The highly rated eighth episode continues to focus on Ellie as she struggles to tend to Joel’s worsening abdominal injury, the blistering cold and impending starvation. As if that wasn’t enough for her to deal with already, there is another community of people nearby who are seeking vengeance on the man who killed one of their own, Joel.
Bella Ramsey carries this episode once more as Joel is still bed bound following being stabbed in episode 6. The people who attacked them were of the community of Silver Lake, led by teacher-turned-preacher, David (Scott Shepherd) and Joel killed a man named Alec amid the ambush at the University of Eastern Colorado. The episode begins as David leads the group through a sort of eulogy/service for Alec as he tells the grief stricken daughter they won’t be able to bury him until the Spring as the ground is too frozen to dig. Yeah…okay David…whatever you say. Ellie is on a mission for food and after shooting herself a nice juicy deer, she encounters David and James (played by Troy Baker, the voice actor for Joel in TLOU games). David, who plays the kindly preacher so very well, coaxes Ellie into conversation where they agree to trade some of her deer for some antibiotics she can give to Joel. However, the tables turn quickly as David reveals his ulterior motive for tracking Ellie and Joel is to bring Joel to justice for killing Alec. Ellie on returning to Joel equips him with a knife, tearfully begging him not to fall asleep as she is captured by the Silver Lake community and imprisoned, leaving Joel to muster enough strength for not only his own survival but to rescue Ellie as well.
This episode was a pivotal moment in the games narrative, the relationship between Joel and Ellie has been strengthening minute by minute, but the manner in which each of them are looking out for the other is what provides their strongest foundation and one of total trust and love. One of the games most frustratingly difficult encounters is with David in the bar, where Ellie needs to attack him enough times that he is weakened enough for her to escape. This moment lends itself to the episodes final sequence as David taunts Ellie as the bar burns down around her. We know that Joel, the epitome of hero in this moment, has gathered enough strength to fight his way to Silver Lake and his sole mission is to find Ellie and save her. So when Ellie delivers a worryingly large amount of fatal blows to David’s skull and heads out the bar bloodied and crying straight into Joel’s arms as he holds her tight and calls her ‘baby girl’ the father/daughter relationship is complete. They are fully in this together now, no matter what. Which makes you wonder if Joel will hand Ellie over to the fireflies when they reach the hospital, or will he try something else?
This episode was a shocking one for a number of reasons, not just the heart pounding narrative and the brutality to which David met his maker, but for the other thing. The cannibalism thing. This whole community at Silver Lake are quite literally on the verge of starvation. The people believe that what they are being given to eat at dinner is venison, but in actuality its human flesh taken from those who have died or been killed. Ellie discovers an ear on the kitchen floor and Joel finds three bodies hanging on meat hooks in a fridge. This exposes another horror that is in their path, not only are the cordyceps an ongoing threat to their survival, but other humans are now as well. There was an element of feeling safe in the wilderness because there wouldn’t be and clickers or runners around to attack them, but there are other people and communities of people who are resorting to cannibalism to survive. Had Ellie and Joel been killed by them, they would have ended up as soup, just like poor Alec, who will not be buried in the Spring.
With only one episode left, it certainly feels like the series isn’t going to be finishing at the same point as the first game as we have not even made it to the hospital yet. Take a look at the trailer below.
The Last of Us concludes on Sunday night on HBO.