So far in the Mission Impossible franchise, the most memorable antagonist performances were showcased through characters who tried to get to Ethan through his personal relationships. Whether it’s the menacing, sadistic, calculative arms dealer Owen Davian or the vicious nihilist terrorist Solomon Lane, the best adversaries have always figured out that the easiest way to pin down the legendary manhunter is to put his close ones in peril.
Additionally, the trope of digging up ghosts from the past to exploit the vulnerabilities of the protagonist is a tried and tested method to create compelling narrative conflicts, which has been used liberally in most recent mainstream blockbusters, and the ubercool super-spy Ethan Hunt isn’t impervious to it either. The latest release of the franchise combines these two aspects to present the worthy antagonist Ethan deserves in the form of Gabriel, whose influence has shaped Ethan’s past, altered his present, and will leave an impact on his future as well. Veteran actor Isai Morales, who portrays the role of secondary antagonist Gabriel, matched Tom Cruise’s energy in the scenes the duo shared the screen for to convincingly present the threat the character represents, and we will take a look at the character’s motivation and actions as they transpired through the course of Dead Reckoning Part I.
A Shared Past
Gabriel’s presence in Ethan’s life was felt long before his IMF career even began. As Ethan later acknowledges in front of his close circle of trust, Gabriel is the reason he turned out to become an extremely skilled spy; in that sense, Ethan owes his career to him, and through their conversation, it is hinted that Gabriel and Ethan once shared a friendly relationship and had mutual respect for each other. However, betrayal comes from the closest of associates, and Ethan’s world is turned upside down when, for reasons unknown, Gabriel targets one of his close ones.
During Dead Reckoning Part I, as Ethan recapitulates his tragic past memories, viewers learn that a woman close to Ethan, named Marie, was murdered by Gabriel, and Ethan had to witness the incident unfold helplessly. That incident possibly resulted in Ethan taking some drastic measures against Gabriel in the heat of the moment, which subsequently resulted in Gabriel going off the grid and Ethan being taken on by the IMF. Gabriel will not appear in Ethan’s world for almost three decades and will return even deadlier, accompanied by a threat that can change the foundation of the world as Ethan knows it.
Gabriel’s True Estimate
The hubris of the United States’ intelligence led to the creation of the sentient AI known as the Entity, which became self-aware and started taking actions to ensure its self-preservation. The advanced algorithm of the Entity predicted Ethan to be its chief enemy, as despite the world trying to gain control over the all-powerful AI, Ethan sought to destroy it after realizing its disastrous potential. To stop Ethan in his tracks, the Entity chose Gabriel to be its physical conduit in the world, precisely because it knew that their shared past would make him vulnerable and not fully efficient mentally. Gabriel’s first appearance after such a long period shocks Ethan to the point he asks his associate to abandon the mission and takes it upon himself to see it to its completion, which proves the Entity was right in its assessment. And in this phase, we get to know more about Gabriel’s modus operandi and gain some insight into the character.
Gabriel is the perfect antagonist for Ethan, as he is everything Ethan is but their morals and goals are antithetical in every way. Unlike Ethan, Gabriel isn’t hindered by emotions; he is guided by that cold, precise, calculative, devious brain of his, which in essence, is almost similar to how the Entity’s algorithm works. Like Ethan, he is quick to read people and assess situations, but his willingness to exploit people’s vulnerabilities is what keeps him a step ahead of his nemesis. His actions aren’t burdened by moral intricacies either, as he easily disposes of his own operatives to tie up loose ends, as is seen when he stabs his hired assassin, Paris, to curb the possibility of her betrayal.
Gabriel’s motivation to adhere to the Entity’s plans remains unknown, but as Ethan states, he takes pleasure in inflicting suffering on others, so it’s not entirely impossible that he couldn’t let go of a chance to haunt Ethan’s life all over again. The personal angle that Gabriel’s presence brings to the game makes the conflict between him and Ethan even more intense. More than his physical skills as a deadly mercenary, Gabriel is a cerebral enemy of Ethan, and he gets to Ethan time and again by weakening his mind. Thanks to the omniscient, omnipresent AI by his side, the charismatic villain has the advantage of existing like a ghost—unseen, unknown, and untraceable—which makes his already vicious skillset even deadlier. Add in the precognition supplanted by the Entity’s algorithm, and Ethan has a near-invincible enemy as his opponent.
Will Gabriel Return in the Upcoming Sequel to Dead Reckoning?
Gabriel brings doom into Ethan’s life once again during the events of Dead Reckoning Part I as he kills Ethan’s closest ally, Ilsa Faust, and once again, as Ethan fails to save someone dear to him, he is wracked with guilt. It’s Luther’s timely advice or warning to rethink his strategy to apprehend Gabriel in the final showdown that brings Ethan back into the game. The two adversaries clash on top of the Orient Express as it runs at breakneck speed through the Alps, and the action sequence gloriously captures the suspense, tension, and adrenaline imbued with it.
Ethan refrains from killing Gabriel when he has the chance, resulting in the latter’s escape; however, taking a page from Grace’s book, Ethan manages to get his hands on the combined cruciform key before Gabriel’s escape from the train. With the Entity’s mainframe unlocking the cruciform key with him and learning the name “Sevastopol” is related to the Entity’s location, Ethan will try his best to put an end to the sentient AI, and Entity-assisted Gabriel will put everything at his disposal to stop him. The audience has already enjoyed the palpable tension raised by the enmity between the duo, which will be explored on a much larger scale with more background story in the second part of “Dead Reckoning.”