The failure of The Last of Us show. (Fan Creations)

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Monday, March 06, 2023, 10:23 (413 days ago) @ cheapLEY
edited by Kermit, Monday, March 06, 2023, 10:31

It’s hyperbolic, but only sort of of. The show is fine. But it has failed in perhaps the most important way.

I don’t buy Joel and Ellie’s relationship. When he calls her baby girl at the end of tonight’s episode, I just don’t believe it. In the game (which I played through the week the show started), that line lands and solidifies the relationship we knew existed. The show has not given us enough for me to buy into the relationship all the way yet. They’ve hit all the big events and moments, and I even think most of those individual moments are done better in the show. But it hasn’t quite been enough. It’s not a fair comparison, but I think it highlights the strength of video games that the relationship is stronger there. Because it’s not only the big character shaping moments, it’s all the little ones. The ice cream trucks and the movie posters and every little conversation and one liner that makes me believe the building of that relationship.

I think much depends on how fair we think it is assess the show as failing compared to the game. So far, the people I'm exposed to who haven't played the game seem to buy it completely. There are inevitably going to be moments between Joel and Ellie that I miss from the game. On the other hand, there are really great moments between them in the show that are not in the game. I was definitely very worried about exactly what you're saying up until episode six. I thought the Kathleen subplot was a nearly complete waste of time. Her dialogue was the worst of anyone in the show, and seemed mainly created to FORESHADOW and UNDERSCORE THE THEME in contrast to the subtlety and realism that typifies everything else.

I was struck a bit by the ending of the episode in Jackson with Tommy. Joel changing his mind and his line, “you deserve a choice,” was probably the change I like the least. I think that moment was much stronger in the game. It feels much more like Joel coming to an independent and very deliberate choice in the game. And also the show has been very heavy handed in the lead up to what Joel will eventually do. I honestly wonder if they know that some people aren’t going to quite buy in and needed to really reinforce that with Bill’s letter and what’s her name’s monologue to Sam and Henry.

I agree. I liked Joel making that decision. However, making it her choice was somewhat rhetorical--I think he knew what Ellie's choice would be.

I’m really eager to see the final episode and how it ultimately lands. This is pretty clearly the best video game adaptation that’s been done, and I still think it’s excellent overall. But I do think it’s weaker than I expected, too. The individual elements of the show are great. The actors are excellent, and I like these versions of Joel and Ellie maybe even more than the game versions, but the show (and especially Joel and Ellie’s relationship) doesn’t quite capture the game. I do think some of that could be fixed with more focus on Joel and Ellie, but I’m not sure anything could have made it match the game in that regard. The small moments that fill the game wouldn’t make sense in a tv show, no matter how much time you had to include it.

Two things about this last show (and the one before that) that I greatly missed, because I viewed them as high points in the game. I love it when intimacy is shown, but not fully shared with the audience. (Think the unheard whisper at the end of "Lost in Translation".) It underscores how no one can really know the contours of love between two people except for those two people. The game had that, with the unheard words from Joel when he comforts Ellie in the steak house. (I also liked that he stopped her rampage.) That's missing from the show. The other element is the deer hunt. In the game, it comes as a shock. Joel just got impaled, he looks dead, the screen goes black, and it's now a different season, implying an indeterminate period of time has passed. We're playing as Ellie for the first time, and that surprising turn is the biggest sign pointing to Joel's death. We're forced to hunt, something we haven't done in the game before, and the fate of Joel weighs like on anvil on us as we try to track the deer. The pressure isn't relieved until Ellie asks David for medicine. Much would have to be done differently in the show to preserve this, if it could have been preserved. I think it could have, but I don't know how they would have stuck in the DLC episode like they did. (From what I can tell--that episode was either beloved or a drag on the story's momentum for non-gamers.)

Looking forward to the finale. SPOILER ALERT: I predict that Ashley Johnson plays Ellie's mom.

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