The Last of Us Episode 8 Introduces the Most Terrifying Villain Yet
In Silver Lake, nothing is as it seems.
There’s always a tendency in post-apocalyptic media — especially zombie apocalypse media — to show that the true villains aren’t the undead monsters coming to eat your brains. Rather, it’s the humans trying to get ahead and survive no matter the cost, even if other lives are at stake. But even in a crowded genre, The Last of Us reaches a new level of this “people are the real villains” trope, from the soldier who shoots Sarah to the raider who stabs Joel.
The Last of Us Episode 8 does something no other episode has been brave enough to do so far — show a villain who isn’t just fueled by revenge or survival, but also moral superiority.
Warning! Major Spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 8 ahead.
Episode 8 follows Ellie as she encounters David, a teacher-turned-preacher who’s now the leader of an extremely religious community. He initially plays to Ellie’s goodwill, talking about how he came to the faith late and believes everything happens for a reason.
But with one sentence, everything shifts — he reveals to her that his group was looking for a man who killed one of their community members, and this man traveled with a young girl. Ellie realizes they’re looking for Joel, and she gets away from them as soon as possible.
David’s descent into madness from then on peels back layer after layer of evil — but the most disturbing part is that he acts like what he does is the most natural thing in the world. Of course he has to kill Joel, he killed one of his men and it doesn’t matter that it was self-defense. Of course their food supplies include human bodies in storage hung like they were sides of beef, how else are they supposed to make it through the winter?
Somehow, the show finds a way to make David something worse than a cannibal — he’s also a child predator. In his final confrontation with Ellie, he offers her the chance to run Silver Lake alongside him as his child bride, a suggestion Ellie responds to by breaking his fingers. This was only hinted at in the game, but in the series, it’s made sickeningly clear, especially when David comments about how he “likes it when they fight.”
Kathleen was a villain because she was laser-focused on exacting revenge, even though that doesn’t solve anything. The raiders Joel and Ellie have encountered over their entire journey were just looking to make ends meet and survive, as Joel can attest from his shady past. But David has all these qualities and more — he’s willing to kill for revenge, kill for food, and do far worse things to young girls.
In any other series, he would be a cartoonish supervillain, but the stoic and logical performance of Scott Shepherd gives it a believability that’s hard to admit even as a viewer. We’ve seen how heartless the post-apocalypse can be, but this is a new level of the kind of evil that is not only prevalent in this environment but respected as a leader. Even after the end of the world, cult leaders are still the worst of the worst.