The wait is finally over. Join us every week as we dissect each episode of the long-awaited adaptation of The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
In episode 8, the penultimate chapter of the series, Ellie is still caring for Joel but encounters new, dangerous enemies.
Spoiler alert: These reviews will include spoilers for each episode, so if you’d rather go in cold, we recommend you return to this review after watching the latest episode.
After last week’s detour through Ellie’s past, we are back in the present day, and things are still a bit bleak for our weary heroes. In episode 8, titled ‘When We Are in Need’, Joel is still on death’s door; Ellie has stashed him in a basement of an abandoned house and does her best to care for him, but she needs medicine.
While Ellie is out hunting, she comes across two strangers. They say they come from a nearby village and have medicine but are low on food. They offer a trade, the deer Ellie has caught, for some medicine to save Joel’s life. At this point, your alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. No one in the history of The Last of Us has ever offered such a nice little trade-off.
Ellie agrees to it. She’s suspicious and knows better, but she needs the medicine to save Joel. As we said last week, Ellie needs to save Joel just as much as Joel needs to save her. She gets the medicine and returns to Joel, hoping this whole nightmare is behind them.
Spoiler alert, it’s not.
As we remember from episode 6, Joel killed some of David’s men. David and his right-hand man James (the original Joel in the games, Troy Baker) hunt Ellie, who desperately tries to lead them away from Joel. She succeeds, but is ultimately captured.
It’s revealed that David is a strange, cult leader-like figure in his community. One of their own has just passed, and David comforts the dead man’s family, but something feels strange about the whole thing. Turns out, David is feeding these people human flesh unbeknownst to them.
It’s another example of how the infected are really the least of all evils in this world. Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin really dig into the worst of humanity here; we are, and always have been, the biggest threat in the world.
Ellie refuses to become their next meal, and she breaks free, killing James in one of the gnarliest kill scenes we’ve seen so far. At the same time, Joel is finally coming to and manages to get up. He captures and brutally tortures two of David’s men to find out Ellie’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Ellie is locked in a game of cat and mouse with David. It’s such a deliciously tense and exciting scene. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to say episode 8 is the best of the entire series.
The final minutes see Joel and Ellie reunited after Ellie kills David. The relief on both faces is palpable, but Ellie has just killed a man. If she had any innocence left, it’s mostly gone now.
Everything in episode 8 is just perfect. It’s great to see Troy Baker involved in a role that isn’t just a little cameo, but a proper meaty role for him. Scott Shepherd is appropriately menacing as David. He comes across as much more ordinary and even remotely friendly compared to his in-game counterpart.
Video games allow for much more heightened performances, but Shepherd here is truly tremendous. You almost wish the David storyline wasn’t so obviously confined to just one episode; the whole community seems ripe for more storytelling. Episode 8 is a true highlight in a season full of very strong episodes.
In the season finale next week, we finally see Ashley Johnson playing Ellie’s mother and Joel and Ellie reach their final destination, but is it all they hoped for?