‘The Last of Us’ New Villain, Explained: Who Is David?

Scott Shepherd as David in The Last of Us - Season 1

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 8.]

When you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic shows, you tend to notice some of the same plot points popping up on different programs.

On its Sunday, March 5 episode, The Last of Us utilized two rather familiar “end of the world” tropes: cannibalism and religious cults. But The Walking Dead‘s Terminus or Reapers, this group wasn’t.

Here’s how this week’s terrifying storyline — and the cult’s disgusting leader, David (Scott Shepherd) — differed in the game.

Scott Shepherd as David in The Last of Us Season 1


The biggest and most notable difference to fans familiar with the source material would likely be David’s group’s overt emphasis on Christianity. In the game, David’s group didn’t have a strong religious affiliation, although David does maintain that “everything happens for a reason” in both. Several lines of original dialogue hinted at a Christian affiliation, but they were ultimately cut, and David never gave a speech about “finding God” after the world ended.

On the show, David serves as his group’s leader and pastor, and he speaks openly about faith and belief… which adds another element of symbolism to the episode’s terrifying’s last sequence in a burning room. The show adds additional details about cannibalism as well, clarifying that the rest of David’s cult didn’t know the mysterious meat they ate for dinner came from human flesh. And it humanizes David’s followers in ways the game never did—the scene where David strikes the girl whose father died wasn’t in the source material. Also, as a sort of fun fact: the game’s voice actor for Joel, Troy Baker, appeared in this episode as David’s lead henchman.

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us Season 1


Aside from that, the show remains hugely faithful to the game. Ellie winds up captured by David’s group in the source material as well, breaks David’s finger in trying to take the keys to her cell, and bites David’s hand in an attempt to get free. In both, the creep tells her she’ll be chopped into “little pieces.” The scenes in the burning restaurant are kept much the same, too, with Ellie (Bella Ramsey) killing David in the same manner as in the game. The order of events changes slightly, though, since in the game, Joel finds Ellie in the restaurant after she kills David with his own weapon. On the show, they find each other outside.

And for Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) part, much of what happens to him is the same. When David’s men come after him, he takes two prisoners and tortures them for information about where they took Ellie, and then he kills them both. He goes to the resort to find her and reaches her just after she kills David—and in both the game and the show, that’s a massive relief. But Joel and Ellie’s journey isn’t over yet…, and there’s plenty more heartbreak to come.

The Last of Us Season 1, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO