if Hershel had met the group at the time Gabriel did and in the same state Hershel started where he believed the walkers were just sick and witnessed the slaughter of the Terminus people, if he would have developed the same relationship with Rick as he did meeting Rick back at the beginning. Or vice versa.

If a season two Rick and group met Father Gabriel, if perhaps Gabriel might have slowly developed a different relationship with them and our group might have helped Gabriel in a different way that post-Terminus, they just didn’t have time to do. Or maybe I’m mistaken, maybe the cowardly nature of Gabriel would have turned fans against him no matter when they met him.

Was it because we needed Hershel? We needed the farm. We wanted him to come around and let us stay there. Also, we knew from the start that Hershel was a kind man. When we met him, he was helping to save Carl. When we met Gabriel, we were helping save him from walkers. We didn’t really need him. We didn’t even need him to consent to letting us use his church. We had moved beyond those niceties now in the end of the world scenarios. Gabriel was going to let us use his church whether he liked it or not. He couldn’t paraphrase Hershel and say, “My church, my rules, my say.” 

Whatever the answer, regardless of the similarities, Hershel and Gabriel are two very different characters and have been received by fans very differently. I don’t know if fans will ever change their minds about Gabriel or where the writers will go with his story.  But no matter what happens, one thing I think we can all agree on is we all miss Hershel!

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