The zombie sub-genre can be divided into two categories…
Zombies on-screen before The Walking Dead, and second, zombies on-screen after The Walking Dead.
Developed by Frank Darabont and based on the beloved comic book series, audiences hadn’t really seen the undead presented on such a grand canvas before. The high production value was somewhat unheard of and it’s hardly difficult to see why so many flocked to it upon its premiere in 2010.
Over a decade later and we’re still on the journey; it really is unbelievable.
Unlike the threatening corpses which plague our protagonists, the AMC series arguably remains fresh, and sure, there are a few ingredients and antidotes that can be cited when considering the series’ sustained success. However, you really can’t undersell just how instrumental new characters have been in helping shake things up.
The Walking Dead now has Pope to play with, but who exactly is he?
Who is Pope in The Walking Dead?
Pope is established as the commander of the Reapers in season 11 episode 4, titled ‘Rendition’.
There is still much to find out about the character but The Walking Dead Fandom includes details regarding his backstory. Before the apocalypse, Pope was fighting in Afghanistan alongside a number of people that would go on to become Reapers.
Upon returning home he grappled with trauma and found it difficult to rejoin society. However, his bond with his fellow fighters remained and he decided to become a mercenary.
In the wake of the outbreak, on the other hand, he assembled the Reapers, who are essentially a skilled and heavily equipped group of survivors. They marked other survivors, meaning that they were to be taken out by the squad.
As the years passed, Pope went on to order members to target a settlement that was led by Maggie Rhee. The Reapers murdered many of her people and ruined the settlement.
This led Maggie and the remaining survivors to return to Virginia. Yet, Pope cruelly dispatched Reapers to pursue them and finish the job.
Looking back on season 10, ‘Home Sweet Home’ included a mention of Pope when one of the Reapers who killed Maggie’s group was captured. Before committing suicide he mysteriously remarked, “Pope marked you.”
The moment swiftly encouraged fan speculation and, now that he has finally arrived, there will surely still be more to learn.
“He just had a take on it right away”
Diving deeper into the impact and history of Pope and the Reapers, showrunner Angela Kang shared some intriguing insight while in conversation with Comic Book:
“We got really fortunate in casting Ritchie Coster in this role as Pope. He just had a take on it right away… When we were developing this character, one of the things that we talked about is just this idea of being chosen, and what that can, in the most extreme versions, cause people to do.”
She continued: “For Pope, we just felt that it’d be interesting to kind of illustrate somebody who probably was a brilliant tactical mind, was probably a really great commander, and yet, became kind of disgruntled by the system and felt left behind in some ways. And saw people that he felt were left behind.”
As for the look of the Reapers, the influences include military tactical masks, post-apocalyptic concept art, video games, and “things that are written about people with gas masks and stuff.”
On this, Angela added: “When we were thinking about, ‘what is the look of this crew?’ They’re almost like these faceless people that come in like the Grim Reaper.”
Spotlighting Ritchie Coster
The 54-year-old English actor has starred in a number of movies over the years, including Creed (Pete Sporino), Blackhat (Elias), Let Me In (Mr. Zoric), The Bounty Hunter (Ray), The Dark Knight (Chechen), and American Gangster (Joey Sadano).
In the realm of TV, on the other hand, you may also have seen him in The Flight Attendant (Victor), Happy (Francisco), Shades of Blue (Michael Bianchi), Billions (Donald Thayer), True Detective (Mayor Austin Chessani), Luck (Renzo), and The Blacklist (Anslo Garrick).
Audiences can expect to see him continue to showcase his talents in The Walking Dead.