Does The Last of Us Work Better as a TV Series?

Why The Last of Us Works Better As a Game

We’ve talked about some of the things The Last of Us show was able to accomplish by freeing itself of the confines of the game. However, there are at least as many things that The Last of Us game accomplished that can’t easily be replicated in another medium. Somewhere near the top of that list is how the game builds the relationship between Joel and Ellie. 

Those who try to argue that many of The Last of Us best moments are found in its cutscenes often forget (or choose to ignore) the many interactive sequences in that game that advance Joel and Ellie’s relationship. Yes, those sequences feature incredible dialog exchanges not seen in the cutscenes, but they also build the Joel and Ellie relationship (the most crucial element of The Last of Us experience) via often overlooked interactions.

You have to remember that there was a time when the very idea of an “escort mission” was considered to be one of the worst things that a game could make you endure. Yet, The Last of Us is essentially one big escort mission, and it’s among the most praised games ever. At the beginning of The Last of Us, you may slightly resent Ellie’s presence in the same ways that you may slightly resent other video game characters you were previously asked to escort. Eventually, though, she will wear you down and force you to open your heart up. That’s largely because you start to realize that she’s not just this helpless person you’ve been tasked to escort; she’s a partner in your journey.

Essentially, you personally go through the same emotional journey that Joel eventually goes through. In a medium that so often finds motivation in the idea of personal failure (whether that’s dying or missing an objective), The Last of Us shines in the ways it makes you derive your motivation from the fear of failing Ellie. Every setback (whether it’s delivered through narrative or gameplay) makes you feel as close to her as those amazing bad puns she keeps delivering.

Even if The Last of Us show had focused more on Joel and Ellie and less on some of those aforementioned side stories (which would have honestly been a mistake), it just couldn’t have replicated the bond between Joel and Ellie that grows over the course of the game. You often feel closest to those who share your struggles, and, even on its easiest difficulty modes, The Last of Us makes Joel, Ellie, and you struggle. Every missed shot, every blindside attack, and every scrounged shiv contributes to the growth of that relationship.

There’s also the matter of the infected. I’m not one of those viewers who cried when The Last of Us series cut scenes involving the infected or simply featured fewer infected than what we saw in the games. The Last of Us wasn’t a zombie apocalypse fantasy like Days Gone. The infected are a vital piece of The Last of Us formula, but much like those who watch The Sopranos and skip the therapist scenes, those who played The Last of Us and saw it as a “Dads vs. Zombies” simulator may have missed a few subtleties along the way.

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