By Sean Gallagher
Wait, didn’t The last of us just start? How are we already at the penultimate episode? I guess it’s a sign of good TV when the ending is sneaking up on you and you’re already dreading the ending because it means you won’t have a new episode to look forward to. While last week’s episode was about hope and love, this week’s episode was dripping with evil and violence. But despite the darkness, there is always some light to be found.
Remember those guys who attacked Joel and Ellie at the end of episode six? Well, they are part of a community in the snowy wilderness, having taken up residence in an old seaside resort. Leading the flock is David, a preacher (a video game diversion) committed to keeping everyone safe and fed. At first glance, David seems like a total yuppie. God-fearing and seemingly gentle, David doesn’t quite scream a strong leader type, especially in a post-apocalyptic setting where alphas tend to be the leaders.
But as the episode progresses, we begin to learn more about David, who is played menacingly by Scott Shepherd. There is something wrong, in the community and after playing the game, I saw all the flags very early. Food shots at David’s herd building up at dinner, I inwardly cringed. Indeed, David and a few select band members, including James (played by Joel’s voice actor Troy Baker), cook up deceased band members, without their knowledge or consent, to keep the rest of the survivors alive. Yeah, this episode is getting dark. Which is a bit of a recurring theme in the series; despite the fungal infection plaguing society, it is humanity that has committed the deliberate acts of violence and evil. Those infected are only interested in spreading, but people like Kathleen and David show that they are the people who have done the most harm without civilization. David, once a schoolteacher, descended into the very heart of darkness, perhaps showing us that the lowest people can fall despite this, without appearing evil on the surface.
In an attempt to lure the Hunters away from Joel, who seek justice for the slain member Joel on campus, Ellie is captured, which puts her in the lion’s den. Trapped and confined, Bella Ramsay’s Ellie comes face-to-face with her most formidable adversary yet. David attempts to lure Ellie into the Inner Circle, using soothing words and insight to try to lure Ellie to his cause. She’s a natural leader yes, but she’s also violent, like David, and would make an essential ally. As a preacher, David also wishes to see himself as his father figure, but one from whom a taker (in many gruesome ways) rather than a giver like Joel has evolved.
Joel started this journey seeing Ellie as nothing more than cargo, but when he finds Ellie covered in David’s blood (after torturing goons for directions), he comforts her and calls her “baby girl,” is what he said to Sarah as she died in his arms at the premiere. Joel has now accepted his role as Ellie’s father and she has developed a love for this man who would do anything to protect her, including the brutal torture and murder of two captives, our first look at the genre. man Joel was and how far he’s willing to go to save the person he loves, an emotion he hasn’t felt in twenty years.
Episode eight of The last of us was brutal, heartbreaking and touching. As always, I still wish we had more time for the growth shown on screen between Joel and Ellie, which could have made scenes like their reunion at the end of the episode even more challenging. But the show continues to make us care and believe in their relationship and it’s built a world that seems to conspire against them. Yet despite the obstacles, they grew on their journey. Next step, the final.