The last episode of THE LAST OF US I reviewed for this site was E3, which featured the backstory of Bill and Frank. I asked out loud in my review, “how can it get any better than this?” Since then, ENDURE AND SURVIVE came close, but the rest haven’t. LEFT BEHIND is very good, but it’s not as good as previous episodes have been, and now the bar is set really high.
My biggest critique of THE LAST OF US so far is that each episode works incredibly well on its own, but the series could flow together a lot better. One good example is from E6 when we see Joel experience some panic attacks that seem to have just suddenly come on. It’s played by Pedro Pascal as if it’s something Joel has been dealing with for a while, but the audience is only shown it when it gets really bad. From what I’m told by friends who are fans of the games it’s based on, the show hits all the big notes that the game does. However, as a non-gamer, it sometimes feels a bit disjointed. Perhaps that’s to be expected since we can’t have Joel & Ellie just walking around week after week fending off NPCs.
THE LAST OF US has already broken our hearts a few times, and we’re not even through an entire season. LEFT BEHIND is no different, but much like E3, it keeps the worst parts off-screen. The story within this week’s episode is a lovely tale of teenage friendship, love, and rebellion. Storm Reid (A WRINKLE IN TIME) guest stars as Ellie’s friend Riley from the Boston QZ. Instead of spanning decades like LONG, LONG, TIME did, LEFT BEHIND features a slice-of-life setting over just a few hours. Ramsey and Reid are charming and have that cute, tender chemistry that teenage girls have, yet not a lot happens outside of this. What does come to pass answers a big question that many non-gamers have wondered about, but that comes in just the last few minutes of the episode. Based on the fallout of what happened to Joel from last week, it’s a natural spot for a backstory. And yet, I was left longing for something more.
THE LAST OF US is pacing to be just a two-season show. One season for the first game and one season for its sequel. Of course, the show may continue on long past the games, much like GAME OF THRONES continued beyond the published books, but the world here and the timeframe feels much more condensed. This is a point that I try to remind myself of when the show feels fragmented: That we’re hitting these points very effectively and deliberately, so Joel & Ellie don’t find themselves wandering aimlessly around for the next decade or more (See THE WALKING DEAD). I hope we see Riley again. I like her and want to feel more connected to her and the friendship she shared with Ellie before Joel was in the picture. With only two episodes left this season, THE LAST OF US will most likely move on to new troubles and challenges.
THE LAST OF US airs every Sunday evening on HBO and HBOMax.