Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 8. If you've yet to tune in and don't want to know details ahead of time, turn back now.
The Last of Us episode 8 is arguably the HBO show's most faithful to date, as it lifts shots and lines exactly as they are in the PlayStation game. In fact, it's so close to the source material that there are few changes between the series and the original, aside from its closing moment, which plays out a little differently.
Now, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have explained on HBO's official Last of Us podcast (opens in new tab) why they tweaked the sequence, which sees Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) share an emotional reunion after the latter was taken by cannibal cult leader David (Scott Shepherd).
In those last few minutes of the small screen installment, Joel catches up to a blood-soaked Ellie outside Lakeside Resort, the base of David's commune. Having just hacked David to death inside the burning building she just stumbled out of, the youngster is clearly in shock, so Joel grabs her face and assures her, "It's me, it's me. It's okay. It's okay, baby girl. I got you. I got you."
Now, Joel does console Ellie after her violent run-in with David in the game, but one key difference is that he yanks her off of David's body inside the ablaze cabin and shakes her out of her rage-induced daze.
"We didn't want it to happen with the fire around. The danger of the fire just felt a little different than it did in the game," Druckmann began, before Mazin interjected: "There was also the question of, 'How does Joel get inside if the keys are on David? It was a little bit of a logic thing, too, and we wanted our Ellie to have completed it to the point where she could literally walk away on her own."
"I think it was important when the scene was constructed in the game, and I think it's the same for the show, that we want the audience – or the player – to think Joel is going to save Ellie, because that's what this character traditionally does," Druckmann said. "And the whole point was, no, Ellie saves herself. He does save her but now he has to do a very different thing that a parent does: he save her emotionally before she loses her sanity. He is there to bring her back.
"It's one of the most emotional parts of the story and I was so nervous whether this would hit as hard on the show. Here, the contrast of the blood on her skin and the white of the snow... and Bella gives us this incredible, disembodied performance where she's not quite there. Then Pedro grabs her, and the way he grabs her like, 'I couldn't protect you from this.' I was bawling. I pick up my phone and I text Craig like, 'We did it'."
The Last of Us concludes on Sunday, March 12 on HBO and HBO Max in the US, and Sky Atlantic and NOW the following day in the UK. Make sure you're up to date with our The Last of Us release schedule or our breakdown of how many episodes are in The Last of Us.
For more from the series, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 8 changes from the games and a terrifying look at the Cordyceps fungus.