I should have known when last week’s episode of The Walking Dead concluded that the happiness I felt would be short lived. In all honesty, I knew the peace and serenity would be short lived for the characters I love so much, maybe I just didn’t want to admit it. At least last night’s episode, “Strangers”, was able to snap me out of my delusions.
First of all, let’s talk about Father Gabriel. Is he good? Is he evil? Like basically every single other person they’ve come across? I’m no fool, I know how this works, and clearly that man has some darkness in his past that he is trying to hide. Something is up with him and it’s very obvious, from the knife carvings on the outside of his oddly intact forest church to how clean his clothes are. I don’t trust him, but I feel bad for him. The man is terrified, regardless of what he was up to before he met our group. Yet, it was still sad to watch him panic.
For fans of the comics, the small screen adaptation of the Priest is spot on. I was impressed with his skiddish-ness, his deer-in-the-headlghts looks, and fear of being “found out.” So what did Father Gabriel do? Well technically, he didn’t lie to Rick, answering the three interrogation questions as honestly as he could, but leaving out one major detail. No, he hasn’t killed anyone; instead SPOILER, he just refused to let anyone in the congregation into the church because he wanted to save himself and all the food. Is this just as bad as killing them himself? It could be, but for a man of God, I think he really doesn’t care what others think, because only God can judge him, despite the ominous etching on the church that reads “You will burn for this.”
It is clear, though, that Father Gabriel judges himself. He is very guilty about his actions, and this comes across flawlessly in this episode. As fleeting as his character may seem right now, he is still around in the comics series. He may be a character the audience will have to learn to love. As a side note, Seth Gilliam, who plays Father Gabriel and is another alum of The Wire (Ellis Carver) is a fantastic actor. This role is a total 180 from what I was used to from him.
“Strangers” was the good old The Walking Dead we all know and love, it was intense, gut-wrenching, and when it ended, all I could think about is how the hell am I going to make it to next week?! Not only that, but it was very aptly titled. The group doesn’t just meet a new stranger, who doesn’t repent to strangers, but in many ways they realize how they are strangers to themselves and each other at this point.
The beginning of the episode spent a lot of time on Carol and her “strangerness.” There are things she has done that parts of the group don’t know she did: David, Karen and Lizzie. Carol is a stranger to the group, and frankly to herself. If this was the Carol who was around when her husband was beating her up or when Sophia ran off, she may have been never gotten beat and never lost Sophia. But it was all that, and her acts of murder, that changed Carol from abused housewife to full-on Linda Hamilton. Unrecognizable.
Even Carl is a stranger. He is not the kid who runs out of the house foolishly, but he still has a glimmer of humanity left in him. He innately wants to help people. He always is the one to run towards screams in the woods. Carl is the man Rick was before the apocalypse. He doesn’t torment walkers anymore, now he investigates. Carl will continue to change drastically, at least I would guess so. He is a teenage boy growing up in a very dangerous landscape. The things that happen to him now will shape what kind of man he will become, and that could go one way, or the other, if he survives. With that being said, in the comic series, at this exact point Carl is a murderer. He killed a kid his age. I doubt they will show this in the series, but it is the definitive moment of the books for Carl, in my opinion.
And then there is Rick. Between his wife being a whore (yeah, I said it), having to kill his best friend, battling The Governor, losing people he loves, and losing not-his-baby, Rick is the best stranger; he has nearly lost all of his old humanity. But we still trust his judgement. And by we, I mean the audience (I assume) and his group. They even say so by agreeing to go into the church in the first place. Let’s face it: Rick is a murderer. But he is loyal to people who don’t screw him over, and for the most part, he keeps them alive.
And now, for some rapid fire thoughts:
- From an outsider’s prospective, who doesn’t have to eat cesspool beanie weenies, it seems obvious that Eugene is a fraud. But I suppose that in a moment of “We almost got slaughtered” that he seems like their only hope, but he is no Obi-Wan for sure.
- Would you get in a cesspool of zombies and water leakage that have been cooking together for about two years?
- Would you eat the food that has been sitting in that cesspool whether it was canned or not?
- Michonne doesn’t miss her sword? Well I do. She does explain that she found it in the first place, just like she did in the comics.
- Beth! Beth! Carol and Daryl go after her! Will they be in the next ep? And so much for that whole, “we are sticking with Rick from now on” theory.
- The amount of religious symbolism was beautiful. Father Gabriel has been copying the Bible word for word. The carvings and quotes around the church are particularly poignant. Especially “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has Eternal Life” from John 6:54, in reference to Jesus’ promise of heaven on the last day.
- Episodes written by The Walking Dead daddy are always great. Thank you, Robert Kirkman for being so deliberate with your attention to detail.
At the end of last week’s episode we were shown how the “Termites” were once people, too, if you will, and that at one point all the survivors had their humanity intact, begging the question how much could a person take before they break? When Gareth comforted his poor mother in the train car I thought, “Okay, I might feel some sympathy for this guy. Maybe he’ll grow on me!” But after seeing what institutionalized evil becomes when it’s in the wild, I know that Gareth will only make the Governor look like the fat kid from Stand By Me.
But what about Bob? (Yeah that was an intentional reference to the Bill Murray movie) Ever since Bob was introduced, I have been watching week after week, biting (ha!) my nails, waiting for the terrible inevitable death that awaits him. He’s a moral compass for the group, but more than that, he is their ray of sunshine. Yes, baby Judith gives us all hope simply by surviving, but Bob tries every day to find the beauty in the life he has, which was clear in the game he and Sasha play. When Bob got pulled down by the sewer walker, my heart stopped, but then he rose up and seemingly triumphed. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t sitting there for the rest of the episode waiting for the reveal that he had in fact been bitten.
It is clear that Bob is the new Dale. Not only for the show but a stand in for the comic book version. The moral compass never stays around too long. And even though we have no official confirmation he was bitten down in the flood water, if he is in fact replacing the Dale of the comics, he was. Will we get the famed line, “Tainted Meat!”? I certainly hope so; it is one of the hallmarks of the entire comics series.
Will our group meet Gareth’s group again? Will there be a battle a la the comics? Will Gareth’s group die because they are eating someone who is about to turn? And what the hell happened to Beth? There are so many questions still looming! How exciting! Hush Comics gives “Strangers” an A- because it gave viewers exactly what we look for; a major cliffhanger, intense moments of stress, and reminders of why we love these characters so much and we tune in to root for them week after week.
All pictures belong to AMC. They are credited to Gene Page.