The Walking Dead’s Father Gabriel: From crying on a rock to becoming a rock

Father Gabriel. The Walking Dead. AMC.
Father Gabriel. The Walking Dead. AMC. /

Father Gabriel has come a long way on The Walking Dead from the crying man on the rock kicking at the walkers and crying out for help.

Our group on The Walking Dead had just escaped from Terminus after being trapped in a train car there upon their arrival. They had hoped it would be the sanctuary that it promised to be after the Governor took away Hershel and their prison home. The only good thing about Terminus was that it reunited the group after the prison fight scattered them.

When they met Father Gabriel, he was shouting for help from atop a boulder in the woods. They killed the walkers for him, but they were not in a friend-making mood after their recent experiences. Father Gabriel’s nervous jokes did not endear him to them the way it might have on another day. (Daryl’s “We brought dinner,” dry humor wasn’t met with so much disdain.)

Unlike the character of Michonne, the audience didn’t have any knowledge of Gabriel in addition to what the group had to help us to like him or trust him while the group did not trust him. We didn’t know if he was affiliated with Terminus or what he might be hiding.

Even when we found out that what he was hiding wasn’t as evil as a human butcher shop, his story of locking out the people of his church for fear of being overtaken himself just added to his persona of cowardice, which is not a way to win fans on The Walking Dead. 

He didn’t even have the quirkiness of Eugene on his side. He was not only afraid, he was naive; reminiscent of Eugene’s funny line, “I think their getting faster,” when he first met Abraham and was looking for protection.

The group allowed Father Gabriel to accompany them on their journey to Washington D.C., but they never really accepted him. Carl tried to teach him about weapons early on, but it was much too soon for Gabriel. He had been so sheltered that he wasn’t ready to invite everything in yet. Witnessing the walkers in the food pantry, the slaughter of the men in the church and finding out there were people eating people, was overwhelming for the poor guy.

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When they arrived in Alexandria, Father Gabriel was introduced to a whole new world of people more like him. People who had been surviving in this world, but hadn’t been forced to become brutal warriors. For whatever reason, he was torn here. This seemed like paradise. But this paradise wanted these fighters.

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I’m not sure, but I think maybe Gabriel’s denial led him to wanting Rick’s group to be gone so that he could live in this new paradise and have a chance to redeem himself by helping these good people, who knew nothing of his past. Maybe the world didn’t have to be what he saw become of Rick and the rest.

Through the events in Alexandria,  Rick opened the eyes of not only the Alexandrians, but of Father Gabriel as well. Wanting to break through that denial and face this new world, Gabriel  flirted with suicide by provoking walkers and Sasha. But walkers can’t be provoked by emotion, and Sasha and Maggie offered their hands instead of their bullets.

Gabriel tried to make amends with Rick and the others by volunteering to help, but his help was largely rejected. Carl resumed his weapons lessons with Gabriel. Gabriel tried to become a priest again by ministering to the needs of the Alexandrians; perhaps his lessons could help these sheltered people. Then the herd arrived.

This time when the dead came, he didn’t lock the doors. He opened the door and went out to fight.

After protecting Judith and fighting the herd as part of the new larger family in Alexandria, Father Gabriel was on his way to understanding this new world and how he could be a part of it. He might never be a badass warrior, but he could be a protector and an adviser. He could have a role in the community.

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Many fans are happier about the protector part, but I really love the adviser part. We have quite a few badass warriors in our group. They need someone to talk to in the quiet times. It’s not always easy for the warriors to stop and think because they are so adept at acting. The advisers have the ability to observe and reflect, and to see what’s coming so they can warn the warriors and help them take better actions.

We don’t know! We can’t. We don’t get to. We’re here now… and we can look to the future.

Now that Gabriel has shattered his denial, things have become clearer. He has shown that he is quite good at helping others clear their cloudy thinking.

My favorite pieces of advice from Father Gabriel include these pearls of wisdom that could apply to so many things:

“We don’t know! We can’t. We don’t get to. We’re here now… and we can look to the future.”

“It shouldn’t have been you. It shouldn’t have been anyone. We’ll win, but we need to wait for the right moment or create it… together.”

“We’ll get through today. Then we’ll find a way to go forward, how to beat this. I have faith in us. I have faith in you. Things change.”

Next: A look at Carol's emotional journey on TWD

Father Gabriel is no longer alone or focused on himself and crying out for help from strangers from atop rock. He is becoming the rock for them.