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Is The Last of Us Part 2 really about a Christian cult? We re-analyse the trailers

The Last of Us Part 2 was recently delayed due to distribution issues surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironic for a game set in the aftermath of a viral outbreak that has brought humanity to its knees.

It’s a big blow to fans who were patiently waiting for the game after another delay earlier in the year - especially since we now have no idea when it’s coming at all. All I know is, after playing The Last of Us Part 2 at a preview event last year, it seems like it will be worth the wait.

Just the other week, someone claimed to have inside knowledge of the game’s story, so we might as well pick it apart while we twiddle our thumbs. Potential spoilers follow the video below.

The leak claims that the main enemies of the game, the Seraphites, are a group of Christian extremists who murder Ellie’s love interest because they see their same-sex relationship as a sin. Let's revisit the trailers and see how that holds up.

But first, what about that name: Seraphites?

Medieval Christian theology says seraphim are angelic beings that sit at the top of the heavenly hierarchy. They protect the holy throne at God’s side.

Now, “-ite” is used to denote that someone belongs. That means Seraphites are literally: “of angels”.

Just the name already lends some credence to the alleged leak. So let’s take a look at the trailers.

The Last of Us Part 2 - PlayStation Experience 2016: reveal trailer

Even this original reveal trailer hinted at the game’s religious themes with its song, Through the Valley. Here’s a passage from the Bible, Psalm, 23:4 - “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

And for comparison’s sake, the song: “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; And I'll fear no evil because I'm blind to it all. And my mind and my gun, they comfort me; Because I know I'll kill my enemies when they come.

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell on this earth forevermore. Still, I walk beside the still waters, and they restore my soul; But I can't walk on the path of the right because I'm wrong.”

The Shawn James song is a direct reference to that Bible verse, but there’s a key difference between the two. In the scriptures the writer is taking comfort from the fact God is at their side. They are being guided by God - a staff being the traditional tool of a shepherd - through the Valley of Death.

In the Shawn James version, he isn’t comforted by God. He’s comforted by his own thoughts and his gun, whether a metaphorical firearm or not. He feels safe because he trusts himself, and he’s blind to the evil of the world because he’s become desensitised to it. The song is about rejection of religion.

In this context, it could be Ellie rejecting religion as she gears up for revenge against a Christian cult. “I can’t walk on the path of the right because I’m wrong,” could be a reflection of how Christianity claims her sexuality is a sin.

The trailer closes with Ellie telling Joel that she’s “going to find, and she’s going to kill, every last one of them”, which also backs up the theory that this is a revenge story and she’s planning to hit back after they kill her love interest, Dina.

The Last of Us Part 2 trailer 2

This trailer shows a handful of new characters, though they obviously have a massive significance in the game’s story. Why else would they get their own trailer without a hint of Ellie or Joel? It also gives us our first look at the Seraphites.

One interesting thing about the Seraphites is how they often communicate with whistles, just like how a shepherd communicates with their flock.

In the Bible - Zechariah, 10:8 - God says he will one day whistle to bring his flock back to Himself/religion: “I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.”

Lead game designer Richard Cambier told me this when I asked him about the Seraphites’ whistles back at E3 2018: “There are religious undertones to how they talk, but also in how they communicate using these whistles.”

This trailer shows an unknown woman being dragged into a clearing where she sees the bodies of numerous people, each of them hung and disemboweled. The unknown woman is pulled by a rope from her neck before one of the Seraphites, called Emily, places a bucket at her feet so she doesn’t die.

Emily then pulls a knife and gestures to the corpses, telling the mystery woman that “they are nested with sin”. Perhaps this means they were killed because they were infected. The Seraphites likely see the cordyceps disease as a manifestation of one’s sins, with the transformation into a clicker as the final stage of that corruption.

Just as the woman is about to get her stomach cut open, Emily is distracted by a whistle as another woman, called Yara, is dragged into the clearing. Emily knows Yara and calls her by name - it seems Yara was also a Seraphite who has defected from the group. Emily then asks where the other “apostate” is, presumably talking about Yara’s brother, Lev. An apostate is someone who has denounced a religious order.

After Yara spits in Emily’s face, she orders her henchmen to “clip her wings”, after which they take a hammer to her elbow. If the Seraphites are “of angels”, the clipping of her wings is both a reduction of her mobility and a symbolic gesture.

Yara is then saved by Lev, along with the unnamed woman. Shortly after, they’re set upon by clickers, who Yara refers to as “demons”. This lends more evidence to the Seraphites seeing them as the final manifestation of humanity’s sins.

The Last of Us Part 2 gameplay trailer

This trailer gave us our first look at Dina, who Ellie shares a kiss with during a community dance. The section I played last year also revolved around Ellie and Dina’s blossoming relationship.

After their kiss, the trailer cuts to gameplay and we see Ellie shanking one of the Seraphites in the neck. Again, we hear those whistles as the cult communicates in its own secret language.

Once more, we see someone disemboweled as one of the Seraphites says, “They are nested with sin.” When Ellie is eventually spotted by one, they call out a warning, pointing at Ellie and calling her “Wolf”. Obviously a wolf is one of the biggest threats to a shepherd’s flock. In the Bible, a wolf is also a metaphor for evil men and sometimes even Satan himself - anyone who preys on god-fearing Christians.

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” - Saint Matthew, 7: 15.

Towards the end of the trailer, Ellie executes a man who whispers, “Noah, who is the sacrificed lamb,” which further cements that this group are radical Christians. It’s going to be interesting to see how the audience responds when it finally releases.

Personally, I’m even more interested in the game now. The Last of Us is amazing because of how grounded it is, and making up a fictional religion for a game that’s meant to be set in the real world, in the United States, would take away from that. I just hope Naughty Dog can pull it off without having to dial it back to release in a country where these themes will likely generate controversy.

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