When she finally gets David at her mercy, her fear and fury coalesce into blind violence: she strikes him with his own weapon, not two or five times, but twenty-two times. There’s no hint of youthful naivety here, nor, unlike past tragic moments, any hint of that feeling being lost in real-time. Ramsey plays Ellie as a single-minded, unapologetic survivor. When Ellie hacks away at David, perhaps turning him into those tiny pieces he threatened to turn her into, it’s as if she’s killing every unfair and unfathomable thing that’s ever happened to her: losing Riley (Storm Reid), Tess (Anna Torv), Sam, and Henry. Almost losing Joel right after they became a family. It’s all there in Ramsey’s angry, powerful performance, as Ellie fights not until her enemy is dead, but until she grows exhausted.
Ramsey shines as all versions of Ellie: the awkward romantic, the witty sidekick, the anxious but optimistic kid, and the shell-shocked survivor. But this week’s “The Last Of Us” shows that Ramsey is also capable of taking big, bold swings with this performance. The series takes an appropriately ambivalent approach to its violence, even at the hands of its heroes, and Ellie’s brutal takedown of David is no exception. Yet there’s catharsis in Ramsey’s performance this week, too. When Ellie’s left alone and cornered, she snaps back, striking with twice the sheer force of will of the man who’s convinced he can get inside her head. “The Last Of Us” is full of scenes that I’ll remember long after the credits roll, but few moments will be seared in my mind quite like the shot of blood-soaked Ramsey screaming through jail bars with stunningly unadulterated rage.
“The Last of Us” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO and HBO Max.