One of the show’s biggest weapons is Ellie, particularly in regards to her being a kid who never knew the pre-apocalypse world. She is amazed by everything, and it is both delightful and heartbreaking to see her react to the town of Jackson, which has lights, sewage, plumbing, and schools. They even have a well-equipped bar, and if it was up to Tommy, pigs in order to get bacon and be set for life. By contrast, Tommy’s wife Maria is kind of shocked by how feral Ellie is, in how quickly she talks back at adults, how vulgar she is, and how she keeps asking for her gun.
These are signs that she was never really allowed a normal life free of worries, so it makes sense that Ellie kind of freaks out when Maria gives her some new clothes, female hygiene products, and even a haircut. For Ellie, it is bizarre that once upon a time people had mundane concerns, that boys and matching clothes were the biggest sources of stress for young girls.
A highlight of the episode is a scene where Ellie is taken to a makeshift cinema in town where all the kids (and there are a lot of them!) watch a movie. It’s a small but emotionally impactful scene, one that brings to mind the “Empire Strikes Back” reenactment scene from the criminally underseen “Reign of Fire,” or the many scenes in the “Dr. Stone” anime where Senku shows the marvels of science to the people of a post-apocalyptic town that never knew what ramen, or glasses, or even music was.
Many zombie stories focus on surviving and finding safety. We tend not to see what comes after, when people start bringing back some semblance of civilization, and that makes this show rule.