The penultimate episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” premiered today, and it was probably actually better than the section it borrowed from the 2013 game of the same name by Naughty Dog. The episode followed Bella Ramsey’s Ellie taking the wheel as she went out into the wilderness to find food and supplies for her traveling companion Joel while he healed from his wounds. “The Last of Us” introduced a character named David, who initially seemed friendly and helpful to Ellie in the game, and it was only after she had more or less begun trusting him that he revealed who he truly was. It was rather doubtful if HBO would be able to recreate the horrors that the section had brought into the game, but after today’s episode, it’d suffice to say that all doubts have been addressed. The episode was haunting, traumatic, disturbing, and downright shocking, and Bella Ramsey may well be nominated for an Emmy or two for her performance today. The show decided to have quite a few differing paths from the source material, keeping the major plot points the same, so here’s a detailed breakdown of every difference, similarity, and Easter egg in the latest “The Last of Us” episode.
The episode opens with a view of a resort next to a frozen lake, and inside a restaurant, a pastor-like figure reads a passage from Revelation, and he says that when people are in need, God shall provide. A similar quote is written on a poster hung on the wall, and it’s directly taken from the game, while the person delivering the sermon is none other than David. However, unlike the game, we get to see a bit more about David in the show, where people seem to be frightfully looking up to him, and he lords himself over his flock as the savior. This entire section about David being a preacher, or even the women and children of his community, were never shown in the game. As for David’s right-hand man, we see James, played by Troy Baker, the brilliant VA of Joel in the game.
Elsewhere, Ellie has found an abandoned house to place the bedridden Joel in the basement, and she finds his gut wound has gotten infected with pus oozing out. He’s also running a fever, and she tries feeding him a few drops of water and places a tiny piece of food on his blanket. The blanket and the dirty mattress that Joel is sleeping on are directly the same as the ones we had seen in the game. However, we didn’t see Ellie tend to Joel in the game at first, and the winter section began with the hunt. Realizing the severe lack of food and feeling the obvious pangs of hunger, Ellie decides to take the rifle that she had learned to shoot with to try and find game in this frozen wilderness. In the game, she had first hunted a rabbit, but upon realizing that it would barely suffice for the two of them, she decided to hunt a deer. Here, she goes directly for the deer after missing her chance to take a shot at the rabbit, but unlike the bow and arrow in the game, she uses the rifle in the show. Much like the game, though, she manages to wound the deer, and it hobbles away, but here we find David and James to be the first ones who spot the deer, whereas it was the other way around in the game.
The dialogue that the two parties exchange when they first meet is almost exactly the same, right up to Ellie referring to James as “buddy boy.” After David sends James to bring back the antibiotics for Ellie’s “friend,” the two move to a shelter away from the cold to start warming up. While David speaks and Ellie keeps the gun aimed at him, the scene aims to show us that we might be able to start trusting David—after all, every individual that Joel and Ellie have come across till this point, from Sam and Henry to the indigenous couple in Episode 6, have become their friends. Ellie refuses to give up her name, but she proceeds to listen to David. The show differs majorly from the game here because it deliberately avoids bringing in any of the infected that we had seen in the game, which might make sense for budget constraints, but also because this episode is aimed at showing how humans can be far worse than any infected. David says that he was a teacher before the world fell apart, after which he found God and became a preacher, and Ellie makes a joke about the homophonous professions to further prove that she has chosen to trust him. While the game gave David almost no backstory, the show remained faithful to the source as David revealed who he really is. His statement, “Everything happens for a reason,” taken directly from the game, preceded his monologue about how a crazy man murdered one of his group members when he sent them to town to scour for food. While Joel had killed quite a few in the game, here David mentions only one death—the guy whose neck Joel snapped. The rest, though, stays the same, with James coming back with his gun aimed at Ellie, David asking him to give her the medicines, and Ellie fleeing for her life.
While in the game, we went back to Ellie tending to Joel; here, we get a look at David being the self-proclaimed shepherd of his group and slapping a little girl named Hannah when she wants David to kill the man and the girl because the man had killed Hannah’s father. We also find the group being served some food and everyone quietly eating because it’s probably an open secret that they’re eating human meat, but they don’t have a choice in the matter. Interestingly, when Hannah asked to have her father buried, David said the ground was too hard to dig at the moment, but it probably makes more sense that her father, Alec, had been cannibalized in the recent past. Everyone knows that they’re willingly taking part in cannibalism, but they can’t complain lest the preacher throws them out of the community or, worse still, serve them as the next meal. David claims that the next morning he and a few more men will go and seek out the man and the girl to deliver justice. This entire section has been created particularly for the show to establish the conditions at Silver Lake Community, where David is the preacher who’s making his folk eat other people.
The following morning, Ellie wakes up, takes the horse out, and stands in the snow until she finds the birds flying away, signaling that trouble is approaching. She arms Joel with a knife, alerts him to kill anyone who enters, pulls a wardrobe to hide the doorway, and tries to distract the Hunters away from him. In the game, though, Ellie discovered the approaching men from the window itself and had far less time to lead them away from the dad she never had. While the game featured a much longer and more drawn-out process where she had to alternate between stealth and brutality, the show cuts the action a lot shorter. The way the Hunters bring her down is very similar, with James shooting her horse down and then approaching her with the intent to kill when David intervenes. He picks her up and leaves, allowing his men to go wild at Joel. In the game, there was a lot more action where Ellie snuck around the resort hunting David’s men until he jumped her and choked her unconscious.
Joel brutally stabs a man who sneaks into the basement Joel is in and proceeds to knock out two more men to use for interrogation. This interrogation sequence is deliciously similar to the game where we see Joel truly show his violent side, and HBO kept everything from him stabbing a guy in the knee with a knife to making him mark out the location where Ellie has been taken. Apart from stabbing the guy to death, everything else has remained faithful to the game, even the part where Joel coldly says he believed the first guy before bashing the other’s brains with a steel pipe. We see Joel finding his way to the place his captives had marked and entering the storage area, where he finds Ellie’s bag, just like in the game. Much like the source material, he finds headless human bodies hanging from meat racks, proving to him that the people here are cannibals.
Ellie wakes up inside a cage and spots a human ear, and it’s amply clear to her that the people here are cannibals. In the game, she spotted David hacking a human into pieces, and the severed hand proved to her that she was amidst cannibals. The most disturbing scene follows when Ellie is approached by David, who proceeds to groom her into joining his side. Scott Shepherd manages to make David even creepier, with the viewers feeling nauseous at the 50-year-old man trying to groom a teenager with his sweet talk. While in the game, David kept his piece brief and to the point; the character in the show further extends his preacher persona by saying that after the apocalypse happened, he found a free pass to let his violent side run wild. He also mentions he’ll let Joel go if she joins David, and it’s all an attempt to manipulate the girl into being a part of his group so that he can execute his diabolical plans for her. It’s honestly sickening how David truly shows what a monster he is once he’s away from the people who depend on him because he can be evil without any restrictions. Ellie, however, sees through the silver-tongued devil’s lies and lures him in to place his hands on the bars before snapping his finger, just like in the game. She’s then dragged out and placed on the butcher’s table by James and David, whom she bites on the hand when she cries out that she’s infected. Exactly like the game, David places the machete next to her to look at her bite mark when she whacks James in the neck with the machete before fleeing.
The audience couldn’t have asked for a better live-action adaptation of the climax of this chapter, with Ellie sneaking through the restaurant-turned-church with David close at her heels. The restaurant catches fire in a slightly different manner, however. In the game, while the two scuffled, a lantern fell and started a fire, while in the show, Ellie threw a burning log at David that quickly incinerated the curtain, and the rest of the wooden structures followed. The show makes David even more diabolical with his attempt at sexually assaulting Ellie depicted even more grotesquely until she’s able to reach for the machete. The scene that follows is even more haunting than the game as Ellie proceeds to wildly hack the pervert with the machete, screaming with unrestrained rage. While Joel lunged at her and stopped her from mutilating the corpse any further in the game, HBO allows Bella Ramsey’s Ellie to let out her hatred to the fullest, and it’s only after she steps out of the burning building in a daze that Joel finds her. He holds her, and she initially screams and protests until she sees that it’s her father figure, Joel, who proceeds to call her “baby girl.” Perhaps the entire “The Last of Us” fandom had awaited this particular moment in the series because it’s the exact moment when Joel finally accepts that Ellie is his daughter—there’s nothing indirect about it anymore. He used to call Sarah by that name and referring to Ellie as the same means that he finally sees her as his other daughter. He proceeds to put his coat around her and escort her out of the hellish area with his arm around her, probably vowing in his mind to protect her from any other danger that follows—an example of which we’ll see when the season finale premieres next week.