It’s the penultimate episode of The Last of Us! Ellie has zero survival skills despite her FEDRA school time, which I find surprising. You would think in a post-apocalyptic world, survival training would be a day-one kind of thing.
Yet, Ellie doesn’t think to pack the wound with snow, she doesn’t think to use the snow to control Joel’s fever, hell, she doesn’t even have the sense to use a lighter to sterilize the sewing needle! But, ok, she’s a fourteen-year-old kid in an impossible situation, that’s the take we should have to help us ignore logic, right? Only, it doesn’t work. Because, again, she grew up in this world, surrounded by people who should have definitely taught her better. Ah well, gaping, bloody, infected plotholes aside…let’s see how this plays out.
Spoiler alert: it’s bad! Ellie, in her infinite wisdom and inexplicable gun-horniness, decides she’s gonna go out and hunt. Not entirely unexpected, the rations are getting really low, and maybe she’s hoping fresh food will help Joel heal. She blunders a bunny hunt but does manage to hit a deer though it runs off wounded and she’s gotta chase it down.
Unfortunately, two strangers found it first. Say hello to David (Scott Shepherd) and James (Troy Baker – who voiced Joel in the video game!), we saw them earlier in this episode: David is a creepy preacher who has a stern run of his flock, while James is a member of said flock. Ellie gets the drop on them and negotiates for medicine, successfully. As James leaves to get the meds, David tries to have a conversation with Ellie. She can’t understand his belief in a god, but he surprises her twice. Once by explaining he found god after the outbreak, and the second time by telling her “everything happens for a reason” and then revealing Joel killed one of his men, Alec. Ellie realizes too late she’s been had, and James appears with a gun aimed at her. Weirdly, David doesn’t kill her, instead, he has James give her the medicine and the two of them take off with the whole deer. Ellie runs off with the meds and her life.
Back with Joel, Ellie isn’t sure what to do with the penicillin, so she just shoots it right into the wound…I mean, that’ll work, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a doctor by any means, but we’re letting quite a few things slide here. Never mind that Joel could have a deadly allergy to the stuff, but…uh…isn’t dosage a thing? Also, also, isn’t fungi how we got in this mess to begin with? Once again, as TLoU demands, we must let this go and embrace the unbelievable. Don’t worry, there will be more insane suspensions of disbelief to come, you just wait!
Over at the settlement, David and James return with the deer just in time for dinner, which is also deer (maybe? We’ll get to that). He explains that they’ve found the man who killed Alec, and he’ll be taking a gang out to get the girl and bring the man to justice. This is a telling scene because there’s a girl (Hannah, played by Sonia Maria Chirila) who calls for Joel to be killed, which leads to David slapping her so hard that she falls out of her seat. He then offers her a hand and says he’s her father and she will respect him. So, yeah, Ellie’s initial assessment is correct: David is a cult leader.
The next day, Ellie gives Joel another direct penicillin injection and then goes upstairs to tend to the horse. It doesn’t get to enjoy its breakfast of snow because a flock of birds alerts Ellie to the presence of people! David and a gaggle of his cult members have come a callin’, so after giving Joel a knife, Ellie heads out on horseback to lead them away. Naturally, this ends badly for the horse, and it and Ellie get brought to the settlement. Joel’s on his own.
As it happens, he’s got two direct shots of penicillin coursing through his near-dead body, which helps when one of the cult members finds his way into the basement. Joel’s miraculously able to not only get to his feet but sneak up and stab the man from behind. And if you thought that was nuts, there are also two other members he manages to take down and eventually kill. I mean, the man clearly knows how to “do a ‘Die Hard’”.
Ellie wakes up in a cage. Her situation is much worse, and her solutions are more believable. After listening to David monologue – complete with the “we’re not so different, you and I” trope, she almost gets the upper hand. Almost. Sadly for her, David is a devil in disguise, his faith isn’t in god – he’s actually one with the fungi, and not in the infected sense. I get some The 100 vibes when the topic of cannibalism comes up, with David showing he probably would have made a great Blood Queen. But, I digress – Ellie and David’s showdown takes them to the dining hall. Ellie’s attempt to defend herself results in a fire that David allows to spread and burn as he stalks her through the building. She actually gets the upper hand this time, successfully stabbing him in the side, but David’s not done. He’s happy to die trying to rape a girl in a building fully on fire – like, wow, no sugarcoating that this guy is E-V-I-L with a capital E. Is it any wonder then that Ellie’s overkill stabbing of him to death with a machete doesn’t feel bad at all? Though, again, you might want to make room for the possibility that smoke inhalation isn’t that bad, and you can last quite a while before any harm comes from it. Oh yeah, actually, no harm, cause when Ellie exits that building, she isn’t coughing at all. Not even a little.
Her reunion with Joel is understandably rough, he hugs her from behind, and given her recent near rape she’s traumatically startled by it. And they limp away into the snow.
As the episode before the finale, I’m not sure this was the right story to tell. Or, at the very least, I’m not sure what this story is supposed to be getting at. The David figure is just another in a long line of “evil” people, whose stories happen to collide with Joel and Ellie’s, but to what end? The last episode paints Ellie out to be someone who doesn’t see her own potential clearly, and just as she’s about to embrace it her whole world gets fucked. This episode proves she’s capable of surviving without Joel, but falls into the trap of “a girl’s gotta almost get raped” to save herself. Seriously? I may make fun of her survival skills, but Ellie gets Joel into fighting shape, handles two fully armed men by herself, and even succeeds in overcoming her captors by using her wits. Did we really need David trying to rape her in a burning building? Really?
Guess we’ll see what torture porn the season finale brings us.