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Episode 5 of ‘The Last of Us’ Illustrated the Best Part of Team Joel & Ellie Perfectly

Joel and Ellie sitting in episode 5 of 'The Last of Us'

I know, I know. Some of you are probably reading the title and thinking, Wow, you just noticed? Here’s the thing, I came into this show having not played the game since it came out nearly a decade ago. My recollection of its events is vague at best, let alone the specific emotions I felt at specific moments.

But during this most recent episode of The Last of Us, I found myself jumping in my seat during the infected battle towards the end. The reason? I’d forgotten just how much of a good team Joel and Ellie are, and I don’t say that with the “no crying in baseball” teamwork mindset: I mean how truly badass their brutal father-daughter dynamic is.

I remembered how cool they were individually, and how cool I felt as a player when I’d really get into a gameplay flow playing as either one of them. But I honestly have no recollection whatsoever of how great they work as a team in the game. I don’t even think the AI was advanced enough to make their teamwork stand out in the original game, so to see this element of their dynamic represented in such a dope way on screen was really a delight to see.

Wordlessly, they’d send each other signals that conveyed how, in such a relatively short amount of time, they understood each other and trusted each other. All Ellie had to do was give Joel a look, and he’d shoot on command from the building he was hiding in. All he’d have to do was nod to her, and she’d jump on some fools and start stabbing. It was insane. I mean, yeah of course the bloater stole the scene in the most obvious way, but for me that back-and-forth between Joel and Ellie really made that entire sequence. It speaks to the talents of the writers and producers, too: the bonding moments we got used to in gameplay naturally had to be sacrificed, yet their replacements have borne in mind what would work on television. And goddamn, this worked.

I’m really excited to see what sort of things they do next, even knowing that later plot beats down the line are only gonna get darker. There’s one part in particular, involving a fire, that I’m especially looking forward to watching … which might make me a glutton for punishment, but honestly, Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal’s performances make that punishment very entertaining.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. Her prior experiences with media have taken her down many different roads, from local history podcasts to music coverage & production. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.