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Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's Season 9 premiere.
While it might not have seemed possible a year ago, AMC's The Walking Dead mirrored its comic book source material by permanently taking the backstabbing slimeball Gregory out of the picture. It was quite a shocking way to end the episode, even for comic fans who knew it was inevitable, since Gregory's death wasn't handled in quite the same was as it went down in the comics.
It's always interesting to see how The Walking Dead matches up its big moments, especially when death is involved. As such, we've taken a look at the ways Gregory's death compared and contrasted to his illustrated demise.
When Gregory's Death Happened
For one, Xander Berkeley's second-tier villain survived deeper into the storyline following the time-jump that glossed over the post-War timeframe . Comic Gregory made it through 14 issues after the "New Beginning" arc began, with much of it centered on his duplicitous actions, but he didn't even escape the first episode of Season 9. I definitely hadn't expected Gregory to still be causing chaos in Episode 14, but offing him in the season premiere was an enjoyable surprise.
It's perhaps a testament to Xander Berkeley's performance that The Walking Dead didn't need another half-season to exposit further justification for killing Gregory off. I mean, he could have met the business end of Rick's hatchet minutes after his introduction, and no one would have batted a sympathetic eye. But his acts in the Season 9 premiere, combined with all the ways he sided with Negan during the All Out War and his other crappy behavior, made him ripe for any negative repercussions he had coming.
What Led To Gregory's Death
A kernel of a narrative thread is shared by both the comic and TV deaths, as well as the name Tammy Rose, in that Gregory brought other Hilltop citizens into his vengeful plotting against Maggie. In Robert Kirkman's original take on the character, Gregory preyed on the anger of parents Morton and Tammy Rose, whose son Brandon and his friend were assaulting Comic Sophia and were then severely beaten by a shovel-wielding Carl. This clearly couldn't have adapted for the show, since those characters are long dead now.
One similarity between the comic and the show is that Gregory ended up convincing the father character that Maggie should die. Only instead of Morton pulling the evening sneak attack that Earl drunkenly botched, Comic Gregory straight-up poisoned a glass of wine he'd offered Maggie, during what was meant to be a peacekeeping conversation. Jesus walked into the room right as Gregory was gloating far too early about his assassination attempt, and the latter then failed to convince anyone that he was innocent of anything.
This is a case where I found the TV show was really successful in changing up a major comic death, and if anyone was worried about Gregory not truly deserving it in live-action, his later attempt to stab Maggie should have eased it. John Finn's Earl is believably crushed after hearing about his son Ken's death, and Brett Butler's Tammy Rose is believably eager to cut Maggie down over it, so it's easier to grasp why they might be more susceptible to Gregory's influence, not recognizing that he was really just finding someone else to do his dirty work.
As well, Earl and Tammy Rose's genuine emotions stood in opposition to everything Gregory has ever done, which provides a deeper understanding behind Maggie's decision to punish Gregory so harshly while still sparing Earl. Considering Earl's murder attempt had him pushing over baby Hershel's stroller, which was as monstrous a move as anything seen on this show before, Earl better shape up and not carry on any of Morton's other shitty behavior from the comics.
How Gregory's Hanging Went Down
After Maggie and Gregory's confrontation, in which she got to use her paraphrased comic line -- "You want to lead this place? You can't even murder someone right." -- the TV show mimicked the comic book in a certain way. Rather than depicting the minute-by-minute lead-up to the noose getting slipped around Gregory's head, both versions pulled focus from the villainous turd and used Rick as the communal voice of reason echoing back on itself.
On the show, Andrew Lincoln's Rick was partially successful in convincing Maggie to keep helping the former Saviors at the Sanctuary, despite her overwhelmingly hateful feelings about Negan. Soon after she declared to Rick that she couldn't solve their problems, the scene shifted to the nighttime setting for Gregory's hanging, offering a most telling juxtaposition.
Issue #141 of the comics takes place after the previously described events, and centers almost entirely on Rick dealing with an issue involving the imprisoned Negan. The issue comes to its near-close with Rick telling Andrea that it's so important to prove that they can survive without death being used as the only form of punishment, and that everything could fall apart if they were to return to their more savage ways. And then -- BOOM -- the last page of the issue is the gruesome shot of Gregory's wide-eyed and drooling face as his body hangs. Thankfully, Maggie's line "Cut him down" was retained for the death's media transition.
We've still got a lot of questions after the premiere, with a big one being, "Is Maggie really going to leave the Hilltop this season after finally getting Gregory to shut the fuck up for good?" And then there's...well, okay, maybe that's the main question that was inspired by the shithead's death. Although if new showrunner Angela Kang and her creative team are willing to change up the comics this much with Gregory's death, what if they're willing to change more? Like, what if Maggie's story is altered so that Gregory won't be the only one to face corporal punishment during Maggie's rule within the Hilltop? Things could get way more intense, especially for an already exiting character like Rick.