‘The Last Of Us’ Pastor David, Explained: Was He Right About Cordyceps Being Capable Of Love? Is David Dead?

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The eighth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” starts with the narration of Revelation 21 from the New Testament of the Bible, which introduces us to the person giving this sermon, around whom the episode revolves. Pastor David had his own flawed ideologies of looking at things, and he believed that the post-apocalyptic world was, in fact, the promised land and that they were lucky to be alive and to have an opportunity to start afresh. He was of the opinion that in this newfound place, he had the option to mend what was not right in the world, but the most important thing that he stressed was that God Himself would dwell with his subjects in this portable sanctuary.

In the beginning, we hear a harmless sermon from a pastor who is trying to give comfort to his followers by making them understand the reason behind their suffering and how it could ultimately lead to a better world. But then, slowly, we come to know that whatever he says or believes in is not so simple, and there is a duality that exists inside him. He was not just what he pretended to be, and maybe he knew that he was faking it or had learned to live a lie and fool himself too. David had an unshakable belief that he was destined to become the Messiah of the people, the shepherd of the flock, and he was so self-assured that he was not only overestimating his abilities but thought of himself as being the God. We see the banner hanging in the room where he was giving the sermon, which read that when they were in need, he would provide.

At first glance, it looked absolutely normal for a religious group to have verses of the Bible put on display, but then you realized it was not merely a verse but a statement from a man who considered himself to be God. He had somehow managed to put himself in a position of power from which he had normalized controlling the lives of his followers. He had assumed the role of caregiver, and by looking at the faces of the people, it became quite clear that nobody had the right to question his authority. James was David’s right-hand man and knew exactly what he was up to—probably the only person in front of whom he revealed his real self. David was putting on a show for the people; his morality and his will to do good were like a mirage that ceased to exist in reality. Somewhere we feel that even the people had an idea of reality but were choosing to turn a blind eye towards it, maybe because they found respite in the illusion, and they were ready to face themselves and accept what they were capable of. David wanted his people to have faith in him, and if he sensed that somebody doubted his ability or intentions then he became paranoid. David could be best described as a fallen angel who, though he had once been a good man, had now turned into a devil and was somehow trying to make his intentions look pure. He said that he found God after the world was burned to ashes, but the problem was that he had assumed that role to be his.


What Was David’s Motive Behind Manipulating Ellie? 

When David met Ellie, he didn’t try to take her down by force but tried to earn her trust and make her believe that he was a good man who wanted to help and save what was left of humanity. Just like the devil himself, David was smart, intelligent, and an extremely conniving human being. It wouldn’t be wrong if we labeled him an excellent negotiator and manipulator. When James went to bring the medicine that Ellie had asked for, David tried to prove to her that he was one of the victims, much like Ellie, who was also ready to do anything to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. 

David knew how to break perceptions, and he knew that Ellie perceived him as a threat simply because of their conflicting interests and the manner in which they had met for the first time. He made sure that Ellie perceived him as a normal human being, which is probably why he started opening up to her about his life before. He told her that before the outbreak, he was just a normal guy who taught in a school and had kids like Ellie. He pretended that he cared for Ellie and wanted to merely make sure that she was safe. Well, his behavior was pretentious because he wanted to be the caregiver only until the people accepted his terms and conditions. He said that he was a decent man who was trying to provide for the people who relied on him, but the catch was that he wouldn’t let them not rely on him. The people didn’t have the option to question his authority, and they were stuck in a vicious circle. He says that he became the leader of his clan because the people wanted him to, which is an absolutely incorrect and misleading statement. David was the kind of man who first made the people fall into the pit-hole and then brought a rope to pull them up, thereby claiming that had he not been there, they wouldn’t have been able to overcome the problem. But the point that everybody missed was that there wouldn’t have been any problem in the first place if he hadn’t been there. 

David told Ellie that he found both of them quite alike, as she was also violent by heart. He was right when he said that his followers were like a flock of sheep, because he was the wolf who didn’t mind sacrificing them for his own selfish interests. When a person truly loves, he has the will to be truly selfless, but David was making sure that he sacrificed others and then somehow made it look like the people had willingly offered themselves up because of their devotion. David saw Ellie as the best and most appropriate match for fulfilling his sinister intentions of multiplying his own breed and bringing an offspring into this world that would be the ideal personification of evil. David referred to it as love, but it wasn’t, as he was ready to sacrifice a young girl and make her go through all kinds of torture by forcing himself upon her just so that he could expand his cult. David probably sought to create a pure breed in whom evil was so innately inculcated that they didn’t need to be brainwashed or transformed to adhere to his ideologies. David wanted her to take pride in the fact that she was the chosen one and that she could help Satan fulfill his destiny and bring a new world, but Ellie was more strong-minded than he gave her credit for.


Were The Cordyceps Capable Of Loving?

His care, his protection, and his love were not unconditional, and that is why his whole belief system became self-refuting. David sparked a very interesting debate when he said that Cordyceps showed him the truth, and he talked about it in a manner which made it look like he perceived the fungus as something positive. His reasons for making that assumption were that the Cordyceps Brain Infection was fruitful as it multiplied, and anything that multiplies instead of diminishing cannot be considered evil. He said that it feeds and protects its children. David said that the infected resorted to violence, but that was only because they wanted to secure their future and not be eradicated by human beings. It was certainly a flawed philosophy, as what it was doing was compulsively asking the people to love and embrace it because otherwise, there would be consequences.

Love cannot be coerced and the people on the other side should be free to do as they will. The moment love becomes a compulsion, it loses its essence and becomes something very toxic in nature. The Cordyceps Brain Infection didn’t give the people an option, much like David, to choose not to love, which in hindsight made it something sinister. We believe that both David and the fungal infection could be called the personification of evil because they put conditions in front of people, and only upon the fulfillment of those conditions, were they deemed worthy of being loved. We don’t deny the fact that even Joel had done bad things in the name of love, but the basic difference between him and David was that the former knew when he went wrong and often resisted the impulse, whereas David had accepted the fact that everybody had an animal inside them, and he had no qualms about unleashing the beast as he felt that it was necessary to do so. David’s so-called love had made people helpless, and there was a difference between having faith and doing something out of fear. They feared him because they knew that he wouldn’t even bat an eye before sacrificing them.  

David tried multiple tactics to win over the trust of Ellie towards the end of the eighth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” but he wasn’t able to make her do so like he had his followers. He said that he would leave Joel and give Ellie the opportunity to rule with him over his small dominion. He told her that together they could become even stronger and expand their horizons. The moment he realized that Ellie could not be so easily manipulated, his real side came into view. It took a demon to strip Ellie of her innocence and unleash the beast that had always been inside her. When she came face to face with Satan himself, she couldn’t help but resort to violence and slaughter him into pieces, somewhere proving David’s theory that they both were violent at heart, though their motives were in stark contrast, which probably made all the difference.


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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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