“The Last of Us” episode 8 brought the horrors of the cannibal raiders led by David and James to life. For the HBO show, David is not just manipulative- he’s devout. He rides on religious beliefs as additional motivation for his heinous actions. It adds an even creepier side to him. The end of the world not only pushed him to believe in a higher power, but his belief itself is twisted in all the wrong ways. But there are some people that find it significantly unfair to Christianity. Specifically, Rainn Wilson of “The Office” fame.
Wilson called out Hollywood for its supposed “anti-Christian bias” in a series of tweets. He criticized “The Last of Us” for making one of its creepiest villains a religious fanatic. “As soon as the David character in The Last of Us started reading from the Bible I knew that he was going to be a horrific villain,” Wilson tweeted. “Could there be a Bible-reading preacher on a show who is actually loving and kind?”
Wilson continued his, claiming that while he’s not Christian, he has Christian friends who are wonderful people. Simultaneously, he admits that the evangelical/political side of religion is currently doing its best to take as many rights from minority and LGBTQ groups as possible. By his own logic, Wilson should be able to see why religious villains are a popular trope. Conversely, there are religious characters that are loving and kind. “The Walking Dead“s Herschel Greene (Scott Wilson) is a perfect example. They just happen to behave more like normal people, which can make viewers forget they believe in a higher power.
David’s Beliefs Add a Different Dimension
The addition of David’s religious overtones may have been an expansion on the background of the character created by Neil Druckmann and performed by Nolan North in the game. (This was explained in The Last of Us: The Definitive Playthrough part 12.) The two came up with the idea that David believed it was his mission to repopulate the earth. Add some religion to that, and you have someone believing in creating a new “Eden” for humanity. Doing something truly foul and gilding it with a false purity.
It gives HBO’s David an even more sinister edge than simply being leader of a group that’s cannibalistic by choice. The show demonstrates a visible reluctance by David’s followers to protest. And a suspicion about the only food they can find and where it comes from that’s never spoken out loud. HBO David’s patrons fear him. Game David’s group all partake as part of a new world order and view any who don’t as fresh meat.
HBO’s David uses religion to keep his “flock” in line, preying on what they already believe and twisting it to fit his own selfish rhetoric. That’s what makes him terrifying for viewers. He himself doesn’t truly believe, but it’s a tool of control. There has always been a creepiness to someone assuming a pious nature to do evil, all the while swaying others to that belief. So it’s not surprising at all that David weaponizes religion in a time when people are desperate for salvation.
It’s not really a new trope, either. Nor do we think that those who use their beliefs for good really care all that much about what a TV show portrays.
Ultimately, it really just sounds like Dwight’s been spending a bit too much time with Angela here.