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The Last of Us episode 8 on HBO made a crucial change to Ellie and David’s encounter, and showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin said on an episode of the show’s podcast that there’s a good reason for the difference. Note that some spoilers for the game and show follow.

In the PS5 game, Ellie hacks David to pieces after evading his clutches in a burning diner. Joel somehow manages to get into the diner after the fight and pulls Ellie off David’s bleeding corpse. In the show, however, no one comes to save Ellie and take her away from the carnage. Joel arrives after Ellie rescues herself, which Druckmann said was a vital moment in shaping Ellie as a different person and Joel as a struggling parent.

“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. “Now he has to do a very different thing that a parent does: he saves her emotionally before she loses her sanity. He is there to bring her back.”

In the HBO show adaptation, Pedro Pascal’s Joel holds Ellie and says “It's okay, baby girl. I got you. I got you.” 

Whether that’s enough to save someone’s sanity after they murder a cannibal who wanted to roast them isn’t something HBO has time to explore in just one remaining episode. Either way, it seems safe to say the showrunners are subtly setting the stage for Ellie’s longer journey into darkness in the second season, based on The Last of Us Part 2.