Following last week’s flashback-focused detour, The Last of Us returns to its main narrative path, much to the relief of anxious fans waiting to learn Joel’s fate. Picking up sometime after Ellie (Bella Ramsey) stitches up Joel (Pedro Pascal), the pair are just barely surviving in the suburbs of Colorado, where a monster scarier than the infected waits.

Titled “When We Are in Need,” the penultimate entry in the series’ nine-episode first season faithfully adapts the events of the game’s Lakeside Resort chapter; in fact, those who’ve played the PlayStation entry will recognize scenes and dialog pulled directly from the source material. While the show sticks closely to the original storytelling, however, it continues to be more interested in fleshing-out characters than piling-up corpses.

So what does this less deadly, TV-friendly take add to the story? And where does it leave our Utah-bound duo ahead of the finale? Let’s brave Colorado’s bitter cold and find out.


Spoiler alert: The following contains details about The Last of Us season 1, episode 8, “When We Are in Need,” Stop here if you have not watched the episode.


BAKER BREAKS BAD

Troy Baker in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

This week’s biggest addition is also the series’ most significant Easter egg. Actor Troy Baker, who voices Joel in the PlayStation series, stars in the episode as James, a side-character from the first game. A glorified henchman in the interactive action-adventure, James is given more prominence – and lines – in the show.

Despite the slightly expanded role though, the character still plays second fiddle to creepy cannibal leader David (Scott Shepherd), who’s also far more nuanced in the series. Yes, he’s a creepy cannibal leader – who’s also deceitful and conniving – in both versions, but he’s given far more depth in the episode.


Scott Shepherd in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Everything involving his backstory, including his past in Pittsburgh, finding God post-pandemic, and his path to becoming a preacher is all new. In fact, save for the handmade sign in the restaurant, reading “When we are in need he shall provide,” the game doesn’t include any of the religious overtones present in the episode or surrounding the character.

David doesn’t even have a “flock” in the game. Instead, it’s just him, James, and dozens of faceless bad guys, many of which meet the business ends of Joel and Ellie’s weapons (more on that in a sec). While both versions of the story include David revealing to Ellie that he knows her traveling partner previously killed some of his people – well, one person in show – the episode goes much further. We meet the victim’s young daughter and are given the opportunity to empathize with her and even appreciate her need for vengeance.

We also get a peek at David’s domineering, abusive relationship with the girl, as well as a look at his larger group’s struggle to feed themselves through the harsh winter. Watching them devour their measly meals is especially effective. While the series adds dimensions to David, and makes it easy to sympathize with his people, the antagonist is still an absolute monster we’re relieved to see meet a brutal demise by the episode’s end.


AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE

Scott Shepherd, Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Those who haven’t played the game, however, might be shocked to learn Ellie and her future captor join forces not long before she butchers him into oblivion. They meet similarly in the game and series. The deal they strike, leading to James going to retrieve penicillin, is also the same. But in the game, after James departs, Ellie and David are ambushed by infected. The attack kicks off a lengthy stretch of tension-ratcheting gameplay that sees the two working together, watching each other’s backs, and piling up Cordyceps-fueled freaks like cord wood.

Beyond this extended team-up, most of their interactions play out similarly, with many scenes and lines being identical. His inappropriate advances and eventual attempted rape also remain intact. That said, the show gives David a much longer monologue when he brings his prisoner a plate of food. Him buttering Ellie up, relating to her “violent heart,” and trying to recruit her to co-lead his people is all new. In the game, it’s a far shorter path to him entering the room and her breaking his fingers.


ELLIE GET YOUR GUN

Bella Ramsey, Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Ellie and David’s fight against the infected is far from the first – or last – time players are put behind her weapons in the game’s version of events. The initial hunting scene is much longer, as Ellie – armed with a bow rather than rifle – tracks and encounters the deer multiple times. The show also has some fun with the source material here, significantly downplaying her hunting ability. In the game, she skewers a rabbit with a well-placed arrow like it’s second nature, where the episode finds her falling face first in the snow when she excitedly tries to chase the same prey.



Beyond the hunting scene and her team-up with David, Ellie’s trigger finger is further taxed when she draws the men away from her and Joel’s suburban hideout. This too, leads to a lengthy action scene, where players control Ellie on horseback, fighting plenty of baddies as they progress. It even continues after her horse is shot – she escapes on foot, runs off, and further cranks the body count. She racks up even more kills after escaping the butcher table before her final showdown with David.

Joel gets plenty of target practice as well. Upon waking up, he brutally tortures the two men just as he does in the episode, but he’s just getting warmed up in the game. While searching for Ellie, he similarly discovers her backpack and the hanging bodies, but also encounters plenty of bad guys, which players dispatch with gory style to spare.


A BOSS BATTLE TURNED INTO TERRIFYING TELEVISION

Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

(Photo by HBO)

While the series significantly reduces the kill count, it stays true to the game’s most significant death. Ellie and David’s final encounter in Todd’s Steakhouse & Bar is just as satisfying – and terrifying– in the game. Players approach this moment as a boss battle, as they stealthily navigate the burning restaurant while David stalks and taunts them. Eliminating David means sneaking behind him and stabbing him three separate times. With this game objective accomplished, a similarly chilling scene plays, as a traumatized Ellie repeatedly stabs her attacker.

Her reunion with Joel is nearly identical, right down to them hugging and him calling her “baby girl.” In the game, however, he doesn’t find her outside, but rather interrupts her butchering of David.

96% The Last of Us: Season 1 (2023) new episodes air on Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.

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