At the end of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Dead or Alive or,” Negan hit upon a plan to defeat Rick and the Alexandrians in the All Out War. It is a sinister, evil, and cruel plan, and in case the plan wasn’t obvious, allow us to explain.
Father Gabriel is deathly ill — nearly blind, in fact — and that illness dates all the way back to when Gabriel and Negan escaped the trailer on the Savior compound by covering themselves in zombie guts. Though he was not bitten, the blood from the guts got into his system, likely through a cut or an open wound (or even his eyes).
Now, the thing about zombies, as has been explained on this show, is that the “zombie bite” does not necessarily kill a person. It’s the infection one receives from the bite. It’s why they were able to cut off Hershel’s leg — doing so stopped the spread of the infection. In some cases, as with T-Dog, the zombie bites were damaging enough to kill him. In Carl’s case, the bite on the stomach began the spread of the infection, and there was no way to stop the spread in that location. However, note that Siddiq did offer him some medication to ease the pain.
In other words, the zombie infection — if it is in small enough doses — can theoretically be treated with antibiotics. That’s why Gabriel’s discovery of antibiotics in this episode saved his life, although perhaps not his eyesight (this particular development doesn’t quite track because viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics, only bacterial infections can. But we will let that slide, or assume that the zombie virus is actually a bacterial infection).
Seeing what a small dose of zombie blood did to Gabriel, however, inspired an idea in Negan — the “rose that sprang out behind the sh*t.” That idea, as Negan explains to the Saviors, is to dip their weapons in zombie blood. Arrows. Bullets. Lucille. Whatever. That way, even if an arrow only nicks an arm, or if a bullet only punctures someone’s buttocks, a normally non-lethal blow would nevertheless infect them with the zombie virus and eventually kill them.
It’ll be a slow, painful, and demoralizing death, and I reckon that is by Negan’s design. The more he demoralizes his enemy, the easier it will presumably be to convince the survivors to join the Saviors. In Negan’s psychotic mind, at least, it is a cruel but necessary act designed to “save” lives. Comic readers, however, understand that this entire storyline will have an interesting twist ending which will unfold over the next few weeks on the series.