In “The Last of Us,” teenage Ellie’s life is unimaginably hard, but she still finds ways to get through it. She loves a good pun, takes great delight in how her sailor’s mouth makes every adult around her uncomfortable, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap. She’s an angsty, feisty teen in every sense of the word, but the series never tries to treat her emotions as overdramatic. Things suck for Ellie, and the show gives her the space to express just how much things suck.

In episode 8, Ellie comes face to face with a threat arguably worse than death or zombies — David, an adult cannibal who wants to take Ellie as his sexual conquest. Ellie fights back tooth and nail when dealing with David, breaking his finger as a warning, and then later, violently bludgeons him to death. As /Film’s Valerie Ettenhofer so expertly states in her analysis of the performance, “In everyday scenarios, conversations with an undercurrent of implied sexual violence have become so normalized that girls learn from an early age to nod and smile and not cause a fuss in order to safely make it out the other side.” Ellie fights back, something so many of us were denied the opportunity to do, but that doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t still haunt her.

When she leaves the scene of carnage, Joel (Pedro Pascal) touches her shoulders from behind her, and her immediate instinct is to scream, “No! Get off of me!” She killed David, but the looming threat of him doesn’t go away with his death. I’m in my 30s and I still have the instinctual reaction to flail and flinch when I’m touched without warning. Watching Ellie respond the same way I did then, and often do now, was as effective in my healing process as therapy.