This week's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead will see The Wire's Seth Gilliam join the series as Father Gabriel Stokes, a troubled man of the cloth with a secret past.
Gilliam was one of the series' worst-kept secrets; as soon as he was hired, rumors began to swirl that he would play Father Gabriel. Producers tried to keep his role a surprise, but photos of him in the clerical collar showed up online before AMC was ready to announce.
The character was announced on May 5, 2014 under the name "Michael Todd", described as a school guidance counselor who had an issue with a couple of his students, until the casting was revealed at Comic Con International: San Diego in July.
There has been speculation that Father Gabriel would show up for quite some time; he first appeared in the comics right around the same point that many of the events from the second half of Season Four were taking place, and many fans believed that Stokes may have been the one to drive away with Beth last season, since the car seemed to have a cross in the back window.
Stokes in the TV series is described as "having two sides, displaying a friendly, puckish humor but also having a haunted side stemming from a dark secret."
In the comics, Father Gabriel lives alone, holed up in a church, when we first meet him; his fear over the zombie apocalypse led him to turn away members of his flock when they came seeking sanctuary, which allowed him to survive but left him tortured by guilt.
Forced from the church to forge for supplies for the first time since the outbreak began, he encounters Rick's group on the road. In time, he joins them and goes on the road with them to Washington, DC.
When a member of their group went missing at the hands of The Hunters, Gabriel brought them back to the church to recuperate and regroup. Ultimately he was appointed as the leader of the church in the Alexandria Safe Zone and remains so to this day, one of a very few characters who doesn't yet have an established time of death in the comics.
It wouldn't be surprising -- since almost all of the characters are accounted for in shots from the Comic Con trailer that show them at Gabriel's church -- to see the group follow him home for a different reason. Perhaps it's Beth who they plan to set out in search of. Perhaps they're just dropping him off at home, since he doesn't seem from the preview scene released on Talking Dead last week to have a vehicle.
In any event, welcome him to the show...should be interesting to see where we go from here.