“The Last of Us” Episode 108: Nevertheless, She Persisted

Hello! We’re back with a recap of the penultimate episode of HBO’s The Last of Us, titled “When We Are In Need”. And per usual, by “we” I mean me (Nic) and Valerie Anne; two queer nerdy friends having lots and lots of feelings about our favorite video game turned television show and its tiny murder lesbian. I think we say this every week, but this is an emotional one folks, so buckle up.

Valerie: Previously on The Last of Us, Joel got shanked, sending Ellie into a flashback of the last time she was left behind by Riley, her best friend and first love, with whom she had a magical night in an abandoned mall before they both got bitten by a clicker. In the present day, Ellie dragged an injured Joel to a basement in an abandoned house, sewed him up and hoped for the best.

The Hunt

Ellie sits in the basement over Joel's unconscious body, fist on her chin, thinking, wondering, worrying.

“I bet Riley would know what to do.”

Nic: It’s snowing, it’s blustery, it’s beautiful; and as we take in an apocalyptic winter wonderland, the voice of a man reading from the book of Revelation cuts through the peace. We’re in a place called Silver Lake where a group of very forlorn looking white people (I don’t know why this stuck out so much to me in this episode, but it was giving Westboro…) are listening to a man preach about the comfort that God provides even in the most trying times. A girl about Ellie’s age is crying, and as her mother comforts her we learn that this gathering is to mourn the death of her father. The girl asks the man when they can bury him, and after an interesting glance to another member of the group, he tells her that because the ground is too cold, they’ll need to wait until the spring.

After the “service”, the man, who we learn is called David, and his buddy who happens to have the face of Troy Baker aka the voice of OG Joel from the video game, discuss just how dire their situation is – they have enough venison to last 1-2 weeks at most. Before they ready themselves to go hunting for more food, David accuses James of doubting him, but James insists that although it’s been a rough few months, he still believes in him. The episode has barely started and I’m already creeped out and uncomfortable with this entire situation.

Valerie: Two things: 1) Once you escape the cult of Christianity, it’s hard to imagine how you ever thought things like “He Shall Provide” were anything but creepy. 2) Troy Baker is one hell of an actor because he put on quite the voice for Joel. If I didn’t know it was him, I wouldn’t have guessed it.

Nic: Back at the abandoned house they’ve been hiding in, Ellie continues to do everything in her power to take care of Joel. She checks his wound which is looking…pretty gnarly to be honest. He’s been asleep or resting the entire time, but that hasn’t stopped Ellie from talking to him or asking if he’s hungry or thirsty. She dabs some water on his lips, takes a bite of food for herself, and leaves a piece for him as she ponders what the heck she’s supposed to do next. The rifle catches her eye and in that moment she knows that she’s got to put those hunting lessons to good use otherwise the two of them will starve.

So Ellie heads out with the rifle, checks all around her just the way Joel taught her, and then makes her way into the woods. She starts to follow some tracks, scares away a rabbit, and then falls on her face into the snow. Our girl is going through it, y’all. Before long, she spots deer tracks and hot damn, she actually sees one in the distance. She readies herself, gets into position, breathes, and remembers the way Joel told her to squeeze the trigger. It works! She hits the deer and then it attempts to run, well limp, away.

We see its blood trail, only it’s David and James who find the deer first. They start to discuss whether it’s okay to just take it when Ellie’s voice rings out, demanding that they back away from her kill before she puts a bullet right between their eyes. They drop their guns and step back before turning to see that the voice belongs to a literal child. A child who is having NONE of their shit, to be fair. And thus begins David’s emotional manipulation. He pleads for just 10 seconds to tell Ellie that they’re from a large group of very hungry people so they need that deer more than she does. Honestly, the audacity of this white man to just reap the benefits of Ellie’s work?! I’m not surprised by any means, but everything about David makes my skin crawl. :shudder:

Valerie: Ellie using her Joel impression for good instead of for mocking him. (Which, arguably, is also good, but you know what I mean.)

Nic: Ellie lies and says that she’s also from a large group, but even so, David knows that she can’t carry that deer back by herself. So he offers a trade, and Ellie nearly jumps at the chance to potentially get medicine for Joel’s infection. Bella’s face work is impeccable in this entire episode, and right here, they depict Ellie’s immediate shift from badass negotiator to scared and hopeful child in the most perfect way.

Valerie: THE VOICE CHANGE. IMMEDIATE. Agreed, perfect line read, no notes.

Nic: David and James agree to the trade, but Ellie’s a smart girl and refuses to follow them anywhere; instead, she tells James to go get the medicine while she and David wait for him. Once James leaves, Ellie keeps her gun trained on David while she unloads the men’s rifles. It’ll be a bit before James gets back, so Ellie, David, and the deer take up shelter in a nearby shed.

Venison and Vengeance

The Last of Us: Ellie stands outside, cheeks pink from the cold, and looks up to the sky.

14 is too young to have the world on your shoulders.

Valerie: Sitting around the fire with only a dead deer for company, David tries to make conversation with Ellie. Tries to ask her name, but she won’t give it; invites her to join his group, to which she points out he JUST said they are low on food. He says he’s a decent man, a thing most decent men don’t have to say out loud, and Ellie asks if he’s their leader. David claims it wasn’t his choice, that the people looked to him to lead. Hilariously, Ellie asks exactly what I would have asked next: is he leading a cult? He tries to laugh it off, admitting there’s a religious element to it, but claims it’s “standard Bible stuff” as if there are no cults that would claim just that. Ellie doesn’t believe how anyone could watch a mushroom virus take over the world and believe there is a god but he says he only became a preacher after the world ended. (One might say he found god in a hopeless place.)

Nic: HAHAHAHAHA (thank you, I needed that laugh).

Valerie: Using humor to cope is my specialty.

Ellie puts on a mocking tone and asks if he switched from teacher to preacher because it rhymes, and it’s another one of those moments where you go “oh god she’s only 14.” Because she’s trying so hard to be tough and fling insults but all she knows how to do is swear a lot; despite the show she puts on for everyone, cruelty doesn’t come naturally to her.

He tells Ellie everything happens for a reason, which makes her scoff, and he offers to prove it. His example is that one of his men got murdered the other day by a man traveling with a girl who is just her age. Ellie’s body tenses and she tightens her grip on her gun and whips around to follow David’s eyeline; James is back with a gun on her. She points her gun at him anyway, but David tells James to stand down, give Ellie the medicine, and let her go. James questions this order, but Ellie doesn’t wait around to hear David’s explanation, she grabs the medicine and high-tails it back to Joel, much to James’ chagrin.

When Ellie gets the medicine in the needle she realizes she doesn’t know how to give someone a shot (which, fair) and when Joel can’t answer her pleas for help, she decides to jab it right into the wound. Then she tucks him in and curls up next to him which reminded me too much of that one scene in The Lion King for my heart’s comfort. And Joel, perhaps instinctively, almost imperceptibly turns his head into hers.

Nic: Wow, I was already emotional about Joel leaning toward Ellie here, and then you hit me with that Lion King reference? Rude.

Valerie: Back in Cultville, a cook prepares fresh meat stew; he claims it’s venison, but there’s an awful lot of it, and David and James don’t return with the deer they stole from Ellie until after dinner is served.

When they do return, David and James are met with awkward stares, so David addresses the room. He says that in the morning, they’re going to follow the girl’s tracks to the man who killed their friend and enact justice. The dead man’s daughter shouts that they should kill them both, to which David answers by strutting right up to her and backhanding her across the face.

Nic: This fucking guy was a teacher.

Valerie: He basically says he’s her father now and tells her to obey him and despite it leaving a bad taste in MY mouth, after he finishes blessing the meal, everyone goes to town on their meal. If you look closely, you can see David’s mouth turn up in a slight hint of sick pleasure as he watches Hannah eat the stew, which makes me more nauseous than thinking about the stew itself.

Back in the basement of bad vibes, Ellie checks Joel’s fever again and jabs more antibiotics into him. She goes upstairs and gives Callus some snow to drink and is standing in the yard trying to decide what to do next when she sees a flock of birds fly off as if startled, so she slinks around to take a look. She spots David, James and a few more men heading her way, all armed, and clearly looking for her. While they trace her, James protests David’s plan of bringing “the girl” back to town with them, but David doesn’t want to hear any of his lip.

Ellie books it back to Joel, and when she can’t rouse him, she presses a knife into his hand and tells her to kill anyone who comes down to the basement on sight. She leaves the house, cleverly blocking the basement door with a bookshelf, and takes off on Callus, on a mission to distract the men and lead them away from Joel.

Nic: She came up with this plan so fast?!?!

Valerie: David yells after his men to make sure he brings her in alive so James shoots her horse, sending her flying, disorienting her enough for James and his boyz to catch up to her. They’re about to take justice into their own hands, but David interrupts, determined to take the girl alive. David carries Ellie herself, tells two of his men to drag the horse back to town, and lets the rest hunt for Joel to enact the vengeance they so desperately crave.

One of the men rolls a natural 20 on his investigation check and sees through Ellie’s bookshelf trick, heading downstairs. But when he gets there, Joel isn’t on his mattress; the combination of antibiotics and adrenaline got him up and at ’em, at least enough to kill the man trying to ambush him. Joel uses the body of this man as bait to trap two more, torturing them just long enough to get the name of the town/resort David took Ellie to, kills them both, and takes off with his newly marked map.

Nic: Joel’s “it’s okay, I believe him” got me GOOD.

Next page: “DESTROY HIM!!!!” 

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Nic

Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 78 articles for us.

Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 560 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Whew. This episode was tough. Really good but so tough, even when I knew what was coming.

    I appreciated y’all’s humor tho! “One of the men rolls a natural 20 on his investigation check” so good

  2. Bella effing Ramsey. 19. Can I just say, oh my god. We are watching a star being born. I often wondered who would be the next great dramatic actress would be and I think she’s been found.

  3. Phew, that was an uncomfy watch (likewise for the game), even if Ellie managed to slash herself out of a horrific situation.

    On the plus side, it was great to see Bella carrying the whole episode on (their) her own, while comically landing on (their) her face or fighting tooth and nail to survive.

  4. Definitely an intense episode, though I was very glad it was less heartbreaking that last week. (I don’t know that I could have survived two in a row like that.)

    I watched the Inside the Episode afterwards and thought it was weird that the show runner described David as seeming like a good guy/dad at first, when I definitely though the was clearly creepy from the start. 😕

    • I really wonder if people’s backgrounds inform how they saw David’s introduction. As someone who grew up in culty christian churches, as soon as he was on-screen reading bible verses my alarm bells started going off. But I’ve seen some mixed reactions where people didn’t pick up on things as quickly. Either way, Ellie taking him out was so incredibly satisfying and cathartic.

  5. I also read a review where the reviewer seems to think he’s good from the start and I’m like dude were we watching the same show?! I had such a deep visceral discomfort from moment one. So interesting.

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