The penultimate episode of the season is executed to near perfection, albeit without the nail-biting encounter with the infected from the source material
Last Updated: 08.11 PM, Mar 08, 2023
Story: A desperate Ellie fears that the winter will further deteriorate Joel’s chances of survival unless she finds medical supplies and food in time. When she does eventually procure food, she meets two men, named David and James, who are willing to trade penicillin for the deer Ellie has shot down. David claims that he is the leader of a larger group of women and children, and has offered to help Ellie. But she suspects there is more to David than what meets the eye.
Review: The ‘David subplot’ in The Last of Us, is arguably one of the most harrowing and bone-chilling segments from the original video game. The fact that players find a segment about a human settlement far more terrifying than the segments featuring horrifying ‘infected’, is a testament to the story’s depth and its well-written characters. And the TV adaptation does not disappoint. In fact, the show has added an additional set of layers of backstory to David, making him a far more complex character. David’s associate James is also given more depth, and the character is played by none other than the original Joel from the games, Troy Baker.
The episode is one of the most faithful adaptations of the game, with nearly identical scenes and dialogues. If there is one minor drawback video game fans will point out in this almost-perfect episode could be the fact that showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have completely removed Ellie and David’s encounter with the infected. This part of the story was pivotal in David gaining Ellie’s trust ever so slightly. However, they have used that runtime to further flesh out David’s character.
David is depicted as a preacher who has become a cult leader to desperate people in search of food, supplies, and shelter. Whereas James, who is one-dimensional in the game, is used as a plot device to gauge David’s character. Baker portrays a conflicted follower who is evidently disturbed by David’s methods, but remains loyal to the man who he believes will save the community. There is almost a hint of deliberate irony added by the writers – Baker intends to brutally murder Ellie but is eventually killed by Ellie. And whereas in the game Baker plays Joel who would murder anyone without hesitation to protect Ellie. In fact, this side of Joel's mental makeup is finally shown in this episode, and it is violent and unsettling.
Ellie and David’s showdown is almost like-for-like from the game. And Bella Ramsey has somehow managed to elevate these scenes, which are already fantastic as it, to a much higher standard. It is comfortably one of the best performances this year in film, television, or even video games. Scott Shepherd’s eerie performance as the cannibalistic cult leader David is somehow more unnerving than the game. Troy Baker on the other hand showed the world why he, along with Nolan North, are two of the greatest voice actors in the world, who are more than capable of pulling off stunning performances in live-action as well. Baker adds another facet to a character even the most ardent fans of the game would’ve long forgotten. It is also interesting to note that David in the game was voiced by Nolan North, who is best known for voicing Nathan Drake, in the Uncharted video game franchise. For the unversed, both Uncharted and The Last of Us are helmed by Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog.
Verdict: The penultimate episode of the first season of The Last of Us is yet another outstanding production. One might argue that the ‘David story’ could’ve been a two-parter spread across two episodes with a few scenes featuring some fast-paced zombie (infected) action. But it is also perfectly reasonable as to why this part of the story was sacrificed.