This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Walking Dead Season 8 Premiere!
Father Gabriel may not be the most popular character but the season 8 premiere will leave a lot of people wondering: will the good Father be alive or dead come episode 2? He's a man of the cloth, but in the season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, he becomes a conscience to Negan-obsessed Rick Grimes. It’s a momentary intervention, but it makes all the difference in saving Rick from his primal desires and keeping him focused on his mission.
“It’s not about you! Right?” With a grab of the shoulder and a quick thought, Gabriel reminds Rick of his earlier speech. He knows how much Rick wants to take Negan down, but as his personal Jiminy Cricket, Gabriel keeps Rick focused on the larger objective: purge the world of the sadistic Saviors and reach the idyllic future envisioned in Rick's dreams.
What Happened to Gabriel in The Walking Dead Season 8 Premiere?
Unfortunately, Father Gabriel’s benevolence comes with a cost. In seeking out Rick and sending him back to basecamp, he puts himself in the middle of a chaotic walker attack. After saving Rick from getting in too deep, his eyes lock on another (and even more helpless) target: Gregory. Though Father Gabriel sees Gregory (who just betrayed the group) stranded and screaming for help in the midst of the undead horde, he silences his fear and rushes headlong to save the shifty ex-Hilltop leader.
Gregory, of course, seeks nothing but his own gain. After receiving the Father’s help, he turns on Gabriel, steals his car, and leaves the priest for dead. While shocked at Gregory’s betrayal, Gabriel thinks fast and runs past the walkers into an abandoned trailer. Though it's dingy and surrounded by zombies, Father Gabriel seems relatively safe.
Then, out of the darkness, emerges the show’s most sinister character. Negan approaches the Father and wastes no time, telling him, “You’re about to shit your pants.” After the Lucille-led butchery of season 7, Negan’s threats should not be taken lightly.
Gabriel knows this, and his fearful eyes reflect it.
Will Negan Kill Gabriel?
In the comics, the priest enjoys a long lifespan before finally getting knocked off in Issue #158. Though he never interacted directly with Negan in the comics, Gabriel still suffered an egregiously violent death. After panicking at the sight of The Whisperers, he slipped down a ladder, got his foot stuck in a step, broke his leg, then was gutted by Beta and left for dead. The next time we saw of Gabriel, he was nothing but a sack of bones.
Though The Walking Dead has frequently diverged from its source material, it still seems like closing time for Father Gabriel. Rick Grimes may do his best to save him, but now that he’s in the hands of Negan, the die may already be cast. After all, with Gabriel repeatedly reinforcing that the mission is not about any one person, it's easy to imagine the Father might sacrifice himself - to prevent Rick from compromising the mission to save him.
It'd be a poetic end for Gabriel - a man who repeatedly betrayed the people around him (even his own congregation) in order to save his own skin. While the priest has certainly made up for his selfish deeds, a final selfless act - to ensure that others can enjoy a more peaceful life, would be the most satisfying way to see the character exit the show.
Unfortunately, we won't know for sure until The Walking Dead season 8 returns with episode 2.
The Walking Dead returns next Sunday @ 9PM ET.