The biggest flaw of The Last of Us season finale is that it’s too close to the original

The biggest flaw of The Last of Us season finale

Season 1 of The Last of Us accompanied us for nine weeks. Nine weeks in which I spend an hour directly in the abyss of humanity and wondered how Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) were even supposed to survive another day in this post-apocalyptic world. The Last of Us is an exhausting journey, both for the characters and for me as a viewer.

That wasn’t entirely surprising. Many years ago I was already immersed in the video game of the same name, fighting the terrible consequences of the Cordyceps pandemic. It is the most intense experienceI’ve ever done with a game. What not only about the atmosphere and the ruthlessness of the story, but especially in the small, emotional moments that hurt all the more.

The show did its best to live up to the template in the big, important scenes between Joel and Ellie throughout the nine episodes of Season 1. But the final moment in Episode 9 shows: This is it not always a good idea.

Attention, follow massive spoilers for the season finale of The Last of Us!

The Last of Us is a merciless survival horror – and it shines because the ending is so unspectacular

When I played The Last of Us on the Playstation, the ending caught me cold. I never imagined that the story would end at a point that was in comparison to the previous events downright inconspicuous works. No horror monsters chasing me, no people trying to rip me open. I don’t have to reload, take cover, let alone crawl through a dark tunnel.

You can watch the trailer for The Last of Us finale here:

The Last of Us – S01 E09 Trailer (English) HD

Instead, there’s only Joel, who just carried Ellie unconscious out of a hospital, leaving a massive bloodbath in her wake. And Ellie, who wakes up and is told that the operation she was trying to save humanity went wrong. With one sentence, Ellie questions everythingwhat I experienced before: “Swear to me everything you said about the Fireflies is true.”

I can still feel the tearing feeling I had while playing back then. One end of the world follows the other in The Last of Us. Nothing indicates that Joel and Ellie will survive the trip. Despite the doom that surrounds them, a bond forms between the two unlikely friendship and a relationship of trust. We learn that in this world you really can’t trust anyone.

If the trust between Joel and Ellie is the only thing we can hold on to in The Last of Us, then the ending puts a dagger in our hearts. Joel lies to Ellie. Everything he said about the Fireflies is wrong. Regardless of what that means for human survival, one of the few reasons humankind is dying before our very eyes deserves a second chance at all has.

The scene is tearing because it remains open whether Ellie accepts Joel’s answer or secretly knows that it is another lie, and the trust is finally destroyed. At the same time, Joel’s behavior is understandable, even if I don’t agree with him. The shaking guitar music bundles the unspoken feelings perfectly – a balancing act between innocence and cruelty.

The The Last of Us series lacks the courage to continue the brilliant ending from the game

Basically, I expected the impossible from The Last of Us series: I wanted to relive that incredible moment. Although the series makes every effort to recreate the scene in detail, the ending lacked momentum.

Since then I’ve been asking myself: Why?


The Last of Us

It’s definitely not because of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. As well as the video game versions of Joel and Ellie, I have the live-action interpretations of the characters very close to my heart. Is there a problem with the cinematic implementation? Perhaps. Last but not least, the video game is extremely well positioned in this area – too well, to be honest. The series is more in the simple HBO look.

Whoever plays The Last of Us is drawn into a world of glowing colors and lights. The game has a polished, bold imagery, of which we see a toned down, faded version in the series. So far, that has only bothered me to a limited extent, because the excellent screenplays have often found a way to keep the familiar story to myself with new eyes to let see.

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann take liberties that the game template didn’t have, detaching themselves from Ellie and Joel and focusing on characters who are only marginal in the game or not show up at all. The perfect example of this is Bill and Frank’s love story in Episode 3. HBO did something similar with its Watchmen series, delivering entirely new angles on an iconic comic.

But it’s exactly this new perspective that I missed in the first season finale of The Last of Us. When both camera angles and dialogue are taken almost one-to-one from the game, the further thought is missing. The moment is still heartbreaking, but also feels like a (too) cautious re-enactment.

The Last of Us prologues reveal what could have made the season finale better

Of course, the simplicity is a great appeal of the scene. The ending is so strong because, after endless struggles to survive, it shows what The Last of Us is really about: the relationship between two people. I don’t expect the series to have a spectacular twist or a major departure from the game. Rather, I long for one of the subtle and at the same time monstrous accentswhich Mazin and Druckmann previously masterfully woven into the story.


The Last of Us

The best example of this is the prologues of the first two episodes, which have nothing to do with the original. Not a foreign body, but an unexpected enrichment: With a handful of characters and a few frightening dialogues, in which the danger posed by the Cordyceps fungus is first outlined in theory and then in very practical terms, the series reveals another layer that the Events recontextualized. A minimal shift in perspective that gives me goosebumps.

The missed opportunity of The Last of Us is that Mazin and Druckmann didn’t dare to take this step in the final. Sometimes it seems as if they have too much reverence before that monstrous moment. As if one wrong word, one wrong attitude could ruin the magic. Honestly, I would have preferred to see them fail, because even if they failed, there would probably have been an interesting idea hidden. Or at least did one thing that the game did: really surprise me.

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