Except for possibly the most devout one among us, people, in general, tend to resort to faith the most when they seek respite from some form of affliction, hanker for something, or both. The very foundation of faiths across the world rests upon the unification of masses and providing solace to the sufferers—and appropriately, HBO’s “The Last of Us” explores the question of what happens when the foundation is based on falsification and other sins itself. In the eighth episode of the series, we meet Pastor David, the leader of the survivor community residing in Silver Lake resorts, who has managed to strengthen his hold over the group by wielding his faith as a weapon. The episode contains some significant Biblical allusions in conjunction with the narrative flow and adds to the overall tone as well, something which we will try to explore.
It Begins With Mourning
As the episode begins, the viewers are introduced to the survivor group of Silver Lake resorts, who have gathered at the steakhouse-turned-church at the wake of one of their members named Alec, and the pastor, David, recites passages from the 21st chapter of The Book of Revelation, the last chapter of the New Testament. The lines narrate John the Apostle describing the new world that he sees, essentially signifying a rebirth. For context, earlier in this chapter, the Biblical God had defeated evil permanently and banished all the sinners, non-believers, and Satan to the depths of Hell. After this, a new world and a new heaven were created, better than the previous ones, and one of them was prepared to be the heavenly seat of God. Up to the point David continues, the passage narrates the benevolent self of the supreme being who will ease the trauma of the sufferers—which David reads to Hannah, Alec’s daughter.
The pre-and post-pandemic world of “The Last of Us” connects with the mentioned passage pretty closely. After the Cordyceps outbreak ravaged the social structure, new world orders were created across the country. It was essentially a rebirth of the old social systems, and in the sixth episode, through the self-sufficient, utopian community of Jackson, the viewers got a glimpse of how much better it could be compared to the previously existing governance. Also, as we saw previously in the series, the Cordyceps that engulfed the post-pandemic world are seen as nature’s dominion over human machinations. In that context, God can be compared with nature and the banished forms with the human egocentrism of bygone eras. The Book of Revelation narrates the events that mark the end of the world, and appropriately, the Cordyceps infection has practically decimated humankind as a species, signifying that very end.
When We Are In Need, He Shall Provide
The makeshift church has a banner with the titular phrase written on it, which once again acts as a reminder of God’s grace for the hapless, grief-stricken, visibly distraught group of people who have to go through a lot. As we will learn later, an especially harsh winter has made it difficult for them to accumulate resources, and this simple phrase at least allows them to hope for a better tomorrow. But in the context of the episode, the ‘providing’ is done by David, who secretively harvests human meat and makes his group consume it unknowingly. The written phrases might actually be him trying to rationalize his own actions and decisions. Christ had remarked that his body was the bread of life, which human beings will consume for sustenance; quite ironically, David uses the bodies of his followers to do the same.
Shepherd Truly Is The Devil In Disguise
During the conversation with Ellie, Pastor David mentions being a shepherd to his followers, likening himself to the image of Christ. His followers indeed put a lot of trust in him in the matter of survival and protection, and as we see, they are surprisingly obedient to the pastor’s commands too. However, as the episode gradually reveals, the pastor is a diabolical individual who couldn’t care less about his followers and uses them as pawns. He is a lecherous monster who preys on young girls, and the only thing he is most attached to is his massive ego and his image. David also lies, coerces, and manipulates his followers to suit his agenda. Later on, as he continues to reveal his motivations to Ellie, we learn about his unnerving realization that the Cordyceps outbreak revealed his inner truth of being violent at heart. He wildly theorized that since Cordyceps fungus proliferation and its associated violence are based on the organism’s effort to exist, they must be part of the grand design. If theological perspective is taken into account, few can be regarded as being as sinful as the pastor. Unlike the Biblical hero with whom he shares the same name, David turns out to be the worst kind of leader by far.
A Fiery End
After Ellie barely escapes James and David’s attempt to turn her into another food source, David reveals his sinister intentions for keeping her alive: he wants to have her. Ellie throws a burning log at David, which he dodges, and the curtains behind him catch fire instead. David overpowers Ellie and attempts to rape her; fortunately, Ellie gets a hold of the machete lying nearby and proceeds to hack the monster to death. The steakhouse catches fire and gradually burns to the ground while Ellie barely manages to escape. The visual of a house burning is another recurring image in Christian texts, like how the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burned in rain of sulfur and fire by God as a form of divine punishment due to their wickedness, which symbolizes the end of decadent ways and past sins and evils. Similarly, monsters like David, who turns out to be an embodiment of evil, have no place in the brave new world, which is symbolized by the steakhouse burning. At the end of the episode, the rebirth theme manifests with Ellie, too, although in a much darker turn. After her encounter with David, Ellie emerges as an entirely new person, and the innocence of her childhood is lost forever.