Editor’s Note: This article contains major spoilers for the first season of The last of us and minor game spoilers The Last of Us Part II.
Last night’s finale of HBO’s first season The last of us It turned out to be a microcosm of everything that worked in the nine episodes, as well as a reminder of what showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will want to work on when they pick things up for season two. Throughout the season, The last of us has been extremely faithful to the original story, but Mazin and Druckmann cleverly expanded on the stories of everyone around Joel and Ellie to make the world that much richer. In a perhaps too tight 44 minutes (the shortest episode of the season), the show wrapped up the first part of the story, ending with Ellie’s “Okay,” just like the game.
That one word that tells us that Ellie accepts Joel’s lies about what happened between him and the fireflies, that he’s being honest when he says they stopped looking for a cure and that his immunity means nothing. Joel is apparently out of the woods for his murderous rampage at the Salt Lake City hospital to save Ellie from having her brain dissected by fireflies. Of course, Ellie being a cure for the cordyceps infection was the focus of his journey, but not the focus of Joel’s. And the look on Ellie’s face throughout the episode’s coda tells us that she’s not convinced, despite what she says before everything goes black.
Really, there was nowhere else he could have stopped. Throughout the season, Mazin and Druckmann made many deviations from the game’s main story, but things always came back to the bigger moments in Joel and Ellie’s relationship. The importance of these events in the Salt Lake City hospital cannot be overstated, as they form the basis of everything that follows in the game. The last of us Part II. As such, some were hoping to get some clues as to how the hospital bloodbath will tie into events to come, but the show remained firmly focused on the events of the first game. That’s the best, like Part II it has a long and complicated history of its own; shoehorning in some teasing of what’s to come probably would have taken away from the immediacy of what happened between Joel and Ellie.
Before Joel’s murder spree and Ellie’s acceptance of his lies, we were treated to another of the flashbacks that Mazin and Druckmann have masterfully dropped throughout the season, this one going back to Ellie’s birth. People who went through the many collectibles in the game surely found Ellie’s letter in her backpack from her mother, Anna, who writes to her newborn knowing that her life is about to end. finish.
The game doesn’t make it explicit, but here we see that Anna (played by Ashley Johnson, who plays Ellie in the games) is infected and about to give birth. We also get to see Firefly leader Marlene vow to keep Ellie safe before ending the life of her friend. (Also, we now know that Anna gave Ellie her switchblade, which I always assumed but wasn’t explicit in-game.) Given the importance of Marlene’s presence in this episode, it was the right time to see her beginnings. relationship with Ellie. And, like every other supporting player on the show, Johnson crushes his limited screen time — he’s so much more than an easter egg for fans of the game. The glimpses of lives beyond Joel and Ellie that we’ve seen throughout the season have made the world of The last of us they feel so much richer, whether they take up an entire episode (like Bill and Frank on “Long, Long Time” or Riley on “Left Behind”) or just a few minutes.
My only complaint about this flashback is that Johnson’s story eats up what precious little time we have left for Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey to share the screen together. Throughout the season, the two actors have had wonderful chemistry, but in episodes seven and eight, the story dictates that they spend very little time together. In the finale, they share some of the strongest moments of the entire season, but there are so many plot points to get to that I wished for even five more minutes to let things breathe a bit. But moments like the famous giraffe scene and Joel telling Ellie how he actually got that scar on his head were just a couple more emotional spikes between the two characters (and actors) in a season full of them.
With the first season (and the adaptation of the first game) now in the rearview mirror, I can’t help but wonder how Mazin, Druckmann, and the rest of their team will go about the adaptation. The Last of Us Part II. While the first game told a fairly linear story, Part II It’s full of twists, flashbacks, and perspective shifts: without going too far into spoilers, the game spends a third or more of its 24 hours of gameplay on an entirely new set of characters. It’s an essential part of the story, but it should also present a great challenge for the showrunners to integrate it and maintain the emotional impact of the story without leaving the familiar characters behind for hours at a time. (In a post-finale interview with G.Q.Mazin and Druckmann confirmed that they will disseminate the facts of The Last of Us Part II for multiple seasons.
Thankfully, Mazin showed off his storytelling chops in the first season, deftly deploying a series of flashbacks, some new to the story and some straight from the game. As for the divergent stories, I have to imagine that there will be a lot more interrelationships between them than there are in the game. A good example is what director Peter Jackson did in The two Towers and Return of the King. The original books split time between two ongoing stories, and you’re stuck with one set of characters for half the book before catching up with another set for the second half. Rather than leave Frodo and Sam for most of their screen time, it crossed over through the stories as they progressed.
If Mazin does anything similar, it will require a major rethink about how to make the game’s dramatic moments land, but that comes with the territory of being showrunner. Whether he can pull it off or not will be critical to future seasons of The last of us – the acting, set design, effects and everything else should still be top notch, but it won’t matter if the narrative doesn’t hold up. Of course, a vocal subset of those who played Part II were intensely negative about the game’s story, so it’s likely that we’ll see future seasons that are significantly more divisive than the first.