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‘The Last of Us’ Showcased Ellie’s Major Strength in a Brilliant Yet Quiet Way

Bella Ramsey as Ellie behind bars in 'The Last of Us' talking to David

Ellie Williams is not a weak character, both in terms of how she functions in the post-apocalyptic world of HBO’s The Last of Us and in her own attitude about everyone she comes in contact with. She speaks her mind, fights back, and isn’t afraid to face the evils around her head-on. But she’s also just a kid. Played beautifully by Bella Ramsey in the HBO adaptation of the popular game, Ellie has a quiet fury about her that boils under the surface in each scene.

And we’ve seen it spill over in episode 8, “When We Are in Need.” Ellie has been trying to keep Joel (Pedro Pascal) alive. In episode 7, “Left Behind,” we saw more of an Ellie who was complacent. She did what FEDRA wanted of her, and she was willing to just be a pawn in their game until Riley (Storm Reid) came back into her life and showed her what they could do together if they pushed back against those in power.

While we know what happened to Riley and how Ellie became connected to the Fireflies, we started to see, from “Left Behind” into “When We Are in Need,” just how Ellie is willing to fight back against this idea that she’s small and weak because of her stature. Yes, she’s always been ready to be a smartass towards someone, but throughout this season, we’ve just seen her learning how to protect herself. The last two episodes showed us how she could keep herself alive all on her own, and it was a fascinating breakdown of her character.

Pain can drive you

Bella Ramsey holding fire in 'The Last of Us' as Ellie

One of the aspects of Joel Miller and Ellie Williams’ connection, as they help each other navigate a dangerous world, is their pain. For Joel, it’s the pain of losing his daughter. For Ellie, it’s the pain of constantly being “left behind” by those who seem to care for her. It’s why they struggle so much in their relationship and why it takes so long for either of them to really admit how they care about each other. Joel sees Ellie as a daughter to protect, and Ellie sees Joel as a father she never had—a parent to care for her—but she doesn’t need someone to look after her.

That’s what we learned in episodes 7 and 8. Ellie doesn’t need that protection, but she’s never had that unconditional love, so when she does have it, with Joel looking out for her and protecting her, she wants to save it. And that desire and her past pain drive her into being her own savior when she needs it the most.

Ellie doesn’t need to be saved

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in 'The Last of Us' talking to David

What we saw in her fight for her life, by the end of the episode, was that Ellie doesn’t need saving. The entire episode, you get this feeling that Ellie is going to end up in mortal danger, and that Joel is going to come in and save her, but that doesn’t happen. What happens instead is that Ellie fights back, kills David, and escapes to try to go back to Joel, but he’s found her and is there to comfort her afterwards.

It sets a perfect tone for their relationship. Joel will be there for her when she needs, him but Ellie doesn’t need him to protect her. Instead, they’re there with each other because they care about one another as a father/daughter would, because Ellie’s never had that and Joel longs for it after the death of Sarah (Nico Parker). It’s a clear line drawn for fans of Ellie as a character, because you never will second guess whether she can take care of herself. You know she can, and it’s emotional, heartbreaking, and powerful to watch her save herself.

Ellie’s feistiness has come from her own sarcasm, but the last two episodes of The Last of Us really have shown us how strong she is, and it leaves us knowing that if it came down to it, Ellie can always just protect herself without needing anyone else.

(featured image: HBO)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.