Robert Patrick plays Mays who tests Gabriel and Aaron's bond and the inherit nature of man.
The mysterious Mays (Robert Patrick) calls Father Gabriel’s bluff.
(Photo: AMC / The Walking Dead)

This review contains spoilers for episode 1019.

On this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, Gabriel and Aaron scavenge for food for Alexandria, and they test the limits of hope, survival, loyalty, and bluffing.  As we open on a wildflower covered field, Gabriel and Aaron get down to some walker killing business.  Flowers on this show haven’t seen this much blood since Carol and Lizzie.  

After each failed site on the map from Maggie, Gabriel pushes on despite the fruitlessness of the search.  The lost and forgotten stories of the corpses we pass remind me yet again that there would be a really good anthology series to be had of how these people met their end.  Like The Twilight Zone, but just undead stories.  As it is, we must be content to wonder about each scene.  How did they die?  Was it a mistake?  I would think that to wander a world like that is difficult enough with the undead milling about, but knowing that each corpse you pass held a tale that would help you avoid a similar fate would be dreadful.

The Sturdiest of Boards

The men are unable to break some rotten boards on a storefront.  Plus, the messy clearing of a walker seems unnecessary. With all the hours under their belts, you would think these men would remember that skin can slip off a corpse.  Voila!  The world’s grossest pair of evening gloves.  So after that slimy interlude, Gabriel goes in through the top.  Like with the last place they checked, the scene includes dead people hugging one another.  Gabriel pays it no mind, but he knows enough bluff and tell Aaron that there was nothing on the roof.

Gabriel pushes for one more stop.  Aaron is frustrated, and he wants to go home to his daughter.  With empty bags, Gabriel insists they walk the hour to the last place on the map to check for food.  After a brief detour into a map destroying and walker adjacent mud bath, Gabriel and Aaron stumble on to a warehouse in the woods.  With the rain starting, the men decide to go inside.

Father Gabriel bluffs his way through  a hand of poker with Aaron.
Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) spends an evening drinking and gambling with Aaron (Ross Marquand). (Photo: AMC / The Walking Dead)

The Warehouse of Carnival Game Prizes

Inside the warehouse is a whole lot of nothing, except toys and a pile of bibles.  Although the journey through this world means you need to determine who is truthful and who is a liar, a stack of bibles is an impractical means of swearing in an apocalypse.  After an incident with a boar and a discovery of a pricey bottle of bourbon, the men settle down to an evening of food, drink, and gambling.  Two weeks of searching with nothing to show means that Gabriel and Aaron are more than ready for an evening to unwind.  

The night, and the number of shots, move on.  Gabriel deftly bluffs Aaron in a poker game.  Gabriel opens up to Aaron about his past with his mentor, and he talks about how ministering is relating to a person one on one.  Aaron urges Gabriel to return to preaching.  “The world isn’t built for the way we used to be,” Gabriel says.  Nine seasons definitely support Gabriel’s argument, but Aarons wants to have hope.

At this point on the show, we have seen Gabriel’s transformation into a killer.  We know Gabriel will kill for his family and his group.  Aaron does not know how broken Gabriel is, because Aaron has not been focused on Gabriel.  Aaron’s drive has been to do good, and he tells Gabriel that he believes that it is essential to “get back to it.”  Blunt, Aaron says he wants to find good people.  If Aaron is not aware of Gabriel’s change, he sure is about to get a big hint.  A drunken Gabriel responds, “Evil people aren’t the exception to the rule.  They are the rule.”

After the two pass out in a drunken stupor, their slumber is only briefly interrupted by Gabriel’s snoring, and Aaron’s need to stumble outside to pee.  Basically, it ends the way most nights camping end.

Gabriel and Aaron face fields full of walkers as they scavenge for food for Alexandria.
Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) scavenge for food for Alexandria.
(Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC/The Walking Dead)

Don’t Bluff Me in the Morning

When a hungover Gabriel wakes up, Aaron is gone.  In Aaron’s place is a mysterious stranger, who quite clearly had listened to Gabriel and Aaron’s conversation from the night before.  When the stranger unmasks his face, it is a man named Mays, played by Robert Patrick.  Though Patrick has played good guys before, my alarm bells are never not going to ring when he appears on screen.  Patrick is one of the nicest people in the world, but on camera, he excels at throwing out the bad guy vibes.

The crux of Mays’ argument is that it is human nature to turn on one another.  His brother did it to him, and therefore there is no line that cannot be crossed.  To prove his point, Mays’ employs Gabriel and Aaron in a not so friendly game of Russian Roulette.  Mays reminds Gabriel that he had told Aaron that he no longer wished to minister because evil was the rule.  Gabriel stresses that what he said was due to drunkenness, and then Gabriel proceeds to literally practice what he had once preached.  Gabriel relates to Mays.  Through the horrible game, Aaron watches as he sees Gabriel slowly reach Mays.

Gabriel preaches that Mays is like so many others, a good person broken by the world. Mays is clearly calculating if this is a bluff or not.  Desperate for permission to both admit that what he had done to his brother was awful, but that he could be redeemed in this world, Mays chooses to believe Gabriel. 

How Does it End?

Obviously this section is a blatant spoiler for the episode, but we can’t not talk about the double whammy ending. If you were surprised by Gabriel’s actions, you weren’t paying attention. Sure, Gabriel has always tended toward forgiveness and second chances, but after Dante, we know that ship has sailed. The moment is still shocking, but it isn’t a surprise that Gabriel had been bluffing.

The only thing worse than immediately killing off Robert Patrick from your show is doing it twice. That said, it seemed unlikely that Patrick would remain on the show long. Did Gabriel make the right decision to kill Mays? Probably. Gabriel killed Mays because Mays had “killed his brother” for stealing his food. If that was enough for Gabriel, the discovery in the attic of the brother alive just affirmed Gabriel’s instinct was dead right.

Mays is a man that will always battle paranoia. There was no redemption. Not after what Mays had done to his brother and his brother’s family. As horrified as Aaron was at the killing of Mays, seeing the brother in the attic probably helped him make peace with Mays’ death.

Worth Watching?

This episode was a nice character study for both Gabriel and Aaron.  Though Aaron is clearly broken, he still remains the good man we have always known.  Gabriel has also been broken.  And although I would not say that Gabriel is no longer a good man, I will say that Gabriel is very sure of who and what he is in this world.  That is no small thing.  The performances were excellent, and you really can’t beat adding Robert Patrick to any show.  This episode does not move any plots forward, but it definitely establishes where these two characters are right now.  If you like character studies and development, this is a good episode to watch.

Odds and Eggs

  • Do the scenes of long-dead people who died from starvation foreshadow what is to come for Alexandria now that their crops are gone and the scavenge has been a bust?
  • This episode included one of the smarter things I’ve seen on a show: in high grass, why risk getting ankle bit?  Simply throw a timer in the field and wait for it to flush out the bulk of the walkers
  • The shot of the walker peeling itself off a telephone pole and leaving most of its back behind reminds me of summers in Florida

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