Man, am I glad that doctor was offed at the end of last night’s hour. For 45 minutes I thought the show really was about to go all-in on some hokey story arc in which Father Gabriel acquires providential “second sight” as his vision deteriorates. He put his trust in the Lord and, lo, there was salvation. He stumbled across the house with the antibiotics he needed; he knocked over the piggy bank with the car keys they were looking for; then, in the episode’s most “Use the Force, Luke” moment, he literally closed his eyes and fired a gun at Dr. Carson while he was wrestling with a zombie, miraculously pulling off a perfect headshot to take down the walker. After eight years of wondering where the hell this show is going, we were about to have our answer. A blind prophet named Gabriel was preparing to lead the Grimes gang to the promised land, with nothing but his divinely inspired instinct to lead them. I was blind, but now I see.

Then Carson went for a Savior’s gun, got popped, and poor Gabriel dissolved into sobs, his faith shattered. It was the most atheist moment of Hollywood entertainment I’ve experienced since “A Serious Man.” It was pretty awesome!

The episode had other providential interventions, though. Tara was about to murder Dwight until, wouldn’t you know it, a squad of Saviors came traipsing by and yet somehow didn’t hear the gunshot she had fired at his head just moments before. Then, minutes after Doc Carson’s death seemingly squelched any chance of OBGYN care at the Hilltop, who comes walking through the gate but Siddiq, a man with medical training who never would have found his way to Maggie without Carl showing him some mercy. One doctor exits, another doctor enters. When God closes a door, he opens a window. I’m going on the record now: (1) Maggie’s baby will be named Carl, (2) Gabriel’s mystery illness will end up producing a medical lead on how to counter the zombie plague. That would be a poetic way to justify his belief that God has a plan for him. His infection may claim his life but if the other survivors can learn something from his strange illness, which is debilitating but not (yet) fatal like a zombie bite is, maybe they can figure out a vaccine. His faith would end up giving life, literally, to others. High time the survivors figured *something* out about the plague after eight seasons, no?

I’m not just spitballing here either. Gabriel’s illness is obviously zombie-related:

If you were paying close attention to season eight’s seventh episode, Eugene hinted Gabriel was sick because he covered himself in walker guts to escape the Sanctuary trailer with Negan.

“I don’t see an escape attempt without putting to use the same flawed technique of innards which landed you in your status, quote, ‘piss poor,’ condition,” Eugene told an ailing Gabriel…

“The science we never really know,” [executive producer Denise] Huth said. “It makes sense. It’s interesting, I always loved back in that episode, back in 805, where Negan says to him [Gabriel], when they’re starting to do it [cover themselves in walker guts], ‘Haven’t any of your people ever gotten sick doing this?’ That was certainly an indication that Negan has seen that happen.”

It seems to be common knowledge among survivors that mere contact with zombie guts can — but doesn’t always — make you sick, and not fatally so. (If it always made you sick, Negan would be going blind too.) That sounds a lot like … how inoculations work. Some people have reactions to vaccines as antibodies in their system increase but most gain immunity from the disease being vaccinated against. What if zombie guts work the same way? We’ll know for sure if Gabriel gets bit in a later episode and doesn’t die. I’m already looking forward to the episode where they figure this out, everyone spends the next 45 minutes rolling around in walker offal, and then Rick emotes for awhile that “Coral” could have been saved if only they’d realized this sooner.

Relatedly, a question: How stupid is Negan that he’s only understanding now, years into the zombie plague, that walker blood can be used as a biological weapon? He was so pleased with himself at the end of last night’s show, having put two and two together and realized that if stuff from inside the bodies of the dead gets inside your body, it can have bad effects — a lesson that the average five-year-old would have grasped the first time he watched someone die from a bite. As noted above, Negan already knew when he and Gabriel covered themselves with entrails a few episodes ago that contact with zombie guts can make one sick. So why is it only dawning on him now that blood-dipped projectiles could end up killing members of Rick’s gang even if the wound itself isn’t fatal?

All of that comes on top of the fact that his deputies — Dwight, Simon, now Eugene — keep deceiving him and plotting behind his back and he never seems to find out, despite the culture of terror he’s built inside the Sanctuary. He’s not a bright man.

Anyway. Exit question: How lame were those swamp zombies? They were exceedingly easy to kill and it makes no sense that they were submerged in the first place only to rise as Daryl et al. walked by, notes Vulture. “They’re not the Napping Dead or the Snorkeling Dead or the Please Do Not Disturb Dead.”

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