by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 19.
Father Gabriel has gone through a crisis of faith more than once before. He fell into despair when he sacrificed his congregation to save himself. He lost hope when he was ill with the infection that took his eye. And now, it is clear that he has lost faith again, even more frustrated and despairing than Aaron as they searched fruitlessly for supplies. It feels a bit like this is ‘rinse and repeat’ with Gabriel. He swings back and forth from confident and leader-like to weary and despondent. It is tiring to watch, just as it must feel for the character to exist in the apocalyptic world. In this episode, I could feel the effort it took for Gabriel to make it through ‘one more’ day, ‘one more’ scouting location.
Even so, this bout of depression feels worse than the others, in that Gabriel seems to have not only lost his moral compass, but had it turned in the opposite direction. When he tells Aaron that ‘evil people are the rule’, it reveals how Gabriel has lost faith in humanity, save perhaps for the few people whom he considers friends. Gabriel’s murder of Mays makes it evident that Gabriel never had any intention of taking Mays back to Alexandria, and had been lying the entire time. The moment was shocking because it was not what viewers expected to see from Gabriel, and it shows us how far he has fallen.
Mays is an interesting character, and I wish we had had a chance to get into his head a bit more. It is easy to see why Mays acted the way he did, having been betrayed by his brother, and then coming upon two men who broke into his home and destroyed his boar/food supply. The isolation and anger at his brother must have driven Mays to the edge of sanity, and then when he saw Father Gabriel, a man who should have been able to provide guidance, and overheard what Gabriel said to Aaron… Mays must have felt as if everyone in the world truly was faithless. That Aaron (and Gabriel) could convince him otherwise toward the end of the episode, enough that he lowered his gun, freed Aaron, and told them his name, is significant, and indicates that perhaps there could have been a redemption arc for Mays. But we will never know. Mays did not kill his brother, which indicates that he might have retained some semblance of decency… although we don’t for certain know how his brother’s family died.
For his part, Aaron has occasionally been despairing, but he has, at heart, always been a good and caring person. This contrasts so greatly with Gabriel, and I wonder if Aaron might have made the better pastor, had his life gone in a different direction. Aaron has suffered just as much pain, disappointment and loss as Gabriel, yet Aaron has weathered these storms and maintained his caring, optimistic personality.
Despite the ‘down’ nature of this episode, there were a couple of lighthearted moments. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Gabriel was laughing at Aaron’s scream, and Aaron was laughing at Gabriel’s mishap in the mud. Hmmm… what does it say about me that I most liked the scenes where they found humor in each other’s misery? I also laughed at the ‘skin sleeves’ walker hanging through the broken door.
It feels like this extension of Season 10 is (at least so far) full of hopelessness and despair. First, Maggie’s people were killed off one by one, and Alexandria was found in a nearly-destroyed state. Then we got a glimpse into Daryl’s past and heartache. This episode focused on Father Gabriel and his inability to recapture his faith. I am hoping that the rest of the extended season isn’t so bleak!
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode shows Gabriel and Aaron searching the warehouse before coming across a man named Mays. Walking Dead: Our World is running a One More event, playing Father Gabriel encounters.