Will Father Gabriel Be Crucial in the Back of The Walking Dead Season 7?
I despised Father Gabriel for a long time, like many of us. When we met him, he was a small, self-righteous coward who thought of nothing but himself over other people, and his fear caused the death of his congregation. So much for faith. But he has also gone through one of the biggest character arcs on the show. He has changed. He went through the five stages of an ego death, and came out of it stronger and more fearless.
Father Gabriel started with arrogance and denial, and talking about confessing sins to God, not strangers when Rick asked him (as the Rickites do for everyone they meet) what he has done to stay alive in the apocalypse.
But once Father Gabriel got adopted by the Rickites (my term for Rick and his group), they weren’t going to let him get away with that. Father Gabriel went into bargaining, trying to get on Maggie’s good side and offering to listen if she wanted to talk about the death of her father and Beth.
Of course, she wasn’t having any of it and pointed out that he abandoned his post. Harkening back to her father’s philosophy, she bluntly told Father Gabriel that he had a job to do, and he didn’t. Father Gabriel is a coward, but he is also self-reflective. And he showed us his progress, admitting to himself that he doesn’t deserve a collar, removing it and throwing it into a fire the group made on the road.
Once inside the safe walls of Alexandria, he went through anger, taking it out on the Rickites and going to Deeana to try to get them thrown out. More self-serving, underbelly of a snake, betraying stuff.
And that didn’t work, either. (No thanks to Deeana. She may have thought Father Gabriel was looney tunes with his whole “Satan disguises himself” rant, but she wanted to kick Rick out, anyway, and tried to use Father Gabriel’s words to get the Alexandrian’s to understand her decision. Only Rick’s arrival with the walker and Pete’s murder of Reggie changed that outcome.)
In the meantime, Father Gabriel was going through despair:
And finally, acceptance of his “worst thing” in the apocalypse:
After this very difficult emotional journey, Father Gabriel slowly, steadily, climbed up a steep wall and out of the pit he was in, and became a contributing member of the group. He took Judith to safety during the Alexandria herd invasion, faced his fear and went out to join the defeat of the walkers, and took part in the attack on the Savior satellite compound.
I know some people still don’t like him. One person on television (I don’t remember who) said that now he looks like a “Stepford priest”, or something like that. I disagree! The “freaky smile” is because Father Gabriel is new to bravery, is trying to look calm and make Negan believe a lie, while he is probably absolutely terrified on the inside! Any of us might have a freaky-looking smile in that kind of a situation!
If this is the direction the writers are going to continue to take with Father Gabriel, it looks like he could actually be significant in helping the group during the battle with the Saviors. He has already used quick thinking and deception to save Maggie from Negan (here’s an idea: Father Gabriel-spy master!), and he has provided moral support to Rick.
I am hoping we get to see more of Father Gabriel in this role. If the writers do go with this, his character definitely has more growth to explore. Father Gabriel has been through a lot and he’s worked hard to change. He’s earned it. And the group is gonna need it.
About the author:
Susan Lehman is author of the book, Faith Fighting and Forgiving: Life Lessons from The Walking Dead. In her life outside of The Walking Dead fandom, Susan has worked in politics, higher education, on film crews and in real estate. She acted and directed in theatre for several years, and her personal interests include gardening and learning about religion and history. She is a happier putting seeds in the dirt than tweeting, but she is learning—s-l-o-w-l-y—about life on the web. Susan lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. Find Susan on Twitter here.