Series Premiere: January 15, 2023
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey
Episodes Commissioned: 9
Look for the Light...
In what is oddly the shortest episode of the entire season, The Last of Us finale presents a paramount plot point that ultimately flips the narrative, and the relationship between Joel and Ellie on its head. The once guarded walls of Joel's person has crumbled with a definite attachment toward the rebellious teen becoming more than just 'cargo'. Joel's fatherly instinct in full force has him try to rebuild his reluctant relationship with Ellie, after the pair's perilous pitstop through Silver Lake, but finds the teen in two minds of her own after experiencing trauma caused by the murderous cannibals to which she was ultimately responsible for their leader, David's demise. It's taken Joel twenty years to finally open up, with Ellie becoming his sole responsibility and prime reason for wanting to feel and be paternally loved again.
Meanwhile, Ellie struggles to deal with her trauma that distances her from Joel here. Joel tries to distract Ellie from what had happened to them with small talk and bad puns, to which they bond over. Joel begins to tell Ellie more about his relationship with his late daughter Sarah, an how he almost ended his own life, but 'missed'. She tells Joel that she's glad he's still around, and Joel lets her know that he's glad he's here too, and insinuates that he has a new purpose in life. The disposition that's played out has switched the trust levels between the pair with Ellie now considered the reluctant of the two while Joel is now playing the part of friendly father, to which Ellie had wanted. This feeling rollercoasters throughout the episode with it waning midway as the pair traverse on foot toward Salt Lake City.
One of The Last of Us’ key moments is shown in this episode, with Ellie interacting with a baby Giraffe. The moment of solace prepares Ellie and Joel for the final stretch of their mission, with Joel giving Ellie an ultimatum to turn back and forget the entire thing. Ellie explains to Joel that there is no way back, and that they need to stick to the plan, but promises Joel that after it’s done, they will go anywhere they want. The pacing of the episode itself is night and day, with a calm before the storm vibe translating through character development and delivery from Pascal’s Joel once again becoming a loving figure, rather than the heartless transporter he had been perceived to be at the beginning of the season.
Reaching Salt Lake City, the pair are flanked by Fireflies that swat them both, but knocking out Joel in the process. Joel is awoken in a hospital bed with Marlene there to greet and inform him of their plans. In what can be described only as a mixture of selfless to selfish, Marlene explains that Ellie’s condition may be the key to a cure for humanity. It’s explained that the source of her immunity is like the infected, and is stored within brain tissue. Ellie’s life is being sacrificed for the lives of millions without her consent. Furious, Joel demands to be taken to her but is told that she’s been prepped for surgery and cannot be taken there.
Now hostile, he threatens Marlene to which her soldiers protect her and escort Joel off the premises. Shoved and pushed toward the hospital exit, Marlene regrettably must follow through on her plan to dissect Ellie with hope of a vaccine in mind. Joel however, has other plans.
Poked and prodded, Joel immediately goes rogue on Marlene’s soldiers, obliterating them with their own guns, then running roughshod through the hospital, taking down each militant one by one until he reaches surgery to rescue an unconscious Ellie. What is one of the most compelling moments in gaming translated to television, the cinematics are an eerily haunting yet heroic deliverance that tells Joel’s desperation perfectly. He needs this girl for his own survival, his own mental sake. This is no longer an escort mission, this is a survival mission. Joel knows he didn’t just take this little girl across the country, having them go through hell to get where they are to ultimately have her meet her end. But it’s also a tale of morality. Who is the selfish one here? Has Joel gone too far? Is he right to make this choice on Ellie’s behalf?
The Last of Us has been a quintessential experience. Unmissable television for those that have never played, or even heard of the video game. Pedro Pascal owns his role as Joel Miller, as does Bella Ramsey with Ellie Williams with due respect to Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson that personified the leading duo, and made them a PlayStation staple. Sure there could have been many to play the respective roles, but Pascal and Ramsey have portrayed these fan favourites to perfection. The Last of Us’ first season has been a blockbuster hit for many reasons that include the masterful storytelling once laid out by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley , but is now perfected and ironed out into prime efforts by its showrunners Craig Mazin and the aforementioned Neil Druckmann. When it comes to video game adaptation to fully fleshed out cinema, it doesn’t get any better than The Last of Us. I for one, cannot wait for the next season.
- Ashley Johnson makes her on-screen debut as Ellie’s mother Anna, giving viewers and ultimately long time fans of the franchise a look at Ellie’s first moments and how the child would eventually be immune to the cordyceps virus. Also for those that know, Laura Bailey… in one very specific scene.
- One of the most emotionally charged episodes in television delivers its climactic act with great diligence and carefully placed character progression. While Joel’s character may be wide open for the youngster, his personality toward everyone else is still aggressive.
- “Look for the light” becomes more than a slogan throughout the season, as it starts to take form in the series’ entire message. The final act sheds light – no pun intended – on this with Joel’s own act of selfless reckoning.
- Leave that door wide open for that second season, baby. A new wave of fans are now introduced to what has been one of the most intimate stories ever told in gaming history. It’s ours to share with the world now, and for everyone else to experience. Thank you Naughty Dog.
The Last of Us is an upcoming American post-apocalyptic drama television series created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann for HBO. Based on the 2013 video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog, the series will follow Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler tasked with escorting the teenage Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic United States. It will feature Gabriel Luna as Joel's younger brother Tommy, Merle Dandridge as resistance leader Marlene, and Anna Torv as Joel's smuggler partner Tess.
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