The Last of Us was amazing

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 26, 2024, 10:21 PM | comments: 0

I don't often dedicate entire blog posts to TV shows. My gold standard remains The Newsroom, the best show I've ever watched (admitting that my bias involves the subject of journalism, and possibly Olivia Munn who is "delightful," as her character says). I vaguely understood that The Last of Us was a thing, and that is was based on a PlayStation game. When I saw that it was among the available things on Max, which had just come into our world when Discovery and HBO merged, I kind of blew it off. It's a variation on the zombie apocalypse genre, because it involves a frighteningly plausible fungus instead of a virus, so I was thinking Resident Evil. Those movies are fantastic, but mostly because the impossibly beautiful Milla Jovovich is an unlikely action star that kills many, many zombies, over many, many movies. Last, as it turns out, is in the genre, but is far less a zombie movie and more about the relationships. I didn't see that coming.

The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, playing Joel, is charged with getting a kid across the country, from Boston to somewhere in Colorado. Ellie is a kid who somehow is immune to the fungal infection that pumps hallucinogenic drugs into human brains while preserving their tissue, the thing that effectively makes people zombies. The rebels believe she's the key to a vaccine, which in turn is the key to defeating the fascist disaster response agency that is keeping some kind of "order" in quarantine zones. What I find particularly fascinating about this is that there technically are not really good or bad guys. Everyone has their motivation in impossible circumstances. Except for the cult leader. He's definitely fucked up.

So the series is less about monsters and more about how people behave when society is torn down. The central focus is the relationship of Joel and Ellie, but there are so many sidebars that include incredibly well drawn characters. I mean, Nick Offerman as a bear and conspiracy theorist survivalist? Didn't see that coming. The cult leader, Joel's brother and new wife, Joel and his daughter, a deaf kid and his brother, an anarchist leader... it just goes on and on.

Joel and Ellie in particular are just dragged through the ringer to the point of them questioning their own humanity in a world where the monsters aren't even the worst thing to worry about. But it's balanced against deeply emotional moments and circumstances that are emotionally exhausting. It ain't a zombie flick at all, despite there being zombie-like monsters.

From what I've read, the plot is somewhat loyal to the first game, release a decade ago and remastered for the latest PlayStation and Windows. I haven't had a PlayStation since the second iteration, not because of any Xbox loyalty. I just haven't had a compelling reason to get one. I still don't. I have so much available on Xbox Series X and Windows via Game Pass that there isn't much incentive to give Sony money. I'd consider buying the Windows game, but it's $60, and performance and compatibility, according to reviews, is not great. If it were on GOG I might immediately try it given their very excellent refund policy, but I'm hesitant otherwise.

The good news is that the second season is shooting right now, and the creators of the game and show have mapped out a third, possibly fourth season. Kaitlyn Dever will be in S2, and I think she has high potential for being a next generation great actor. If it is well watched, and HBO is into it, they might get made. I sure hope so. The hype and Emmy wins were legit. The last two episodes just wrecked me, in a good way. I didn't want it to end.


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