The Last Of Us - Episode 08 - When We Are in Need Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So join us, each week as we dissect the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last.*
While the standard of the storytelling in the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us has been nothing short of excellent, concerns have begun to emerge from the fanbase, that the core plotline of The Last Of Us, the one that follows Joel and Ellie, has fallen by the wayside in favour of side-stories like that of Bill and Frank, Henry and Sam, and of course last week’s Ellie and Riley plotline. As we approach the end of this first season, the story of Joel and Ellie well and truly shifts to the forefront again, beginning with this newest episode, Episode 08 – When We Are In Need.
The episode begins with a mysterious man, David (Scott Shepherd) leading a sermon with a crowd before dispersing them. A young girl asks about the burial of her father, to which David claims that it is impossible due to the cold. David’s attention turns to another man, James (Troy Baker, the body and voice of Joel in the games), who he claims is losing his faith, something that James contests. There are clear signs of strain amongst the group, a fracture is present in the dynamic, something that hasn’t been present amongst the other groups we’ve seen in this world thus far.
We don’t learn much about the group before the action turns back to the Ellie and Joel predicament. Joel, still in agony is being tended to by Ellie, but she’s forced to leave to find food and resources to keep him going. Ellie spots a rabbit, and attempts to take it down, but her hunting skills aren’t up to standard, trips and falls, and so her attention then turns to a deer which she shoots, wounds, but doesn’t kill. She finally tracks the wounded deer but finds both David and James standing there over it first. A heated conflict spawns from this with Ellie holding them both up and gunpoint, wanting penicillin. James is dispatched by David to get it, while David remains with Ellie. The pair drag the deer to shelter and light a fire, Ellie not lowering her gun from David’s chest, but David doesn’t seem phased as he explains his story, sharing how he was once a teacher, turned preacher, and how he came to discover god.
It’s following this that the conversation begins to intensify once again, as David connects his faith to the idea of everything happening for a reason. He speaks of how he sent a group to a nearby town but only 3-4 returned, one dying at the hand of a “crazy man with a little girl.” Ellie sits bolt upright with the intensity hitting fever pitch as James returns gun trained upon Ellie. David demands that James lowers the gun and hands over the medication, which he begrudgingly does. Ellie takes the penicillin and dashes back to Joel to treat him.
David and James return to camp with the deer, something that their group desperately needs with their final rations being otherwise exhausted. David brings the group together to explain the situation, with their plan being to track Ellie and find Joel with the plan being to bring him “to justice.” The daughter of the man Joel killed pleads for David to exact revenge, but the response from David is an enormous slapping down. They collectively pray and then eat.
The next morning the tensions rise again as Ellie ventures out but soon notices nearby birds get disturbed, and she realises that she’s been tracked. David’s team has arrived but there is still some division amongst the ranks with David’s intent being to bring back Ellie and kill Joel, while James would like to see them both dead. Ellie has scrambled back to the home and is desperately trying to wake Joel, but he is not yet responsive, prompting Ellie to leave him with a knife to defend himself if required, while she attempts to lead David’s crew away from him. It isn’t long before James downs the horse Ellie attempts to flee on, and is about to put a bullet through Ellie before David intervenes and they bring her back to their camp, as David entrusts the others in the group to put an end to Joel.
As the walls begin to close in around him, Joel begins to regain consciousness, and enters a fight or flight state. The re-activated Joel violently fights his way through David’s army, and he begins to find his way towards David’s camp. In the meantime, Ellie has been locked up, but remains her ever-defiant self despite all of David’s interrogation attempts. Joel through a technique we see with the elderly couple in the prior episodes, this time with a bit more brutal torture for good measure, manages to triagulate Ellie’s location. Joel shows no compromise however and slaughters both men without mercy after getting the information he needs.
Ellie makes a gruesome discovery in her cage though, where, during a bold escape attempt she finds a severed ear under the table, and we, along with Ellie come to realise the canabalistic nature of David and what he has been feeding his unwitting group. David stresses to her that she won’t suffer the same fate if she cooperates with him. David then creepily compares his nature and his violent heart to that of the cordycepts virus. It multiplies and feeds, it protects, and is as violent as it needs to be to ensure its survival, and believes that he possesses the same qualities for his village. He then thinks that he has Ellie fooled by attempting to woo her with the idea that they’ll let Joel go free, but in a moment he lays his hands on Ellie and she pounces, biting him and snapping his fingers. David abuses Ellie and immediately rescinds his offer of forgiveness and safety for Joel. In the meantime, Joel gets closer, but finds a bloodtrail leading into a house. He follows it to find corpses hanging, the same corpses that were being fed to the locals.
James has finally gotten his wish; David finally wants Ellie dead, and so the pair drag her to a table, to be cut up. Ellie comes clean about having been bitten by infected and points out that David will now be infected himself, and it’s in the moment of panic and weakness that this creates within David that Ellie again pounces. She grabs the butchers knife and kills James, before fleeing as David shoots at her. Ellie finds herself trapped within the same building as David as he closes in. In a failed defensive move Ellie picks up a piece of burning wood and tosses it at David. She misses but the wood creates a larger fire within the building. With the structure well and truly ignited, we witness a terrifying, and gripping recreation of the equivalent scene in the game, David stalking Ellie through the building, with the fire and smoke making it hard for both to see. Ellie launches at David but fails to kill him, but David, enraged looks to get more out of Ellie. In the process, Ellie once again gets her hands back on the butchers knife and kills David. She stumbles out of the burning building heaving from smoke inhalation where she then finds Joel.
The final moments end with the pair fleeing after the word we’ve heard Joel only ever utter to Sarah ringing in our heads, “It’s okay baby girl.”
When We Are in Need manages to portray the best and worst aspects of a divided camp with a divisive leader, who has a much darker side than the group itself realises. It does so while cutting out many of the traditional gameplay moments, and infected elements of the game, and loses little in the process. This HBO rendition also depicts the awful nature of David in ways that the game never did, making the final confrontation all the more enthralling, while it reaffirms the incredibly brave (to a point where she could be considered exceedingly stubborn/stupid) nature of Ellie. The growth of the pairing of Joel and Ellie becomes complete in the final moments with the encounter serving as the straw that breaks the camels back for any last resistances that Joel had to embracing Ellie like she was his own daughter.
The episode itself might have benefitted from an extra 10-15 minutes of run-time to let it breathe a bit more and to embrace the tension being created, because at times the episode does feel like a fast-moving rollercoaster ride where you’re being flung into different states far too quickly. Overall though, The Last Of Us has delivered another powerful, tension-filled, and emotionally draining episode one that will likely linger in your mind all the way through to next week’s finale.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE, with new episodes every Monday. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE.