Spoilers for The Walking Dead 8x01 and The Walking Dead comic book.
Unlike last year’s horrific season opener that saw the deaths of two longtime survivors, all of Team Family made it out of the season 8 premiere unscathed. After launching a surprise attack on the Sanctuary — home base of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors — the united forces of the Alexandria, Hilltop and Kingdom communities retreated after an advancing Walker horde overtook the compound.
Only problem? Not everyone made it out.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who stuck around to save the life of traitorous Hilltop figurehead Gregory (Xander Berkeley), ended up accidentally left behind and trapped in a trailer with Negan, the pair surrounded by a massive swarm of Walkers with no apparent means of escape.
After spending the last couple of seasons seeking redemption from his past cowardly ways and earning his colors, Gabriel has become a brave member of the group who contributes — actively stepping up to become a badass, gun-wielding padre who protects his flock. With his penance paid, could Father Gabriel be the first big death of season 8?
In the books, Gabriel survived from issue #61 until issue #158, where he ultimately met his end during a conflict against a new group known as the Whisperers. These new enemies lead an army towards Alexandria, with Gabriel mounting a water tower on patrol. Startled by the size of the approaching army, Gabriel ran for a ladder only to trip, fall and have his ankle snapped. Caught upside-down in the ladder and rendered helpless, Gabriel encountered Beta, a hulk of a man and second in command leader of the Whisperers. Beta plunged a knife into Gabriel’s gut, leaving the powerless priest for the Walkers, who quickly devoured Gabriel down to the bone.
The show has yet to introduce or even tease the Whisperers, but the live-action adaptation has never followed the comics to the letter: one of the biggest differences between the show and the comic is how the show adapts deaths, often switching up who dies, how they die and when they die.
Speaking with ComicBook.com, Gilliam compared Gabriel’s brutal comic book death to Glenn’s, saying:
"Two thirteen year old kids came over, so eager to show me this thing. I was like, 'Oh, that's bad. That's bad! It's not over yet? He's what? He breaks his ankle then he gets his stomach cut or he gets his throat slit then he gets fed to the bone! I think it's actually a more dramatic death than Glenn, though, Glenn trying to gurgle out Maggie with the bat is hardcore.”
It’s a death, Gilliam says, that would be a satisfying end for his time with the show.
"I think that's more than a worthy death, man," Gilliam said. "That's like three deaths in one. I don't know how I would play it. I would definitely lose my voice before the throat was cut but I think that would be the coolest way Father Gabriel could go. He's eaten to the bone! Literally, he's hanging there."
The show often remixes comic book deaths, but with Father Gabriel trapped with Negan and in such close proximity to a large herd of Walkers… well, we’ll say a prayer for the preacher.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.