The Last of Us
Season 1, Episode 6
After ignoring the advice of locals, Joel and Ellie descend deeper into dangerous territory in search of the Fireflies – and Tommy.
Warning: This episode contains graphic violence.
After a brief recap of recent happenings, there is a significant time jump in the series. Three months after the events in Kansas City, Joel and Ellie find themselves at the isolated home of an elderly couple, from whom they ask directions and intel regarding both the surrounding area and a lost family member. Famed actor Graham Greene makes a guest appearance. I found the inclusion of Native American characters and mentions of a reservation in the program a welcome addition as this demographic is typically left out of projects that emphasize diversity.
Next the two travel through an area known for mysterious disappearances and pass through scenery that looks as though it was ripped straight from the videogame, when they run into armed horsepeople. Soon they are brought to Jackson, Wyoming, a self-sufficient town located inside a compound. Here, they find someone important, and a long-awaited reunion occurs.
This section deviates from the game in several major ways while simultaneously expounding upon the underlying storyline in a brilliant manner. Yet, the well-loved cut scenes remain in some fashion. For example, in an emotional scene that is nearly 1 to 1 with the game, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey steal the show in an award worthy performance that will leave both fans of the original work and new viewers breathless. Aficionados will also discover major Easter eggs regarding the Last of Us universe.
Later, Joel and Ellie head out to the Firefly base at the University of Eastern Colorado; a dangerous one week horse ride south of Jackson. There they have a shocking encounter that will change the course of their ultimate objective. I was a big fan of this realistic alteration of the source material. I believe that new viewers and non-gamers will relate to this section much more than they would have to the over the top mission oriented plot shown in the videogame.
Overall, I found this emotionally charged and decidedly plot filled episode a welcome break from the previous segment. The creators have done an excellent job with the pacing of this project. Although each week is entertaining and provocative, I have never felt overwhelmed by either action or traumatic sentiment. The highs and lows of the series have been so perfectly calculated that I have to wonder if this project was originally designed as a one-time release as opposed to that of a weekly schedule.
I must say, I love how the tension in this episode is delivered. This beautiful adaption does an amazing job of showing the changes in Joel that have taken place since becoming Ellie’s caretaker. We not only see his humanity, but also gather intel on his psyche. Joel grapples with personal relationships, as well as the physical effects of aging and PTSD.
The show also delves into the relationship between women, as the viewer is treated to content featuring Ellie and a potential mentor that not only offers wisdom, but a care package designed to make life for a young woman in apocalyptic times a little easier. Once again, I applaud the show for openly mentioning women’s health in an unabashed manner. A certain scene is not only a teachable moment, but a means to an open dialogue regarding a matter that is not discussed nearly enough between sexes.
As always, the cinematography is remarkable, and I can do nothing more than praise the directorial and production team for both their ability and sensitivity to the original game. However, eagle eyed viewers will notice a major blooper that may or may not be edited out in the weeks to come by the effects team at HBO Max.
Finally, for trivia fans, the 1977 cinematic movie “The Goodbye Girl” starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason is featured briefly within the episode. Its strategic positioning can be said to a hold of a type of symbolism based on the movie’s premise.
Stay tuned for an “Inside the Episode” segment for additional commentary that breaks down the dynamics of the program’s creation and the major changes from the videogame.