The Last Of Us Creator Explains David's Creepy Attraction To Ellie

This post contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" episode 8.

The latest episode of "The Last of Us" introduced us to David (Scott Shepherd), a religious leader of a mysterious settlement near where Ellie and Joel are hiding out. The guy seems kind of cool in the beginning, but every scene reveals him to be worse and worse, to the point where nobody can complain when Ellie smashes in his head with a hatchet a couple dozen times. 

It's with his relationship with Ellie that David's at his most interesting (and most unsettling), which is why it's no surprise to hear the show's co-creator, Craig Mazin, talk in-depth about it on the recent official podcast for the series. He discussed David's first interaction with Ellie, where's he surprisingly calm despite having a gun pointed in his face: "[Ellie]'s doing the best she can to be tough and scary. And what I love is that Scott Shepherd, as David, sees right through it and doesn't take advantage of it."

But as becomes clear as the episode progresses, David doesn't just react calmly because he sees through Ellie's threats. "[Co-creator] Neil [Druckmann] and I talked a lot ... about when a certain concept begins to form in David's mind," Mazin explained. "And the concept is, 'I want her.' ... David's interest in Ellie is not merely paternal." 

It's easy to miss in the first half of the episode, but with David's talk of having had a "violent heart" even prior to the cordyceps outbreak, to his talk about once being a schoolteacher of kids around Ellie's age, to his disturbing, creepy behavior towards the fatherless girl in his community, it becomes increasingly clear that David's not just a cannibal: He's a pedophile, and Ellie is his newest target.

Attracted to her defiance

"He wants to have her," Mazin explained. "He wants to possess her. He wants to own her. And I think it happens immediately. I think he looks at this kid, who is so far away from any of the people that he is currently the pastor for, and he is lit up. I think he is intensely attracted to her force of nature, her power."

As David declares to Ellie near the end in perhaps the episode's most disturbing moment, "The fighting is the part I like the most." It's less physical attraction that compels him towards her, but a desire to assert his own dominance. As co-creator Neil Druckmann put it, "He has broken all the people around him. Right? It's like sheep. And here he sees a wolf, like him." He already has complete control over the people in his settlement, so to David's twisted mind, Ellie represents an exciting new challenge. 

It's the sort of revelation that casts the actions of the men around him in a whole new light. David's men repeatedly try to convince him to let them kill Ellie, insisting that she'd just be another mouth to feed. At first this seems pretty cold-hearted, but in light of the episode's final few scenes, it might've been something closer to mercy. David's men seem uncomfortably aware of what David has in mind for Ellie, and maybe they just wanted to spare her from all that by giving her a quick death. 

His poetic demise

In the end, it's the thing that attracts David to Ellie that also leads to his violent death. He likes the idea of Ellie being a fighter, but he's too arrogant to ever really consider her as a proper threat. He's taken by surprise when she breaks his finger, just as he's completely thrown off guard by her reveal that's she infected. David is smug and sure of himself right up until the second before Ellie murders him. 

Although some fans might've been disappointed in Joel's apparent irrelevance in this episode — despite him interrogating two of David's men, he doesn't actually save Ellie from anything in the end — it's important that Ellie gets to kill David entirely on her own. David has such a twisted understanding of his relationship with teenage girls, seeing himself as both their protector and their owner, and there's something truly cathartic about watching Ellie reject that worldview in such clear, final terms. 

"The Last of Us" has shown a pattern already of introducing new characters just to brutally kill them off within an episode or two. After the tragic untimely deaths of Tess, Bill, Frank, Sam, Henry, and Riley, it's nice that this latest episode kills off a character who actually deserves it. So long, David; on behalf of all of us, you will not be missed.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).