The Spool / Recap
The Last of Us examines what lurks inside the human heart in a tense episode
Ellie does what she has to do as she and Joel run afoul of a religious leader and his murderous flock.
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Ellie does what she has to do as she and Joel run afoul of a religious leader and his murderous flock.

A brief warning: This episode features an attempted sexual assault. Take it easy on yourselves.  

In this week’s penultimate episode of The Last of Us’ first season, the violence regular people are capable of is the theme of the day. “When We Are in Need” introduces a new community, one suffering, in contrast to thriving Jackson. It’s led not by a democratically elected committee but by one man and his collection of goons. One man who claims, as so many have before him, to be working for God. While not hidden in this town, the true depths of its violence aren’t immediately apparent. 

We’ve seen what happens when a father (of sorts) is led by his “violent heart.” Viewers have witnessed Joel’s violence but heard about it more. The audience knows it is never too far from his stoic exterior. However, this week is really about what lurks inside Ellie’s heart. She’s loved, lost, and now doesn’t know her place in this world. Why is she seemingly the first and only person to ever be immune? Why was one off-moment possibly the thing that will cost her Joel? How far and how deep will Ellie go into herself to survive? Put another way, it’s about time for Miss Williams to lose her shit. 

In the snow-covered town of Silver Lake, a man named David (Scott Shepherd) reads a passage from Revelation to a downtrodden collection of men, women, and children. A hand-painted sign on the wall states, “When We Are In Need, He Shall Provide”. Does that sign mean God or David? One of the seated flock, Hannah, begins to cry as her mother, Joyce, tries to quiet her. David pauses to comfort the girl as well. She asks when they can bury her father’s body. David makes brief eye contact with his second, James (Troy Baker), and tells Hannah they’ll have to wait for spring and softer ground. James stays behind as the others depart to tell David there’s about a week’s worth of animal meat left. That’s…very oddly specific, David and James. The pair go out to try and hunt some game. 

The Last of Us When We Are in Need (HBO)
Scott Shepherd preaches to the hungry choir. (Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Back at the abandoned house, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) checks on Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) wound. It is definitely infected, but only in the regular way. She gives him some water and the last of their jerky supply before heading out into the woods with his rifle to also try her luck at hunting. Ellie fails (and falls) at getting a rabbit but manages to wound a buck. It takes off, Ellie hastening after it. David and James find the dead buck and plan to steal it. However, Ellie gets the drop on them and holds them at gunpoint. David offers to trade for half of the deer. Ellie jumps at the deal when she learns they have medicine, specifically penicillin. David sends a disbelieving James for the meds. He then offers to make a fire for himself and Ellie since James will take a while to return. 

David talks up their community which Ellie immediately sniffs out as a cult. David laughs that maybe they are a cult, but it’s “standard Bible stuff.” He was a high school teacher (the audience feels a little chill but isn’t sure why) before Outbreak Day, and he found God after the apocalypse. He tells Ellie that he believes everything happens for a reason. For instance, he recently sent four people out to scavenge nearby, and only three returned. The one who didn’t return was killed by a “crazy man” traveling with a little girl. David kindly says, “See? Everything happens for a reason. James, lower the gun.” Ellie realizes they’ve trapped her. Nonetheless, David has James give her the penicillin and allows her to flee. She returns to Joel and injects him with one of the penicillin bottles. Right in the wound! Gotta feel fantastic.  

In the town’s restaurant’s kitchen, Joyce helps make soup, telling her fellow cooks that they’re almost out of everything. A man brings in a tub of meat. When Joyce asks what it is, there’s a noticeable pause before he answers, “Venison.” Mmmhmm. David and James enter the restaurant with the deer. Sensing some unease amongst his people, David says yes, they did run into the girl who was accompanying Alec’s murderer. He pledges to send people after her in the morning. 

The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 8 (HBO)
Reunions rarely look this painful or feel this good. (Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Hannah interrupts, arguing David should kill both of them. He replies by backhanding her. Then he crouches beside her. He tells her she’ll always have a father and she needs to show him respect when he’s speaking. The audience tilts their heads. 

Joyce brings David a plate. He leads the group in grace. Several close-ups of people eating their food follow. James is noticeably hesitant as he takes an unwanted bite. Sorry about your tasty Dad, Hannah.  

The next morning, Joel remains seemingly unchanged. Ellie gives him more penicillin. She gathers snow for the horse to drink when she notices birds taking flight. She sneaks over to see what spooked them. It only takes a moment to see David, James, and several other men walking into the neighborhood. As Ellie hurries back to the house, David tells the men to take her alive.  

When she can’t get Joel to wake completely, she leaves his knife in his hands and warns him men are coming. She gets on the horse and rides away from the house, coming up on the group and shooting at them before galloping away. Unfortunately, James manages to get ahead of her and shoots the horse. David directs two of the men to follow him and bring the horse’s body. He scoops Ellie into his arms and tells the remaining men to find and kill Joel.  

Put another way, it’s about time for Miss Williams to lose her shit.

One of the men, Josiah, enters the correct house, but by the time he gets down to the basement, Joel’s mattress is empty. Uh oh. The intruder searches the basement, gun at the ready. Unfortunately for him, Joel appears behind him and shoves the knife into Josiah’s throat. Joel’s back, baby! 

Meanwhile, Ellie wakes up in town, locked in a cage in a backroom. David starts asking questions, but Ellie refuses to engage him. 

Back in the neighborhood, the two remaining men, Timothy and Marco, are still searching. Marco hears something thud. He finds the source of the noise is a now unconscious Timothy. When he approaches to help his friend, Joel knocks him out. He wakes inside a house, tied to a piano. 

Meanwhile, Timothy is duct-taped to an armchair getting the snot beat out of him by Joel. When he grows tired of that approach, Joel stabs Timothy in the leg, threatening to remove his kneecap unless the man draws their current location and Ellie’s on the map. Joel warns that Timothy’s answer had better match Marco’s. Timothy marks the map, and Joel buries a knife in his chest, killing him. A horrified Marco screams at an approaching Joel that he won’t tell him anything. “It’s okay. I believe him,” our protagonist retorts, smashing Marco’s head in with a pipe. This is the Joel that Robert was so afraid of.  

The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 8 (HBO)
Bella Ramsey is here to help others reap what they’re sowing. (HBO)

Back in town, Ellie tries to break out of the cage until she catches sight of something that immediately terrifies her. David comes in with a plate of food, but Ellie can only stare at him in horror. He follows her eyeline to find a human ear on the floor underneath a bloody butcher’s block. David assures Ellie that the food he brought her is venison. 

“If you want to judge me,” he starts up, but she’s not here for it. She interrupts, shrieking, “You’re eating people, you sick fuck!”. David, undeterred, starts overexplaining himself to Ellie. He’s always had a violent heart, you see, and it shamed him until the world ended. It was only then that he was “shown the way.” Right, Ellie says, by God. No, answers David, by Cordyceps. Beg pardon? 

Cordyceps loves its children, David continues, and it takes care of them. The people in town? They want a father. However, he can tell Ellie also has a violent heart and is beyond such petty desires. David wants an equal. The audience retches. 

David does everything short of telling Ellie that she’s “so mature for her age,” promising he’ll call off the search for Joel if she joins him. Ellie pretends to be interested, reaching for his hand through the bars. Instead of it being a sign of joining, though, she breaks his finger. A furious David storms out, threatening to butcher Ellie.  

Writer Craig Mazin and director Ali Abbasi showed us this week how cold and cruel the world can be but how sometimes things can start to heal.

Joel makes his way through the snow in Silver Lake, following a blood trail into a locked storage room. He finds Ellie’s backpack and coat on a shelf. He keeps moving, finding their dead horse and three human corpses hanging in the cold room. 

David and James burst into the backroom and take Ellie, slamming her down on the butcher’s block. Ellie screams that she’s Infected. Since she bit David while they were manhandling her, he is too. David sees her scar and starts to panic. As he and James bicker, Ellie grabs a cleaver, slams it into James’ neck, and runs.  

Ellie runs into the main restaurant. She finds it locked up; no escape. Returning to the kitchen, she grabs a piece of smoldering wood from a stove. When David enters the room with the cleaver, Ellie throws the wood at him from her hiding spot. She misses, but it hits a curtain instead, immediately starting a fire. Ducking back into the kitchen once more, Ellie grabs a knife. She attempts to stab David, but he knocks her down and repeatedly kicks her. He then begins to sexually assault her as she screams. Still fighting, she manages to reach the discarded cleaver and lets him have it. We don’t see what’s left of David, but it’s not nearly as much as he deserves.  

The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 8 (HBO)
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey don’t need a caption here. They’re going to go ahead and break your heart acapella. (Liane Hentscher/HBO)

In shock and covered in blood, Ellie leaves the burning restaurant, spinning in terror as Joel grabs her arm. Joel calms her down and embraces her, whispering, “It’s okay, baby girl. I got you.” Joel wraps Ellie in his coat, and the pair stumble off through the snow. 

An increasingly vocal segment of the watching population has made clear their dissatisfaction with how many Infected the show has given us. Setting aside that we just saw last week how one Infected can ruin two lives in a matter of moments, those mushroom folks are not what the story is truly about. They’re horrid, desperately sad (considering they are possibly still aware of what they’re doing), and certainly frightening. But you know what’s scary too? Leaders driven by revenge at all costs. Leaders using hunger and religion to keep their people quiet and obedient. An injury that you can’t heal because the medicine doesn’t exist anymore. Being alone. Losing your family. Learning to trust and love someone again. Writer Craig Mazin and director Ali Abbasi showed us this week how cold and cruel the world can be but how sometimes things can start to heal. Just a bit.  

Airborne Spores 

  • Can Ellie have a gun? CAN SHE. She can have a rifle, a handgun, a knife, and a cleaver.  
  • These are the sloppiest cannibals, especially considering that the whole town isn’t in on it. Ears on the floor? Obvious human bodies just hanging in the back of the restaurant? Come on, guys. 
  • Troy Baker (James) is the game’s Joel, but sadly we saw no Joel-on-Joel violence this week. Ellie took care of that.