Depending on the audience, the coincidence of the conclusion of The Last of Us on Oscar night “hides” an episode that not only concludes the 1st season but – for those who know about spoilers – defines the trajectory of the story. And it already gives a squeeze in the heart.
The opening of the episode, with another tribute to the actress who gave life to Ellie in the games, Ashley Johnson, playing the mother of the character, Anna. We found her running away from the infected, already in labor, but having to defend herself and give birth at the same time. This is how the girl’s immunity is contextualized: her mother was infected when she still had the umbilical cord connecting both and even cutting it as quickly as possible, somehow the fungus passed to Ellie, who created antibodies. Anna obviously has to be killed and gives the child to her friend Marlene (Merle Dandridge) the same one who at the beginning of the season puts on the shoulders of Tess (Anna Torv) and Joel (Pedro Pascal), the mission of transporting Ellie teenager to a center doctor, where it will be studied to find the vaccine for Cordyceps.
It seems so far away, doesn’t it? We cut to present times, where a traumatized Ellie is numb and quiet and a totally devoted Joel already has her as a daughter. Perhaps the game’s script was moved by the moment of the giraffe, which manages to awaken a smile in Ellie, and then things would quickly take another turn.
Once surprised by the Fireflies, Joel wakes up surrounded by guards and Marlene explains that he won’t even have time to say goodbye to Ellie, as she is already on the operating table. Had he been the Joel eight episodes ago, he would have gotten up and gone, but now he’s emotionally involved, having saved Ellie and been saved by her, now Sarah’s surrogate in his heart. Getting away from her would already be a new challenge for him, but he quickly finds it strange and understands the procedure: as the fungus attacks the brain, it will kill Ellie in search of a possible cure. Even if it was guaranteed he wouldn’t allow it, even more so as it was just a probability. All he has left is a violent response and it will be decisive for his future. In the trail of blood, where any resistance or questioning is answered with a shot, Joel manages to ‘save’ Ellie, in a paradox that his visceral attitude is provoked by his humanity.
Ellie’s life purpose is to be healing, at this point, she doesn’t have much life appeal herself, but the fact is she didn’t know she would have to sacrifice herself.
All the decisions are taken by default: her death and her survival and later on, instead of bringing her closer to Joel, she will push her away. At the moment, without knowing anything, she only discovers that she went through everything for nothing, Joel lies that they have given up looking for a cure and that there are others like her. And so they return to Wyoming to live the ranching life he wanted so badly. Can they?
At the end of the season, Pedro Pascal reaches unanimity with a growing, believable, and empathetic performance as Joel. Bella Ramsey faced greater resistance but practically bowed down to her worst critics when Ellie took center stage. From the second phase on, she will be essential to maintain the connection with the public and has demonstrated her ability to face the challenge.
The Last of Us confirmed the expected success, especially among fans of the game. Dialogue and angles taken from the original have thrilled captive audiences, but there’s still a dilemma to gaining popularity. The Last of Us has a historic competition that has stripped the series of much of its purpose. Talking about an apocalyptic universe, which generates conflicts for connections in chaotic times and always generates conflict in survival choices, was recently explored with praise in The Walking Dead. What can you present differently? So far, very little.
The best episodes of the series were the ones that took liberties and focused on emotion, without going overboard or mentioning it as exposing the dangers of apocalyptic life: the meeting between Frank and Bill, Ellie and Riley’s first love… little moments that made The Last of Us great, but they shouldn’t multiply later. And the soundtrack was smart too, which only makes us crave it even more when we get into Future Days and Take on Me.
In the game, if violence is essential to pass the level, in the storytelling of the series it was largely gratuitous. The HBO series has managed to be respectful and intelligent with the original narrative, but even splitting the complex next step over more than one season, it has a lot more to prove. To do with what will be running!