TL;DR – A more intimate episode of the series that focuses on the realities and hardships of their upcoming journey.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge service that viewed this show.
The Last of Us Title Review –
In last week’s When You’re Lost in the Darkness, we got one of the best video game adaptations. It was not just faithful to the overall vibe of the video game. It was also faithful down some of the blow-by-blow action moments of the show. My question back then was would a direct adaptation lack the emotional impact, and we have little to fear there if this episode is anything to go by.
So to set the scene, it is Jakarta, Indonesia, on the 24th of September 2003 when Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim), Professor of Mycology, is taken from her lunch by military police. She is whisked away to a lab and asked to look at a specimen. She discovers the impossible, that cordyceps has made the jump to humans. Her recommendation, burn Jakarta to the ground before it is too late because there is no vaccine. In the future, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) are still reeling from the revelation that Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is infected. The question is, do you kill the girl now, or when she enviably turns? Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead for the show.
One thing this episode nailed was the tension. We have left what little protection those walls had and have now made it into the open world full of crumbling facades and dangers around every turn. Tension can be built in several ways, and in this episode, the small things lead to that moment of terror. Like how the first sound we hear in the overworld is the door creaking open, which just so happens to mimic the sound of the clickers. Then there is the tension you can get walking through water where you can see what could be lurking underneath. Every step building to that final stretch and terror, and even knowing what was coming, those Clickers were terrifying.
It was also lovely to see little things that mark this as a product from a video game. I can not tell you how many times a game has gone, ‘give me a boost,’ and you have to trudge through the level to find a door to open up to let the others through. Only this time, we see the reverse and hear the conversation happening while everyone waits around. Also, I could not help but smirk when the building collapsed behind them as they walked into the boss room, meaning they could not retreat from the coming fight. We would have had the trifecta if there had been some chest-high walls.
This is supported by a continued perfection in the set design that perfectly encapsulates the post-apocalyptic vibe they are going for. We get a feeling of a society that fell while people were having dinner, table set, and food ready to eat. It is like one of those ghost ships that wind up at the shore, empty, alone. But it is not empty because there are moments of beauty amongst all the destruction and death. Birds roost in the ruined skyscrapers, frogs hop along pianos, and lily pads sit in a sheltered pond that used to be a hotel lobby. All of this world is building to the reveal of the Clicker, and while I know that they had extensive material to base their design on, the final result was still stunning to see.
While last week’s episode was about introducing you to the world and getting to know what drives and discourages Joel, this week was about preparing people [the audience and the characters] for the journey that is about to be undertaken. It is an episode that is bookended with two women, experts in their field, telling truths with complex outcomes. A cold chill passed over me when Ibu Ratna told the general to bomb Jakarta. We know what she is saying is 100% correct, but also 100% too late, and that look of knowing that there is nothing she can do is devastating.
At the other end of the episode is the first major casualty in the future, with Tess taking a bite from a Clicker. At that moment, we see the years of history between Tess and Joel manifest themselves, the pain, the missed opportunities, and the loss. But it is also a hard reality as to just how difficult their road will be, Tess was no novice, and this outside world destroyed her. I had wondered how the removal of spores and the addition of tendrils would affect the show, and it feels like we have moved from a more general oppressive feel to an almost surreal horror feel. Finally, while it was brief, can I just say how nice it was to see Anna Torv back killing it in a genre work.
In the end, do we recommend The Last of Us? Absolutely. These first two episodes (well, technically three) have been fantastic to experience, and I can’t wait to see where they go when they get out of the claustrophobic city and into the countryside.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Last of Us
Directed by – Neil Druckmann
Written by – Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann
Created by – Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann
Based On – The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog
Production/Distribution Companies – Naughty Dog, PlayStation Productions, Sony Pictures Television, The Mighty Mint, Word Games, HBO & Binge
Starring – Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey with Anna Torv and Christine Hakim, Yayu A.W. Unru, Philip Prajoux, Oliver Ross-Parent & Samurl Hoeksema