The penultimate episode of HBO’s The Last of Us picks up where we left off with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). After stitching Joel up, Ellie notices his wound is in the first stages of infection while they are both feeling the effects of the harsh winter and their growing hunger. Needing to hunt, Ellie encounters two strangers, David (Scott Shepherd) and James (Troy Baker). David trades Ellie's medicine for some of the deer, but that is where things worsen for Ellie. Gamers will have noticed that from the trailer, episode eight is another perfectly adapted part of the game, which comes as no surprise. With this episode, David offers Ellie a place in his seemingly pious group, which did have a lot of fans worried about this change.
When we first meet David and his group, it’s a sharp contrast to any other we have seen throughout the series. Compared to Jackson, which is full of life and normalcy, David’s group is dark, and somber even, with no one talking other than David. Scott Shepherd delivers a fascinating performance, starting off as a charming, caring man, but there is something burning beneath David’s cool exterior. What was interesting about Shepard’s portrayal was his subtlety. David is a leader, there to do the best for his group, but when things aren’t appreciated, the cracks begin to show, making David the most interesting, possibly complex villain of the last of us.
Fans of the game were a little apprehensive when the trailer revealed David was shown to be a preacher in his group, and while that is true, fans have nothing to worry about. Religion is a part of David, but it’s not all he is. He’s a Shepard surrounded by sheep, alone in this world with a violent heart, but rather than going overboard with his sadistic qualities, the subtlety in the writing and performance, with a gradual build-up, will have game fans thrilled at this version of David, while normal viewers will appreciate the subtle build of tension this episode provides.
One thing HBO has displayed throughout this season of The Last of Us is how to adapt and expand the world of the game. David is another notable example, as is James to a point. James was not a big character in the game, and on the show, he’s David’s second. HBO could have easily had James in a bigger role, but instead, they allowed Shepard to shine in his portrayal. There is one scene of David’s that has been slightly altered, involving a monologue of his violent heart and how he sees the world that will have both game fans and new fans of The Last of Us almost applauding. It’s a change that wasn’t expected, but as David explains his viewpoint on the world, it will leave you wanting more of this charismatically complex character.
One of the things I do ask myself when reviewing is what stops this from being a full five out of five in rating. Given various aspects from acting, writing, pacing, and the episode overall, it is a perfect episode. The only aspect that didn’t make much sense was a comment made about Joel. He is branded a crazy man and given we haven’t seen him kill that many people since Wyoming, the comment felt a bit unjustified. Other than that, there are no complaints about this episode.
For many game fans, this episode is one of the most anticipated chapters of the game they have been waiting for. Many even say David’s chapters in the PlayStation game are fan favorites given the gritty, dark, and fiery action scenes that have been perfectly adapted by HBO. After episode seven, some, including myself, had expressed concerns about pacing, but episode eight is perfectly paced. It covers a lot, but it does not sacrifice in terms of writing or performance. I will say, if Bella Ramsey doesn’t get any award nominations purely for the last few scenes in this episode, it will truly be a shock. Ramsey again proves how she is the perfect Ellie. From her snarky comments to her loyalty to Joel, this episode cements that Ellie is put through a lot this episode.
Final Score- [10/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: March 05, 2023, on HBO
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