Sunday, March 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Last of Us' - Ellie Faces Off With the Worst of Humanity She's Ever Experienced in 'When We Are in Need'

HBO's The Last of Us - Episode 1.08 "When We Are in Need"

Ellie crosses paths with a vengeful group of survivors - and draws the attention of its leader. A weakened Joel faces a new threat.

"When We Are in Need" was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Ali Abbasi

So much of the series has been shaped by the love and hope present within the human connection even in the worst situations. It's centered around people finding each other and where they belong following the apocalypse. It's all been hopeful even though Ellie is the only person who carries the possibility of saving the entire population from the Cordyceps infection. And yet, this world has revealed the darkness within humanity as well. Sometimes humans are much more sinister and dangerous than the infected. The story really could have gone either way once Ellie runs into the group to which the man Joel killed survived alongside. It could have been a heartbreaking story about these small collections of humans trying their best to survive in the absolutely bleakest of circumstances. The family left behind is cold and starving just like Ellie and Joel are. Ellie wants to heal her traveling companion and surrogate father. She will do whatever it takes. She refuses to quit. People are willing to exploit her without knowing her larger importance. That doesn't matter. Plenty see a smart and determined girl they need to control. That domineering quality is present throughout every scene with David. Sure, the early moments leave things up in the air whether or not he is as religious as he claims. He mentions how finding religion in the apocalypse was either the best or worst time. He's unsure. As such, he can't provide clarity to Ellie. Instead, he offers medicine. That allows Joel to heal relatively quickly after receiving two injections. He's not physically healed enough to be the hero everyone expects him to be. Instead, Ellie is left to fend for herself. She is more than capable of doing so. Again, she has endured a lot in her young life. The weight of the world rests firmly on her shoulders. Inspired by Riley, she refuses to give up no matter how bleak the situation is. That doesn't save her from the pain inflicted by David. He truly is a monster. He uses God and religion as a placeholder for his narcissistic need of worship. He needs people to follow him. All of that becomes clear the moment he slaps the daughter of the man Joel killed. Earlier, he was full of compassion. He was reaching out with empathy towards someone newly distraught amongst his flock. He ultimately expects her to fall in line with his wishes. People can't outwardly question his motives. He is deemed wiser and more enlightened. He is a cult leader just like Ellie feared. She knows better than to trust anyone. She simply has to engage with a monster who wishes to abuse her in the most vulnerable and intimate way possibly. It would be great for Joel to have his rallying hero moment. That's the expected outcome. Instead, it all falls onto Ellie once more.

It's absolutely horrifying when Ellie realizes David is feeding his deceased followers to the rest of his flock. It's more insidious when he tries to lure Ellie in with talk of partnership because they are wired the same. They both have violent tendencies. It's the way to survive in this brutal world. They are incredibly loyal too. In David's case, people desperately cling onto him for safety and support. With Ellie, she cares about Joel. She doesn't want him to die because he's the closest thing to family she has left. That's important. Their relationships with people are hardly the same. David still makes the argument. It's all about satisfying his own arousal. Ellie can either surrender to his needs or be the latest meal he serves to his followers. He presents it as if it's a choice. That's meant to be beautiful because so many of his congregation are in the dark. They don't know what they are consuming every meal. They are simply desperate and willing to go along with whatever David says. He is their savior. He's the devil for Ellie though. He hunts her down with the intention of making her his child bride. He doesn't care what happens to Joel. He's fine letting the other members of his hunting party decide his fate. He doesn't notice whether or not they come back. He's transfixed by Ellie. He needs to know her name. He likes that she fights back. She's a challenge he needs to break. Again, it's sick and twisted arousal for him. His true nature emerged because of the apocalypse. He accepted that fully. He's not wrong for the observations he makes about Ellie. She is violent and determined. She uses every ounce of intimidation she can muster to escape this imprisonment. David is a keen observer as well. And yet, he will always prioritize satisfying his own desires. Even when the building is burning around him, he still seeks that sexual pleasure from Ellie. HBO has a long and troubled history of using rape as a tool to introduce trauma to its female characters. It works in this instance because of the ferocious spirit Ellie produces to prevail. The world is burning around her too. She kicks into that animal instinct of striking David over and over again. It's so feral. It's so righteous. It also leaves her numb. She makes it out alive. When Joel finally finds her, the only heroism he can provide is a hug. That's all he needs to do. She is comforted by his presence. She brought him back to life. He still isn't fully healed. And now, Ellie is scarred by what she has faced. This world is so cold and desolate. Sometimes the worst of humanity lurks to inflict more harm and trauma. That's the sad nature of this story. The infected are dangerous. Everyone should worry about their fellow humans too. No one knows what someone else is capable of. It's beautiful when it amounts to hope and love. It's absolutely vicious when it's pure evil. Ellie has encountered both. She survives it all. She's on a mission. It simply comes at such a cost that is draining after awhile too. Everything must have a purpose. This ordeal simply revealed how David contorted this reality to his benefit at the expense of so many other people just trying to survive.