The Walking Dead showrunner weighs in on Gabriel shocker
Remember the days of The Walking Dead when Father Gabriel was locking parishioners out of his church because he was so afraid of dying? And then when he went behind Rick Grimes' back in Alexandria because he did not approve of Rick's extreme methods? Yeah, those days are long gone.
Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) faced down death with barely a flinch in Sunday's episode, "One More," when he and Aaron (Ross Marquand) were forced to play Russian roulette by an at least semi-psychotic survivor named Mays (Robert Patrick). Gabriel did not hesitate when having to pull the trigger with a gun pointed at his own head. Nor did he hesitate to bludgeon their tormentor to death after he showed mercy on them and seemed ready to accompany the two back to Alexandria.
That invitation was a ruse, however, and as soon as they were freed, Gabriel used Aaron's spiked club to bash Mays' brains in. It was a shocking episode that ended with another shocker after Gabriel and Aaron discovered Mays' twin brother alive and chained up in a secret space, having killed his own family after being forced to play the same game of Russian roulette. The twin stole Gabriel's gun and turned it on himself — saving Gabriel from having to make another difficult decision on what to do about this one.
But what would Gabriel have done had his gun not been taken? We already asked Gilliam what he thinks, and we also posed that question to showrunner Angela Kang. Below, Kang weighs in on keeping Gabriel alive past his comic book expiration date, whether the post-apocalyptic priest made the right move with Mays, what he would have done with the brother, and a whole lot more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we get into this episode, I think it's worth noting that Father Gabriel on TV has now outlived his comic book counterpart, who died in the Whisperer War. Was there thought of killing him off there, and why did you ultimately give him a stay of execution?
ANGELA KANG: We often don't kill characters at the same time or in the same way that their comic book counterparts die. We do sometimes. So I think anytime there's a comic book death that's memorable, there's always a conversation about it. And sometimes like, "Oh yeah, we absolutely have to do this." And then in this case, I just felt like there was more story to tell with Father Gabriel. And I think Seth is a wonderful part of the cast.
But there were just some more things that we wanted to explore with him that this gave us the opportunity to. I think he's been on this journey where he's just becoming this really slightly dark, badass priest. I think there's questions of faith that he's got that I think are really interesting for us as storytellers. So that was why the stay of execution.
And we get to see all that in this episode. So you put Aaron and Gabriel together here. Obviously, a lot of thought goes in when you have an episode like this that is focused so closely on two main characters. The question is, why these two? Why put Aaron and Gabriel together? What was the thought behind that?
We thought it was interesting to put these two together because in a lot of ways, they are the leadership of Alexandria. And we also think it was fun to highlight two characters that aren't highlighted in this way as often. And I think both of them have been on these journeys as fathers, and as people who really had this very, very humane "Let's find the good in people and bring them into our fold." That was their overriding philosophy for a long time.
And I think both of them became more hawkish as a result of the Whisperer War, and are at a crossroads in terms of what they believe about the world out there, and about their role as people who others rely on for safety. So we just thought that there was some fun to play there. I also think both Ross and Seth as actors, they have hidden wells of being able to be quite funny, as well as warm, as well as they could be intense when called upon. So it just felt like a good pairing for us for the type of story that we wanted to tell here about what it's like to find survivors out in the world.
There's a lot of disillusionment in this episode at different times from the different people. Let's start with Aaron, who says at the beginning that he doesn't want to keep looking at places for supplies. He misses his old job as a recruiter. He's thinking about those days. What's going on with Aaron?
After everything that happened with the Whisperers, I think Aaron is just feeling like "Wouldn't it be great if we could just catch a breath for a second, and go back to a version of the way things were?" But he's very realistic in knowing that that's not going to happen any time soon. They're really going to have to work to achieve what they need, and to put the community back.
And so Aaron is somebody who's really, really fighting to hold onto his hope. Because in general, he tends to be a character that just tends to look on the bright side, or tries to. And he's in a dark place, and he's tired, and he misses his kid. And it just feels like everything is a grind for them, and that's where the survivors are at when we open up.
So that's where he's at. But I think in order for them to have this moment of levity where they're drinking and playing cards and stuff, it puts him in more of a mood to think, "Well, maybe there is some hope out there." Of course, for that to all be dashed by the dark events of the episode.
Let's talk about the Gabriel side of that, because he's telling Aaron, "I don't want to preach anymore." He says that line about "evil people aren't the exception to the rule, they are the rule." What's going on here? Where does this come from? Because it doesn't seem like the type of thing you can just chalk up to a few drinks, as he tries to do later to Mays. It seems like there's obviously more there.
Yeah. Just for Gabriel's story, in terms of time aired, it feels like it was a million years ago. But for Gabriel in story timeline, it's not been that long since Siddiq was killed by Dante, who was the Whisperer spy within their midst. It's not been that long since Rosita got injured really badly, and that their people were attacked by the Whisperers, and where he looked like he was maybe going to die at the hands of Whisperers as he was making a last stand inside that building that they'd all been holed up in, as he was trying to make sure everybody got out.
So I do think that Gabriel has been on a journey where things just feel a little dark for him, and where he's got questions about who people are. And he himself started the apocalypse doing a really dark thing. And so just the nature of humankind is something that's just foremost on his mind.
Gabriel tells Mays all about this incredible community they have with other people that had lost their way and found their way back, and Mays finally lets them go, and then Gabriel puts a spiked club in his brain. What gives there? Because that's an extreme response, obviously, to a guy that is clearly a little deranged, but then did have a moment of showing them mercy.
Yeah. I think we talked about it as, ultimately, even if this guy breaks in that moment, in some ways Gabriel is just pulling the ultimate bluff. The guy said that he didn't bluff too easily, but he does bluff him. And Gabriel just makes this gut instinct decision that this guy, this is a really bad guy. He's a dangerous guy. He is a guy who will turn against his own family member just over who knows what.
And he's obviously been carrying that. Who knows how many people he's played this dark game with? He just must be too far gone. And then, the grim discovery they have afterwards really proves that his instinct was right. And I think for Gabriel, he just had certainty in that moment that this is not a person who is ultimately redeemable. How could you ever trust this person? And whether or not that is objectively true, it's definitely where his headspace is at right now.
What do you think? Do you think it was the right move? In that world, and the world of "The Grove," and in a world of where one person can come in and create a lot of damage, did he do the right thing?
I think in that world, I think he did the right thing. I think that this was a person who has some sick ideas of how to deal with conflict. The world is nothing but conflict.
Here's my what-if question for you this week: The brother that they find in the secret space, if he doesn't steal Gabriel's gun and kill himself, what does Gabriel do with him?
That is a really good what-if. I think maybe Gabriel kills the brother anyway.
Why? Just too much of a risk?
I think he's also too much of a risk. It's these two brothers who turn on each other in such a terrible way. He carved up his brother's face. He tried to steal all his stuff. He would've definitely killed his own brother. He was willing to play the game. And the interesting thing is with Aaron and Gabriel, they're both selfless. And when they play the roulette game, they were each willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to save the other. But that guy put a bullet in his wife's head. So, it's a dark family.
That's putting it mildly. Tell me about casting Robert Patrick here in not just one role, but two. Where did this story come from, and how did the T-1000 end up playing Mays?
The story was a pitch from the writers of this episode. It was Jim Barnes and Erik Mountain. And they went off and were brainstorming, and came up with this interesting pitch about gambling, and Russian roulette, and just really about the philosophy of various survivors that are out there in the world. And they came up pretty early with this idea that there's this emotional component to, what happens if you've gotten to the point where you will just turn against, family member against family member? And in really, really ugly ways.
And at first, the roles were supposed to be just brothers. Like, who knows, they didn't look alike. But at a certain point, they pitched, "What if we just had, it's all one person and they're twins? And that just feels even more awful, because they've been together since literally the womb." And we cast Robert Patrick, his name came up from casting, and all of us immediately just perked up and were like, "Oh my God, can we actually get him?"
I'm such a huge fan of his body of work, just the Terminator stuff alone is so awesome. But just other roles that he's had, I just think he's a tremendous actor, and we all got really, really excited about the idea. And he, fortunately, was game. He loves the idea, he loved the script, and got excited to come and play with us. And he couldn't have been lovelier.
And it was just one of those great things where casting threw out an idea and it all came together. Sometimes it happens that way. We have amazing casting directors. So I was really grateful. I wish we had a longer arc for him to play, but I love that he was willing to come on and do this one role for us.
What's coming up next on The Walking Dead?
The next episode is called "Splinter," and it goes back to our group that we left at the train yard, surrounded by a bunch of people in white trooper armor. So that is Princess, and Ezekiel, and Yumiko, and Eugene. And it is a Princess-focused story, where we're going to start to learn a little bit about what they have gotten themselves into. And where we will also start to learn more about Princess and play, I think, what I hope is a cool story about her and the friendships that she has with this group. And more about her past, as well.