So, of course “Strangers” was about religion. Given the trailers features a preacher and a church, I could hardly run for psychic of the year.
Where “No Sanctuary” demonstrated the power of one group’s faith in comparison with another group’s absolute lack of any grace, forgiveness or decency, this week we see the uselessness of an empty religion: a religion that values only the words but not the humanity. It is a religion as empty as Father Gabriel’s church.
When thinking about what I was going to write, I was reminded of something I read several years ago in John Donne’s sermons. I paraphrase loosely.
“Belief that cannot withstand the light of reason is not faith, but mere superstition.”
Father Gabriel is so terrified by the world that Rick has to order him to accompany his group on the supply run, from which Gabriel will benefit.
Gabriel’s spiritual journey begins, as he must confront the “turned” woman we later learn he knew quite well. As one of The Talking Dead panelists noted, Gabriel prepares himself in a crucifixion pose, ready to be taken by the walker woman. However, this isn’t Christ-like, and if my reading of the New Testament is remotely accurate, a few of the disciples — if not the Holy J.C. Himself — might draw some distinctions between Father Gabriel and the Son of Man.
The distinction being a presence among the troubled, the afflicted, the at-risk – that might be the first objection. As Carl finds out, Gabriel closed up shop and left his congregation to a gruesome fate when the fit hit the shan. I will now out myself theologically to say this: we’re not supposed to do that. Really. There’s whole parts of the N.T. telling us that ignoring suffering and pain is the path not to take. So, Father Gabriel can transcribe the Good Book all he wants, but it’s beside the point.
One sad part to watch is how Gabriel’s faux sanctity reverberates onto Carol’s state of mind. He proclaims himself non-violent as a position of conviction, but as far as we can see, she never learns it’s a position of cowardice. At the “feast,” she’s alienated, estranged and troubled. Earlier she’s been in Gabriel’s study viewing the world “Thou Shalt Not Kill” in his transcription of the Bible. I wondered how much screaming, terror and death he listened to while jotting that down. Passivity kills, too. But Carol doesn’t know the full truth of Gabriel and his church, so all she can see in herself is guilt for the lives she’s taken, not grace for the lives she’s saved.
There’s no place for her in that church, if she’s to believe Father Gabriel. The irony is, she is the Great Protector. Last week I wrote that I saw Carol as an Old Testament figure. I think “Strangers” highlights that point. Gabriel has forgotten the Old Testament theological heritage of protecting and defending the innocent, the helpless and even civilized decency in a brutal world. After all, when Christ taught, he taught as a spiritual heir to that religious history. Carol’s bravery that needs to be celebrated, and the brokenness that needs to healed is sent adrift because there is no place for it in Gabriel’s church.
What Carol misses is that apparently, though there was no room for killing in Gabriel’s world, there was no place for anyone else to live, either.
Carol’s so demoralized she runs. In a great deus ex machina moment, Daryl finds Carol, and they both see the car that took Beth. Off they go. As if in being lost, they were given a mission. There’s a lot of Zen in that, a lot of mysticism.
There is one odd thing that I noticed last week, but the biblical symbolism didn’t strike me at the time: leaving Terminus, there were twelve. As in disciples. (Yes, I’m not counting Judith). In tonight’s episode, as they all follow Rick into the church, they tell Abraham that they will follow Rick, they will do as he says.
I don’t want to write about Bob. I’m deeply disturbed by Bob. I’m troubled by the storytelling itself, as well as the theme. It would be an easy reach for me to say that in leaving the church, he lost his faith and that precipitated his downfall, but I just have too many questions. Why so many throw-away lines during the episode? They only served to give the character attention, but didn’t serve the story. Why did he suddenly get upset? Why did he leave? Why didn’t he take a weapon and keep a good watch? Really, Bob, how long have you been hanging with the badass crowd now? Why wouldn’t he wake up if someone was sawing his leg off? I don’t think Gareth takes an anesthesiologist with him. I mean, it seemed he was happy with the Baseball Bat approach.
Myself, I thought Bob was hiding a bite. He’d been acting strangely after the basement scene, so I was all ready to have Bob look Gareth in the eye after that speech and go “really? Well, gotcha!” Then open his jacket to reveal an ever so lovely, crimson-soaked, crescent-shaped bite. In Season One, Jim pulled that off after the attack on the camp.
Or, while passed out, die quietly unbeknownst to the Terminus survivors, then awaken to have a few servings of Gareth sashimi himself. That would have been nice.
I mean let’s face it, Gareth has no arc. The Governor had an arc – he fell off of it, but he had an arc.
Next prediction (and this is long-term): Eugene is full of poop. I just don’t buy it. I’ve lost all respect for Abraham for buying it. I’ve known scientists, I’ve gone drinking with them. And anyway, if the answer is in DC, don’t they have a bunker or something where someone would already be putting it into motion?