“Four Walls And A Roof” – Walking Dead

27 Oct

Three weeks ago the popular show The Walking Dead premiered for its fifth season.  For those who do not know, the show centers on a group of survivalist living in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies around every corner.  I am going to call this group “Rick’s group” because Rick, previously a sheriff, is the central main character and I cannot spoil who else is or isn’t alive. (Also, for those who plan on watching the show there are minimal spoilers in this post, and I will alert when there are.) Throughout the five seasons of Walking Dead we have seen characters from many diverse backgrounds.  Though much of it does not matter now that the primary goal is survival.  Rick’s group has/had members who held well-paying jobs, those who were unemployed, Black, Asian, White, old, young, religious and not religious.  We have seen the group disregard their differences and identities in order to help one another survive.  If anything, they have survived by adapting to the new world and re-inventing their identities.  The one identity of characters that has not easily been adapted to the new world or re-invented .

In this new season we are introduced to Gabriel Stokes.  The Rick’s group finds him screaming for help from a boulder where zombies reach desperately for their next dinner.  They rescue him and are immediately taken aback by his pastorly robes and clean look.  He carries no weapons, and says this is the first time he has been away from his church since the apocalypse happened (which was approximately two-three years in the past).  Gabriel has had enough food for himself and has been hiding inside his church the entire time until he just ran out of food.  Rick’s group is apprehensive of him due to their “trust nobody” agreement but accept his offer of hospitality at the church. They find that Gabriel assumes he has survived this long because of God. He sticks to his faith, has not hurt anyone (living or dead), and is very afraid of the way the world is now.  In order to test his abilities and earn their trust Rick’s group forces Gabriel to go on a food run with them and find he is of no use.  At any sign of a zombie or violence he looks frightenly for any route of escape.  His foolish innocence almost costs the group their lives.

(Spoilers)  In last night’s episode, we find out that Gabriel has a dark secret like the rest of them do.  Most of the characters have had to do something ethically compromising in order to stay alive and characterize themselves as “monsters.”  Earlier in the apocalypse a group of people find Gabriel’s locked church and are begging for refuge from a close herd of zombies.  Gabriel keeps the doors locked out of his terror and fear and listens to the group die at the hand of the zombies. This guilt paralyzes Gabriel and he assumes that he will burn in hell forever for his actions.  Still though, this does not waiver Gabriel’s faith. Later in the episode Rick’s group outwits an enemy group and consequently slaughters them inside the church.  Afterwards, Gabriel comes out from hiding and solemnly says, “but this is the lord’s house.”  To which another character says, “No, this is just four walls and a roof.” (end spoilers).

I am really enjoying Gabriel’s character so far. It is interesting that he has survived so far into the zombie apocalypse.  Though we have not seen much of him yet, I am seeing parts of Todd Rendleman’s construction of a hypocrite and naïve evangelical Christian.  In his article “Images of Evangelicals in American Film (2008)” Rendleman describes the hypocritical Christian image a being when  “[a] gap between a character’s theological and lived values is stressed (p. 274).”  Since we just met him, Gabriel’s image has mostly been of him having and sticking to his faith.  Yet the big moment of tension that the show built up for Gabriel was his story where he let an entire group of people outside his church die.  He admits that it was wrong and contradictory to Christian values, and even says he prays for forgiveness everyday.  This act was one of a hypocrite Christian though.

Next, is the image of a naïve Christian that Gabriel’s image fits more wholly.  Rendleman describes the naïve Christian as, “The naïve evangelical wears her faith on her sleeve and is chiefly characterized by innocence and credulity (2008, p. 280).”  Gabriel has been unwavering in his faith thus far and makes no attempt to hide it. He is characterized as being innocent in the fact that he truly has not experienced the zombie apocalypse to the full extent the others have.  He has had a stable location relatively safe from harm, and has had food the entire time.  Also, it is clear that he has not had to kill another person, living or dead.  Next, Gabriel is characterized as being credulous.  When he ran out of resources Gabriel had to venture outside of his church and did not make it more than a mile before being saved by Rick’s group.  In order to survive any further, Gabriel will have to believe what Rick’s group tells him and will therefore have to follow their orders. I think these characteristics qualify Gabriel has being a naïve Christian.

As a fan of the show, I think that Gabriel’s faith will begin to waiver.  As he progresses with Rick’s group he will have to do ugly things that will characterize him as a “monster.”  If his faith does not waiver, I think he will begin to fulfill more qualities of a hypocrite Christian. What I do know for certain, this new season is going to be as thrilling as ever and holds big surprises for the characters and for the audience.

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