Though she acts all tough and badass, cursing and diminishing the threat of the infected, Ellie is still very much a child, one that plays around with the gun she picked up at Bill’s and makes “pew pew” noises. While on the road, she picks up a new distraction in the form of a book of puns, which she reads throughout the whole episode. These make up the best parts of this week’s episode with Ellie trying to make the cynical and serious Joel laugh, while he tries his best not to let her notice that he is actually finding the jokes funny.
The big thematic point of the episode is to, well, do what every single zombie story has done ever, from “Night of the Living Dead” to “The Walking Dead” — that humans are the true monsters (shocking, I know!). As smart and precocious as Ellie is, she is still rather naive when it comes to the real horrors of the world, acting surprised when Joel warns her not of infected, but of raiders that will do worse things to them than killing.
Unsurprisingly, Joel is proven right the moment they arrive in Pittsburgh and see the QZ in ruins with FEDRA nowhere in sight, and are immediately ambushed. Joel gets pinned down by one of the raiders, and Ellie sees no choice but to pick up the gun she found at Bill’s and shoot him. Though she doesn’t kill him, she still panics, before Joel finishes the job. He later apologizes for failing at protecting her and forcing her to harm someone, which no kid should ever do. Ellie confesses this was not her first time hurting someone, but refuses to say more.