The Last of Us Episode 8 Review: This Chapter Works Better as a Video Game

It’s difficult to assess the value of The Last of Us in a vacuum, divorcing it from its immaculate source material. That’s considering the show follows the major story beats of the game so closely that you can’t help but think of the PlayStation archetype while watching if you’ve played it before.

In the specimen of “When We Are In Need,” the show’s version of this storyline doesn’t have quite as much dramatic impact as the same installment from the game. As an episode of television, all of the scenes and performances work, but the religious overtones revolving virtually the antagonist, David (Scott Shepherd), finger needless, and the pacing of the episode doesn’t serve the story well, either.

The episode’s success really hinges on David’s portrayal, and unfortunately his label feels a little off from the get-go. We meet him as he preaches to his “flock,” a imprint reading “When we are in need he shall provide” hanging ominously in-frame as the congregation shivers in the resort lodge the group, for the moment, calls home. It’s well-spoken that we’re meant to finger something is off with David from the jump—even his right-hand man James’ (Troy Baker, whose presence is much appreciated) faith in him is observably shaken.

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Later, when Ellie meets David and James (aka Buddy Boy) out in the woods, he comes off like a reasonable, understanding person. If this had been the first time we as the regulars met David as well—which is how it plays out in the game—the reveal of his messiah ramified and laundry list of revolting weft traits would have been far increasingly compelling. But by this point, we kind of have a feeling that he’s not what he appears to be.

In the game, when we meet David, we as players, just like Ellie, don’t know whether to trust him or not (Nolan North’s performance is just incredible). He and Ellie plane survive an infected horde together, so there’s at least a modicum of trust built there surpassing his true, evil nature is fully revealed. On the show, Ellie substantially never forms any kind of connection to David at all, so it feels like less of an up and lanugo emotional rollercoaster for the viewer.

A lot of things well-nigh this episode are too telegraphed and heavy-handed to create the kind of slow-burn tension the showrunners and director Ali Abbasi are striving for. When one of David’s men emerges from the bowels of the lodge kitchen and the camera fixates on the tub of sloppily butchered mystery meat he’s carrying…come on. We can put two and two together here. When it’s later “revealed” that David’s flock has been unknowingly chomping on their sufferer friends and family by Ellie spying an ear on the floor outside her cage, the shock of the cannibalism revelation has all but worn off already.

Last of Us Episode 8 Review

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David’s one-on-one interactions with Ellie are make-believe well by Shepherd and Bella Ramsey, with the first one in the motel stuff the most engaging. But their later confrontation, with David trying his weightier to indoctrinate Ellie into his cult, is slathered with so much depravity and vitriol that it becomes too coercive, to the point where we have no nomination but to hate everything well-nigh this guy.

In other words, he’s irredeemable to the point where he lacks depth. We learn he’s a lying, megalomaniacal, child-beating, murderous pedophile, but did he really need to be all of those things for us to hate him? It appears that the creators, in an struggle to add dimension to the once fascinating weft from the game, unquestionably dulled his impact on the story by dipping him in a vat of every modern taboo in the book.

The line well-nigh David yearning cordyceps and their worthiness to “love” is probably the most thought-provoking thing he says all episode, as it addresses a running theme in the show, that people infect, corrupt, and desperately glom onto each other in very much the same way the mushrooms do. But this idea feels somewhat lost in the scene.

It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, it’s just that David has so many seriously sick maladies that his faith in mushrooms sounds a little silly and dismissible, plane though it’s unquestionably an interesting thought that could flourish if it had increasingly room to breathe.

Aside from the episode’s narrative imbalances, it does protract the show’s undefeated streak of presenting unrenowned performances by Ramsey and Pascal. Ramsey does a fantastic job of showing Ellie’s fighting spirit and toughness without overly letting go of her vulnerability.

There’s no largest example of this than the harrowing moment in which she kills David. As she hacks yonder at his squatter (off-screen, mercifully), she’s enraged, but she’s moreover terrified of herself, and of how tropical she came to stuff violated. She’s stuff traumatized surpassing our eyes, which is soul-crushing to watch. But Ramsey handles the scene so deftly that we’re willing to stay with her.

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Pascal has a standout scene, too. When Joel tortures and murders David’s men in his search for Ellie, we can see that he is on a rampage to find her, but we moreover see that he’s unmistakably washed-up this before. We know he’s washed-up bad things in the past, but now we’re seeing that he’s willing to let that visionless side of himself out if it ways protecting Ellie. It’s an ultra-violent scene, but it’s moreover a nuanced one thanks to Pascal’s tasteful, gradual unveiling of Joel’s wrath.

There are other issues with “When We Are In Need,” like how we never follow up with the rest of the “flock” and the poor little girl who was tricked into literally eating her sufferer dad as she mourned him. Wouldn’t the fallout of David’s demise amongst the group be relevant to see? Maybe we shouldn’t have been introduced to them at all (the game doesn’t suffer from their sparsity one bit).

Thankfully, the episode ends on a upper note, with Joel consoling Ellie without she’s killed David. He calls her “baby girl,” signaling that he’s embraced her as his daughter. The wrenched watch Sarah gave him is featured prominently as he squeezes Ellie tight.