Yeah, we know. We deserve a formal apology from HBO for its penultimate episode to The Last Of Us. Not cool, HBO.
Having had our hearts ripped from our chests (again) last week, one would presume the second-to-last episode would relieve us from the heartbreak, cutting the audience some slack from all the trauma. Just a really chill, really relaxed episode with Joel and Ellie bonding and doing fun things together.
me every sunday excited for a new last of us episode then experiencing the events of said episode pic.twitter.com/26ky82vg4G— jar jar binky (@caseyaonso) March 6, 2023
Not on HBO’s watch it seems. No, HBO loves to kick us when we’re down.
As the landscape shifts to a frigid, lifeless winter fraught with tension, the episode opens at a community of survivors. A creepy Pastor (read, creepypasta) named David (played by Scott Shepherd) stands before his congregation. His reading is interrupted by the pleas of a mother and daughter, later revealed to be the family of Joel's attacker at the university, now dead.
Despite his consoling words, a sinister air hangs over the proceedings, exacerbated by David's ominous remarks of the ground being too frozen for a burial. Shepherd’s soft-spoken poise already establishes him as a threat. Something’s off about him that seems impossible to put your finger on and Shepherd embodies that feeling.
A banner proclaims, "When we are in need, He shall provide." Something says that the ‘He’ in question isn’t rooted in Christian faith, though ‘He’ probably commands the community with similar authority under the sway of a cult of personality.
A confidante, James (played by Troy Baker) hints at growing discontent with David's leadership as the two discuss the status of their dwindling rations, further confirming our suspicions surrounding the full scale of their pastor's machinations. Baker’s presence on screen should surely have prompted gamer’s to froth at their mouths in a moment of self-aware excitement. (He voiced Joel in the videogame).
LAST OF US FUN FACT:— - (@SCR0BE) March 6, 2023
The actor who plays “James” actually played Joel in the original games! pic.twitter.com/heRrBK2dur
Meanwhile, in the familiar dingy basement, Pedro Pascal’s Joel lies unconscious still - his stab wounds stitched up but showing signs of infection. Chewing on something toffee-like, Bella Ramsey’s Ellie is forced to venture out by herself into the forest to hunt for dinner. Her inexperience as a hunter is evident as she falls flat on her face in the snow while chasing after a rabbit, however it’s quickly contrasted with Ellie’s gradual prowess as a sharpshooter when she sights a deer.
my mental health after watching each episode of the last of us pic.twitter.com/emTGXTtKP6— em 🌿 (@emthewilds) March 6, 2023
This contrast is a reminder that though still a child, Ellie is already way beyond her years. But more importantly, as she draws a heavy breath and guns down the deer, Joel’s lessons seem to be paying off. Though the deer eventually escapes, Ellie's determination leads her directly towards David and James.
where was this scene in the new last of us episode.— anth (@up2anth) March 6, 2023
A brief de-escalation of events and Ellie’s promise to “put one right between your eyes” - a threat finished by David - leaves Ellie and David alone, sharing a fire, while James is sent off to fetch medicine for a trade.
David’s disarming demeanor get’s Ellie’s guard down for a moment as she learns about his position as a pastor and his religious convictions. For a fleeting moment, the two share a bit of chemistry that doesn’t seem to sit too well with us. But it soon becomes apparent that David had either recognized Ellie or had worked out her identity.
A frantic run back to the basement to alert Joel leaves Ellie escaping on horseback to create a diversion, only for her horse to be shot and her captured and taken back to the community.
As morales dwindle and the harsh realities of their situation begins to weigh on them, dissent begins to simmer among the populace, only to be placated by David with a swift slap to the face. His testification as a “Father” to the bereaved seems to suggest the obvious sinister truth.
Before the episode’s traumatic climax, is an equally traumatic shift away from Ellie to Joel’s personal Guantanamo Bay. Joel’s unwavering resolve shows no hints of remorse as a stone-cold Pascal mutilates a pair of captured raiders to wring Ellie’s location out of them. The scene serves as a piercing reminder of Joel’s ruthless capabilities, teasing the road ahead.
As Ellie sits confined in a cage, her eyes fall upon the gruesome scene before her. "You're eating people, you sick f**k," she screams, echoing the collective horror of our now confirmed fears. Yeah, they’re cannibals.
David launches into a demented monologue justifying his actions and proclaiming his reverence for the cordyceps fungus. Shepherd’s disconcerting charm is at its heaviest as he pleads for companionship and parity, and promises to spare Joel if his men had not already caught him.
Scott Shepherd is superb in The Last of Us and this serendipitous line is pure bonus pic.twitter.com/JLjtwKLtlk— Adam Feldman (@FeldmanAdam) March 7, 2023
As if that wasn’t enough to stimulate our gag reflexes, in a disturbing turn, David proceeds to stroke Ellie's hand, expounding upon his twisted vision of a romantic future for the two of them. It’s at this point that one starts to wonder, maybe the Infected weren’t as bad after all.
The final nail in the coffin however extends to David’s chilling comparisons of himself with Ellie. His declarations of being inherently violent seem to prophesise what’s to come, revealing a side of Ellie we’d rather not choose to admit exists.
A harrowing final act set against the backdrop of a flaming diner sees David’s menacing pursuit of Ellie. Their final encounter is a demonstration of Ramsey’s masterful performance as she mercilessly hacks away at the villain with a cleaver. A moment that is just as satisfying as it is horrifying, a bloodstained Ramsey stares blankly into the distance.
the last of us (2023) pic.twitter.com/9k0cDifhgF— screencaps (@screenscaps) March 7, 2023
As our beloved father-daughter duo are finally reunited following in the aftermath of the brutality, a shell-shocked Ellie is at a loss for words in a first, and her adrenaline-fueled instincts are only pacified in a tender embrace from Joel. “It’s okay baby girl, I got you”, assures Joel.
The Last Of Us spoilers— hoax⸆⸉( Taylor's Version ) (@_Lavender_Haze3) March 6, 2023
“It’s okay, baby girl. I got you.” “Baby girl” brought me to my kneeees pic.twitter.com/vddRmGMPUQ
At the end of 8 unbelievably distressing episodes, it seems Joel has finally gained a daughter, though at the heavy cost of a piece of Ellie’s humanity. With its finale now in sight, The Last Of Us continues its undefeated run with “When We Are In Need”.
me every sunday excited to start a new episode of the last of us pic.twitter.com/ulJqeAMJyb— Felipe Espino (@flyknitfeli) March 6, 2023
New episodes of HBO’s The Last Of Us stream every Monday at 6:30 am IST on Disney+ Hotstar.