The Last of Us

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CTPhipps
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The Last of Us

Post by CTPhipps »

Hey, it's started and I'm enjoying it a lot.

What are your thoughts?
Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Space Academy Dropouts, and The Rules of Supervillainy
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CTPhipps
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Re: The Last of Us

Post by CTPhipps »

EPISODE ONE REVIEW:

https://unitedfederationofcharles.blogs ... st-in.html

THE LAST OF US: EPISODE ONE: "WHEN YOU'RE LOST IN THE DARKNESS" is the first episode of the 2023 adaptation of the best-selling video game, THE LAST OF US. No duh, I know. However, I was a huge fan of the video game and am one of the ones who thinks that it is one of the best written of its genre. While I'm still holding out hope for a Bioshock and LA Noire series for their own superior stories, but this is probably the best you're going to get from a zombie show. The fact it stars Pedro Pascal and has actors like Anna Torv makes me think it's going to be be in good hands anyway.

The premise is that a fungal infection is considered by scientists in the 1960s to be the greatest possible threat to human life in the future. They predict, with typical television show accuracy, that the heating up of the world can result in a mutation that will make it a danger that cannot be stopped. We proceed to cut to 2003 and history alternates as Joel (Pedro Pascal), his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna), and Joel's daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) are living in Austin, TX when things go rapidly downhill.

We cut to twenty years later and the world has fallen into a crumbling ruin. Humanity continues to survive in fortified enclaves under harsh military rule. Joel is now working with a woman named Tess (Anna Torv) as a smuggler. A chance encounter with a young girl, Ella, (Bella Ramsey) turns from a business deal into something more. Ella has never known the pre-Fungus world and is a surprisingly intelligent as well as foul mouthed survivor. She also carries a secret that a terrorist organization, the Fireflies, are desperate to keep to themselves.

I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan of the additions to the game narrative. The opening of the show tries a little too hard to explain "fungus zombies are a scientific danger in the future." Really, the suddenness and horror of it all worked better. I feel like I would have preferred more time with Sarah over this. Nico Parker does an excellent job establishing that she's a loving daughter with a good relationship to her father that it is a tragedy when it's cut short. Both from the storytelling perspective and that we don't have more scenes of them together.

However, the parts that are adapted directly from the game like the frantic chase through Austin, Texas are *chef's kiss* perfect. The Last of Us was already one of the cinematic games ever created and the show is aware that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Hopefully, they'll continue with this fidelity and manage to introduce non-gamers to the wonders of Joel and Ellie's journey. I do hope they keep a certain character alive a little while, longer, though because her relationship with Joel was underdeveloped in the game.

The show is very effective in worldbuilding, and we know that humanity is not thriving under FEDRA (FEMA's replacement) rule. The situation is so terrible that you understand why a radical paramilitary group like the Fireflies has come into existence. However, in the back of my anarchist mind, I also note that it seems like blowing things up is hardly going to make things better when mankind on its last legs. Is this really the best use of humanity's time, blowing up each other? The game and show are both aware of this ambiguity.

Bella Ramsey, who was Lyanna Mormont, does an excellent job of establishing how likeable as well as tough little Ellie is. Ellie never knew the previous world and is an example of how a child must survive in a place with no real sense of hope. We also get some good moments establishing why she's a tough survivor (she was raised by FEDRA as a soldier in an orphanage). My favorite moment is when she cracks Joel's smuggling code and I wish they'd used Wham's "Wake Me Up Before it's Over." You'll have to watch the show to get the joke.

There's a few moments that are unique to the show that are really poignant and show that HBO knows what it's doing here. In the game, FEDRA is shown to be almost completely evil and possessing no redeeming qualities. Here, it's shown that their attempts to save humanity are draining its members' sanity as well as will. One man needs to self-medicate to get through the day while another reassures a child that they're about to euthanize that everything is going to be fine.

In conclusion, The Last of Us is off to a strong start. It's probably only going to be a single season given the nature of the content, but I think that's enough to tell a fantastic story. While I don't think the game was the greatest video game narrative of all time, it was a good one and well-suited for adaptation. I also think it has the potential to help convince more people that video game writing doesn't have to be, "rescue the Princess." Hmmm, a Legend of Zelda adaptation would be good...
Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Space Academy Dropouts, and The Rules of Supervillainy
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Re: The Last of Us

Post by CTPhipps »

EPISODE TWO:

https://unitedfederationofcharles.blogs ... eview.html

"INFECTED" is the second episode of THE LAST OF US series starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. In the not-so-distant future (really the alternate present), the cordyceps fungus has infected most of humanity and turned them into ravenous zombies. Most of humanity is forced into fortified communities ruled by military dictatorships but slowly dying off due to the failures of quarantine. Yeah, that doesn't remind me of anything. This video game adaptation wasn't timely or anything.

The episode opens with Jakarta as a noted mycologist (played by legendary Indonesian actress Christine Hakim) is brought in to examine one of the earliest victims of the outbreak. The scene is very tense and well done. Especially since it ends with the doctor explaining the only way to contain the outbreak is to bomb the city to the ground and even then, it obviously didn't work. No, I don't see any Covid-19 parallels whatsoever.

From there, we return to Tess (Anna Torv) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) dealing with Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Tess has agreed to take Ellie to the Fireflies past the border and Joel is just sort of going along with it. They head out into the wilderness outside of the Boston Quarantine Zone and we learn a lot about how the rest of the world has been affected.

One of the interesting things about the Clickers (i.e. the fungus zombies) is the new versions have a hive mind and infect others with tendrils rather than spores. We also have it confirmed, at least to my satisfaction, that the initial outbreak is the result of flower contamination. It makes this version of the Last of Us less threatening because if the fungus isn't spread via the air, you could theoretically kill off all the infected humans. They also are going to die off naturally as we see with the fungus glued to nearby walls.

I'm not sure how I feel about the fungus being a hive-mind since that adds a kind of psychic supernatural element to the series that didn't really need it. However, it also makes the cordyceps zombies even more terrifying. While they may not be intelligent, they now have a Halo's Flood-like quality that makes you wonder if the fungus will take steps to make sure that it isn't wiped out by time or humanity.

I regret we're not going to get more of Anna Torv in the show because her portrayal of Tess is quite well done. Tess and Joel are probably lovers, probably as close to husband and wife as you get these days, but he's emotionally closed off to a level that is useful to her. She can never heal the wound from his dead daughter and doesn't really want to since she needs him as a blunt instrument. However, she is okay with that and so is Joel. Likewise, she's considerably warmer to Ellie while Joel doesn't want any connection to a girl his daughter's age.

There's a lot of homages to the game spread throughout this episode and fans of The Last of Us will enjoy it most. My favorite of these is where Ellie says she can't swim and instead of the video game puzzle involving boards, Joel just shows her the water is knee high. However, they've also captured a lot of the game's feel for those who have never touched a controller in their life or are Xbox fans.

This episode has a lot more action than the first one and feels more like the video game, which isn’t a bad thing. I felt a genuine sense of dread when they approached locations from the game and realized what we were building up for in the second episode. The fidelity of the series so far is incredible and all the stronger for it. We can finally say there’s a great dramatic adaptation of a video game even if it’s still mostly zombie murder.

In conclusion, another solid episode of a great series in the making. I don't think they'll be able to do more than one season of this but I don't think that's a bad thing. All good things must come to an end and all that.
Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Space Academy Dropouts, and The Rules of Supervillainy
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Re: The Last of Us

Post by Corrigon »

Its already been confirmed for a second season
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Re: The Last of Us

Post by CTPhipps »

EPISODE THREE:

https://unitedfederationofcharles.blogs ... -time.html

THE LAST OF US 1x03 "LONG, LONG TIME" is the first large divergence from the games. Basically, while the episode has some decent Ellie and Joel time, it is primarily about acquaintances Bill and Frank that just so happen to be a married couple. In the games, Frank is a character who died before we ever meet Bill and what we learn about him was that he was something of a manipulative sociopath. We also get some great Bill and Ellie interaction that is some of my favorite parts of the game.

I made the mistake of reading other people's reviews of this episode after I watched the episode but before I wrote mine. So, I am going to admit to some critical dissonance. In general, I think this is a very good story about love under the apocalypse and also the kind of humanistic sad stories of loss that zombie apocalypse fiction excels out. So, as a standalone tale, I think it really works well but I am not a fan as a part of the larger narrative.

The premise is that pre-apocalypse survivalist, Bill, watches the Federal government (FEDRA) round up his entire town before killing them. Joel gives the weak idea that if the government doesn't have room for survivors, they killed them so they couldn't be infected. This is so stupid and nakedly evil (as well as falling into conspiracy theory bullshit) that I was immediately turned off the episode.

You're going to have blame the fact I grew up in Kentucky and was surrounded by survivalists that playing into their fantasies in any way is something that ticks me off. I don't even need to believe the government is a bunch of good guys to just think its stupid. Make them slave labor or put guns in their hand to go kill zombies. Or, hey, leave them alone since they were doing fine in their isolated community. I'm an anarchist in RL and this is too stupid evil for the government.

Bill eventually attracts a wanderer, Frank, and the two of them settle in together. It's rare a gay relationship gets to be the focus of media and TLOU as a franchise has always been pro-LGBT depiction. It's a bit romanticized, though, and we see none of the idea that Frank was a bad partner for Bill. Quite the opposite. That leaves me kind of iffy because I liked that it wasn't an idealized relationship in the game. We need more depictions of the variety of relationships available.

There's a lot of good moments in the scene and I am impressed at the write up of Bill as a impressive engineer as well as the focus they give on his relationship with Frank. Bill is a misanthrope who actually sees the benefit of building himself a massive fortress on the remains of a dead society and doesn't really care about the old world dying. However, he misses out on much of human interaction and Frank reminds him of what was good in life. These moments are well-done and the best part of the episode by far.

I also do like the moments where we get to see that Ellie is something of a feral child. She is curious about the world and what destroyed humanity but also doesn't see the Infected as someone who was formerly human or, if she does, it doesn't prevent her from reveling in their destruction. Joel also displays his wariness and anger at Ellie. Ellie got Tess killed, however indirectly, and that colors their interactions. That's closer to in-game Joel than previous episodes where Pedro Pascal's inherent likability was blunting some of his sharper edges.

Either way, the story ends on a tragic note where Frank's health deteriorates without access to medicine. It proceeds to end on a lovely positive note where Bill decides to take his own life rather than live without his loved ones. Given that in RL, I've had to deal with suicidal family members, I'm going to say romanticizing suicide is another thing that objectively pisses me off.

A lot of reviewers seem to miss the subtext this or just disagree but I hate that Bill, a great gay video game character, is killed for the sake of pathos. It's a well-written episode but it's one that has some serious issues.
Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Space Academy Dropouts, and The Rules of Supervillainy
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