Then there is the question of whether David honestly wants Ellie to be part of his team. (“I’m a shepherd surrounded by sheep and all I want is an equal,” he says to her at one point.) James certainly seems eager to kill Ellie outright whenever David is not around. “If we bring her back she’s just another mouth to feed,” he grumbles. When David warns that if they leave her on her own she will likely die, James suggests, “Maybe that’s God’s will.”
This debate over who gets saved and who gets culled — or eaten — raises some uncomfortable questions, making this episode especially provocative.
Consider Joel again. All season long, we have heard about the terrible things he has done to survive, though we have seen only brief flashes of what he is willing to do when necessary. This week, though, we see him at his most merciless. When the Silver Lakers are closing in on the house where Joel is convalescing, Ellie leaves him with a knife and jumps on the horse to try and misdirect the hunters. She ultimately is captured; but it does not matter. Even a weakened Joel is strong enough to choke one man, tie up two others, torture his prisoners to get information on Ellie’s whereabouts and then viciously kill them. He behaves like the enemy they believe him to be.
In the end, this episode comes down on Joel and Ellie’s side — and not just because they are the show’s main characters. David’s turn to cannibalism crosses too many lines. Once you start seeing everyone as either friend or food, you have lost the moral high ground.
Even worse, it is strongly implied that David is just a sicko, through and through — and that he has been since before the end times. After his people cage Ellie, David’s low-key, rational-sounding conversations turn into fervid rants. He talks about how human beings are animals. He says Ellie has “a violent heart,” adding, “and I should know.” He praises cordyceps because “it secures its future with violence, if it must.” When Ellie escapes by breaking his finger, burns down the steakhouse (banner and all), and stabs him in the gut, David appears to be excited by her aggression. Later, as David pins her to the ground, his voice turns dark. “I thought you already knew,” he says. “The fighting is the part I like the most.” (Yikes!)
The episode concludes with one horror after another. Joel arrives in Silver Lake, where he is appalled to find his horse dead in a cold storage facility where three headless human corpses have been cleaned, dressed, and hung on hooks. Back in the burning steakhouse, David seems to be on the verge of sexually assaulting her before she gets her hands on a meat cleaver. She practically turns feral as she hacks him to death.