‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 8: Recap And Ending, Explained – What Did David Really Want From Ellie?


Among many other things that HBO’s “The Last of Us” has gotten right so far, the spread of directors working on the individual episodes has been impressive. Maybe because of the plot content, “The Last of Us” Episode 8 has been bestowed upon Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi, whose 2022 work “Holy Spider” was an impactful watch. Abbasi is as enjoyable here, too, as the plot follows Ellie as she comes across a group of settlers in Colorado’s snow-covered land and is taken back to the camp by their leader, David. By the end, though, it is perhaps clear that the fungal apocalypse has not been able to change one situation—vile men who lead groups as religious preachers in society, old and new.

Spoilers Ahead

Who Is David? How Does He Recognize Ellie?

Episode 8 of “The Last of Us” begins with a set of new characters instead of showing Ellie and Joel after the end of the last episode, where Ellie had stitched up the man’s open wound. This new set of characters are a group of settlers still struggling to cope with the extreme cold weather and the act of survival. They are led by a singular man, David, who is not just their chief in making decisions but also their religious head, their symbolic father. Just like the Biblical character David, this man too seems to act like a shepherd, lovingly guiding his sheep-like followers towards safety and peace. He reads verses from the Book of Revelations, talking about a new heaven and a new earth emerging after the end of the previous ones. Drawing inspiration from the verse, he tries to encourage his nervous and helpless followers that this was truly their new world after the previous had been lost in the apocalypse. A banner put up inside the hall where all these men and women gather regularly reads, “When we are in need, He shall provide.” Although the capitalized “he” here seems to be God, in reality, it is clearly David who makes the decisions that provide for the needs of the community. It is, therefore, David’s concern, at the end of this scene, that food rations at their camp are dwindling, and so, with his henchman and close friend James, the man decides to go out on a hunt.

It is not just the matter of a food shortage that is troubling the people in this community; they are also grieving the recent loss of one of their members. A man who had gone out in search of food with a group of other men had died, leaving behind a wife and a teenage daughter, Hannah. While David read the lines at the opening of the “The Last of Us” Episode 8, Hannah cried loudly. She then asks when her father will be buried and put to rest and is told that the ground is still too frozen to be dug up and that it will be at least spring for the burial. In this scene and later too, David urges that even though Hannah’s biological father, Alec, is now no more, Hannah is not fatherless, for David himself will take on that role. Somewhere not too far from this community, Ellie is still concerned about where to get any medicine or professional help for the suffering Joel. Food rations have been running out for this pair too, and Ellie now decides to try and hunt some animals with Joel’s rifle. Leaving him at their shelter, Ellie walks into the snow-covered outdoors, chasing a rabbit at first. Soon she spots a deer big enough to feed her and Joel for days, and making use of whatever she has learned with the gun, Ellie shoots the animal. It is only the first time that the girl has done something like this, and so the shot is not the most perfect one, as the animal gets hit but manages to run.

When the deer dies from its injury a little distance away, it is found by David and James, who wonder who shot it. Their desperation in trying to help feed their people is clear when they decide to quickly take away the deer for themselves. But Ellie has already followed the blood trails to reach the spot and to creep up unnoticed; she takes the two men hostage. In his gentle manner, David tries to convince Ellie to give them some of the meat, as they have a big group that needs the food, and he is ready for a barter. Ellie wastes no time after hearing this possibility, immediately asking if they have any medicine for infections, and the two sides strike up a deal. David is to give Ellie a vial of penicillin in return for half the deer. The man tells a confused-looking James to ride back to their camp and bring the medicine while he waits with Ellie.

As the two start up a conversation, it is perhaps evident that each of the characters is going to be significant to the other in the near future. To Ellie, David is one of the few adults she has met whom she has to trust, and yet she is wary of the man and his intentions. To David, Ellie is a young girl whose grit and determination remind him of his own, or so it seems. He is also perhaps asked questions by Ellie that are not really asked by anyone else, especially a teenager. She wants to know how he became a religious person, for it is not a common phenomenon in these times; this is perhaps the first time in ‘The Last of Us’ that religion and God come up. David says that he found his belief in God only after the apocalypse when religion and faith became things that kept him alive and determined. Therefore, he rather enjoys the role of the leader, the fatherly shepherd, that he now plays in his community.

But there is also something off with David from the very beginning—an uneasy sense that the man is keeping something from us. When their conversation about faith and destiny goes on, Ellie says that the survival of the group had to do with luck and not religious faith and that luck might soon run out someday. David’s reply is that he believes everything happens for a reason, and as an example, he says that his coincidental meeting with Ellie was also a choice of destiny, for there was a very specific reason for it. Now the man reveals that the member of their group who had recently passed away, Alec, had been killed by a duo of a man and a teenage girl. This duo was definitely Joel and Ellie, and Alec must have been the man Joel stabbed to death at the University of Colorado campus. Not many people venture out to open lands in this world, and even fewer in snowy Colorado outdoors, so David recognizes Ellie to be the same girl with a companion who had been in the area. As Ellie is suddenly cautious of the dangerous possibilities, James returns to the scene, holding her hostage. But it is David who lets the girl go, also handing her the medicine, confusing James even more. David had earlier questioned James’ waning faith in him, and perhaps out of a need to prove his faith and loyalty, James does not stop him or say anything. With the penicillin she desperately needed, Ellie, runs away from the place with no concern for her hunted deer and returns to her shelter. Here she amateurishly applies the medicine with a syringe (also something David and James gave her) and then lies down beside Joel, hugging the man.

What Happens When David And His Men Capture Ellie?

Although David lets Ellie escape at this point, he is not willing to let her and her companion walk free after killing one of their own. As he and James return to their camp, pulling the heavy deer behind them, the food at their shelter is almost running out, with only three cans left. There is still some meat left, though, as a man brings in a tray full of it to the kitchen, saying that it is venison, and it is added to the dinner meal. Although David and James technically bring back the deer only after this scene, at this point, it seems like the men at the camp are ready to empty out their stock. From the scene where David calmly tells Ellie that he knew about her and her companion because David’s men were looking for them to exact revenge, “The Last of Us” Episode 8 becomes about the gradual revelation of David’s character. His ability to calmly reel one in was expressed in the earlier scene, and now another major characteristic follows when he announces to his people that they have found the murderers of Alec. David says that he intends to find the man who killed Alec through Ellie, and Hannah excitedly shouts out that he should kill both Joel and Ellie mercilessly. David simply walks up to Hannah and slaps the girl with force, and he even stops her mother when she gets up to protest. The preacher now says once again that he is like a father to Hannah now, and so she needs to respect him in an appropriate manner instead of interrupting him. It is evident that David does not differentiate between an adult and a young teenager; he is not someone to make a young individual understand things. Instead, he is someone to force his beliefs onto someone when the need comes.

The next morning, Ellie walks out of their shelter to spot birds flying away in the sky, signifying that someone or something is approaching their location. She cautiously goes to check and sees David and James, along with a few other men, riding their horses toward the abandoned neighborhood. David instructs his men to find and kill Joel and bring Ellie back to their camp, and James speaks up against him for the first time. His words are not resolute but rather presented as a suggestion: leave Ellie at the place. After all, taking her back to camp would be one more mouth to feed, and he does not care if the girl dies without her companion or not. But David’s reaction makes it clear that he is stern about taking Ellie back with them. On the other side, Ellie does not waste a moment after seeing the men. She runs back inside the house, wakes Joel up, and hands him her knife. Taking the handgun with her, she then takes the horse and rides away from the house with the intention of causing a distraction away from Joel and then fleeing. She is successful in causing the distraction but cannot escape the men, as they shoot down her horse and take her captive. As David rides back to their camp with Ellie and James, he instructs three others to stay back and search every house one by one for Joel. By this time, though, Joel seems to have understood the danger of their situation, especially after hearing one of the men enter the house and walk on the floor above. He recovers his strength and hides, then stabs the man to death with precision. Joel then manages to take the two other men hostage and interrogates them about where Ellie is. The men are not ones to easily give in, but Joel is fiercer than ever before, threatening to blow their kneecaps off. He does soon manage to get to the location of their camp and kills both men before leaving to rescue Ellie.

Back at David’s camp, Ellie is kept caged up like an animal, and the intentions of the man look increasingly suspicious. He tells the girl how the others in his group had wanted to kill her, but it was he who had convinced them not to, which had indeed happened when they took her captive. David basically tries to tell Ellie to come over to their side and join their group, but the girl outright denies such a possibility. When left alone, she looks for ways to escape the place and is shocked to see something outside the cage. David returns with some food on a plate right at this time, and the object Ellie had seen is now visible—a cut-off human ear lies on the floor. As David tries to say, almost in a sick and creepy manner, that the food on the plate for Ellie was definitely venison, the reality becomes clear both to the girl as well as the viewers. David and his group had been indulging in cannibalism in order to survive, chopping up human bodies into pieces of meat and mixing them in their food. Therefore, the tray of meat seen in the kitchen earlier was human flesh, and this is also the real reason why Alec’s body is not being buried by David. He intends to use his fallen comrade’s body as a source of nourishment for the living. What is even more twisted is the fact that most of the people at the camp have no idea that they are being fed human flesh, as only David and a few of his closest men know about this reality. This makes one wonder what sort of hunt he and James had gone on earlier. It can very well be that they were looking for animals, but it could also be that David intended to look for human bodies too. This could be the reason behind James’ confusion with regard to David’s decision to bring Ellie back to their camp. Believing that they had consumed human flesh only out of desperation when there was no other food, James cannot understand why his leader wants to take a human again. James believes that David wants to take Ellie for food, which is really not needed since they already got an entire deer the previous day. Even James does not really have any idea about David’s real intentions.

‘The Last of Us’ Episode 8: Ending Explained – What Did David Really Want From Ellie?

Now that he has had to admit their cannibalistic practice, David starts to reveal his real self to Ellie. The man admits that he does not believe in any god and that he does not need any such faith to keep him on his path, but his poor and helpless followers need such a belief system. David admits that he only pretends to be the religious preacher and leader leading his flock of sheep-like followers toward salvation. If he has admiration and respect for anything, it is not God or any other supreme being but the Cordyceps fungus that has caused the apocalypse. Now sounding almost devotional, David says that he admires how the Cordyceps fungus grows and nurtures its community at the expense of other beings. The fungus often gets violent when it needs to ensure the growth and nourishment of its children or new bodies, and David seems to draw inspiration from this very source. He admits that he had to struggle with a violent heart before the pandemic, meaning that he was always malicious and violent in his intentions. The fungal outbreak had given him a new beginning, not to change himself but to hide his real self. His admiration for Cordyceps is even clearer now, for the very fungal outbreak has enabled him to continue being violent and yet be looked up to as a father and guide. In the symbolic sense, David is as distant from religion as possible, for unlike the modest shepherd David in the Bible, the man here is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It is not too hard to guess that David must be in the habit of killing and torturing people just for the fun of it. The man also seems to enjoy deception and misleading innocent people, as he keeps secrets from everyone. He is now intent on having Ellie by his side, as he tries to convince the girl that the two of them are similar in terms of intelligence, much higher than the rest of his people. The suggestion that David seems to give to Ellie is almost that of joining hands with him and ruling over the people. David says that he has always been searching for such a capable companion, and he has finally found Ellie. But the real filth of the whole situation is clear when a different charge is felt in this scene and the dialogue. David is attracted to Ellie, both physically and intellectually, even though she is a teenager, and he is old enough to be her father. One also cannot help but wonder whether David had exercised his pedophilia over the other children and teenagers at his camp. It is even worse to think of Hannah’s situation, with the man literally taking on the role of her father.

Ellie is still more intelligent than the man, though, as she pretends to be won over by David’s offer before hurting his hand to try and get hold of the key to the cage door. She does not succeed, and David instead brings James to finally kill Ellie and chop her off, but the girl now uses the last trick up her sleeve (quite literally). She tells the men that she is infected, and so are they now that she bit David to try and escape. This creates enough distraction for her to kill James with a cleaver. Ellie then runs out to the steakhouse, with David chasing her from behind, and she tries to hide in the maze-like arrangement of tables and chairs at the place. When she finds and throws a burning piece of wood at the man, the tension of the situation is heightened as a fire breaks out in the slaughterhouse, starting to bring the place down. It is amidst the fire that the absolute worst happens—David catches up to Ellie, and with all his horrific evil intentions, he tries to rape the girl. Ellie fights back as hard as she can, and she gets hold of the cleaver she had been carrying. Taking back control of the situation, Ellie violently hacks David to death, lashing out at his body innumerable times in a traumatized and hysterical manner. She then walks out of the burning building, still shocked by the events that just transpired. There can be no doubt that this experience will change Ellie forever. No matter how tough and adult she pretended to always be, the girl was still childish at times. Whatever childish innocence Ellie had, she loses in this instance, not to the deadly fungus-infected attackers, the dubious Fireflies, or the fascist FEDRA. She is torn down instead by the evil desires of a predatory man, one who had sneaked himself into the role of the provider and the safekeeper of people when they were in need the most. David is unanimously the evilest monster in “The Last of Us” and perhaps the most realistically written villain in video games.

While Ellie had been going through all of this, a sickly but resolute Joel was on his way toward her in order to help her out. After reaching the settlement, Joel passed through a building in which he saw decapitated human bodies preserved and kept just like in meat industries. He had also found Ellie’s backpack, realizing that he was in the right place. In the end, Joel manages to find Ellie just as she walks out of the steakhouse after the traumatic experience, and he pulls her in for a calming hug. Joel does not know what has happened, and yet, like a caring father, he knows enough to realize Ellie needs his comfort and company. Holding Ellie close to himself, Joel walks away from the settlement.

What Can We Expect Next From ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 9?

We are finally nearing the end of what has been an emotional and touching journey, as “The Last of Us” season finale will be streaming next week. As a series and video game focusing on the emotional side of things as much as events, how Ellie is shaped by the experience of episode 8 will be revealed only next week. This is probably the first time that Ellie has had to fight for herself in this manner and against something that is arguably worse than death. How the girl lives through it, and especially how Joel tries to cope with her now that their bond has fully developed, would be very interesting to see. Lastly, the duo has been traveling so far and through these experiences to reach their ultimate intention—reaching the Firefly doctors who can get a vaccine made from Ellie’s condition. Not only would the doctors and the fireflies have to be alive by now, but their theory has to be carried out in practice as well. Whether that is finally possible, and if Ellie can truly save the world with the vaccine, is something to look forward to the most for next week.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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