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‘Baby Girl’ is Amazing, But This ‘Last of Us’ Episode 8 Moment Broke My Heart

Joel and Ellie grab each other in the snow as Joel makes sure Ellie's okay.

The internet is abuzz about the heartwrenching climax of The Last of Us episode 8. Ellie survives cult leader David’s attempt to rape and murder her, and stumbles out into the snow, dazed and traumatized. Joel, catching up with her, tries to get her attention as she fights him, thinking that she’s being attacked again. When she recognizes him and pulls him into a hug, he comforts her, saying, “It’s okay, baby girl.”

It’s a moment of tenderness we’ve been aching to see all season, as Joel learns to move past his grief for his daughter Sarah and let himself get close to Ellie. The moment is even more poignant because of the horrific violence we’ve just witnessed—violence that no adult, let alone a teenager, should ever have to experience.

Plus, there’s a quick shot embedded in that moment that demonstrates some masterful filmmaking.

Sarah’s watch is prominent whenever Joel connects with Ellie

In episode 1, Sarah takes Joel’s watch, which is broken, and gets it fixed for him as a birthday present. Later that night, the first wave of the Cordyceps infection breaks out, and Sarah is killed by a soldier in the ensuing chaos.

From then on, Joel wears the watch all the time—and it pops up onscreen during emotionally significant moments with Ellie. In episode 4, Ellie tries to make Joel laugh by telling him jokes from her joke book, and when she finally succeeds at the end of the episode, we see the watch on his wrist.

In episode 8, when Ellie hugs Joel, he hugs her back. The camera angle switches so we can see his face over her shoulder, and there it is again: the watch, clearly visible in the middle of the shot.

It makes sense that the watch would be exposed when Joel pulls his sleeve back by bending his arm, but the watch’s placement in the shot is no accident. It’s a potent symbol of the way that Ellie has become a sort of surrogate for Sarah, and all the complicated emotions and fears that that relationship brings up for Joel. Can he still honor Sarah’s memory if he opens his heart to Ellie? What happens if he loses Ellie the way he lost Sarah? Those of us in the audience are rooting for him to let his guard down, but we can also see that his pain and guilt make it a challenge.

How far will Joel go for Ellie? How will their relationship evolve? Viewers who aren’t familiar with the game will find out in next week’s season finale. For now, though, we can appreciate all the subtle ways the series points at Joel and Ellie’s evolving relationship.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.