Did this save Gabriel and Aaron’s life in The Walking Dead’s 1019?

Ross Marquand as Aaron, Seth Gilliam as Gabriel - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 19 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
Ross Marquand as Aaron, Seth Gilliam as Gabriel - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 19 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC /

In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “One More,” we saw Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) face trials from nature and humanity in an intense bottle episode that culminated in a game of Russian Roulette and a confrontation with a terrifying stranger, Mays (Robert Patrick).

The pair of Alexandrians found themselves far from their home, searching for sources of food based on a map newly-returned Maggie had given them of potential untapped locations. It seems they had suffered disappointment after disappointment by the time we catch up with them, and Aaron is ready to give up before they’d exhausted all the spots on their list.

Weariness, frustration and hunger had eaten away at their mental and physical stores when Aaron pleads with Gabriel to turn back. In an emotional plea, Aaron tells Gabriel that he misses his daughter Gracie and wants to go home to her, asserting he knows Gabriel misses his own daughter Coco too. Yet Gabriel implores him to go on, and they do, eventually discovering the fateful warehouse where they encounter Mays.

In the warehouse whilst searching for foodstuffs, Aaron locates a stuffed toy, remembering with Gabriel the crazy “Jingle All the Way” esque customer stampede the toy had caused one Christmas before they turn. Although they’re a world away from that life, he knows Gracie will love it and has grabbed one for her and Coco.

Aaron and Gabriel hold on to their humanity in a tense face-off with Robert Patrick in The Walking Dead’s latest episode.

These repeated mentions of their daughters aren’t just throwaway lines; it’s vital to the plot of this episode and the events that unfold when Mays makes himself known to them.

Mays seems at first a typically unhinged survivor, living on the edge, pushed there by despair and disaster. He is frightening and foreboding, capturing Aaron and setting about pitting the two men against each other in a twisted attempt to prove his distorted world view is fact.

He believes that the world is only full of murderers and thieves; violence is the only way to survive in the times they live in – and he thinks Gabriel agrees with him after eavesdropping on their drunken conversation the night before.

However, as his game of Russian roulette begins, Gabriel and Aaron show their true souls. Time has indeed hardened them – Aaron is not the fresh-faced optimist he once was, and Gabriel is not the scared padre, fearing the wrath of God. They are fighters and survivors – in every sense – now, yet something of who they were remains.

Gabriel and Aaron have something in common. It’s not their injuries or their history – it’s their future. In recent years both men have become fathers (nether biologically, but that matters, not a jot), and that fatherhood is what drives them now.

Coco and Gracie are the future and what keeps them going. Their determination to create a positive future that somehow resembles the past they knew is what drives their every move, and it’s what saves their lives as they tangle with Mays. Each man refusing to point the gun at his companion, choosing instead to point it at his own head.

Mays’ own story is one of being betrayed by family, of his own flesh and blood selling him out for a scrap of food. That final blow to his worldview seems to have been the thing that cut his last thread of sanity and turned him into the torturer Gabriel and Aaron find themselves facing.

But Gabriel and Aaron are family too – just like their daughters, they’re not blood-related, but they are brothers nonetheless – and they would never sell each other out. Even to the extent of ending their own lives to save their brother’s, leaving their own daughter fatherless to save their brother’s daughter suffering that fate. They want to be the fathers their daughters deserve, and in doing so, they save their own lives.

As detached from the world as Mays is, even he finally sees that nothing will break their bond and eventually lets them go. Their insistence on remaining family no matter the circumstance, in being the role model they want to be to build a better world for their children, is what touches the part of Mays who still can see there is hope.

It’s a reflection of the relationship that began this story, with Rick looking for his family and finding it before building another family in the ruins. Throughout his story, Rick was always motivated by his belief that they could be better, do better, for Carl and then Judith. His hope in his children and the world they could live in brought him back from the edge again and again.

In Gabriel and Aaron’s story, we see how Rick has passed that belief on to those close to him. It’s Glenn’s story and Ezekiel’s and Gabriel’s and Aaron’s. Despite the losses they all endured, the loss of friends, family and children, fatherhood drives these men and their need to keep ongoing.

It is the dichotomy of why they have to leave to forage and why they want to come back, and why they kill so others can live. That darkness that has to exist is depicted in Gabriel when he murders Mays. Yes, Mays saw sense but would it last? Gabriel knew they couldn’t take a chance on him.

And when they discovered Mays hideout, it was clear Gabriel was right. Mays wasn’t safe to have around their children. To make a better world for their offspring, they have to be horribly aware of the brutality of this one. Mays had to die so they could live and take supplies back to their family.

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The inevitable question  – and one that Aaron seems to be pondering – is how and when does the killing stop? When can Gracie and Coco live in a world where death isn’t around them every day? One More kill, one more day, one more battle, and maybe tomorrow that day will come.