This week on ‘The Walking Dead:’ Strangers


Issue 61 cover of "The Walking Dead" comic, featuring the introduction of Father Gabriel. Comic art by Charlie Adlard.

Bennett Morgan, Entertainment and Graphics Staffer

Stalkers and churches and cannibals, oh my!

The second episode of “The Walking Dead” Season 5, “Strangers,” was certainly strange in a multitude of ways. Let’s start with the weirdest part of the episode: Father Gabriel Stokes.

We have seen a lot of surprising moments in this show, but if you asked me if I ever anticipated finding a clerical vestment-clad priest on a rock in the middle of the woods, I would have said no.  However, we saw just that. Father Gabriel Stokes is saved by Rick and friends, and he subsequently offers them sanctuary in his secluded church just down the road.  Based on references and statements made by characters in the show, I’m estimating that it has been one and a half years post-apocalypse.  By some enigmatic chance, Father Gabriel has survived—presumably alone— in a church for all of this time without a weapon. Unless he dishes out a mean scripture-inflicted paper cut, I can’t see how he has been dealing with the undead.

We also see  unnerving hints that Father Gabriel is concealing a dark secret. The bold writings in his journal reading “Thou shalt not kill” and the ominous engraving on the back of the church reading “You’ll burn for this” clearly mean something, and let’s not forget about his nervous and hesitant response to Rick’s inquiry of how many people he has killed.   Father Gabriel is showing  psychological distress and an evident aura of guilt.   He seems pathetically taken aback by the world around him, as if he is still unable to reason with the fate of mankind. Could this be related to the presumed secret he is hiding?

Let’s talk about the looming storyline. Sgt. Abraham Ford has been pushing incessantly to recruit Rick’s group for his mission to escort Dr. Eugene Porter to Washington D.C in hopes of eliminating the undead with a biological weapon.  Finally, with a joking push from baby Judith, Rick agreed to join Abraham on his mission. It is unlikely they will arrive in D.C during this season, but this symbolizes something for our characters.  Now, more than ever, there is something to fight for.  Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  They have survived this long, done the worst of things to get here, and the chance to put the world back into order has presented itself….if they can live to see the day.

Hold on folks, there’s a new baddie in town who is blocking the road to D.C: Gareth. Gareth was the former leader of Terminus, and currently acts as the figure head of the surviving members of Terminus, appropriately dubbed the “Hunters” for their practice of stalking and eating human beings.   Gareth made his appearance in the most talked about scene in the episode, which included the revelation that Bob Stookey had been kidnapped by Gareth and the Hunters. Bob is seen tied up to be their next meal, and the Hunters have taken and roasted his left leg, which spawned more relevant internet memes than I am comfortable with. However, something about Gareth’s character jumped out at me that makes him more intriguing than any regular antagonist.   Contrary to the Governor, who was driven by a lust for revenge and a psychopathic streak, Gareth is a far more rational and objective fellow. He is also, however, a cannibal. It is a bizarre psychological complex: how a group of people can turn to such awful means of survival due to trauma and desperation. Being a cannibal is not at all reasonable, nor is it justifiable, but Gareth’s intentions are, in his mind, practical rather than malevolent. Gareth made clear to Bob that while the destruction of Terminus was upsetting and it was a “cosmic justice” for Bob to be the first victim of their hunger, it was important that he knew nothing was personal. If there were a more convenient group to hunt, I believe that Rick would be left alone. We have seen Gareth go so far as to listen to Bob’s plea for life in the season premiere and consider the proposal to go to Washington D.C.  Gareth, however, feels as though mankind is too far gone, and has prioritized the survival of his group over anything else.

Bad move, Hunters.  This is Rick’s group we’re talking about.   The Hunters have bitten off far more than they can chew.