To be blunt, it’s probably best to merge the reviews of episodes seven and eight because episode seven is a complete waste of time. Basically, Ellie moves Joel to an abandoned house and tries to take care of him. He tells her she needs to go back to Tommy’s and let him die, and she almost does it, but then she has a flashback. During the commentary for episode seven, the writers mention that they wanted to make a connection between this flashback and Ellie’s decision to save Joel. But I think the truth is they were more interested in devoting another episode to fanservice for the critics.
In this flashback, Ellie remembers Riley, her friend who was attacked with her in the abandoned mall. When the two are bitten, it’s Riley who tells Ellie they should hold out until the end. So, Ellie decides not to give up on Joel, she’ll hold out for as long as Joel is alive.
Another Side Episode We Didn’t Need
Really, Ellie’s motives could’ve been established in five minutes, but once again, the writers devote an entire episode to yet another random flashback because they want to build a second, tragic love story. Very sentimental bunch, these writers. Of course, sentiment has nothing to do with it. This episode is just one more love letter to the academy. So, pay little attention to this episode. It’s mostly propaganda. The bottom line is, Ellie decides to stay and help Joel. That’s it.
In episode eight, Ellie is hunting and shoots a deer. Then she comes across two hunters who are trying to take her kill. These hunters are part of a larger community which is very hungry but also happens to have medicine, so she offers to trade half her deer in exchange for something that can help Joel. The two men agree, and Ellie guards one of the men while the other goes and retrieves the medicine. The man she’s guarding turns out to be the leader of this community. His name is David, and the writers make one thing very clear about him. He is the cliche religious nut. Not content to advocate for homosexuality, the writers decide to insult Christians to boot. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. But the writers don’t harp on this often, and there are only a couple moments in the episode that make one want to roll his or her eyes. The only pertinent information we learn about David during he and Ellie’s initial exchange is that his community is where the group of men who attacked Joel in episode six came from. Since Joel killed one of those men, David’s people are eager for revenge.
Just as David tells Ellie this piece of information, the second hunter returns, and David tells the man to give Ellie the medicine. He does not seem to be as interested in vengeance as the others. Ellie takes the medicine, returns to the abandoned house and gives it to Joel. Then she goes to sleep, hoping for the best. The following morning, Joel seems to have improved, but surprise, surprise, David and his men have tracked Ellie, and they are looking for her and Joel in the abandoned neighborhood. Ellie tries to lead them away but is captured. David and two others carry Ellie off, leaving the rest to hunt for Joel. Fortunately, Joel wakes up, and he has just enough energy to kill all the bad guys.
There is a neat scene where Joel tortures two of the henchmen to find out where Ellie has been taken, then he’s off to try and rescue her before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Ellie wakes up in a cage right next to a giant butcher’s table, where she sees a severed human ear lying under it. Turns out David’s community is much hungrier than he’d let on. They’ve resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.
Now, here was a moment in the series that I found bizarre. This show prides itself on its sense of moral ambiguity, and yet, when David comes to greet Ellie in her cage—saying that despite his people’s eagerness for revenge, he wants to spare her, for a price, of course—she is disgusted by David’s actions. Apparently, it’s okay to kill people in this world because that just depends on your point of view, but if you eat them after their dead, you’re a monster. At one point, David even asks Ellie if he should’ve let his people starve instead, and she literally says “maybe.” And the tone of the show seems to imply that it would be better to let women and children starve to death rather than to resort to cannibalism. While thinking about this episode, I couldn’t help but remember the Donner party and the variety of survival stories that have been told over the years. In those situations, the cannibalism is treated as the ultimate act of desperation, not a despicable deed done by a bunch of degenerate heathens. I thought this was a bizarre place to draw a hard moral line in a world where people kill each other on a whim.
Anyway, David and Ellie don’t get along, so David decides to eat her too. Ellie doesn’t care for this, and while David and his hunting partner pull her to the butcher table, Ellie bites David on the hand. She then tells David that since she bit him, he’s infected and has him pull up her sleeve so he can see the scar from when she was bitten. This causes David’s buddy to freak out, and while the two men are arguing, Ellie grabs a meat cleaver and plunges into the David’s partner’s neck. He dies, and David chases after Ellie.
A Strong Finish
The climax of this episode is very well done. Joel doesn’t save the day, but Ellie actually manages to kill David on her own, and the actress playing Ellie, Bella Ramsey, does a very good job during this scene. I’ve heard other reviewers criticizing her portrayal of his part, but I don’t think this is fair. Bella Ramsey has done a fine job playing the character. The trouble is, the writing has been terrible in places, particularly in the beginning of the series, and it’s very difficult for actors to pull a convincing performance out of a less than ideal script. For another, people have seen the Girl who is the key to everything trope over and over again for years now, and they’re sick of it. I can relate. I’m sick of it too. But I think people might be projecting their hostility of the trope onto the actress, and I don’t think such projection is justified in this case. I think Ramsey has played the part well, and she does a wonderful job during this episode.
After Ellie kills David, she reunites with Joel in yet another well-preformed scene, and the two limp away.
Episode seven is such a waste of time it’s hardly worth mentioning. Episode eight starts out weak then ends on a very strong note. We’ll see how the writers conclude the series in the next review.