HBO’s The Last of Us has officially been introduced to the world and its eighth episode, “When We Are in Need” has arrived. Here is a breakdown of what was seen in the episode and how it may impact the season going forward. Please be advised that this may contain spoilers for both The Last of Us series and video game.
As the credits end, the episode opens with what appears to be a Bible study with the passage of Revelation 21 being the subject of conversation but it is quickly revealed that this is not a Bible study, it is a funeral with a young girl and her mother mourning the loss of their patriarch. This snowbound community is in stark contrast to what was seen in the sixth episode with Jackson; provisions are running low and the community begins to doubt its leader, David who was leading the funeral proceedings but he does keep the counsel of James, played by actor Troy Baker who portrayed Joel in the original game series. The episode then transitions back to Joel and Ellie as he is still found to be in rough shape and their rations are also running low until she decides to go hunting.
During her hunting session, she first spots a little white rabbit but stumbles as she attempts to chase it but learns an important lesson about patience when she finds a buck in a field. She sets her shot and is able to mortally wound the creature but the carcass is discovered by David and James who also set out with the same idea as Ellie. David begins to plead with Ellie for the carcass and even offers to trade medicine for half of the meat haul and the two decide to hunker down to relax over a fire. This begins what can only be described as one of the tensest exchanges in the entire season. David wants to know more about Ellie but she is not willing to share that with him as she is rightfully distrustful of strangers but David reveals that he found religion in the apocalypse and was elected leader of his community following their exodus from the Pittsburgh QZ after it had fallen sometime in the show’s timeline. Ellie is skeptical of him and his intentions even going as far as calling his group a cult. David does not actually dispute this minor insult and even rebuts her by retorting that everything happens for a reason and begins to tell her that they are mourning a member of their group that was killed during a scouting mission by a crazy man traveling with a little girl. The connection is made immediately to Joel and Ellie quickly makes her way back to him with the medicine even with David yelling at her that she will not be able to survive on her own and extends an invitation for her to join his group.
Ellie returns to Joel and quickly administers the antibiotics given to her but she recognizes that he is still in pain and in a loving gesture, lays down next to him to provide some level of warmth for him to make it through the night. The story then returns to the group eating a tense dinner in their meeting hall but the meat is suspect even with the knowledge that their provisions are running low. David and James return triumphantly with the deer carcass but their victory is tenuous when David recognizes that the rumor has taken hold that the group knows he let Ellie go and is not closer to finding Joel. The young girl seen in the beginning of the episode remarks that David should have killed her and Joel but David does not take this insubordination lightly as he brutally slaps the young girl and the group ravenously eats the meal placed before them. David then announces his plans to take a group to scout the area, locate the girl and bring Joel to justice.
In the next morning, after Ellie gives Joel another round of medicine, she notices that she is being tracked and gives Joel a knife to defend himself in case he is about to be discovered. Joel is not able to help her in the moment and is forced to watch her leave in an attempt to lure them away and ensure his safety. Ellie manages to engage in a brief shootout with David’s group until James takes up a shooting position and kills the horse that Ellie was riding and knocks her unconscious. The group closes in on Ellie and they are about to kill her until David intervenes and takes her back to their community while commanding the others to hunt down Joel but he is back on his feet and ready to exact his form of justice.
Ellie then wakes up in a homemade cage somewhere in the meeting hall when David arrives to tell her that she is alone and that they will find her friend soon if they have not already. As Joel lays a trap to capture two of the remaining scouts after already dispatching a third, the show brilliantly recreates one of the first game’s most memorable moments when Joel interrogates theses scouts and we get to see a glimpse of the brutality Joel inflicted during his Boston and even pre-Boston days. Both of the scouts are tied up in a home as he violently stabs one in the knee seeking information about where Ellie is and if she is alive. Under threat of additional torture, the scout relents and provides the information he wants but this enough for Joel as he kills one and proceeds to beat the other one to death with a pipe. It is a scene that causes anyone to tense up and marvel at the determination and strength in Joel as it must be remembered that he is just getting back on his feet.
With Joel obtaining the information he wants, the story then moves back to Ellie as she looks on in horror at something that is at first, out of view from the camera and that is a severed human ear and she learns the terrible truth that David’s group are cannibals who are killing people they are finding in the wilderness and feeding them to the group. David manages to cloak the care for his community in hypocrisy but espousing his feelings of love but also admits to having a “violent heart”. What that means isn’t clear but it could imply that David was some type of predator prior to the outbreak but he is quick to connect to Ellie and his twisted worldview by offering her a place in his community as his partner, confidant and possibly his lover but Ellie makes her position clear on this proposition by snapping his finger and defiantly yelling at him. As he looks on her with an icy stare, Ellie’s fate is sealed to become food for this group.
Joel then arrives at the resort town but immediately discovers Ellie’s backpack at one of the buildings on the outskirts of this town but also finds dead bodies strung up and frozen for storage. This galvanizes Joel and he resolves to find her before any harm comes to her but he may already be too late. David and James forcibly remove her and are preparing to chop her up but she is able to bite David and reveals she is infected before they begin to kill her but they are skeptical of her immunity which causes them to drop their guards and enables Ellie to kill James and escape the room. She still has to find a way to escape but the meeting hall is locked and she can’t get out and manages to accidentally start a fire in an attempt to injure David. As the inferno rages on, David begins to coldly taunt her and searches the hall for her until she springs out of hiding to stab him in the side. This brief encounter knocks Ellie to the ground and David briefly gains the upper hand and is about to assault her as his monstruous nature is finally laid bare but she manages to grab his knife and proceeds to strike him over and over again until the camera lens is covered in blood and Ellie exits the building, completely traumatized from what she just had to do. During her exit, Joel manages to find her and embrace her in the most protective mood he has ever adopted towards her. He calls her “baby girl” and tells her that she is okay as they walk away from the carnage left behind by this community.
“When We Are in Need” managed to successfully recreated one of the most memorable sections of gameplay in the original story by somehow making the most monstrous villain of the game even creepier and showcasing the long arcs of development for Ellie and Joel and firmly establishes the connection these two have created and the lengths they will go in order to protect those they love. Ahead of the season finale, Ellie has to reconcile the fact that her life will have meaning and Joel can begin to believe that the world will be cured from the infection but love will make everyone do terrible things in order to protect that love.
Featured Image Credit: HBO