The famous premise of The Last Of Us is much better on the HBO TV show

Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us.

screenshot: HBO

Not every match can be played. Over the course of 25 years of gaming critiques, I’ve played a scary number, though there will always be gaps in the big names. But when it comes to The last of usIt was a very thoughtful choice on my part.

PS4 A copy of the ever-revamped game—my first chance to play it, since I’ve never owned a PS3—It came out in July 2014At a time when my wife was six months pregnant with a son, we went through years of struggling to conceive. Being a fan of both zombie novels and shooters, I was excited to play the game, so I checked it out. It didn’t start well. This was a pretty miserable era for match openers, the absolute pinnacle of games’ pathological need to endlessly take controls away from players, and you didn’t earn my love with that. Pretend you’ve got control, but just puppeteer you in the next scene. But then, I pulled the bait and switch.

Everyone knew it was a game about a father and a girl trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, and the game begins with a father and his daughter, which allows you to feel safe, and… well, you probably know the next part. I found the narrative resolution to be not only blunt, but actively malevolent. We don’t spend almost any time figuring out who Sarah is, but for a couple of obvious leads (straight out of Joss Whedon’s school of character creation), we only watch her bleed to death in order to prove her father’s emotional motives. I just lazily manipulated, trying to win every emotional resonance with the most outrageous cases of depersonalization. With my son only a few months away, I had a bigger reaction than I would have otherwise, and just walked away. no thanks.

Joel holds a dead Sarah in The Last Of Us.

screenshot: obedient dog

I never forgave her, and I still think I’m right about that. cooling It’s rarely seen in the broad spectrum of media (hell, I just watched X-Men: Apocalypse For the first time last night, and Wonderful Is he guilty of the same), but creating a character with no narrative purpose other than death always gets at the bottom of my creeps. in The last of usIt was much worse, because of the ugly decision to play like Sarah. You move it around the house, then see the ensuing chaos from her perspective. We’re in the back of the car with her as the toy drives us through the streets of madness, ensuring she’s communicated to us exclusively through a child’s eyes. After that, she is incapacitated, and we pass it off as Joel. And then, of course, she was brutally murdered. It’s gross.

That’s all I knew about the game before watching the first episode of the HBO show. It tells us how things are handled differently.

Joel holds a dead Sarah on The Last Of Us.

screenshot: HBO

First, Sarah is much older. In the game, she is a pre-teen child. On the show, she is played by an 18-year-old, who is clearly in her mid-teens. Neither is great, nor an easy watch either, but there is still a difference. Secondly, and more importantly, the rendering takes twice as long to get to that scene as the game. For TV viewers, 30 minutes in; In the game, it’s only 15 minutes. We’ll be spending twice as much time with Sarah on the show, and while that certainly gives us a lot more time to like her (and she’s hugely likable too), it also makes her feel less disposable. She’s someone we’ve gotten to know over a third of the movie, rather than a little kid we’ve seen speak a handful of lines, only there to die quickly.

It also helps that Pedro Pascal is a much better actor than Troy “McClure” Baker, allowing all of the previous moments to feel more meaningful, and the final death a lot more relevant. Joel Baker is a sweet guy, unemotional for those first 15 minutes, while Pascal is a smart, charismatic dad. A lot is earned, and it makes a big difference.

Tess and Joel look at a mushroom man stuck to the wall.

screenshot: HBO

So how about the rest, then? The remaining 50 minutes of perspective, a) not knowing what will happen next, and b) not having to compare every moment to how it was filmed ten years ago. it was good…

So here’s my problem: I feel like I’ve already watched this particular episode many times before, from the ’70s on. I’ve seen it in, for example, the walking DeadAnd survivorsAnd black summerAnd Z nationAnd Andromeda strainAnd Trifid dayAnd sky fallingAnd PlatformAnd JerichoAnd recently vampire. God knows how many more. Obviously, in many of those cases, it was a lot worse (hey, Jericho), but the structure remains the same: there is an apocalypse, a really strangely large number of humans survive it, and now everyone is in their own color-coded group. There are people trying to create a new (always fascist) government or police force, rampant rebels and rampant rebels trying to bring them down (with graffiti symbol), and then an invisible but much more menacing group called The Raiders or something. . They all fight each other, and our tough group of outcasts who are no match for any of them do their best to stay alive.

Of all the genres, post-apocalyptic television appears exceptionally trapped within a format, as if anything else could ever be imagined. God forbid we see things from the perspective of those trying to shape new governing bodies, for example. Colony I guess, but then I couldn’t resist turning into a rebel group trying to bring them down. It would be as if all science fiction should be set on a derelict colony ship, with three warring factions, and never, ever, anything else.

Perhaps it is not fair to settle all this The last of us, due to its requirements to be nearly identical to the game, it is itself a derivative of the genre. But oh boy, this first episode doesn’t make any moves to set itself apart.

Sarah and Joel are on the couch and Sarah gives Joel his birthday present.

screenshot: HBO

Everything is wonderfully filmed and acted, no doubt, and it’s great to see Pedro Pascal playing The Mandalorian but with facial expressions. (He had just swapped Yoda’s baby with a similar human one.) Particularly good was Anna Torv, playing Tess, a character I know nothing about and, given my experience with female characters in this novel, immediately worry. But its sum felt less than its parts. Sure, this 80-minute episode had a lot of hard work, and a lot of world-building responsibility, but when it all could have been achieved by raising a poster the walking Dead And I say, “Like this, but with fungi,” sure I wanted more.

I don’t think it helped that I liked Sarah any more than I liked Ellie. Not knowing the game, I have no idea if this was intentional, though given Game-Sarah’s two or three sentences before she kills for our motivational pleasure, it’s hard to imagine a gamer having room for comparison. Here, Show-Sarah is totally likable, while the character of Ellie’s daughter (who grew up in what I assume was abject misery) is a brat, and after one episode, I feel no emotional investment whatsoever in her, while I certainly did for her ex.

I suppose those who’ve played the game, who’ve spent hours with Ellie, and loved her through everything she’s been through are probably able to transfer all of that very quickly to the TV character. I imagine people would panic about my lack of interest in her from this episode, if they did. But I think it’s also possible that we know the show isn’t earning any of it (yet) by its own means. I think her discovery of the radio code was supposed to be a charming moment, but it portrayed her as arrogant. I call her snooty snooty pants.

I’ll definitely keep watching, though it’s hard to give the show much credit for that. I’m a post-apocalyptic fantasy junkie, and I watched every episode of this apocalyptic Jericho also. But this is clearly a good show, bolstered by great performances, and a budget that allows for great critical shots like that closing view of the crumbling city. What it isn’t, and here I think we have to blame the game, is A native An idea, and I worry it comes 50 years too late.

Correction, 1/17/23, 2:15 PM ET: This post has previously misspelled the month and year The last of us‘ The initial release. It was released in June 2013. The indicated PS4 version was released on July 20th14. Kotaku We apologize for the error.

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