Editor’s word: This text comprises heavy spoilers for season considered one of The Final of Us and minor spoilers for the sport The Final of Us Half II.
Final night time’s finale of the primary season of HBO’s The Last of Us turned out to be a microcosm of everything that worked across the nine episodes, in addition to a reminder of what showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will need to work on once they choose issues up for season two. All through the season, The Final of Us has been exceedingly devoted to the unique story — however Mazin and Druckmann well expanded on the tales of everybody surrounding Joel and Ellie to make the world a lot richer. In a maybe too-tight 44 minutes (the shortest episode of the season), the present wrapped up the primary a part of the story, ending with Ellie’s “Okay,” similar to the sport.
That single phrase that tells us Ellie accepts Joel’s lies about what occurred between him and the Fireflies, that he’s being trustworthy when he says that they stopped on the lookout for a treatment and that her immunity doesn’t imply something. Joel’s ostensibly off the hook for his murderous rampage by means of the Salt Lake Metropolis hospital to save lots of Ellie from having her mind dissected by the Fireflies. In fact, Ellie being a treatment for the cordyceps an infection was the entire level of their journey — however not the purpose for Joel. And the look on Ellie’s face all through the episode’s coda tells us she’s not satisfied, regardless of what she says in the beginning cuts to black.
Actually, there was no different place it may have stopped. All through the season, Mazin and Druckmann made loads of deviations from the sport’s most important story, however issues at all times got here again to an important beats within the relationship between Joel and Ellie. The significance of those occasions within the Salt Lake Metropolis hospital can’t be overstated, as they type the idea for everything that follows within the recreation The Final of Us Half II. As such, some anticipated to get some hints of how the hospital massacre will tie into occasions to come back, however the present stayed firmly centered on the occasions within the first recreation. That’s for the most effective, as Half II has a sprawling, sophisticated story of its personal; shoehorning in a couple of teases of what’s to come back most likely would have taken away from the immediacy of what occurred between Joel and Ellie.
Earlier than Joel’s killing spree and Ellie’s acceptance of his lies, we have been handled to a different of the flashbacks that Mazin and Druckmann have masterfully dropped all through the season, this one going all the best way again to Ellie’s start. Individuals who checked out the numerous collectibles within the recreation absolutely discovered Ellie’s letter in her backpack from her mom, Anna, who writes to her new child understanding that her life is about to be minimize brief.
The sport doesn’t make it express, however right here we see that Anna (performed by Ashley Johnson, who performs Elle within the video games) is each contaminated and about to offer start. We additionally get to see Firefly chief Marlene promise to maintain Ellie secure earlier than ending her buddy’s life. (Additionally, we now know that Anna gave Ellie her trademark switchblade, one thing I at all times assumed however wasn’t express within the recreation.) Given how vital Marlene’s presence is on this episode, it was the precise time to see the very beginnings of her relationship with Ellie. And, as with each different supporting actor on the present, Johnson crushes her restricted time onscreen – she’s rather more than an easter egg for followers of the sport. The glimpses of lives past simply Joel and Ellie that we’ve seen all through the season have made the world of The Final of Us really feel far richer, whether or not they take up an entire episode (like Invoice and Frank in “Lengthy, Lengthy Time” or Riley in “Left Behind”) or just some minutes.
My solely grievance about this flashback is that Johnson’s story eats into the dear little time we’ve got left for Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey to share the display collectively. All through the season, the 2 actors have had marvelous chemistry – however in episodes seven and eight, the story dictates that they spend little or no time collectively. Within the finale they share a few of the strongest moments of all the season, however there are such a lot of plot factors to get to that I wanted for even simply an additional 5 minutes to let issues breathe a bit. However moments just like the well-known giraffe scene and Joel telling Ellie how he actually bought that scar on his head have been only a couple extra emotional excessive factors between the 2 characters (and actors) in a season filled with them.
With the primary season (and adaptation of the primary recreation) now in our rear-view, I can’t assist however surprise how Mazin, Druckmann and the remainder of their group will set about adapting The Final of Us Half II. Whereas the primary recreation advised a reasonably linear story, Half II is filled with twists, flashbacks and modifications in perspective – with out getting an excessive amount of into spoilers, the sport devotes a 3rd or extra of its 24-ish hour playtime to a completely new set of characters. It’s a vital a part of the story, but it surely also needs to current a significant problem for the showrunners to combine it and hold the story’s emotional impression with out forsaking acquainted characters for hours at a time.
Thankfully, Mazin confirmed his narrative chops within the first season, skillfully deploying quite a few flashbacks — some new to the story and a few straight from the sport. As for the divergent tales, I’d need to think about there will likely be much more intercutting between them than there’s within the recreation. A very good instance is what director Peter Jackson did in The Two Towers and Return of the King. The unique books each cut up time between two ongoing tales, and also you stick with one set of characters for half the e book earlier than catching up with one other group within the second half. Somewhat than go away Frodo and Sam for main chunks of display time, he cross-cut between the tales as they progressed.
If Mazin does one thing related, it’ll require some main re-thinking about how one can make the sport’s dramatic moments land, however that comes with the territory of being showrunner. Whether or not he can pull it off or not will likely be vital for future seasons of The Final of Us – the performing, set design, results and the whole lot else ought to proceed to be top-notch, but it surely received’t matter if the narrative doesn’t maintain up. In fact, a vocal subset of those that performed Half II have been intensely damaging concerning the recreation’s story, so we’re more likely to see future seasons be considerably extra divisive than the primary.