The vicious slaying of Whisperer spy Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) at the hands of a vengeful Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) was a direct reaction to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) escape from jail, The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang says when explaining the shock midseason finale death. Following Dante's murder of Siddiq (Avi Nash) — father of baby Coco, the daughter of Gabriel's girlfriend Rosita (Christian Serratos) — Gabriel told the prisoner Whisperer his family would never be the same before stabbing Dante more than a dozen times. The bloody execution came after a mysterious accomplice helped Negan escape in 10x04, “Silence the Whisperers,” while Negan awaited Gabriel's deciding vote on his fate following the accidental slaying of Margo (Jerri Tubbs).
“For Father Gabriel, we were playing with how he’s always had an interesting relationship with Negan,” Kang told The Hollywood Reporter. “At times, it's contentious. Then there are times where there's a mutual fondness between them. We got really interested in an idea of how Father Gabriel's story in the series was about trying to redeem himself from this inciting incident in the apocalypse, where he left his congregation outside the doors of his church to die. Everything that's come after has been in reaction to that.”
She continued, “He's tried to be moral, he's tried to be a good leader, he's tried to be calm and forgiving and all of these things. In this season we had a moment with Negan where they're trying to decide what to do about him. Gabriel feels everyone is too amped up and he wants the night to think about the right thing to do, which was very true of his character up to this point. Then, Negan escapes. Who knows what the ramifications of that will be for our people? Obviously, the audience knows more than our characters do at this point. I think Gabriel feels regret, that maybe he didn't act quickly enough. What happens when somebody is in this position goes, ‘As a leader, I have failed. This person who is part of my family, one of the fathers of my child, is dead. Did I fail?’””
Series director Michael Cudlitz earlier reported Father Gabriel and fellow Alexandria council member Aaron (Ross Marquand) are “badasses” in Season 10, and Kang says the conflict with the Whisperers will continue to push Gabriel into acting on his dark side.
“As we talked about it, we know that Gabriel has the capability of darkness in him, because of that thing he did at the beginning of the apocalypse and the other things he's had to do. That capability is in all of us,” she said. “In that moment, he goes there. We thought it was an interesting way to evolve that character, to see more shades of him coming out, as he's more and more in the leadership, as he's realizing who he is as a leader in Alexandria and what he's willing to do.”
“Seth is an amazing actor,” added Kang. “He has some great stuff along these lines coming up this season as the story continues to play out. He's really interesting when you see that part of Father Gabriel that isn't a goody two-shoes, but has had to do some dark things to survive.”