Choice. THE LAST OF US videogame focused on – choice. And I’m not talking about a branching narrative where you decide one of many outcomes. Instead, I’m referencing that the creators clearly decided when you play as Joel/Ellie and when you watch a cut scene. The Fireflies ending of THE LAST OF US game is one of gaming history’s biggest emotional gut punches. And from a control perspective, it’s because Neil Druckmann forces the player to do something they don’t want to do. That ending has been debated, written about, and cherished for over a decade. And it’s f*cking amazing that the TV series even comes close to capturing that feeling in its brutal season one finale that sticks extremely close to its source material.
So, how did Craig Mazin turn THE LAST OF US into the clear frontrunner for the best TV show of 2023? By honoring the parts of the
game experience that, to this day, make it an unforgettable work of art.
Those moments are captured best by these three themes:
- If you can’t save the people you love, you feel powerless. We witness this repeatedly throughout the first season with the twisted choices that Joel and Ellie make and the heartbreaking responsibility that Henry feels for Sam.
- People feel they need to lie like a parent to protect their families. How much do you lie to keep the ones you love safe? Joel is at the center of the biggest lie in the series, but the same is true for the season’s biggest villain, David. Despite being twisted as hell, he believes that by keeping the “food” secret, he’s protecting his family/village.
- Time doesn’t heal anything. People heal everything. This is best captured in the beautiful relationship between Bill and Frank. Over time, the world fell apart around them, but their love healed them to survive the apocalypse as long as they could.
Joel’s love for Ellie grew over the last nine episodes to become that of a parent’s unconditional love for a child. And that relationship has been the core that has pulled viewers through brutal moments to the well-earned conclusion in LOOK FOR THE LIGHT. I’ve laughed, cried, and been terrified by what has been hailed as the greatest videogame adaptation ever. However, this is bigger than that. “I swear” that THE LAST OF US is much more special. For the first time in adaptation history, it breaks down the barrier that games can be a work of art.
In other words, “I’ll follow (Craig and Neil) anywhere they go. There’s no halfway with this. They’ll finish what they started.”
The entire first season is worthy of an A+ rating and is available on HBOMax.