How Did The Encounter With Pastor David Change Ellie Forever In ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 8?

The eighth episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” is by far the most emotionally devastating episode for Ellie. While left on her own to help Joel get back on his feet, Ellie had to take on the responsibility of hunting for food and looking for supplies when she met a stranger named David. Soon, Ellie learns of the horror the world has in store for people, and the true extent of the terror people can inflict on others when all hell breaks loose. The encounter with David changes Ellie forever, and she sees the grotesque side of humanity. Here’s a detailed look into how an innocent teenager is forced to come to terms with the monstrosity amidst humanity.

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It was just a week ago that we saw Ellie being the arcade game-playing kid who got way too excited upon seeing an escalator for the first time in her life. She was a teenager who grew up within the walls of a fascist military government for the entirety of her life and never knew what the world beyond the walls looked like. Ellie would pick fights with the other girls in her military school and was never afraid to confront the ones who crossed her, but at her heart, she was still an innocent kid who loved reading puns out of a joke book to get a smile out of Joel.

We saw Ellie posing with a gun in Episode 4 to see how she’d look in front of a mirror, but she soon learned the reality of what it’s like to fire a gun on another person later in the episode. After several months of nothing but hardships, she found a kid close to her age and became friends with him, only for the boy to get infected and attack her. The journey had been far from easy, but Ellie soldiered on, at times, with a smile, all thanks to Joel. The knowledge that he’d be there for her, to protect her and keep her from harm, kept her going, but when he got stabbed in the gut in Episode 6, his old and tired body gave out. Robbed of her pillar of strength, Ellie was left all alone in a world she didn’t understand, with people she didn’t know if they could be trusted or not. So far, all the people whom they had encountered were ones who had been helpful and good people, and she also had the guidance of Joel to know right from wrong. In his absence, she was left vulnerable to all the dangers of this post-apocalyptic world.

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In her most vulnerable state, the monster known as David crept in with a familial tone and the promise of helping Ellie in her moment of need. She almost started trusting the man, who seemed friendly enough to tell her about his previous life and even painted himself and his people as victims, being attacked by raiders and hostiles any time they tried settling. A former teacher who had taken to being the preacher and been chosen as the leader of his group, David was apparently a good man who had been entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding his flock to safety. Barely having seen the world and the people that populate it, Ellie might’ve even given up her name, but David revealed who he really is. When she learned that Joel had killed a man from David’s group, she was immediately on guard and ready to use her gun on him or his right-hand man, James, who had snuck in. David gave her a further sense of false security by making James hand over the medicine to her and letting her leave. He did offer her safety if she chose to join their group, but she fled the scene and retired for the night next to Joel, hoping to drive the thought of the preacher away from her mind.

The very next morning, Ellie came to understand that humans can be far, far worse than the cordyceps-infected zombies that have reclaimed the earth. She tried getting David’s hunters away from Joel, but her horse was killed, she crashed, and she was left exposed to be shot dead by James and his men. However, David had other plans for her, and he took her away to keep her caged like a rabid animal, while it’s he who needs to be barred away. Ellie quickly realized that David and his people weren’t opposed to the thought of eating other human beings. This left her nauseous, as the thought of chopping another human being into small pieces and cannibalizing them was something she couldn’t fathom, even if it was the world’s end. But hunger can drive people to do things that people would shudder at if the situations weren’t as extreme, and throughout the course of history, there have been instances of cannibalism at times of immense need, including the Russian famine of 1921–22. However, what’s truly disturbing and downright diabolical is the way David groomed Ellie. A full-grown man, old enough to be her father, uses fake promises and makes false praises to earn a teenager’s trust so that she gives in to his tricks. Truth be told, the whole scene was very disturbing to watch, knowing how this is a rather grim reality in the everyday world, even though we don’t get attacked by fungus-brained zombies.

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Ellie plays along with David’s pretense until she can break his finger and try and grab the keys from him, but he immediately drops the ‘nice guy’ act. Once denied, he turns into a violent cutthroat and threatens to chop her into little pieces, and she’s dragged out by David and James, all the while screaming and crying. Ellie had seen a lot and faced a lot, from the death of her best friend to witnessing a man blow the brains out of his younger brother right before her eyes. However, the thought that two men would drag her out and attempt to chop her up to be served as food was too incomprehensible for her. She manages to flee after killing James with the machete, but when David unleashes his real evil and attempts to sexually assault her, Ellie’s screams of terror is too chilling. So far, she had shot the young man named Bryan in Kansas City in the back and fired quite a few shots at the people who’d chased them, but she never had intentionally killed another human being. This barrier of not taking another human’s life was shattered the day she learned just how monstrous humans could be. The repeated whacks of the machete that she brought down on David long after he was dead were the expression of her rage and hatred that came crashing down.

Having killed two people within the span of 10 minutes, Ellie drags herself out of the burning restaurant when Joel hugs her, and she immediately starts screaming to be let go. It’s only after Joel has told her a few times that it’s him that she collapses into his arms, unable to keep herself upright any longer. He puts his coat around her and carries her away, and she’s too shaken to string a sentence together. In the game, she remained very distant after the encounter with the cannibal, and it was obvious that the innocent child inside the brash teenager had been killed. With just one episode left in the first season, it’ll be traumatic to witness the girl who wore her heart on her sleeve become the husk of her previous self, all because the world had too many monsters in human clothing.

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See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 8: Recap And Ending, Explained: How Does Ellie Save Herself From David?


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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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