HBO Max’s The Last of Us has introduced the cannibal characters from the first game and unashamedly turned them into Christian zealots.
During the course of the 2013 game, a solo hunting trip by Ellie sees her run into two men known as David and James, who are eventually revealed to be the heads of an openly cannibalistic group of survivors.
Captured with the intent of being their next meal, a combination of desperation and her small size allows Ellie to escape from their clutches by the skin of her teeth before eventually killing David during a desperate final struggle.
However, while the game’s characterization of the two cannibals simply depicts them as unhinged but resilient-in-the-face-of-the-apocalypse psychopaths, HBO’s live-action adaptation opted to provide some additional and unnecessary context to the characters’ backstories.
Making their small screen debuts at the beginning of the show’s eighth episode, When We Are Need, the first to be introduced is David, who in addition to being an unapologetic cannibal (a fact that is not revealed until the episode’s climax) is now shown to also be a Christian preacher.
Next up is James – who is notably portrayed by the actor who brought Joel Miller to life in the original games, Troy Baker – himself also a devout Christian who uses the Bible to support his actions.
The episode actually opens with David reciting the Revelations 21:1-4, titled A New Heaven and a New Earth, telling his congregants, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,'” he goes on.
When he eventually meets Ellie, David attempts to convince the young girl that she can trust him by informing her that he is a man of faith, only for Ellie to respond by ridiculing him for believing in God.
Admittedly, this is not the first time the series has expanded on the backstory of a character from the game.
The third episode of the series, Long, Long Time, explored Bill’s life pre-Outbreak Day, and in doing so provided more insight into his relationship with his partner Frank (Murray Barlett).
And while the episode was met with glowing reviews from mainstream media outlets, fans were not as easily impressed, with many left rolling their eyes at the fact that the series turned what was merely a facet of Bill’s character in the original games into his sole defining characteristic.
What’s more, Bill commits suicide by the end of it and never gets to meet Joel and Ellie, as he did in the original games – a decision which fueled most of fans’ disappointment with the episode (which, unsurprisingly, the aforementioned mainstream media wrote off as being based in nothing more than homophobia).
However, while Bill and his partner were originally depicted as gay, David and James were never shown to have any Christian leanings. This suggests that the writers of the show intentionally and meticulously chose to give them a new religious bent in order to smear Christian beliefs.
This theory receives even more support at the episode’s conclusion. While its main event does mirror Ellie and David’s fatal showdown in the game, it adds one last insult to injury by not only having David attempt to rape Ellie, but also cite the verse 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love” – as his justification for doing so.
Of course, in the game, David never tried to sexually assault Ellie, much less use the Bible as an excuse to commit such a vile act, but that won’t matter to casual audiences. To them, this disrepectful depiction of the cannibals as a primarily Christian group will unfortunately be the only one they know.