Father Gabriel has experienced one of the most dramatic character transformations of The Walking Dead yet. He has evolved from the cowardly priest we met back in Season 5 into the badass moral compass we know him in Season 7. Below we try to answer the question of why Father Gabriel changed and how it affects the story.
Overview: We first met Father Gabriel in “Strangers,” when Rick and his group rescue him from walkers and in exchange he allows them to take refuge at his parish. Their relationship wouldn’t get any easier that season.
– Gabriel reveals he selfishly allowed his congregation to get eaten while he cowered in his parish. He later discovers Rick’s group killed members of Terminus in his church and loses it.
– During a walker attack on his church Gabriel cowers in his office and escapes through the floorboards.
– Gabriel kills his first walker in episode 508 and finally comes to terms with the brutality of the world. At the time he told AMC.com, “I think it’s a very troubling thing for Father Gabriel to kill a walker. Living or dead, murder is murder to him.”
– Maggie calls Gabriel out on his cowardice, prompting him to throw his clerical collar into a campfire.
– After arriving at Alexandria, Gabriel warns Deanna about the dangers of Rick and his group. The surprising result? No one trusted him. Seth Gilliam himself explained Gabriel’s decision in that moment to ScienceFiction.com, “I think that by seeing that this community had a need for him and how he had let down his last community triggered something in him to say something.”
– Gabriel tries sacrificing himself to a walker but decides against it. He then leaves the door to Alexandria open (which let walkers in) and scolded Sasha about Bob and Tyreese’s deaths. Sasha strikes him down and he essentially begs for death.
Overview: Gabriel spent the first half of the season on Rick’s shit list and the second half trying to redeem himself. The latter is when Gabriel REALLY began to evolve.
– Father Gabriel volunteers to help Rick’s walker diversion plan but is quickly shot down.
– Rick defiantly tears down Gabriel’s prayer circle flyers.
– Morgan saves Father Gabriel’s life during the Wolf invasion of Alexandria.
– During the giant Alexandrian walker invasion Father Gabriel suits up in walker guts alongside Rick and offers to look after Judith while Rick handles the herd. (Rick allowing Gabriel to do this signaled a HUGE trust shift between them). That night, Gabriel hands off Judith to Anna and JOINS THE FIGHT against the herd, which ended in them coming out victorious.
– Gabriel doesn’t hesitate in taking human life when he goes full Pulp Fiction on a Savior during a night raid.
– Gabriel helps rescue Carol and Maggie from the Saviors.
– Rick signals he’s finally forgiven Gabriel when he entrusts him with watching Judith AND Alexandria while he escorts Maggie to The Hilltop.
Overview (so far): Gabriel has been CLUTCH this season in terms of helping Rick’s fight against Negan.
– Father Gabriel REALLY does Rick a solid by misleading Negan into believing Maggie died and is now buried next to Glenn and Abraham. He then turns to Rick as if to say, “I got you.”
– Father Gabriel doesn’t take Spencer’s bait to undermine Rick’s authority, which lines up with his recent actions to side with and defend Rick. Also, he drops this knowledge on him:
– Gabriel urges Rosita NOT to try to kill Negan, and instead wait for the right moment.
– Father Gabriel discovers The Scavengers, a new group Rick that promises to help Rick’s fight against the Saviors in exchange for weapons. He holds one of them at knife-point and promises Rick can be trusted.
– Rosita confronts Gabriel about telling her not to kill Negan but he insists the group still needs her.
Father Gabriel evolved because he realized his purpose: help others survive. Despite allowing his entire congregation to die, betraying Rick, and being an overall annoyance, Gabriel embraced being the moral compass and therefore earned Rick and other survivors’ respect. It hasn’t been an easy road for him, and it took a while for him to realize sacrifices had to be made to ensure the survival of his friends. He’s transformed from near-worthless weakling to an essential contributor to the Survivors.
How do you view Gabriel’s recent evolution? Do you think he’ll continue to improve? Tell us in the comments below!