Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "No Other Way" episode of The Walking Dead. "God isn't here anymore," Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) blasphemes before denying Reaper Nicholls (Hans Christopher) his last rites earlier in Season 11. After murdering Whisperer spy Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) and killing Mays (Robert Patrick) in cold blood, Gabriel finds his faith challenged in war with the wicked Reapers. "No one is above saving," says Reaper preacher Mancea (Dikran Tulaine) when offering Gabriel renewed salvation in Sunday's Season 11B premiere. "I don't believe that," answers Gabriel, gutting Mancea and declaring his flock worth saving.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, like sparing Gilliam's Gabriel the fate of his comic book counterpart: he dies gruesomely during the Whisperer War. As The Walking Dead draws Gabriel down a dark path, Gilliam has faith Father Gabriel can save his soul and head towards the light — even as the fanbase lusts for blood.
"I've learned that the fans like when Gabriel kills, and I've learned that it's a blood-lusty fan base," Gilliam told ComicBook's Brandon Davis. "They like the violence, they like the darkness. I think they feel that they can count on him to do something kind of out of the box now. Before it was kind of like, 'Oh, this guy's going to be kind of lame and going to his faith and blah, blah, blah.' Now they feel like, 'Oh, he's a wild card, man. We don't know what this fiend's going to do,' which is exciting for me to play."
Season 5 introduces Gilliam's Father Gabriel as a coward who sins when he allows his flock to die so he could live. After a decade of surviving in the hellish zombie apocalypse, Gabriel tells Mancea, "My flock is worth saving." And worth killing for.
This darker Gabriel is "a lot more fun to play," Gilliam said. "I think it's kind of great because they've given me a bunch more to do than his comic book counterpart. So everything that's come since he was supposed to be hanging from the water tower upside down, that didn't happen, has been kind of like playing with [a different character]. And I think that the darker he's become, it strangely enough has led him closer to some kind of light."
New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season air Sundays on AMC and AMC+.