Despite the change in staging, Mazin and Druckmann kept what was essential about the scene. This is a moment of evolution for Ellie, and a crucial memory that informs the person she becomes when she’s older. The memory of killing David is something that stays with her past when the credits roll and the seasons change. It’s also an important subversion of expectations, as Druckmann explains:
“… we want the audience or the player — to think Joel is going to save Ellie. Because that’s what this character traditionally does. And it was important that, “No, no, no — Ellie saves herself. Except that he does save her. But now he has to do a very different thing that a parent does, which is he saves her emotionally.”
Joel and Ellie’s entire journey across an apocalyptic America has been scarred by tragedy, but this episode defines their lowest point. Still, it’s also the moment that solidifies their father/daughter bond, with Joel’s delivery of “baby girl.”
“The Last of Us” airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO and HBO Max.