Review - The Last of Us TV Show

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DJ-Daz
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I have seen no trailers, read no interviews or posts on blogs, forums, Reddit or newspapers. Hell, I didn't even know the show had started until it showed up in my news feed at the weekend.
I did know from various gaming sites that Pedro Pascal was to play Joel, and Merle Dandridge was making a return as Marlene. I also knew that it would start in January 2023. And that's it!

I was excited to see the show, I've played The Last of Us for well over 2,500 hours and got the platinum trophy, so yeah I was looking forward to this.
I was and still am a little anxious, the show should be close to the game, but my anxiety wouldn't fade, because I don't want the show to deviate from the game. Of course a TV show is different from a game, but not this one. This game is more like a really long movie. There's a lot of story to be told, lot's of characterisation to evolve and yes some action along the way.

So how do you separate the TV Show from the game and still attain parity? Neil Druckmann. The Last of Us game director, and by all accounts a seriously tough taskmaster. He had a vision and direction for the game, and he stuck to it. Good for him and good for the gamers, we eventually got a game that is rated as one of the highest scores ever.

The PlayStation 3 got a whopping 95% critic and 92% gamer reviews.
https://www.metacritic.com/game/playsta ... last-of-us

Strangely, the PS4 remaster had exactly the same score.
https://www.metacritic.com/game/playsta ... remastered

However, the PS5 re-remaster did well with critics, but scored VERY badly with users. I can hardly blame them, £70 for a game that has already been released twice in the past... it does smell of capitalism and greed. It also lacks the multiplayer portion of the game, which is nothing short of a crime. So you pay more, and get less?
https://www.metacritic.com/game/playsta ... -us-part-i


So how do you turn a highly acclaimed video game into a successful TV show?
Two words... VERY CAREFULLY.

Immediately the show deviates from the game with Sarah, Joel's daughter waking Joel up and cooking breakfast on his birthday, which also happens to be outbreak day. Another deviation, the show goes past Joel's birthday and into the next day before things fall apart. It's nothing major, I'm not fussed by this, in fact we get to see Sarah for longer, her day at school albeit briefly, her ordering the repair of Joel's watch which is important to Joel in future and in the game, it's focused on several times. Then Sarah interacts with neighbours. No big deal. Just so you know, Sarah is white in the game, but in the TV show she's mixed race. Some people might hate on it for that change alone, but I like it, it shows the Joel isn't a red-neck racist.

We also get to meet Tommy, Joel's brother, Tommy gets arrested on Joel's birthday, Joel bails him out and we tip into the 27th September, the day it all goes wrong. The day Sarah dies. To be honest the game moves fairly quickly and in just a few minutes we progress from Sarah waking up to her death. The TV show took it's time and tries to make us bond with Sarah and Joel.

Now, 20 years later and Joel is working on a body burning crew, wheeling and dealing, selling drugs, and doing all he can to survive. Then we meet Anna Torv, her character, Tess. Now I like Anna Torv, she is an amazing actor, beloved for her part in Fringe.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1119644/

Tess is one tough cookie in the game, driven and determined, but in the game it's hinted that she loves Joel, or in the very least, respects Joel. I think the feeling is mutual, later on we get to hear Joel and Ellie argue about Tess and Joel doesn't want Ellie to talk about her... EVER!
But here we get another deviation from the game, a scene where Tess was trying to buy a good car battery from a minor character, gets double crossed and beaten up for her troubles. Though the antagonist didn't hurt Tess (his men did), it's obvious that he's very afraid of what Joel might do if he finds out. So now we know that Joel is very hot tempered and capable of following through on any threat.

When Tess and Joel meet up, it is romantically, so my theory plays out. We finally get to meet Ellie too, but not as you'd expect. From the game I expected the "firefly's" to be protective of her, but here she is, cared for but imprisoned by them. We also get to see the spark and fire in Ellie.

Here we also get to see what the firefly's are about, overthrowing a dictatorial brutal regime, as well as looking for and researching a cure. But now they have Ellie, they plan a big attack and an escape with Ellie in tow. What we discover a little later, is that the firefly's were attempting to buy the same battery that Tess needed.

The sale goes badly wrong, with the firefly's getting killed and injured, Marlene, Joel and Tess cross paths while Joel and Tess track down this battery and it's owner. This is where Joel, Tess and Ellie meet for the first time and Ellie is handed over to Joel's care. From here the journey west begins on foot (the battery was a dud).

It's a little sad that we don't see the start of the journey like we do in the game, here it deviates again, I love the look of the "old town", dilapidated, crumbling, overgrown, and the little tranquillity pond, but to be fair, that's the part of the game that teaches you how to play, so yes it's skippable in a TV show. Instead we jump straight into the blockade and escape through the storm drains, at night in the rain, patrolled by FEDRA, the evil brutal government soldiers. One thing that isn't skipped, here we finally discover that Ellie is infected, and has been for some time. The reason for the exodus, Ellie could be the cure the firefly's were hoping for.

I can see why the production team and writers needed to change things around, a TV show isn't a game and some things only work in games, plus some things like the short time we see Sarah needed to be lengthened a little, so we can empathise with Joel more strongly. The scene where Tess has been captured over the battery set's things up later on with Marlene, and it does establish Joel's temper and ability to follow up on it. But there are things like "Jimmy's Place", when Tommy, Joel and Sarah are driving away from their home, all panicked and scared, they pass the burning house called Jimmy's place. In the game it's on the right, in the show it's on the left. Why change it? That's what I don't understand. Why put it in if you're going to move it?

Any way, so far episode one is close to the game, very close, but with extended and new scenes where we get more from the characters. So for someone who has played the game, being engrossed by it, and lost nearly one third of a year to playing it, yes it's most definitely with a watch.
For someone who hasn't played the game, is it still worth it? It's hard to be objective here, but I think yes, you should watch it. If only to see the cultural references, the stunning if desolate landscapes and the characters progress from early to late show. What they do for one another is breathtaking.

As for the gamers... Watch out for those Easter eggs. There's a few already.
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DJ-Daz
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The Last of Us TV Show Episode 2
Today I'm going to talk about, or rather show you the amazing details of the show.
To make you believe that this really is the world they inhabit, you really have to make it believable. To do that you need to get a few things right.

1. Lighting
Aside from a few moments here and there, the lighting is very realistic, the outdoor scenes look to be lit by real daylight... The Sun. Replicating daylight in a studio can be done, but it's difficult to make an outdoor scene look real indoors. So a good film maker will take the studio outside and use enormous green-screens. Fake lighting will still be used, but only to help furnish the camera with a little more light, to help capture more character details. I honestly think most of the outdoor scenes were made this way. Also the light seems to bounce correctly, if the sun is shining from the right, and the characters are lit from above or the left, it will break the simulation, you might not know why, but you won't connect with the show. Your brain will see it, but not understand why it looks fake. You'd have to spend time analysing the scene to really see it.

2. Sound design
For copyright reasons, I can't share the sounds and certainly not the music from the show or the game. Needless to say that sound is crucial. If it doesn't sound just quite right, you will now and it will distract you. The show borrows several sound effects from the game, then improves on them. These were made for the PS3 after all and needed updating. The clickers in particular sound fantastic. But so do all the incidentals, walking sounds - footfalls, things banging and crashing, hoards running and screaming and THAT KISS. These are all as they should be, but if you listen really carefully you'll notice there's plenty going on, buildings creaking and breaking apart. They are 20 years old and have had zero maintenance, some have even been bombed, so yes they are less than perfect. But the sounds are spot on, close your eyes and listen, and imagine what's happening. You'll be surprised at what you'll hear.

3. The Music.
Music attaches the watcher to the emotion on screen, the original soundtrack from the game is breathtaking. Gustavo Santaolalla really nailed the emotional content in a way that rarely happens in a TV show. Movies yes, but how many movie soundtracks can you say you've ever spent time listening too? Aside from the compilation albums, I'll bet it's not many. Gustavo Santaolalla gives you an excuse to indulge here, (or should that be hear). The opening title sequence is raw, discordant on a few notes, and you can hear the texture of the guitar strings, some artists work hard to avoid these, but not for The Last of Us, it adds to the tension going in. Without being insulting, it's also basic, with only a few instruments being used, and they are all played softly, as if the musician is afraid of playing any louder, but desperate to get the music out.

It's a shame Tess dies both in the game and in the show, she's hard as nails but she lends a softness to Joel, and Joel seems to be a better person for it. But now Tess is gone, this now rests on the shoulders of Ellie. Already we see Joel warming up to Ellie, when she walks across the ladder/bridge, it's made obvious, but it's necessary.
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