- This text contains spoilers for the game and the series.
There is a moment in ‘The Last of Us’ that may seem trite or overlooked, but I think it sums up the series’ problems better than any other. Halfway through the season, an episode opens with a “Three months later…” sign. What do you mean by “Three months later”? One of the key takeaways from the game was that we saw (and felt) how a relationship of trust was forged first, then genuine compassion and mutual protection, little by little, step by step, and death by death. That was the only way to understand an ending as terrible and traumatic as the game’s.
The series, however, rushes to cram the entire first game into season one (and no episode lasts longer than the season finale: 45 minutes filled with expository dialogue, action, chases, twists and drama), and that causes some problems. . about the believability of the characters. The series has no problem doing something that at the time, around the third episode, we hailed as a great idea: taking detours to retell or rehash the stories of the game’s supporting characters.
It’s a great idea so that the series is not a mere proposal to clone the game and not fall into an error that would have ruined the series: Replicate the tension and violence of confrontations with the infected, which will always be more impressive in the game. In the series we have very few confrontations with the infected (less than with humans and, in any case, less than expected on paper), and more deviations from the main plot of the account (who could expect them to adapt a DLC , essential as it is to know Ellie’s psychology?).
The result is, without a doubt, the big problem of the series: it is impossible to identify with the main theme of ‘The Last of Us’. That is: Joel is a father resentful of the world after losing his daughter, but with Ellie he finds someone on whom to focus the love that is still inside him and stop being a outsider recover genuinely paternal affections. The series hits the obvious: the infected are what matters least. But he misses the less obvious: in one episode you don’t have time to explain Joel’s complex personality.
Look, I’ll tell you
The final episode’s worst moment, and arguably an excellent summary of everything we’re detailing, is in a moment when Joel sits down with Ellie and literally makes the show’s theme explicit. The paragraph before this one is expressed, roughly speaking, as a dialogue with Ellie. This was not necessary in the game because the viewer perfectly understood the relationship between the two protagonists. But here we have to do that because we invested many episodes in talking about characters other than the protagonists.
And in the game, the player also perfectly understood Joel’s final decision, however exaggerated or inhumane it seemed in theory. A delay, but the player sympathized with her. Here, when a character like Joel, who has always been likable, suddenly behaves like a sociopath, it seems that he has simply lost his mind. The spectator doesn’t have the impression of having followed a logical evolution, however much Joel explains to Ellie.
Despite the bittersweet taste it leaves, Season one’s wrapper also makes clear what earned it rave reviews., and well deserved. Above all, the extraordinary performances by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. The aforementioned conversation, as banal as it is, is gripping for the way the actors carry it out, and the terrible ending, which we already know, works solely for what Ramsey is able to convey without words.
There is also a certain flirtation with post-apocalyptic poetry, already somewhat trivialized, of the contemplation of natural beauty in a destroyed urban environment. Games have already exploited it very well, and there are movies and series -from ‘Twelve Monkeys’ to ‘The Walking Dead’-, which have also done so, but here it works again, because the series shows things with good taste and patience and because the actors are up to par. Too bad they didn’t have time to make it absolutely understandable for the viewer who didn’t experience it previously in the video game.
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