The Walking Dead

Gabriel’s Walking Dead Sermon Sets Up A Commonwealth Rebellion

Gabriel's sermon in The Walking Dead season 11's "Warlords" might've sounded wholesome, but was it a secret call to arms for a Commonwealth uprising?

Is Gabriel’s sermon the prelude to a full-scale Commonwealth uprising in The Walking Dead’s final season? The Commonwealth is a community like none we’ve seen before in The Walking Dead. In contrast to former enemy groups such as the Saviors or Whisperers, the Commonwealth is populated mostly by good, everyday folks who have embraced the arrival of friendly newcomers from Alexandria and Hilltop. Since this is The Walking Dead, of course, a “but” was inevitable. The Commonwealth is entrenched in an unequal social and economic structure that benefits Pamela Milton and those who held high-status jobs pre-outbreak, whilst everyone else is left languishing in poverty.

The Walking Dead’s protagonists are slowly waking up to their new reality. Carol tasted the Commonwealth’s injustice after discovering Ezekiel’s lowly position on a surgery waiting list, while Eugene now knows about Lance Hornsby’s secret service. Magna is most keenly attuned to the problem, made to waitress for her former allies at Pamela’s Halloween masquerade ball, but it’s not just Alexandrians struggling against the Commonwealth’s rich/poor divide. A resistance movement is bubbling beneath the surface, spurred by citizens like Tyler Davis, who are left with no means to support themselves and their families. The resistance hasn’t done much resisting so far, but their time is surely approaching.

Indeed, that time may be nigh if The Walking Dead season 11’s “Warlords” episode is any indication – with Father Gabriel Stokes the unlikely flag-bearer for revolution. “Warlords” finds Gabriel leading a new congregation at the Commonwealth’s local church, similar to his gig at Alexandria, but on a larger scale. Rather than preaching the virtues of loving thy neighbor and having faith in the Lord even after a zombie apocalypse, Gabriel’s latest sermon feels specifically designed to stoke rebellion among the Commonwealth’s population. The Father begins by citing Luke, and the “wayward son… who squandered his riches on decadence and wild living… then found his soul empty.” This verse sounds like a deliberate shot fired toward Pamela Milton and the Commonwealth higher-ups indulging in lavish celebrations and parties.

Gabriel has also requested his congregation sit next to strangers this particular Sunday morning – a move intended to foster a sense of community and togetherness. The priest reminds his audience of their time in the wilderness, where strangers quickly became closer than family, and encourages them to, “Strip yourselves of the superficial labels… What do we do? Where do I live? How much money do I have?” This line is quite clearly anti-Commonwealth rhetoric. The Commonwealth is obsessed with what their residents did for a living before the outbreak, but Gabriel is reminding his congregation of what really matters (especially in an apocalypse). Finally – and in his most blatantly inflammatory moment yet – Gabriel proclaims, “The way we were before the world fell cannot be the way we are moving forward.” On multiple occasions, The Walking Dead has shown Pamela, Lance and other Commonwealth figures proudly pledge they’ll rebuild the world as it was before. Gabriel is telling his congregation that’s a terrible idea, and to do the exact opposite.

He might’ve entered the story as a coward woefully ill-suited to post-apocalyptic survival, but Gabriel Stokes in The Walking Dead season 11 is shrewd, cunning, and principled. He must, therefore, be fully aware his sermons stand against the Commonwealth’s party line – especially the bit about not remaking the old world. The more important question is whether these sermons are merely Gabriel’s personal method of quietly raging against the Commonwealth machine, or whether he’s subtly using the pretense of a religious gathering to spread support for a resistance movement, so when the inevitable uprising happens, Sunday morning church-goers rise along in support.

Shortly after his service in The Walking Dead‘s “Warlords,” Gabriel opens up to Aaron, admitting that moving to the Commonwealth helped bring the voice of God back in his soul. Did Gabriel’s sense of religious purpose return because the Commonwealth’s inequality gave him something to preach against? If next Sunday’s service is about overthrowing totalitarian governments, we’ll have our answer.

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