“Hope” is a relative term in the world of The Walking Dead. Every character has encountered such unspeakable atrocities that survival itself becomes a glorious thing. Against all odds, and after seven seasons of misery, the season 8 premiere offered Rick Grimes the first signs of a brighter future. However promising his visions may be, he still struggles to chase them in the face of more immediate threats.
No major characters died in the season premiere. “Mercy” felt a world apart from the scarring scenes of Negan, Lucille, and the season seven kickoff. There’s no gruesome Glenn death and no Abraham beatdown. Instead, the episode seemed more like connecting tissue, or the prologue to something more significant. As the showrunners made clear during and after the divisive seventh season, the upcoming episodes will have more kinetic pace, more action, and more vengeance.
Make no mistake: the deaths are coming. It’s what gives The Walking Dead its name. For now, however, everyone remains in the fold. Though the premiere featured the fewest major deaths in recent memory, its bullet count was through the roof. Rick’s followers engaged in a symphony of shooting that somehow left zero bodies on the ground.
While no one bit the dust, the events of the premiere laid the groundwork for Father Gabriel’s impending demise. The man of God is quite literally in the hands of the post-apocalyptic devil. It’s perfect poetry that will test the cruelty of one character and the grace of another.
In the comics, Gabriel has no direct interaction with Negan, so season eight is veering into unbroken ground. Though Gabriel never meets Lucille on the comics page, he meets his end in a particularly horrific way. After surviving 158 issues, he accidentally falls down a ladder in a panic, snags (and snaps) his leg, and gets stuck upside down. Beta, an alpha male leader in The Whisperers, encounters him and plunges a blade into his gut, leaving him for the dead. The horde of walkers then feast on him and leave nothing but his skeletal remains behind.
That’s about as bad as it gets, even for someone like Negan. With Gabriel trapped in a claustrophobic trailer with nothing but his clergy collar and the lunatic leader of the Saviors, things aren’t looking good. To make matters worse, they’re both surrounded by hundreds of zombies with no clear path for escape.
Episode two is coming. Unless Rick and his crew can save him, Gabriel won’t be long for this world.
The Walking Dead returns on AMC next Sunday @ 9 PM EST.