SPOILER ALERT: This column contains potential spoilers about the eighth episode of “The Last of Us.”
Episode eight: “When We Are in Need”
Religion has officially entered the chat. It was only a matter of time, really. As Taylor Swift once said, “Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too.”
And, um. Yeah. Desperate people do find faith.
Or someone they think represents faith, I guess. Then they just follow them. And if I sound nonchalant about religion and theology in general, it’s because I am. It’s one of the few things on the planet I don’t really enjoy talking about.
My only true experiences with religion are weak at best, anyway. Once, when I was really little, I went to church with my childhood best friend while my parents were in New York City. The church people just talked about how “god” backwards is “dog” — and I guess that was supposed to prompt my conversion, because, whoa, there’s no way I could’ve figured that out by myself — and then the kids were dismissed to Sunday school.
Where I just cried the whole time.
I disrupted an entire Sunday school class with my tears — I didn’t understand the Bible or why the answer to everything was Jesus, which, in theory, I should’ve loved, right? I’ve always had testing anxiety. Maybe if I had just put “Jesus” as all my test answers growing up, not only would the many Christians of Fishers, Indiana — my hometown — have been wowed by me, but I’d never have to think for myself again.
When you have the answer to everything, you’ll always ace the test.
But tiny Ellie knew that was wrong and “The Last of Us” Ellie (Bella Ramsey) knows that’s wrong, too.
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In episode eight, we meet David, who’s creepily played by Scott Shepherd — a fitting last name, as you’ll see. I personally view him as the worst villain yet — meaning no redemption arc, genuinely disgusting and abusive with his power. His dialogue — god, I wanna die when I say all this — is good, though.
David has been chosen as the leader of his group. He reads scripture in the beginning of the episode, but we find out later that his true inspiration is cordyceps, the fungi that causes the infection, not a god. He treats cordyceps as a sort of idol, effectively demonstrating just how alike the cordyceps and humans are:
“What does cordyceps do?” he said to Ellie. “Is it evil? No! It’s fruitful! It multiplies. It feeds and protects its children. And it secures its future with violence, if it must.”
A brief pause.
Ellie asks why she’s being told all of this, to which David tells her she can handle this kind of honesty, but no one else can.
He’s a cannibal. He’s a pedophile. He deceives. He manipulates.
He’s a habitual liar.
And liars are the worst.
Get him, Ellie. Just get him.
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I know what it’s like to be told by an adult that you’re “smart, a natural leader, and loyal,” just as David tells Ellie. It’s not a compliment; it’s a trick. A form of manipulation, an attempt to convert. And a real leader — like Ellie — knows that. And she’ll never fall for it.
She’ll manipulate you right back. And probably win.
In a flaming fight à la Marion’s bar in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Ellie, being her quick and resourceful self, finds a way to kill David, stabbing him many, many, many times over. It’s not that she was ensuring his death; he would’ve died pretty quickly. But she was letting all of her frustration and sadness and anger go on The Worst Person on the Planet.
And then she meets Joel (Pedro Pascal) out in the cold, her personal Best Person on the Planet. Leaving the burning building behind, she realizes the person she needs right now is her “dad” — actually, no, no more quotation marks going forward — and he realizes it, too. She’s not “beyond” needing a dad, like David said she was.
She just needs the right one.
She doesn’t need David. She doesn’t need religion or blind faith or sheep. She doesn’t need to be a shepherd to said sheep.
She just needs Joel. And Joel needs her.
Part of me wants to tell the world that the best love is from the people around you. That there’s no higher being to put faith into. But I don’t know, man — kinda makes me sound like a shepherd. And all of you are my sheep.
And I do not like that.
Like my current roommate said back in high school before the AP Literature & Composition exam, “The answer is pretty much always Jesus-related. Just write about Jesus. Just pick the answer that’s about Jesus. It’s all. About. Jesus.”
I actually wrote about Junie B. Jones and then wrote an essay as Holden Caulfield. She got a 4, though. I definitely didn’t. Maybe I should’ve listened — maybe everything comes back to religion and spirituality — but I rarely do.
I just like thinking my own thoughts too much. And I guess I’m just not desperate enough to change that.