REVIEW: The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 8 Veers Into Bloody Horror

Coming off two relatively low-key episodes — at least as far as The Last of Us is concerned — the hit HBO original series’ eighth episode veers into straight horror for the season’s penultimate episode. Titled “When We Are in Need,” the episode pits Ellie against her most nightmarish threat yet and shockingly, it isn’t the clickers this time around. A slow burn sequence that quickly builds into the most harrowing sequences in the series thus far, The Last of Us doesn’t necessarily lean into the outright heartbreaking moments from preceding episodes but also doesn’t pull its punches as the season finale looms into focus.

Though Joel’s condition has stabilized after being stabbed by scavengers, his health remains precariously fragile as he continues to recover in the abandoned house. While out foraging for additional supplies, Ellie encounters a community that has managed to survive the harsh winters in the mountains. Unbeknownst to Ellie, the scavengers that nearly killed Joel are from the same community that she crosses paths with, with the hunters out to avenge the loss of one of their own to the cross-country travelers.

Much of “When We Are in Need” hinges on the audience knowing more than Ellie, with viewers aware that she and Joel are the pair that the hunters have been vengefully searching for. This awareness of the antagonists’ true intentions raises the suspense considerably before the pent-up pressure inevitably explodes into some of the bloodiest scenes in The Last of Us to date. Much of this tension is made possible by guest stars Scott Shepherd and Troy Baker — Baker having originated the role of Joel in the video game — who can alternate between soft-spoken calm to haunting menace in the blink of an eye as the true nature of their characters surfaces.

After spending much of the preceding episode sidelined, it feels great to see Pedro Pascal back in action as Joel, forced to get back on his feet with the hunters literally at the door. Joel’s brooding side and inner demons have been explored thoroughly in the earlier episodes and Pascal brings a brutally efficient intensity to Joel as the character operates without Ellie nearby to witness how lethal he can truly be. On a purely fan-service level, it is a shame that Pascal never gets to share scenes with Baker though it doesn’t quite make sense for the story being told here.

Picking up from the preceding interlude, much of the episode’s first half and final scene are told from Ellie’s perspective, with Bella Ramsey living up to the horrific material they’ve been given. Ramsey has been consistently good all series, especially with the preceding week’s extended flashback to Ellie’s tragic backstory in Boston, but Ramsey gets to mix grit with emotional trauma as Ellie does her best to survive the terror of the hunters’ community. This brings Ramsey’s performance to even rawer areas than prior episodes and the actor more than lives up to the challenge presented.

On a surface level with its very premise, The Last of Us is post-apocalyptic horror, if not as unrelentingly grim as its contemporaries. “When We Are in Need” is a stark reminder that this is indeed a scary show at times, and it does it without a clicker in sight, instead relying on suspense, bloody violence and a terrifying showcase for the depravity of the human condition. With only one episode left this season, it will be interesting to see how The Last of Us closes out its inaugural story, either continuing with the intense momentum or pulling back just enough to let the audience breathe before it inevitably breaks their hearts.

Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, The Last of Us airs Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO, with episodes available to stream on HBO Max.

Leave a Comment