Portrayed by Scott Shepherd, David is an important supporting character in ‘HBO’s ‘The Last of Us.’ According to what he tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey), David was a maths teacher before the outbreak caused by the Cordyceps fungi happened, and the world changed. David found faith in that bleak, post-apocalyptic world. When we are introduced to him in the show in episode 8 (‘When We Are in Need’), he serves as the preacher and leader of a small community in Silver Lake, Colorado.
While out hunting with his second-in-command, James (Troy Baker), David meets Ellie and later realizes that she is traveling with the man who killed a member of his group earlier. If the events in this episode made you wonder whether David is dead and Scott Shepherd left the show, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is David Dead?
Yes, David is dead in ‘The Last of Us.’ When the episode begins, it is implied that the small community in Silver Lake has survived for several years under David’s leadership. After the fall of the Pittsburgh quarantine zone in 2017, the group was forced to move from one place to another until they arrived in Silver Lake. It has become increasingly difficult sustaining the community, especially during the harsh and barren winter of 2023, when the episode is set.
The HBO series is based on the 2013 namesake video game from Naughty Dog. Anyone who has played the game would know that David and his group are cannibals. In episode 8, there are initial hints toward this practice before the actual revelation. David tells Ellie that not many in the community know about it, and those who do, maintain their silence. It is implied that these people eat the meat of the person Joel killed in the previous episode, who was a member of their community until recently. Those who are not aware are told that they are eating venison.
When Ellie first encounters David and James, she has been tracking a deer she just shot. The two men find the deer and plan to take it home when she succeeds in getting close to them with her gun raised. David convinces her to give them half of the venison in exchange for penicillin for Joel.
Even though ‘The Last of Us’ is a show with zombies, some of the worst monsters are humans. David tells Ellie that he means her no harm during their first encounter but later leads some members of his group to hunt Joel down for killing one of them. He instructs his people to capture Ellie alive, and they do so. They bring her to Silver Lake, where Ellie realizes that these people are cannibals after spotting a human ear right outside the enclosure she is kept in.
A second aspect of David’s monstrosity becomes apparent when he grabs Ellie’s hand and tells her to stay with him. In response, Ellie breaks his fingers, and when he and James try to kill her, she tells them she is infected. In the ensuing confusion, Ellie kills James and escapes.
David pursues Ellie into a larger room, where Ellie tries to defend herself with a smoldering piece of wood. Soon, the church begins to burn as David tries to overpower her. Ellie eventually kills David with the butcher knife she killed James with earlier. Outside, she runs into Joel, who has come to rescue her, and they promptly flee together from the settlement.
Did Scott Shepherd Leave The Last of Us?
With his character dead, it’s safe to assume Shepherd has left ‘The Last of Us.’ In the video game, David is portrayed by Nolan North. Shepherd becomes another addition to a growing list of actors who have guest-starred in the show and delivered memorable performances.
In video games, the perspective is often restricted to playable characters. This is mostly true about the Naughty Dog game, where we only see things through Joel and Ellie’s perspectives. As a medium, television allows a broader exploration which permitted series co-creator Neil Druckmann to flesh out characters such as David.
“In the game, we have these long uninterrupted sequences where the only perspective you have are these two characters,” Druckmann, who also co-directed the game, told Vanity Fair. “You never cut away to another character. With the show, we were able to unplug from these characters and focus on Bill and Frank [episode 3] or unplug from these characters and focus on David. It helped flesh out the world, flesh out these characters in a way that was just hinted at in the game.”
Druckmann also told the same outlet that David was one of the characters he really enjoyed developing more thoroughly for the show. “… Ellie encounters this guy named David who turns out to be an interesting character, a very nuanced and dark version of Joel in a way,” he explained. “There was an opportunity to actually take what is sort of a villain in the story and show a more complex human being by spending time with him and this group and seeing how much he cares for people, even though he has these very horrible qualities.”