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Spoilers for The Walking Dead are below.
Now that The Walking Dead has namechecked Negan and introduced Jesus to audiences, the show is firmly set within the Golden Age of its comic book source material. And tonight’s episode, “Knots Untie,” introduced another character whose slimy presence will loom large over the rest of the season and beyond – at least, assuming he doesn’t get mostly sidelined like this season’s new Alexandria recruits – and his name is Gregory. Where he’s from, they don’t need last names.
Actually, we don’t really know too much about where Gregory is from, as his backstory is largely left up to the reader’s imagination in Robert Kirkman’s comic narrative. He does seem like the kind of guy that would be the shady mayor of a small town where everyone’s hands are in everyone else’s pockets, and actor Xander Berkeley does a great job of pulling that persona off. This is the kind of guy who steps on everyone to get to the top, and doesn’t have to worry about anyone taking him down because no one else has his immoral sense of self-preservation. So when we meet him and learn that he’s the guy in charge of this new location, it’s somewhat obvious how he got there, despite not being the “best” person for the job.
As is explained in the show, the Hilltop Colony is still standing and mildly prospering because of a deal that Gregory has made with the Saviors, where the community offers up goods and supplies in exchange for not being savagely murdered. (Nothing resembling world history in this at all.) Sure, Gregory would love to be free of that constant danger, right? Well, as was touched upon a second ago, the guy has a problem making deals with just about anyone, so he can’t always be trusted to use the good of the people as his motivation in gland-handing. In the comics, he claimed he wasn’t even aware if Negan was a real person or not, but that didn’t stop him from giving the expletive-spewing psycho some benefit of the doubt as time goes on. But we just met the guy, so there’s no need to delve into all the spoilers here.
In any case, Gregory’s shyster behavior comes even after what happened in “Knots Untie,” when Gregory gets stabbed by Ethan as a message from Negan, who supposedly killed the rest of Ethan’s group. It’s insane to think that he wouldn’t immediately want to take Negan down for that, but apparently he got stabbed in his last remaining pocket of common sense. And seriously, did anyone feel sympathy for Gregory when he was attacked? In the comics, this surprising event happens almost immediately after Rick meets him, as they’re having their first conversation, so TV viewers actually get more time to get to know Gregory before he gets shanked. That actually helps us all be more empathetic for Ethan, who gets killed by Rick after seeing most of the rest of his group, save for Craig, get murdered by Negan. That guy had it the worst in this episode for sure, especially since his attack wasn’t even lethally successful.
Anyway, it’ll be really interesting to see how closely Gregory’s arc in live-action reflects his comic book origin, as he is the character that boosts
Again, without getting too much into details about what could or could not happen in The Walking Dead's future, Maggie and Gregory's relationship in the comics is one of the story's more interesting protagonist/antagonist pairings. I'm not going to say it gets as physically violent or gore-filled as what happened with Rick and the Governor, but it definitely takes some twists and turns that don't go so well for everyone involved. Of course, a lot of that comic story happens without Glenn around, thanks to a certain barb wire-covered bat, and Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple have left Glenn's possible offing completely up in the air, largely because of the fake-out earlier this season. So if he's actually still around during Maggie's ascent to Greater Importance, the back-and-forth between Gregory and Maggie could be even more intriguing.
Especially if Gregory retains his flirtatious nature from the comics. Because yes, as much of a rude and pompous douchebag as Gregory is, he also considers himself a ladies man in the comics, and is always quick to lend a leering glance or an uncomfortable advance on a woman. (Honey, indeed.) Maggie is very much included in that. One can only imagine what he would have to say about Rosita or Michonne. Or, gag me, Enid. Rick likely won't allow too much to happen to his ladies, but Gregory might have a following within Hilltop that makes things difficult there.
Knowing just how gross and uncomfortable Gregory is, and how undeserving he is of having the Hilltop Colony to call his own, it's pretty great that he's already suffering from a stab wound. It's worth it to once again give Xander Berkeley some praise for bringing Gregory to live-action in a way that not only honors the way he was written for the page, but also makes him an immediate standout in a show that is hemorrhaging characters. He brings just the right amount of cocky smarm and lazy bravado that will make him extremely fun to hate for as long as he's around.
The Walking Dead will be back next Sunday night on AMC, and Gregory might just be there with it.