The Last of Us is the series format adaptation of one of the best video games in history. As a true fan, here are my most honest first impressions and review of its second episode, which premieres this Monday, January 23rd.
The Last of Us continues with its second episode and thus my weekly review. But the series is not only still on the air, but also keep breaking records. The first audience data for the first episode revealed that it was watched by 4.7 million people in the United States alone, reaching 10 million in the first 2 days of broadcast. These data confirm that The Last of Us it was HBO’s second-best premiere for a series since 2010, behind only the recent ‘House of the Dragon’, which hit 10 million on its first day. Taking into account that this already attracted the global fan phenomenon of ‘Game of Thrones’ and not only from the readers of George RR Martin – the premiere of GoT back in the day did not even reach half of it -, what The Last of Us reach those numbers with just the first episode and knowing the story only gamers, It’s great news for HBO and PlayStation, but it doesn’t end there.
News of the quality of the series seems to have spread like a cordyceps infection, as this second episode not only gained more viewers than the first, but also broke another record. Episode 2, premiered yesterday, January 23, had 5.7 million viewers in the United States, 22% more than the debut of the series. It’s rare for a series to increase in viewership between its premiere and its second episode, but this translates into The Last of Us has earned the largest second-week audience growth for an HBO original drama series in the platform’s history. Surely, this same week or the next few days HBO will confirm the second season -based on the second video game-, it’s a matter of time. And the best of all this has only just begun.
Reviews of all episodes of THE LAST OF US
Better address and more information
The episode begins with a prologue -which reminds a little of the style of ‘Chernobyl’, denoting the direct influence of Craig Mazin- which continues to increase information from the beginning of the pandemic in 2003 and underlining the enormous magnitude of the cordyceps outbreak – this information was not expanded so much in the video game, which is appreciated. The co-showrunner and creator of the video game, Neil Druckmann, debuts as a television director with this episode, although he had already directed both video games. This way, viewers outside the video game are placed in the hands of the creator himself and can be made to the idea of the great talent that radiatessince the direction has improved from the first episode. Druckmann also shows what he’s capable of when the characters have a little more privacy and aren’t surrounded by so many problems.
It is in this intimacy that the episode really excels. An episode like no other it might have felt slowBut every small talk or silence holds considerable weight and dramatic purpose as the story progresses. Pedro Pascal remains sober as Joel -perfectly taken from the video game-, allowing his two co-stars to take advantage of the opportunity to show off their considerable talents. Anna Torv has ample room to demonstrate the emotional depth of Tess and the sophistication of her performance, in addition to winning the favor of the spectators. Meanwhile, the gentler pace allows Bella Ramsey to truly make Ellie her own, in case it wasn’t clear in the first episode. Their multiple jokes, their silences respecting authority and even their terror towards the infected, all these complex interactions, often imperceptible, make his connection with the character of Ellie is the best of the whole series.
Review of RESIDENT EVIL, first foray into series format
Changes regarding the video game for good
A thousand and one are still constant references to aspects of the video gameas one that confirms to us that various types of infected in the video game – for example, those that generate spores -, in the series, are ‘inventions’ of the people that arise within the quarantine zones. And others, much more significant, which are a spectacular addition for those of us who have played the video game. Spoilers for the first and second episodes begin herecontinue at your own risk – if you haven’t seen any of the chapters yet, run mad, and then come back to these lines-.
The fans and players we have passed -several times- the video game on which the series is based, we have the problem of knowing the entire story, so the big surprises are no surprises. But, very aptly it must be said, The Last of Us introduce small and slight changes to some facts to confuse fans and create that feeling of seeing something new. For example and to illustrate it better, in the first episode, when Joel, Tommy and Sarah have the car accident. In the video game, the accident occurs when another car collides at an intersection with them, while in the series, this same car is dodged, but later a plane explosion and debris cause the accident. In the second episode, when they enter the museum, in the video game some rubble falls and separates the paths of Joel, Tess and Ellie, leaving them separated from the mercenary. In the series, these same demolitions fall, but both manage to make it into the room, avoiding their paths. These antics bring a smile to every fan watching the episode, while the phrase ‘what bastards, they’ve done it again’ echoes in their heads.
Generally, when a video game adaptation makes a direct reference to the video game it’s based on, it’s usually pretty reserved for niche fans, and usually raises doubts from non-video game viewers, who do not understand what is being said. But a The Last of Usabsolutely none of the references are out of place, as they are superbly and millimetrically inserted into the dialogue to give it meaning – like that of the types of infected -. To blueprints work seamlessly from one medium to anothermaking it clear again how cinematically strong the video game was when it launched almost 10 years ago on the PS3. The production design continues to be insane, leaving us with overwhelming apocalyptic landscapes of the city of Boston and demonstrating the incredible adaptation that HBO has given us. Directly, the spectators -in which no CGI has been used, thank god- they are spectacular. They manage to convey the same terror that we players feel thanks to their absolutely fantastic design of their very characteristic sound. These translate perfectly to television, even the movement is masterfully choreographed.
Review of RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACOON CITY, the latest film adaptation of the popular saga
Changes for the video game, for bad?
But not all changes have been successful, at least for me. There are two that have precisely squeaked at me, although one more in particular. The first, and the one I care about the least because it really doesn’t make a very significant change either, is the way the cordyceps fungus reproduces and works. In the video game, the fungus is transmitted through the air when the human breathes in spores. The infected goes through different phases in the infection until it ends up becoming a node that emits spores to transmit the fungus. Survivors have to use gas masks every time they enter spore areas, but Ellie doesn’t, as she doesn’t recommend it. This leads to several complex conversations and situations, as well as forcing Ellie to wear the mask, even if she doesn’t need it to avoid suspicion. In this second episode we have been confirmed that the spores do not exist and that the infected ‘communicate’ through the fungus, which travels underground and ‘connects’ to the inactive infected. Wow, like a spider web. I wasn’t too impressed with this change, as Ellie’s situations with the mask seemed like a major plus to me. But hey, it doesn’t suggest any more trouble to me as a fan and it will be interesting to see how the ‘spider web’ situation progresses.
What does suggest a big problem to me is the death of Tess. From the first episode, the important ‘events’ were copied in the video game, but the death of Tess has undergone changes. In the game, Tess decides to stay behind to buy time and help Joel and Ellie escape. PHAEDRA appears and kills Tess with a head shot, just like that. The decision to change Tess’s death from being at the hands of PHEDRA to the ‘kiss of death’ of an infected is, I repeat, for me, the first real misstep of the HBO series. The way the scene originally plays out is designed to put the spotlight on the darkest and rawest part of the authoritarian regime in this new world, where the life you care most about may not matter at all in someone else’s hands . The moment that should have been a dramatic sacrifice and a raw death is stripped of all emotion and turned into a poetic and melodramatic death. I don’t lose faith in this fantastic adaptation, but only I hope that moments so important and so magnificently realized will not be replaced by others that are worse.
As a curious fact, the lighter Tess carries before her death has the same design as Nathan Drake’s lighter in the fourth installment of the Uncharted video game seriesbelonging to the same company he brought The Last of UsNaughty Dogs.
Review of UNCHARTED, the origin of Nathan Drake
The second episode of The Last of Us it’s a slight drop -very very light- as for the first, which was round as an adaptation. The budding relationship between Ellie and Joel begins to blossom and, although some changes in the game may irritate the most fanatical, we are still facing the best adaptation of a video game in history.