Central to any post-apocalyptic narrative is an exploration of morality, and what happens when society’s shared assumptions and practices are thrown to the metaphorical (and sometimes very real) wolves. The best of these – from Dawn of the Dead to Mad Max: Fury Road and Children of Men, among many others – use the breakdown of society and its many communities as both action and metaphor, providing rich subtext for the inquisitive, reflective, and often violent realizations these works of art come to. “When We Are in Need”, The Last of Us‘ penultimate freshman offering, is another attempt by HBO’s hit series to offer its own examination of morality – and unfortunately, is the most one-dimensional, illogical episode of the series, offering a cartoonish, weightless antagonist as a primer for the series’ most brutal rejection of humanity yet.
“When We Are in Need” – written by co-creator Craig Mazin – opens with an introduction to a community in Silver Lake, led by preacher David (Scott Shepard) and his presumed second-in-command James (Troy Baker, who played Joel in the video games). As he preaches from the Book of Revelations, The Last of Us lays out the stakes of an isolated community facing their own extinction, as they’re running out of food in the middle of a harsh winter.