It’s been a decade since The Last of Us first launched, but the debate over what the series is truly about still rages on. On the surface, it’s a straightforward tale of a father protecting a young girl with immunity in hopes of curing a deadly fungal infection that has destroyed civilization. The sequel, however, delves into themes of revenge and justice. HBO’s upcoming adaptation seems to focus heavily on the character arc of Pedro Pascal’s Joel Miller, potentially shifting the narrative of the series. Let’s dive into the themes of the games and explore how the upcoming show might affect how we discuss The Last of Us.
The Narrative of The Last of Us
The original game, commonly referred to as Part I, follows the story of Joel, a man who lost his daughter in the initial outbreak of the fungal infection. He is tasked with escorting Ellie, a young girl with immunity, to a group of doctors who hope to create a cure using her blood. Joel is a hardened individual, capable of violence, which the game often justifies as necessary to protect Ellie. However, there are moments where his actions are more ambiguous, like the scene where he tortures two men to get information on Ellie’s whereabouts. In the final segment, Joel massacres soldiers and doctors to save Ellie from being killed by the Fireflies, who want to use her to make a cure. He then lies to her about what happened, and the game leaves players to ponder why he did what he did.
Part II, on the other hand, explores the consequences of Joel’s actions and the aftermath of his lie. The game follows Ellie’s journey of revenge against the people responsible for Joel’s death. Players also control Abby, a new character, whose backstory is shown through flashbacks. The game seeks to distance players from the characters, forcing them to confront the consequences of the violent acts they commit. Ultimately, it delves into themes of grief and how it drives people to madness, revenge, and redemption.
Joel Miller in HBO’s The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal plays Joel Miller in the upcoming TV adaptation of The Last of Us. Fans are excited to see a beloved character brought to life on the screen, but how the show handles his arc may change the way newcomers interpret the series. The HBO show aims to make Joel’s motivations less ambiguous, but in doing so, it may skip over parts of his character arc. Part II explores the trauma and guilt that Joel experiences after lying to Ellie, and his desperate attempts to repair their relationship. By jumping ahead to a more certain state of mind for Joel, the show may not allow viewers to fully understand his personal growth throughout the two games.
The Power of Player/Character Dynamics
The Last of Us is an effective video game because it immerses players in its narrative and forces them to confront the consequences of the violent acts they commit. The final segment of Part I is a microcosm of the game, where players must reconcile their actions with Joel’s motivations. The game asks players to see the story through to its logical conclusion, making them feel powerful yet powerless to turn its characters towards a better path.
Part II amplifies this dynamic by obscuring the full context of its characters’ motivations until later in the game. Players must commit violent acts as both Ellie and Abby, often without knowledge of why they’re in that headspace. The game plays with the tension of the player/character dynamic, forcing players to confront their actions and motivations while distancing them from the characters.
The Last Word
The Last of Us is a game series about grief, trauma, and the lengths people go to protect the ones they love. While on the surface it’s a simple story, it dives into complex themes that provoke debate and discussion. The upcoming HBO adaptation may shift the way newcomers discuss the series, but the essence of its narrative will remain the same.
The power of The Last of Us lies in its ability to immerse players in its world and narrative, forcing them to confront the consequences of their actions. It’s a game series that explores human nature and the extremes people go to survive in the face of danger. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling and video games as a medium for exploring complex themes and emotions.