HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Eight Review – We arrive in episode eight with not a whole lot happening in episode seven, at least not a whole lot for present day Ellie and Joel.
Last week focused on Ellie and Riley, and the story of Ellie getting bit. Present day Ellie is doing marginally better than she was the night her and Riley got bit.
Joel on the other hand isn’t doing so hot, at least physically, and while Ellie being able to sew up his wound has bought him some more time, it’s getting infected, and he need medicine.
Which leads us to David, and his group. Joined this time by Troy Baker as James, as David’s ‘right-hand-man’ of sorts.
I struggled with this episode. Its events are engaging, and we’re coming off this emotional high for Joel and Ellie that was established at the end of episode seven.
But there’s something about it all that felt off, and I wasn’t able to shake that by the time credits rolled.
Spoilers for Episode 8 and the whole show so far, beyond this point.
HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Eight Review – Everything Happens For A Reason
Getting back to Ellie and Joel, Ellie is doing what she can to make sure her and Joel survive, which means trying her hand at catching dinner for the two of them herself.
And catch their dinner she does, hitting a deer that runs right into David, played by Scott Shepard, and James, played by Troy Baker.
David, James, and the community they come from were the very first thing we saw this episode, and already a foreboding of everything to come filled the tense air in the quiet hall.
Though I may have other issues with this episode that we’ll get to, I will say that Bella Ramsey really continues to be excellent in her performance as Ellie.
I’ve truly loved watching her take on the character change throughout the game, and the way she steps up and absolutely carries this episode is nothing short of incredible.
While I think the performances themselves are good in all of Ellie and David’s initial scenes, right down to her running off with the medicine back to Joel, what that interaction lacks is what I felt the episode lacked.
In the game, David and Ellie go through a whole ordeal fighting off a horde of Infected before James returns with the medicine.
It’s a sequence that is meant to add more gameplay for the player of course, but David specifically saving Ellie’s life, and not killing her when he could’ve all along, are two things that change the player’s first impression about David.
Even though the game and the show both get to the same place, that David is ultimately an absolute creep and d***, the way that reveal comes about, and how deep his cruelty will go right up until he’s chopped up into tiny pieces felt like it had lost something without that Infected sequence.
It just made the whole episode feel all too predictable, and it hollowed out a villain that feels more complete in the game.
In the grand scheme of things, I can see how that’s not a big deal, because the entire David chapter is all to bring Ellie and Joel to that moment where he finds her, and their emotional bond grows even stronger.
The show still executes on that, but I feel its worth mentioning that this is a case in which the game still does it better than the show.
Contrary to that though, the show’s emphasis on only as much violence as necessary have created new dynamics in which themes from the story are explored, particularly violence.
Joel is a violent person, that’s something we’re more than well aware of in the game, almost right away when Tess and Joel head out to find Robert.
The show has also made us well aware that Joel is a violent person, but it’s been more of a slow burn, rather than constantly being reminded of it with combat sequences at each turn.
So when Joel goes to torturing two of David’s men, it’s the biggest burst of violence we’ve seen from him. Ellie is in trouble. That’s what he understands.
These men, and anything else unfortunate enough to land in his way won’t stop him. He’s rampaging, and it’s an incredibly effective scene.
Credit where it’s due to Pedro Pascal, for executing on Joel’s darkest side so well, especially ahead of the finale.
Ellie’s own outburst of violence, first breaking David’s finger, wedging an axe in James’ neck, and finally turning David’s face to chopped-up mush also shows the felt like a similar outburst after a slow-burn across the season.
At the end of the day, Joel and Ellie are doing whatever they feel they need to do to survive, and keep each other alive, against a world that is constantly violent and threatening towards them.
But it’s here where Ellie’s violent nature is first really let out, a moment of release that players know will stay with her, and be given a new fire in Part II.
For all the issues I might have with this show at times, it’s still able to impress me, and its attention to detail in the themes of the story and how they’re explored through these performances has been wonderful to watch.
Everything Happens For A Reason
What does still feel disappointing however, even though I kind of made my own peace with it last week, is the lack of world-exploration now that we’re down to the wire with what’s left.
Episode nine is the finale, and while we’ve yet to see where Ashley Johnson will fit in as Ellie’s mother in the series, that scene in the next episode is probably the most expansion we’ll get for the rest of the season.
The slower, deeper emotional arc that Joel and Ellie go through in the show, how side characters like Tommy, Tess, Maria, Bill and Frank are all more fleshed out has been great expansion of these characters we already loved. Minus Frank, who we didn’t know.
But I just think there’s been a lack of opportunities taken to further explore the world in which Joel and Ellie’s story takes place.
Part of the whole point to The Last Of Us Part II is that nothing happens in a vacuum, and that there is a greater world out there that can be effected by your actions.
Having so little of that be explored here just feels like a missed opportunity, even though I know we have a whole new season to look forward to after this which could very well provide the kind of expansion I’m seeking.
For now, thinking about what could be coming, doesn’t exactly help.
HBO’s The Last Of Us started out incredibly strong in my eyes, though over time I began to develop my own issues with it, mainly around the lack of expansion I’ve discussed at length.
But it never stopped being a good show. It remained an excellent show in fact, each week, and this week still manages to keep that streak up.
While I feel disappointed, there’s not a person I’ve talked to who’s watching along that has been disappointed by an episode.
When I talk to my friends about the differences between the show and the game, particularly in the case of episode eight, no one feels like something is missed by not having the sequence with the Infected between David and Ellie.
Which isn’t all that surprising, as they didn’t know there was something to miss in the first place, but that helps put into perspective for me that this show is still very good, even if it might fail at times for veteran fans of the game, like me.
With that said, I’m cautiously excited for next week’s finale. At this point I’m not sure if we’ll get any kind of world expansion with what little time is left, and how short the episode is reported to be, clocking in at 43min.
At least we’ve gotten some excellent performances along the way. And honestly, this whole show has been way better than I ever could have expected it to be, on the baseline of just being a good tv show.
I’ll miss it once the finale arrives, and look forward to season two with excitement.
You can watch episode eight, When We Are In Need and the other seven episode’s of HBO’s The Last Of Us wherever it is streaming in your region, right now.