Another Bella Ramsey masterclass arrives this week on HBO with the latest installment of The Last of Us. In this penultimate episode, the spotlight is on Ellie once again as she faces a great threat, still all alone due to Joel’s unstable condition. Tensions are extremely high in an enticing conclusion that leaves you with a certain emptiness.
Winter has arrived. Let’s dive into this dramatic episode.
*Warning: spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode eight*
David is one of the most complex characters in The Last of Us domain. His values are irrational, but are disguised by his faith. The families that follow him and accept him as their leader buy into his ideologies of The Lord saving them and providing for them, perhaps taking on somewhat of a God complex himself. He leads a group of survivors who are in the dark about most of the things David bestows upon them.
In an early scene, a young girl in David’s survivalist group is refused the burial of her deceased father. David coldly explains that the ground is too solid due to the snow, so burying him isn’t currently possible. A blatant, emotionless lie. Later in the episode, we see this same young girl indulging in a meal, unbeknownst to her that the dish consists of her father’s remains. David is a cannibal, a fact only known by a couple of men in his inner circle. He is one of the most hated characters by The Last of Us players, understandably so.
Return of The Last of Us legend
Troy Baker, the original voice actor of Joel in the video games, makes his debut in the live-action adaptation. He plays James, a character very close to David, his wingman. Ellie first encounters the pair in the woods whilst hunting deer, immediately displaying caution towards them. Ellie refuses to let her guard down, consistently keeping her eyes on the target, just like Joel taught her.
David offers Ellie something she desperately needs; medicine. Her desperation clearly gets the best of her after letting James out of her sight. Saving Joel is the only thing that matters. He is her priority. The danger of abandoning her target is clearly overshadowed by her determination. She soon realizes her mistake, though, when James returns pointing a gun at her.
With a face overcome by fear, Ellie learns that David has been looking for Joel after he killed one of his men. “I believe everything happens for a reason,” David states smugly. The look of defeat in Ellie’s eyes after realizing her fate translates phenomenally. She doesn’t have Joel to protect her, all we can do is fear for what will happen. David’s calmness and sly grins add a certain unease and discomfort to the scene. It’s easy to dislike his character, and Scott Shepherd pulls off this role incredibly well.
The search party
After helplessly retreating back to the house she and Joel are taking refuge in, Ellie cluelessly delivers a dose of the medicine she received from James and David. Another desperate attempt to revive Joel, she has no idea what she is doing, or if the medicine will even help. All she can do is hope for the best.
In a simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking shot, Ellie curls up to Joel and listens to him breathe. Her aching heart is devastating. Ramsey’s subtle cues of sadness are embedded beautifully whenever she is around Joel and adds to the heaviness everyone is already feeling.
The peace is brief, however, when the next morning David arrives with his brigade searching for Ellie and Joel. After a tense encounter, David is victorious and captures Ellie. He is clearly very smug with his actions and takes no pity on Ellie despite her age and clearly unideal situation, adding to the brutality and coldness of his character. His grim plans for her are soon to be revealed.
During the showdown, Ellie’s courage and strength are displayed incredibly well. Bella continues to do enormous justice for Ellie’s famous uncompromising personality as well as the very prevalent fear she subtly carries. They have truly been a pleasure to watch every single week.
The best is yet to come, though.
Back up and running
Clearly, the medicine Ellie gives to Joel has the desired effect as he springs out of the shadows onto one of David’s men, taking him down with a tussle. This encounter used up most of his energy, but Joel struggles to his feet, pushed by determination to rescue Ellie. The pair share in their desperation for one another.
Pedro and Bella’s development of their characters and their learned love for each other is astonishing. To think the first time we saw them together all those weeks ago, they were at each other’s throats and resenting one another. Now, we see their unbreakable bond and respective care, what a journey it’s been.
Ellie fearfully awakens in a cell located at David’s resort. Even in her weakest moment, Ellie still presents a strong front and holds her ground. This chapter in the video game is one of the best moments of storytelling and dialogue, and it continues to be so in the show. The outright terror in Ellie’s eyes compared to the taunt in David’s voice is unnerving. We genuinely fear for her.
Joel’s famous The Last of Us interrogation scene
Back in episode six, we see Joel using a slightly less violent variant of an interrogation tactic well-known to his character in the source material. Well, drop the ‘less violent’ part for this round. Clearly outraged and petrified over Ellie’s unknown fate, Joel corners two of David’s men and ruthlessly beats them both before revealing his desired outcome. One will tell him where Ellie is being kept, or he will kill the other. Plain and simple. No one has to die, just tell him where she is. Unlucky for them, though, Joel shows clear impatience and brutally executes them both after getting what he wants.
Pascal shows no remorse at this moment and precisely renders Joel’s ferocity. He truly is unbelievable in this role.
A dramatic conclusion
Ellie discovers David’s cannibalistic traits and rightfully flips out. Even with David’s attempts to defend his actions, he cannot win Ellie over. She resists and fights back, delivering one of her character’s best lines; “Ellie. You tell ’em Ellie is the little girl that broke your f****** finger!” The mixture of anger and fear delivered by Ramsey is astounding, especially in the closing moments of the episode.
Whilst James and David attempt to apprehend Ellie and end her life, she mindlessly fights back. Her helplessness is solemn, along with her manic screams, desperately hoping someone will hear her. But no one does.
She struggles under the grip of the pair, but it isn’t her fighting that sets her free. Prior to being pinned down, Ellie bites David. She unsettles the men after yelling: “I’m infected!” and revealing the bite on her forearm. This causes David and James to loosen their grip in fear and confusion, allowing Ellie to spring forward and kill James. She runs away aimlessly, and David follows.
After a dramatic showdown between the two with tense action and suspenseful stalking, Ellie finally gains the upper hand and unleashes on David, mercilessly ending his life.
She cries out until her lungs are empty and beats him until he is unrecognizable. She stops.
Ellie’s face drops and her eyes widen. The shock and fear hit her all at once, and she helplessly looks around. With tears running down her cheeks and a distressed expression, she exits the burning building. Ellie wanders aimlessly away from the resort but is stopped in her tracks when someone grabs her from behind. She resists and pushes away the tall figure before realising…
He cups Ellie’s face in his hands and comforts her. “Joel?” Ellie barely whispers, whimpering. “It’s okay, baby girl... I got you.” Joel says in a hushed tone. He holds Ellie still for a few moments, allowing her to catch her breath and learn that she is safe again, back in his arms.
Who’s cutting onions?
Bella Ramsey gives the best performance of the whole season this week. Everything is flawless, from their expressions to subtle body language cues, and their ability to show complete distraught. The emptiness their performance leaves is indescribable. You feel just as lost as Ellie.
Similarly, Pedro Pascal’s display of care and solemness towards Ellie is reciprocated, and audiences won’t be able to help but feel obliged to pity Ellie after the events of this episode. The whole supporting cast this week is incredible. With this being one of the heavier episodes so far, it is executed wonderfully.
The Last of Us is almost over
The season finale of The Last of Us airs next week. It feels as if the last two months have flown by. I am not ready to say goodbye to Joel and Ellie! Will HBO go nine for nine with one final bewildering episode? Episode nine promises dramatic action and a tight conclusion to the events of the first game. The wait will be agonizing.