When it comes to season’s penultimate episodes, this week’s THE LAST OF US can be counted among the most intense of them. The series’ first season has delivered a plethora of fear and emotion, yet—as is a constant in the “zombie” horror subgenre—nothing is scarier than other people.

This week we find Joel and Ellie fighting for their lives in unexpected ways. The episode’s pacing is excellent, if misleading, leading up to an absolutely remarkable performance from Bella Thorne. She is the epitome of perfect casting, and credit is also due to the writers behind her character. Her complexity, ferocity, strength, and vulnerability provide a difficult balancing act that comes together to create one of the best fleshed-out characters on television today.

This week’s episode introduces a new character, David (Scott Shepherd), and also introduces us to what religion looks like after the apocalypse has already happened. It turns out it’s not much different from before. The series has shown us many facets of society’s reaction to the fall of mankind, and religion plays a major factor within that world as well. Shepherd pays close attention to details, clearly understanding the text he’s been given and maintaining a reserved, patient performance throughout. He’s excellent.

With one episode left and clearly so much story left to tell, it’s obvious next week’s season finale will be one heck of a cliffhanger. The strength of this show vs. some “zombie” productions of the past is that there’s a scrap of hope somewhere within the storyline, and I think that’s something viewers need right now, particularly after the events of the last few years. It’s a strength in storytelling that, in my opinion, has added to the strength and overwhelming growth in viewership (up 76% since the series’ premier).

THE LAST OF US is streaming on HBO Max.

Ricky J Duarte

[He/him/his] Ricky is an actor, singer, and writer in New York City. Passions include: theme parks, Disney villains, and watching horror movies with his cat. He's also the host of the RICK OR TREAT HORRORCAST podcast.

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