Body and Soul: The Last of Us’ penultimate ep is best served cold…

HBO's game adaptation returns to its main menu, but are Ellie and Joel's options limited?

Ellie has managed to keep Joel alive so far, but it’s clear that without some sort of medicine, his wound will get infected and he’ll die. She heads out hunting for food and meds and comes across a couple of hunters from a nearby community. In an armed stand-off Pastor David and his right-hand man James tell Ellie that they mean no harm and the pastor orders a less-sure James to go get meds to give to Ellie.

But the Silver Lake community is in worse shape than anyone realises and few of Pastor David’s flock know the lengths he will go to, to keep his ‘flock’ alive and him in control. He knows that Ellie – and whomever she’s with – will either be an asset or an enemy and he’s a savvy-enough leader to pick his moment in any power-play.

But can Ellie avoid the Silver Lake pursuers and keep them away along enough to give Joel time to recover.

And even if Joel does make it, will he be in time to save Ellie?



In the original The Last of Us game, there’s a section where we don’t know Joel’s status after his injuries. In the PS4 title we cut to Ellie alone, hunting in the snow-covered woods and for a while it’s unclear whether she’s gathering food for herself alone or to bring it to Joel. Thankfully, as viewers, we know that Joel is a major character and unlikely to die at this point (…right?) so we get a brief scene of Joel still in critical condition as Ellie starts off on her hunting trip for food and medical supplies. Her journey through the woods, complete with seeing and tracking ickle bunnies and deer are taken closely from the tutorial part of the gameplay and what follows is also quite similar though, as this series does, given more depth and context.

Sooner or later every post-apocalyptic concept must bow to the inevitable and showcase a group of people who are as mad as a bag of hammers and just as heavily armed. It also helps to throw in some religious zealots who are actually as far from their supposed message as possible. We already had problems with the urban militant groups in South Kansas and now we get the rural Colorado variety. Thus, The Last of Us – the game and now the series – delivers them unto us. Ellie handles herself well enough when her hunt leads her across the path of the two strangers, Pastor David and James who are from the community we see in the episode’s opening minutes – people of faith, but who are clearly not doing well.  (Worthy of note is the fact that James is played by Troy Baker, who many will realise is the actor who handled the voice and the motion-capture for the character of Joel in the original games). David is pretty savvy at reading people’s reactions and it doesn’t take him long to realise that Ellie’s talk about being part of a bigger group is a bluff – he also notes that that a man and a young girl were seen killing one of the group’s scavengers at the nearby university (which we know led to Joel’s injury). He allows James to get some medical supplies for Ellie and lets her leave, knowing he can always track her movements thereafter – which he does. Ellie uses the med-kit to help Joel, but he’s still in a bad way and she ultimately has to leave him to help distract the Silver Lake intruders. It works – but only momentarily and she’s quickly captured.

It might take the initiated a little while to put together the fact Pastor David’s claims that the icy ground is too hard to bury the dead with the fact that he’s helping the community cling on through the winter with meager amounts of unspecified meat. Yes, the man of God has taken the ‘body of Christ’ aspect a little too literally and gone full-on ‘Soylent Green‘, slicing ne-er-do-wells and fallen members of the community into strips of sustenance, in a backroom abattoir.  Actor Scott Shepherd gives David a sense of both charisma and heavy desperation and it’s possible at the start, to feel a smidgen of sympathy for a man whose methods may be questionable but who seems to be genuinely trying to help his flock and survive the elements. It’s a shame, in some ways, that post-apocalyptic fiction so often paints people of devout faith as the batshit, zealous enemy and it would be good to see the occasional character who has lived up to the tenants of his religion in the most difficult times, instead of becoming the villain of the piece. But as things go on, just like the game, it becomes harder to wish Pastor David anything other than a very painful death. He’s revealed as not just a misguided murderer, but a hypocritical fraud who considers his flock as sheep who should follow him unconditionally.  The eventual predatory overtures to Ellie, on both a sexual and let-us-share-power-together level, just bring an extra layer of creepiness which just makes you want to usher in his demise even faster. (Troy Baker’s James, as in the game, is just collateral damage along the way)

The cat-and-mouse battle within the burning converted eating hall was a signature moment in the game (and one of the toughest levels to get through) and it’s recreated here as Ellie ducks and dives through the building finally avoiding being raped by the Pastor and ultimately turning the tables, going full berserker on her stalker with his own machete, until he’s a bloody pulp. There’s little here of the child we’ve seen in the previous episodes and when Joel arrives – having gone through his own survival arc and undertaken a memorably brutal interrogation of the Silver Lake soldiers – he too can see the trial-by-fire-and-blood from which she’s survived… bruised and battered and now permanently changed. Ellie may have been mere ‘cargo’ before, but it’s clear she’s now much more and he’ll do anything to help her survive… (“I got you, baby girl…” mirroring what he said to his daughter in the premiere)

Directed by Ali Abbasi, When We are in Need is an episode that could have fallen victim to some of its more tropey elements, but coming this close to the end – the season finale is only a week away – it’s intense action and emotional imperative reminds viewers of the survival-stakes and just how changed our main characters have become during their journey.  If you don’t know what’s coming next week – and I’d avoid spoilers if you don’t – you should at least know that the intensity doesn’t ebb away in sight of the ‘finishing line’…

Next Week:

'The Last of Us  S01 EP08 - When We are in Need'  SKY/HBO review)
'The Last of Us S01 EP08 - When We are in Need' SKY/HBO review)
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