Warning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 episode “Bury Me Here.”
After fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead endured a rough season of excessively sadistic abuse inflicted upon beloved characters, the show is hurdling towards a teased catharsis with a season finale that will (in all feasible likelihood,) see Rick Grimes’s Alexandrians and new allies fire the first shot across the bow of the villainous Negan and the Saviors to kick off a prolonged signature comic book series-adapting conflagration. Yet, in the deliberately paced buildup, the uncharacteristic reasonableness of one Savior has raised some eyebrows.
In an interview with EW, The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple shares some interesting details about “Gavin,” a member of Negan’s collective of zombie apocalypse extortionist the Saviors who, in a perpetual state of grumpiness about his tasks, seems reluctant in his misdeeds. Played by Jayson Warner Smith (Rectify, The Birth of a Nation), Gavin debuted in Season 7 as a Savior in charge of a small contingent tasked with collecting regular offerings from Ezekiel’s group the Kingdom per the terms of an apparent détente. A stark contrast from the typical cruelty of the Saviors, Gavin regularly sports a grimace akin to a quasi-prehistoric animal appliance on The Flintstones who gives apathetic glances to the viewers and says, “It’s a living.” Moreover, he’s proven to be reasonable on more than one occasion (at least, given the sinister circumstances). Regarding Smith’s approach to the role, Gimple explains:
“This character could’ve been a man, it could’ve been a woman we cast — it was completely open casting. But, when I was working on the character, the vibe that I was going for was this grumpy parent — you know, this parent who has just had it. Not like they don’t love their kids or whatever, but they’re just over everything. And to Jason Warner Smith, I was like, ‘Just be a grumpy dad. You did not sign on for this. You just want to make it to grandma’s house. You will turn that car around and just everybody cool out!’”
Pertinently, the tragedy-laden episode “Bury Me Here” saw Gavin reach a boiling point with one of his own underlings in the bellicose-but-cowardly Jared (Joshua Mikel), who has spent weeks antagonizing members of the Kingdom, notably a grief-suffering and irate Richard (Karl Makinen). After Richard’s failed machinations to martyr himself and incite conflict between the Kingdom and the Saviors resulted in the weasel-like Jared opting to inflict an eventually fatal gunshot on the Kingdom’s young ray of hope Benjamin (Logan Miller), Gavin was clearly disconcerted in the idea that his orders were not followed and seems keenly aware that callous killings like this only endanger the tense arrangement. As Gimple further illustrates of Gavin’s character:
“Yes, he’s got his own problems! There’s a line that he has that’s “I didn’t go this way for aggravation.” He didn’t do the things that he does to be put through any more trouble than he has to, and that indicates that he is fully aware of the team he’d signed on for. He is not especially proud of it, so if everybody could just do their part to make it as easy as possible, everything will be all right.”
Indeed, Gavin understands that the Saviors are not invincible. While the chances that the Kingdom and/or Alexandrians can defeat the Saviors are statistically dubious, Gavin, in the very least, seems aware that he and his group of collectors would, nevertheless, be the direct recipients of Ezekiel’s “This is Sparta!” moment when the final straw breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Thus, Gavin, in full disciplinary mode, immediately benches Jared after the incident, threatening to kill him in the event of more dangerously impulsive actions. Lest one think it’s out of some familial motivation, Gimple also confirms that Gavin and Jared are not related.
Anyone who’s even heard a passing comment about the “All Out War” storyline inspired by The Walking Dead comic book knows that things between the Alexandrians and the Saviors will escalate quickly. However, as the comic book depicts – notably with Dwight – internal stife will contribute to the Saviors’ downfall as much as the damage inflicted from their rebelling enemies. Thus, it will be interesting to see if a character like Gavin, who clearly carries out repugnant tasks out of pure necessity for survival, could possibly switch sides the moment winds change direction.
The Walking Dead can be seen on AMC on Sunday nights, sprinting towards what will hopefully be a tide-turning Season 7 finale in the coming weeks.