The Last Of Us Creator Neil Druckmann Was 'Bawling' At Joel And Ellie's Final Scene In Episode 8

This post contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" season 1, episode 8 "When We Are in Need."

Are you listening to HBO's "The Last of Us" companion podcast? You should be. Every week, as a new episode drops, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann sit down with Troy Baker (aka the guy who played Joel in the games) to break down everything that happened and give us some behind-the-scenes peeks into their creative process, the making of the show and why they decided to be game-accurate or why they made a big departure.

It's a wonderful hour for anybody as obsessed with "The Last of Us" as I am and, as a bonus, if you listen to each episode as it drops, you'll get the jump on a lot of the "inside info" stories that come out in the wake of the show and may even spot a few influencers ripping it off whole-cloth and pretending like they spotted some obscure Easter egg or uncovered some deep insight on their own.

One of the most interesting tidbits from this week's podcast episode is where Druckmann discussed the particularly emotional final moments of episode 8, which sees Ellie having to face off with a super creepy religious cult leader named David (Scott Shepherd). The episode ends with David hunting Ellie (Bella Ramsey) through a burning building after she rebuffs his offer of joining his cannibalistic group (and also maybe marrying him and bearing tons of his children). As he pins her down and is about to sexually assault her, Ellie gets the upper hand and defends herself in a fairly brutal way, killing David with a cleaver. Like, killing him a lot.

The most important scene for both the game and the show

Neil Druckmann said this was the most important scene in the video game for him because Ellie isn't saved by Joel like she had been for the entire story up to this point. She saves herself — at a great emotional cost. Ellie has killed before, but the violence of this particular act and the very real physical threat she protected herself from traumatized her in a way that nothing else has before.

When Joel reunites with her outside in the show, he takes on the mantle he's been avoiding this whole journey and becomes the comforting father figure she needs. (He calls her "baby girl," his nickname for the daughter he lost, one of the smallest key moments from the game.)

Druckmann said if the scene didn't work in the game, then that meant the whole story wasn't working, because it is very much the culmination of their relationship arc from icy strangers to found family. It did work in the game, but with the show, he had the same fear. What if this version doesn't work? So, he finally sat down to watch the episode, and... well, he had no reason to be nervous, it turned out.

"Bella [Ramsey] does such an incredible job of, like, this disembodied performance where she's not quite there. And then Pedro [Pascal] grabs her, and the way he looks at her, there's a sadness of like, 'I couldn't protect you from this.' Another notch of failure. And I'm bawling. I'm crying. Not just like tears in my eyes. It's waterworks. I pick up my phone. I just text Craig [Mazin] this one sentence: 'We did it.'"

There are still a lot of difficulties to overcome in Joel and Ellie's relationship, but this is the watershed moment for the storytellers. They believe they pulled it off — and I agree with them.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).