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Wait, Who Did Joel Kill in ‘The Last of Us’?

Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Elle in The Last of Us

The Last of Us episode 8, “When We Are in Need,” premiered on March 5, 2023, and had some surprising ties to episode 6, “Kin.” This episode continued the HBO series’ trend of introducing new groups of people who have found their own way to survive during the outbreak. It also continued building on the idea that humans are the real monsters in The Last of Us, rather than the infected who have no control over their own actions.

“When We Are in Need” sees Ellie (Bella Ramsey) still desperately trying to survive and take care of a gravely injured Joel (Pedro Pascal) on her own. While she manages to stitch up his wound, it has now become infected, plus she has no food. Her situation oddly parallels that of a small remote group of survivors in a religious community. Their so-called leader, David (Scott Shepherd), preaches of hope and faith to his community. Even he can’t ignore their bleak situation, though, as most are starving and fearful of David. One little girl breaks down in tears as he preaches, and it is revealed that she and her mother are grieving her father, Alec, a member of the community who was killed

When Ellie runs into David and his right-hand man, James (Troy Baker), the situation first presents itself as an opportunity. She manages to subdue them with her gun, and they reach an agreement to have James run and fetch penicillin from the community in exchange for half of the deer Ellie successfully hunted. However, things start to deteriorate when David reveals a connection between his group and Ellie and Joel.

Who did Joel kill in The Last of Us?

Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us

While speaking with Ellie, David delves into some preachy stuff about finding religion during the apocalypse and how everything happens for a reason. As an example, he explains how a man from his community was murdered by a “crazy man” who happened to be traveling with a “little girl.” It doesn’t take long for Ellie and the audience to put the pieces together. The man David is talking about is Alec, the deceased father of the aforementioned girl in the community, and the crazy man and little girl are Joel and Ellie.

Viewers will recall that Ellie and Joel departed from the Jackson, Wyoming, commune in episode 6 and made it to Colorado. When they arrived, they found that the Fireflies had abandoned the base and relocated to Utah. As Ellie and Joel were leaving, they spotted a group of raiders making their way through the town. The two tried to depart peacefully without being noticed but were almost immediately seen and attacked by the group. In self-defense, Joel killed one of the men, but he was stabbed in the process.

Alec happened to be the man Joel killed, and the community is eager to get vengeance after stumbling across Ellie and realizing an injured Joel is nearby. David makes a grave mistake, though, in taking Ellie back with him to the community while his men stay behind to find Joel. While it is well-known that Joel has murdered people, he has so far shown restraint by mainly only killing in self-defense and when absolutely necessary. With Ellie gone, however, Joel changes completely and brutally kills all four of David’s men (and tortures one) as they beg for mercy.

Joel’s murder of Alec kicked off a whole chain of events that ultimately unveiled the true evil intentions of David. Ultimately, David and his community learned the cost of vengeance the hard way, and their demise confirmed the father/daughter-like bond that Joel and Ellie share.

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.