Earlier this week, we introduced a cool new theory, unearthed from Reddit, suggesting that Father Gabriel may be exhibiting signs of illness at the end of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Big Scary U,” after having been exposed to zombie guts poisoned with radiation.
Besides being a very cool theory, there’s also a lot of merit to it. We have seen evidence of chemical barrels on the series, Gabriel is sickened without any apparent zombie bite, and Negan himself suggested that the zombie-gut trick has made a lot of his people ill. It’s not a stretch, then, to believe that the zombie from which Negan pulled the guts had been exposed to radiation from the nearby chemical plant, thereby sickening Gabriel not with the zombie virus, but with radiation poisoning.
However, there is one possible flaw to that theory: Negan, covered in the same zombie guts, does not get sickened from the radiation. But there is a workaround.
However, a simpler explanation here is that Gabriel was simply infected with zombie guts. While dozens of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead characters have covered themselves in zombie guts to escape a dire situation, the exception here may be that those zombie guts infected Gabriel through an open wound. After all, he was punched in the nose by Negan and, while walking amongst the zombie horde, Gabriel fell down, which could have created a wound big enough for the zombie guts to infect him.
If that’s the case, it may be setting up a future comic book storyline in the All Out War (Comics Spoilers). In the comics, later on in the war, Negan gets the idea to infect his weapons with zombie juice, meaning that those who are wounded — even with minor injuries — would still get the infection and turn.
The idea is, for instance, that Negan rubs his baseball bat, Lucille, all up in zombie guts, and even if he grazes one of Rick’s people, that person will die from the zombie virus. This twist actually leads to an interesting development between Rick, Negan, Dwight and an infected arrow that plays out at the end of the All-Out War.
It could be that this storyline plays out in the exact same fashion on the TV show, and the idea for it initially comes to Negan after Father Gabriel dies from being punched in the nose and then being exposed to zombie guts. In other words, Father Gabriel’s death could be the origins of that idea.
However, this exact trick — getting infected by zombie guts in an open wound — may present a continuity error on The Walking Dead because this has, in fact, happened on the show. Back in season six, episode three, “Thank You,” Rick cut his hand badly with his own knife right after killing a zombie with the same knife. If the zombie virus could kill a person through an infected weapon, then Rick should have died back in season three.
The wrinkle — and the way around that continuity error — may be the exact theory that Ryan supposed: That these particular zombie guts were exposed to radiation. So, instead of loading up their weapons with zombie juice, as they do in the comics, perhaps Negan coats his weapons in the chemicals and it’s the chemicals — and not the zombie guts — that ultimately kill members of Rick’s crew.