The Last of Us Episode 8’s Biggest Change Sets Up a Major Season 2 Villain
"When We Are in Need" tweaks David and his followers.
In The Last of Us Episode 8, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is forced to confront the greatest threat yet. The episode, “When We Are in Need,” finds Ellie still struggling to keep Joel (Pedro Pascal) alive in the wake of a serious injury. Her desperation leads her to make a deal with David (Scott Shepherd), a mysterious survivor she meets on a hunting trip.
While David supplies Ellie with the medicine Joel needs, he also becomes unnervingly obsessed with her. He and his men later track her down and kidnap her, and David makes several romantic and sexual advances. In case that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also revealed that David and his fellow survivors have resorted to cannibalism to prevent themselves from starving.
These events are mostly lifted from the original game. However, “When We Are in Need” makes one major change to David and his group of survivors.
Early in Episode 8, it’s revealed that David’s followers see him as a priest-like man of God whose actions and words aren’t meant to be doubted or questioned. David’s group relies on their religious faith to explain away the dire nature of their circumstances, while David secretly reveals to Ellie that he believes more in the power of the show’s Cordyceps virus than he does anything else.
Beyond how much more unnerving it makes their cannibal tendencies, the religious fanaticism of David’s group also helps HBO better establish a powerful faction from The Last of Us Part II in a way the original game couldn’t.
While The Last of Us game doesn’t touch on the dangers of religious fanaticism, the same can’t be said for its sequel. The second game mostly takes place in a Seattle that’s been torn apart by a decades-long conflict between the militaristic Washington Liberation Front (WLF) and a religious cult known as the Seraphites (or Scars).
Players run into the WLF and Seraphites on multiple occasions. Through conversations and pieces of environmental storytelling, players learn how the Seraphites began as survivors who, in the wake of the apocalypse, gradually turned to the primitivist teachings and beliefs of a seemingly well-meaning woman known only as The Prophet.
The conflict between the Seraphites and the WLF plays a major role in The Last of Us Part II, and allows the game to touch on the dangers of religious fanaticism, societal ostracization, and groupthink.
The Inverse Analysis — The themes the Seraphites explore are compelling, but their complete absence in the original game makes their introduction in the sequel feel like an out-of-left-field addition to the series’ lore.
In Episode 8, though, HBO’s The Last of Us has ensured that its future introduction of the Seraphites won’t feel nearly as sudden or abrupt. By tweaking David’s group, the HBO series has established the existence of religious cults in its post-apocalyptic world, and the danger they represent.
New episodes of The Last of Us air Sundays on HBO.