The Last of Us episode 8 review: Eat, pray, love
The subject matter around The Last of Us’ penultimate episode, "When We Are in Need", is often regarded as the best part of the series’ namesake game - taking you into the darkest depths of where an apocalypse-ravaged society can delve. For this Last of Us episode 8 review, it’s clear the finest gaming adaptation is still just that - the only downside being that we simply want more.
- Here's what we thought of The Last of Us episode 7.
Preacher and Baker
Joel is down for the count with a post-baseball bat-stabbing infection. So, it’s up to Ellie to venture into a snow-ridden wilderness, shoot a deer or two, and somehow find a cure for her adoptive dad.
It’s then that she runs into David, the preacher leader of the struggling town of Silver Lake - who has been having to resort to drastic measures to avoid his people starving. With both their needs for survival and the consequences of the last episode coming to a head, Ellie finds herself in the most harrowing fight for her life yet.
Whilst The Last of Us series’ trend of going into a bit more depth around its antagonists is back in Episode 8, When We Are in Need, doing so feels the most earned- at least compared to Episode 5, which felt more like filler. Put through a cold, food-deprived, and death-filled winter, with the passage-quoting David only just able to salvage enough hope to keep them together, these small bits of extra time in Silver Lake are welcome looks into part of why these people go to the lengths they go.
To that end, actor Scott Shepherd nails David’s “nice guy but a creep underneath” persona. What’s more though, Troy Baker, who played Joel in the game, portraying David’s number two - James - was a nice touch given the dramatic weight brought to such a small role.
“It’s okay, baby girl”
Fans of the game have been excited for what would be the emotionally heavy moments of this penultimate episode adapted from the game. In execution, many should be pleased because many of these iconic scenes; including David and Ellie’s campfire chat, the prison cell scenes, and Joel’s encounter with two of David’s men; have been replicated entirely to compellingly sublime results. With some being almost word for word, with even the cinematography matching up, it’s a testament to how timeless these moments are.
Most notably, Ellie’s particular scene with David in the diner is just as chilling to watch in the game - if not more so thanks to Bella Ramsay’s expert conveyance of trauma-charged rage. Whilst Joel’s time in the episode was short by comparison, game players will agree Pedro Pascal’s delivery was a mastercraft in whatever tone the scene needed to be - from fury to poignance.
Even though many of the game’s narrative paths had been tweaked to change the way the series reaches the same story beats in TV form, it’s a relief that episode writer and co-creator Craig Mazin still knows which scenes are already perfect in their current form despite the shift in medium.
Starved for time
With the average Last of Us episode being 45-50 minutes, it’s easy to wonder how a large amount of what’s left of the original story could still be covered with just two episodes remaining. That’s especially with such narratively intense ground to cover.
As has been another noticeable trend with the adaptation as a whole, Episode 8 makes up for time by skimming over the game’s action-heavy segments. For example, Ellie and David’s original meeting became more complex due to having to work together to find numerous Infected. After waking up, Joel had to fight his way through Silver Lake to make it to Ellie in a tense but brutally epic fashion.
Between drama and gritty action, The Last of Us series made the right choice in prioritising the former rather than the latter. After all, it’s the story as a whole and the performances behind it that set it apart from other titles in the genre. With what’s been kept, When We Are in Need’s big reveals still have as big an impact as they do in the game.
However, it can’t be helped thinking at this point what just an extra 10 minutes or so could make. In this case, the infected being totally absent in the episode is making the adaptation feel like we’re missing out on a secondary but still important element of The Last of Us’ formula.
Or even in Silver Lake for the final climax, a bit of additional time could have been used to flesh out the conflict and build up the suspense - whereas what we got feels like it was over in a flash, whilst still brilliantly executed in its own right.
In a world of streaming where runtime requirements should no longer be a strict restraint, The Last of Us Episode 8 feels evidently rushed in comparison to the game - even when accounting for the change in medium. The final product is still incredible, but rushed nonetheless.
Is The Last of Us Episode 8 good?
Between game fans and newcomers following the series since the beginning, The Last of Us Episode 8 should still leave viewers happy in both camps.
Adapting the Silver Lake sections of the game’s vividly eerie storytelling and reveals, Episode 8 delivers with a faithfully hard impact backed by expert performances and a great script. The only flaw is that without what feels like an unnecessarily restrained runtime, it can be given more of the extra breathing room and sprinkles of action needed to make it perfect.