Note: this essay is based on the anime, not the manga.
Despite not appearing in many Trigun episodes, Nicholas D. Wolfwood intrigues many fans of the anime. He especially interests me, because he claims to be a Christian, like I am. But what do you make of a priest who smokes, swears, drinks, and shoots people with a cross-shaped weapon?
Is he a good stereotype or a bad stereotype? Actually, his appeal lies in him not being quite either. Although Wolfwood may seem unorthodox for a Christian, in a way, he is Every Christian. He is eternal yet earthy, holy but all too human, saintly and sinful, striving for godliness but plagued by his own sins. He's the goodness we value with the rawness we desire. These contradictory combinations make him very attractive.
Wolfwood is not without his Bible predecessors. There is John the Baptist, a non-conforming ambassador for Christ, who walked around in the wilderness, much like Wolfwood hiked through the desert.
St. Peter used violence gratuitously to save Jesus, rather like Wolfwood perhaps unnecessarily shooting down Zazie the Beast to save Vash. Jesus rebuked Peter by saying, "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword", and that is how Wolfwood lives and dies; he is gunned down by a Cross Punisher weapon much like his own.
Samson lived life wildly and violently, killing because of grudges, and carrying on outside of marriage with the two-faced Delilah. Yet God used him as a Judge for His people. Wolfwood also lives wildly and violently, yet is able to be used for good. The book of Judges remarks about Samson's time that "in those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Sometimes it seems to me Wolfwood is taking that verse to heart in a lawless land.
King David also comes to mind as a counterpart to Wolfwood; he was a man who strove to please God, but he was prone to temptations. Need I mention Bathsheba? In other words, he was a saint and a sinner all in one, rather like Wolfwood.
I have heard the word 'corrupted' used to describe Wolfwood, and I think it was meant as a compliment! But I don't really think of him that way. The word corrupted implies purposefully being sinful and knowing full well how naughty you're being. Wolfwood; however, seems to think he does the right thing. "I've always chosen the right path, haven't I?" Neither do I think of him as a hypocrite. He wears his faults openly rather than pretending to be perfect. A hypocrite would try to pretend those faults didn't exist.
Wolfwood often uses off-color language. People think Christians aren't supposed to swear, but the Bible seems more concerned with taking God's name in vain than using other words that refer to things like sex or excrement. Besides, what is and what isn't a 'bad' word changes with the times. I myself will use words like bitch, damn, and hell but I save the 'f word' for rare occasions, and because I just personally find it gross, stay away from the s word for excrement all together. Even my pastor's son (a good son of a preacher man) thought using the word bitchy was okay.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say "thou shalt not smoke." Many assume it is a sin, though, because it has such a poisonous effect on the body God gave us and wants us to take care of.
Likewise, drinking alcohol is not forbidden, if it's done in moderation. Wolfwood walks the fence on this one, perhaps. He seems to be at least a little drunk in "Quick Draw" when he cheers Milly on when she starts stripping.
As for his willingness to take lives, Wolfwood himself claims he saw it necessary in those circumstances. It is what he believes is for the greater good, to allow the good people and children to survive. "I took many people's lives, all that time believing that there was no other way."
Wolfwood has his ungodly vices, but he is willing to do what even a lot of Christians--myself included--aren't seen doing; laying his life on the line to protect the victimized. Remember how his leg is torn open in "Out of Time" while he fights Grey the Ninelives? He even eventually dies for taking a stand. I like to imagine I could risk my life in a situation that called for heroics, but truth be told, maybe I would chicken out at such a time. But Wolfwood isn't afraid of being in the line of fire.
Is he really a priest at all? The BESM Trigun Ultimate Fan Guide #2 says he "masquerades" as a priest. But I like to think he is one, imperfect though he may be. He did, after all, found an orphanage. And he chooses to spend his last few moments of life talking to God instead of being with Vash or Milly. He calls priesthood "the profession I've chosen". I don't think he is a Catholic priest, though. He probably belongs to some denomination founded on that planet.
What about his involvement with Knives and the Gung-Ho Guns? Everything he does for them seems to be tied to the welfare of his orphans. Either they get much-needed money, or perhaps they are even threatened. "Follow through with your mission, and I guarantee the lives of your precious December orphan children," Chapel the Evergreen advises him. To get him to lead Vash to Knives, Wolfwood is told to "guide" and "protect" Vash, rather than lead him to slaughter.
Is the Cross Punisher sacrilegious? I haven't decided yet. Wolfwood generally uses it for good, but like Vash worries, is he using it for gratuitous violence? Does his confession at the end of "Paradise" make everything right? A lot depends on whether you see the original cross as an extension of Jesus' name, or just an object that's been wrongly given the status of deity in itself.
Perhaps it all seems wrong because Jesus is not associated with violence (though he did hot-temperedly throw illicit businessmen out of the temple). Yet when Christ returns again, it's going to be "No more Mr. Nice Guy". He is "full of mercy" now, but there will come a time when mercy runs out for those who didn't take it while it was offered.
Cutie and the Priest, or I Smell Sex and Sandwiches:
The episode "Paradise" suggests that Wolfwood has sex with Milly. But wait a minute, that's not moral, is it? Well, no, but we don't see what leads up to Wolfwood and Milly's night together; maybe they take private vows to each other. Or Wolfwood perhaps slips up in his angst-ridden state. How's this for angst? He has just had a bitter falling out with his best friend. Now he is on a major guilt trip about hitting Vash, and also over Vash's condemnation of his shooting down Zazie. Wolfwood's hated old mentor has showed up, urging him to kill Vash. Furthermore, Wolfwood is made a member of the Gung-Ho Guns, meaning if he doesn't kill Vash, he will be killed. If Wolfwood is already guiltily reconsidering his actions, would he really add the sin of fornication to his already muddled life? Yes, sometimes people slip further into sin, instead of immediately straightening out. A "shame spiral", perhaps? I know I have fallen prey to this pattern myself. Or, as Vash points out, "Remorse and agony are repeated only to end up at despair in the end."
Would fornication even be a big deal to Wolfwood, who smokes, drinks, and kills? Well, the smoking and drinking could be considered minor vices. The killing he tries to do in defense of the innocent. But just because he's loose in these areas doesn't mean he's totally lax in every matter, such as sexual sin.
Some people say that Wolfwood and Milly don't even have sex that night. But there is plenty of evidence that they do. First, there's the panning away to the spilled coffee when Wolfwood shyly asks Milly to stay. That's an old trick used in movies of yesteryear when they didn't show sex scenes. They just panned away to some innocuous object.
Then the show cuts to Meryl worrying about where Milly is. It cuts to Milly sleeping in Wolfwood's bed, perhaps not wearing anything under the sheets. Pan over to Wolfwood, starting with his feet and gradually moving up to reveal him shirtless, with his pants unfastened at the top. Well, what the heck is a viewer supposed to think?
There's more: The spilled coffee could represent spilled virgin blood. Wolfwood is smoking, like people do after sex; okay, this one's a moot point since he's always smokes! Milly is like a wife deferring to her husband when she tells Meryl she is not leaving because "He made me promise, so I'm not leaving until he comes back." When dying in church, Wolfwood remembers Milly, and even places her above Meryl and Vash, plus says, "I'm sorry, honey," when thinking of her talking about their hypothetical baby. Milly sobs like a widow when she finds out Wolfwood has died. At the beginning of the episode "Sin", a grieving Milly is sitting facing Wolfwood's bed. The way Milly encourages Meryl to never hold back in matters of the heart sounds like she's talking from recent personal experience. Milly talks about the late Wolfwood in a mysterious way, sometimes just saying "He" without clarifying whom this important "He" is. She thinks she knows what he would have done in a future situation. Milly seems to have inherited his cross; it is hers to give to Vash.
A few years ago, such a scene as those suggesting Milly and Wolfwood go all the way would have horribly offended and severely disillusioned me. But, thanks in no small part to the crew of the Bebop, who have all sorts of sins and vices in their lives and still prove to be endearing, I've lightened up; at least when it comes to fiction. Although I didn't want them, a priest and an innocent, to commit fornication, that's what was instantly communicated to me when I first watched that scene; that they go all the way. So it's not a matter of just seeing what I wanted to see. Now I favor the idea, because it's the only chance they have before he dies. And it's the only chance he has to plant his seed, for even though the series doesn't show it, I do like to imagine that Milly is carrying his child.
"Paradise" is the most spiritual half-hour of TV I have ever seen, outside of programming funded by churches. Wolfwood's dying prayer to God is especially intriguing. He even shows anger at God, which is not as taboo as it seems. Many of the Psalms feature the author crying out in anguish to God and listing all his problems, rather than just praising Him.
In his final episodes, Wolfwood keeps getting up only to fall again into sin. But he casts his sins upon God and seeks His forgiveness. That is the true way to salvation; to ask Christ to take care of your sins for you. Wolfwood will indeed end up in Paradise and watch over his friends.