Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Merle Dandridge, Nick Offerman, and Anna Torv, based on the video game by Neil Druckmann, and created for television by Craig Mazin.
I never played the video game, or heard of it prior to the announcement of the TV show’s creation. My guess is that I saw T.V. commercials about it years ago since I’ve heard it was/is so popular, but I just don’t remember. Thus, I cannot speak on how closely the show follows the game’s story line, or how similar, or different, the characters are between the two. But I can tell you that this was the best video game adaption I have seen, way better than Uncharted and Warcraft, which are two of the worst movies I have ever seen (sorry!).
The Grit of It
While there were episodes that had filler, specifically the Mall episode, most of the series captured my attention. From the story lines, to the characters, to the emotion behind it all. Many apocalypse movies/TV shows tend to feel like a macho man’s daydream, but The Last of Us hits different.
Ellie (Bella Ramsey) feels like someone a lot of people could relate to. A misfit, strong-willed, different, but still putting on a brave face. She does what she needs to do to survive, which sometimes includes losing friends along the way, like Sam (Keivonn Woodard) and Riley (Storm Reid).
Joel (Pedro Pascal) on the outside may look like any male lead from an “end-of-the-world” story, but he doesn’t fit in with the crowd. Pascal’s performance is authentic and you can understand his character’s motivation by the expressions on his face. The compassion Joel learns to have for Ellie is the thread of the story, the reason why it all works. Finding actors that work well together and develop a sort of symmetry, was crucial to this series hitting a home run. I think Ramsey and Pascal were the perfect casting. I could not imagine their characters being played by anyone different.
The Best Episode/Moments
When thinking about my favorite episode, I can’t choose just one. I think I have favorite “moments” and storylines rather than episodes. One specific storyline that stood out to me was that of Bill (Nick Offerman). Someone from the outside who first seemed heartless and cold, turned out to be much different once his loneliness was healed. I appreciate how The Last of Us included people of all different backgrounds and histories, showing how they all coped with living in such a broken, collapsed world, preserving nonetheless.
Another stand out moment was when Ellie broke away from David (Scott Shepard) and ended up running directly into Joel, with blood still spattered on her face. At first, she tried to break away because she didn’t realize it was Joel. But once she realized it was him, she knew she didn’t have to fight so hard anymore. What is the significance that right after she completes an act so traumatizing, she runs into the only person in the world that she trusts?
While there are so many moments I could write about here, I think no words could exemplify how moving they are to watch on screen. No descriptive words could bring the story to life in the way that Joel and Ellie do. Let me finish with the final scene where Ellie asked Joel a very important question and he lied to her face. It was in this moment that I felt things notably shift. I hoped he would tell her the truth, open up about how he just needed to save her, but he knew she would be mad at him for what he did. So, he lied to protect himself. Another selfish decision by Joel.
Joel, what did we talk about? They should have done an SNL sketch where Joel had a therapy session and talked through his anger.
Last, but not least, I could not write this post without giving a shoutout to the many puns present in this apocalypse. When times get tough, the stupid, little things can have the most profound impact. The use of puns is brilliant, realistic, and uplifting and sad at the same time.
“I like older. Older means we’re still here.”
“Be careful who you put your faith in. The only people who can betray us are the ones we trust.”
“Whether it’s two minutes or two days, we don’t give that up.”
The ending left me thinking a few things:
One, Joel wanted to right some wrongs. After losing his daughter, and spending time dwelling on what he could have done different to save her, he did not want to make the same mistake twice. Second, he found a reason to keep living: Ellie, and he was not going to lose her. He was willing to do anything to keep them together. Third, his violent nature is brought to the forefront once again. While I was happy neither Joel or Ellie died, I kind of expected one of them to. This would have left a lasting impact on the audience and naturally lead to the resumption in Season 2. Also, I wanted Joel to grow out of his raging anger and I was hoping that Ellie would help him do that. However, it seems she only motivates it further in his desire to protect her from anything and everything.
Throughout the series, Joel clearly has an instinct for violence. It explodes out of him when he is angry and/or needs to save someone, or himself. I wonder if this was always in Joel’s nature, or if it happened after he lost his daughter, and the anger stems from that.
My Rating: 8.5/10
When you watch these episodes, you go through a whole range of emotions. I think much of the story is realistic, and that is frankly why I liked it. When put in tough situations, you often see who a person really is: what moves them, what is important to them, and who they’ve tried to hide from everyone. All of the layers come out and into the open. Expectations are rewritten and sometimes thrown out altogether.
That being said, there were times the pace felt slow, even repetitive. But overall, I did not want to stop watching. I wanted to know what would happen to Joel and Ellie and how they would overcome it together, especially since I never played the game and had no idea where the story was headed. Keeping everything in mind, I landed on a rating of 8.5: better than most TV shows, and a lot of movies, but a few tweaks I would have made to make the pace more consistent.
When the world is changed by an arrogant fungus, Ellie and Joel are thrust into a journey together, first with reservation and then with obligation to make it out alive together.
Where you can watch:
You can watch The Last of Us on HBO here.
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