What is more dangerous than a group of people living without hope – someone willing to exploit it for their own personal sense of power. The first season of The Last of Us has given a few looks at the infected themselves. I believe in not overusing them because it keeps the scare factor high. You would be desensitized if you saw the infected in every episode, like zombies during The Walking Dead. In “When We Are In Need,” you have the convergence of two stories. There is the apex of a metaphorical father/daughter realizing how much they mean to each other. Conversely, you get to see how evil people can be.
Joel is still incapacitated, and Ellie gathers the resolve to try to look for food and medicine for him. This puts her on the path with a pastor named David (Scott Shepherd) and his sidekick James (played by Joel voice actor Troy Baker). When we first see this settlement in Colorado, they are almost out of food. It’s mentioned they might have enough venison for the next two weeks. In this world, it’s not an unfathomable thought to barter with people to survive. When Ellie kills a deer and David and Scott find it, they trade goods. Ellie is then able to help Joel so that he doesn’t die.
With the most unfortunate stroke of luck, it just so happens the man that Joel killed out of self-defense is from that very settlement. Much to the credit of Shepherd’s acting, David gives off a creepy cult leader vibe. Ironically, he was a teacher before taking up the occupation of a pastor. David knows how to use indoctrinating methods to bend people to his will. James lightly pushes back on him at the beginning of the episode, but David quickly disarms that with a question of loyalty. David’s supporters plan to kill Joel (they oddly want to kill Ellie, too). However, he has other plans for Ellie that are far more nefarious.
Until now, Joel and Ellie have looked over each other – even if Joel himself didn’t like that happening. This is the first time we’ve seen where Ellie experiences this world on the outside without him. It’s cruel, nasty, and cold. This has been building throughout the whole series accumulation with Ellie fighting for her life. Not only does she find herself beaten up in a cell with David spouting mumbo jumbo about them both being “smart, loyal, and violent.” Did we mention they were cannibals? Ellie had to see a human ear, which doesn’t go wonders for her already stressed psyche.
Meanwhile, Joel goes on a Terminator-like killing spree to find Ellie. Many of his concerns about what he lost go out of the window when trying to save someone he loves. When we first met Joel, he was extremely out of sorts and suffocated by his past. With Ellie, he’s found something to give him a sense of purpose. It’s also interesting that Ellie kills David rather brutally - as if she was letting out all the anger and hurt she experienced.
The end of “When We Are In Need” has many conflicting emotions in the scene of Joel carrying Ellie away from the burning resort. It feels great to see Joel fully let his guard down. Ellie saved his life, after all. However, knowing that a young girl had to endure that is heartbreaking.
Notably, their time is drawing to a close as they get closer to the Firefly base. They’ve been through hell and back and even shared some puns. Will it be easy to walk away from each other? The penultimate episode of The Last of Us makes you not want that to happen – a theme we shall revisit in the finale.