‘The Last of Us’ Is Bleak, but It’s the Bleak You Need
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Our last disappointing everyone. Mainly because the first season of the HBO series ended on Sunday, beginning the long, arduous wait for the second season. But also because Our last very sad indeed. The series begins with a man watching his daughter die, and ends with him rushing into a makeshift hospital to make sure another child doesn’t meet the same fate. In between, everyone dies or kills (or eats) someone, and some are missing gay man gardenthere is little harbinger of joy.
And indeed, despite the buzz online criticizing the show’s dull ending, that’s the point.
Look, I get why curling up on the couch to stare at a big, dreary pile isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. the bank is fall, Weird Joe want The race for the presidency—Double your Sunday fear with Our last Not a choice everyone wants to make. But this is not a shortcoming of the show or its storytelling. It’s a matter of preference.
Also, despite the darkness, Our last remains a form of escapism. As bleak as it is, it’s fiction—the fiction of a worse pandemic one currently raging aims, to some extent, to give viewers a chance to think about something else. Granted, it mostly made them reflect on what would happen when humanity decided the only way to save more people was to slaughter more people, but still.
In other words, Our last do not trade darkness for the sake of darkness. This is not a DC Comics movie trying to be sharp. it doesn’t even Squid game, which is somehow even more disappointing in its “oh, that could happen” style. As it stands, the world isn’t infected with a fungus that turns into a zombie, but there are plenty of people willing to do anything to survive and/or make money. If anything, Our last is an allegory for what might happen then Cordyceps mushrooms are brought into a place that often values individualism rather than community.
Well, maybe there were screenwriters who suggested to Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin that they should add a bit of emotional suspense, an episode with a happy ending. But if you believe, like Roxana Hadadi of Vulture dothat thing Our Last is a commentary on the many flaws of American exceptionalism, then those looking for glimmers of hope will be left in the dark.
All of this came to a swirling conclusion in Sunday’s finale. In the final moments, Joel (Pedro Pascal) learns that the Fireflies might kill Ellie (Bella Ramsey) while trying to find a cure for the evil disease. Cordyceps mushroom. He shot almost every Firefly in sight to save her. Some say he went too far, slaughtering many to save one; others felt his actions were justifiable. But the point is not to find out if he is “right” or “wrong”. The problem—like me colleague Adrienne So noted on Slack this week—that a society that kills a child to save itself is probably not worth saving. Anyone who has read the book “ by Ursula K. Le GuinThose Who Leave Omelas” I know it.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Joel is a hero or a villain. What matters is what his actions reflect. As Hadadi noted, “Our Last paints a portrait of American identity that is incompatible with dramatic change.” When the pandemic hit, all the selfishness and individualism of the country turned into something even more toxic than before. It’s bleak, but it also feels that way because it’s familiar.