New episodes of The Last of Us are premiering on HBO every Sunday night, and Ars’ Kyle Orland (who’s played the games) and Andrew Cunningham (who hasn’t) will be talking about them here every Monday morning. While these recaps don’t delve into every single plot point of the episode, there are obviously heavy spoilers contained within, so go watch the episode first if you want to go in fresh.
This one isn’t as big a departure from the action as the Bill episode was a few weeks back, but it does mean that last week’s cliffhanger goes mostly unresolved. Ellie does take a crack at patching Joel up, though it seems to me that sticking a decades-old unsanitized needle into an open wound is just as likely to kill him as save him…
Given how we first met Ellie as a prisoner in the show, I definitely appreciate giving a little more time to showing what she was like trying to grow up as a normal kid under FEDRA’s version of society.
This does flirt with a thing that I can find frustrating in fiction, though—this impulse to show/explain every single little thing about a character instead of letting things be implied or a little mysterious. I’m not overly bothered by it here, but if TLoU stretches into a second or third season I could see them leaning on flashback-as-filler in a way that could be less interesting.
Did you ever wonder, viewers, about how Ellie got her knife? How Bill got his truck?! Tune in next week!
Kyle: As long as they don’t go full 50-years-of-Star-Wars-filler on it, I think it’ll be OK…
Andrew: Anyway, those things aside, this episode lets us spend a big chunk of time with Ellie sans Joel for the first time, which I appreciate. It’s a flashback to a few days? Weeks? Months? Before the start of the series, when Ellie is a just a Teen With A Bad Attitude in FEDRA high school instead of a Possible Savior of Humankind.
I was glad to see a well-acted version of Riley here, acting as a foil to push and pull Ellie in interesting directions. Even if I didn’t know what was going to happen, though, I think it’d be pretty hard to get too attached to her. The pattern of “meet a new character; See them connect with the characters we love; Oops they’re dead within an episode or two” is already getting a bit played out. It’s possible to go to that well too often…
Andrew: Two’s company, three’s a crowd in The Last of Us universe, and if you spend any time with Ellie and Joel you’d better have an exit strategy figured out. I appreciate the commitment to keeping the focus narrow, but what if more characters, like Tommy, were simply allowed to depart and keep having their own lives instead of dying horribly? I guess we’ll never know.
Kyle: I guess it feels a little different in the game because these characters tend to linger with you a little longer—even if that time is often artificially lengthened by shootouts and whatnot. So the pattern is still there in the game, but it doesn’t seem so predictably timed to end-of-episode breaks.
Other “society crumbled in September 2003!” things I liked: of course there would be a pop-up Halloween store in this mall, and Ellie is listening to a cut from 2002’s Riot Act, the final in-universe Pearl Jam album. (Unless Eddie Vedder survived the apocalypse; of all the alternative rock stalwarts, he’s the one I’d bet on, honestly.)